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Monday, January 31, 2011

More Apple Crisps



My trusty garage root cellar is continuing to serve me well, with apples, squash, potatoes and onions all still keeping well into February. With the garden raspberries and some half-price-after-Thanksgiving cranberries in the freezer, I have been able to do some experimenting with several kinds of apple crisp. The following two recipes are variations on the "fried apple crisp" in the post just below.I have posted at http://frugalfastfun.blogspot.com/2011/01/tarte-tatin-and-fried-apples.html.

(You can also find more on the basics of fruit crisps at
 http://frugalfastfun.blogspot.com/2011/08/fruit-crisps.html.)


Apple Cranberry Crisp

Fruit layer:
2 1/2 lb apples, cored and thinly sliced; do not peel
8 oz coarsely chopped or sliced fresh cranberries
1 1/3 c sugar
2 t cinnamon
1 T butter
Topping:
1/4 c butter, softened
1/3 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 c flour
1/2 c coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
1 c quick (not instant) oatmeal

Gently stir together all the apple layer ingredients, except the butter, together in a large heavy skillet. Turn heat to medium and stir occasionally as the sugar begins to melt and the apples and cranberries begin to cook. After about five to ten minutes, stir in the butter. Continue to cook until the apples are bubbly and just barely tender.
While the apples are simmering, combine all the topping ingredients and blend until crumbly.
Turn the hot apple mixture into a 10 inch round casserole dish or 9 X 13 baking pan. Spread the topping evenly over the top, covering the apples as thoroughly as possible. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown. Serves 8.

Apple Raspberry Crisp

1 1/2 lb sliced apples
8 oz raspberries (if frozen, allow to thaw slightly; include the juices in this recipe)
2/3 c sugar
1 t cinnamon

Topping:
1/4 c butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c flour
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t cloves
1/2 c coarsely chopped walnuts OR sliced almonds (optional)

Spread apples in large non-stick skillet, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the apple juices begin to caramelize. Add the raspberries (and juices if thawed), stir, and continue to cook until the apples are just tender.

Meanwhile, combine all the topping ingredients until crumbly and evenly mixed.

Pour the fruit mixture into a 9 inch pie pan (or 7 X 11 pan) and cover evenly with the topping. Bake at 350 degrees about 20 to 30 minutes until the fruit filling is bubbly and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm or cold.



Though I have not tried these recipes with strawberries or blueberries, my guess is that they could be easily substituted as well.

Tarte Tatin and Fried Apples



A few months ago, I came across a reference to "tarteTatin," in a New York Times article, found at:

http://bitten.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/02/the-wonders-of-tarte-tatin/?pagemode=print


As I read about this tart with apples caramelized before baking, I realized how much the preparation of the fruit reminded me of the way my mother made "fried apples." Served with bread and butter and glasses of milk, her simple dish became a meal my Dad would often ask for on cold winter nights after all of us had grown and left the home.

Between those memories and the method described in the article, I decided to try an adaptation of the apple crisp that I often fall back on for a quick dessert. Crisps are nice because they provide a fruity filling without the extra work--and usually higher fat content--of a pastry crust. The results of my experimentation have been wonderful. Try one for yourself today; warm apple pie smells in a wintry kitchen will be welcoming for whoever enters your home--and the taste is even better!

"Fried Apple Crisp"

5 cups apples, cored and thinly sliced but not peeled
1/2 to 2/3 cups sugar--the amount used will depend on the tartness of the apple variety; I used Honey Gold and Harrelson, but Granny Smith, Golden Delicious or other firm late season apples would also be good
1 t cinnamon
2 T butter

Topping
2 T butter
1/3 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t nutmeg
1 c oatmeal
1/2 c coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Spread the apples in a large non-stick skillet and sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon. Turn the heat to medium, cover, and allow to cook slowly, stirring occasionally. When the apples start to release their juices, remove the cover, add the butter and stir gently. Continue cooking until the apples are barely tender.

Meanwhile, combine the topping ingredients until crumbly and well mixed.

Pour the apples and all the juices into a deep 9 inch pie pan. Spread the topping evenly, covering all the apples completely. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown. Serve warm or cold.


In case you'd like to try the old-fashioned "fried apple" recipe, here is the way my Mom wrote it down for me, many years ago.


Fried Apples

5 or 6 large apples
2/3 c sugar
cinnamon
salt, pepper
1/3 stick margarine

I put margarine in skillet, add everything else, cover and cook slowly until apples are just tender. Uncover, and let juices cook down a little. Serve hot.

(Mom was cooking back when margarine was the "healthy"fat--as well as being more within her budget than butter. If you try this, don't omit a sprinkle of good black pepper; it's amazing how much it adds to the dish.)





Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Italian" Lentil Soup

A cloudy January Saturday is just the right time to fill the house with the aroma of homemade soup. Today I fell back on a variation of a soup I used to call Meatball Soup, but this has no meatballs and is almost vegetarian--it does have a base of some very good chicken broth left from some chicken I had used earlier in the week for some other meals. I have put Italian in quotation marks because I make no promises that this is in any way "authentic"-- I just chose to use seasonings commonly found in the southern Italian food we in America are familiar with and start out with spaghetti sauce, that oh-so-Italian, American staple.

Whatever it is called or whatever variation you make, the warm smells coming from the slow cooker are just right after an afternoon of skiing or snowman making, or just sitting by the fire reading a book. Enjoy!

"Italian" Lentil Soup

1 large onion, chopped (about 12 ounces or 2 cups)
2 c diced celery (3 large ribs)
1 c diced bell pepper
approximately 2 c finely chopped cauliflower (that's what I had in the fridge today--cabbage is what I would usually have used)
1 quart rich chicken broth
1 28 oz can "zesty" spaghetti sauce, or your favorite flavor
15 oz can stewed tomatoes with onions and bell pepper
water
3/4 c pumpkin puree
8 oz (about 1 cup) lentils
1 c alphabet pasta (or your favorite shape, or just omit)
1 T mixed dried herbs--basil, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram
1 to 2 t garlic powder
1 t fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle or just added whole
1 T cider or wine vinegar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
16 oz frozen corn

Saute the onions and celery in a small amount of canola oil (or chicken fat from the homemade broth if desired). Cover and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes, until the onions become almost caramelized. (While this step may seem unnecessary, it really adds an incredible amount of flavor, and the onions can be cooking while you are assembling the rest of the soup.)

Put all the remaining ingredients except the corn and pasta into a large pot (see NOTE) and bring to a low boil. Stir in the onions and celery when done and add about a quart of water. (I rinse out every can and use this for the water in the soup, so sometimes I don't have a good measurement to provide.) Cover and reduce the heat to keep the soup just simmering. Allow to simmer for a few hours until the lentils are tender. Taste for seasoning after an hour or two. Add water as needed to bring to the consistency that you prefer for soup. Be sure not to add salt until you have tasted the soup after a little cooking, as many spaghetti sauces and even the tomatoes may already be very salty.

About half an hour before serving, stir in the corn and alphabet pasta. (Larger forms of pasta should probably be added an hour or so before serving.) Taste once more and adjust seasoning as necessary. This makes about a gallon or a little more of quite thick soup.

NOTE: This is an ideal recipe for a slow cooker, but it will take quite a large one. Put everything but the corn in as above and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours, adding the corn near the end of the cooking period. If you use a slow cooker, you may want to cook the pasta separately and add it just at the end. (This is, by the way, an excellent way to use leftover pasta. If you have some in the refrigerator already cooked, adding it with the corn will work well.)

You can also speed up this soup if you put the lentils in water just to cover and cook them according to package instructions before adding to the soup.

Other options: Chopped spinach or other greens go well in this soup too; just add frozen greens along with the corn. Kidney or other beans are also good additions and any kind of pasta can be used too. Butternut squash can be substituted for the pumpkin puree or you can just slice or dice some carrots and saute them with the onions. The key is to include one of these both for an added beta carotene boost and for the increased depth of flavor they provide. Ditto for the cauliflower or shredded cabbage--great ways to boost nutrition even for those family members who don't especially like vegetables.

Funny how many kids--and adults--who don't like vegetables can tolerate tomato-based things like spaghetti, pizza, chili, etc. Maybe tomatoes really are fruits! Here's your little information snippet for the day, a reference to the 1893 Supreme Court decision that officially declared tomatoes "vegetables:"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nix_v._Hedden

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Salad for Kids that May Need a New Name

When my daughter was a child, she loved a salad we had dubbed "Pink Lady Salad." This variation on classic Waldorf salad was easy, low fat, and something that was popular with just about any of the kids who ate at our house. Best of all, it is one that can be made in the winter months when fresh produce is not always readily available.

We made a slight variation today when my grandsons discovered how much fun it is to shell pecans, but the name may need to be updated to something a little more boy-ish! Whatever the name, it brought on calls for seconds.

Pink Lady Salad

1 c diced celery
1 1/2 c apples, cored and coarsely chopped but not peeled--a mixture of red and yellow-skinned apples makes a nice color contrast
1/3 c coarsely chopped walnuts
6 to 8 oz container strawberry yogurt

Stir all ingredients together and serve in clear dishes to show off the colors. Serves 3 to 4.

Variations: Use pecans or almonds instead of walnuts. Other fruits may also be added with the apples. Grapes and pears are especially good. Bananas can also be included for children who eat few other fruits, but they tend to overwhelm the other fruits, so I don't really recommend them.

Raspberry yogurt can be substituted for the strawberry.

For adults, and some children, a light grind of black pepper makes a nice contrast, as does a garnish of fresh mint leaves.

Hearty Soup for a Crowd

We are enjoying a very old-fashioned winter, with lots of snow and frequent temperature dips below zero--perfect soup weather. The recipe that follows makes a really large pot of soup, but it is perfect for having a few friends over, it refrigerates well (probably not the best for freezing), and you will be amazed at how many people will be coming back for seconds and thirds.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

canola oil
2 to 3 c chopped onion (1 to 2 large onions)
2 c diced celery
3 medium carrots, diced--about 2 cups
6 large potatoes, scrubbed and diced but not peeled
1 1/2 c sweet potato, peeled and diced (about 2 medium)
4 chicken bouillon cubes OR 1 to 2 c chicken stock
1 T mixed dried herbs--rosemary, thyme, basil, and marjoram in about equal quantities
1 t basil, in addition to the basil in the mixed herbs
1 to 2 t garlic powder
seasoning salt and black pepper to taste
1 1/2 quarts milk OR 1 to 2 c dry milk powder
1/2 c American cheese, diced
1/2 c flour
water
1 to 2 lb frozen broccoli

Put a small amount of canola oil in a large (at least 10 inch) skillet. Add the onion, celery and carrots and saute over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the potatoes, sweet potatoes and bouillon cubes or stock with about 2 cups of water in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Cover and cook over medium heat. When the onion mixture is done, stir it into the potatoes along with the seasonings and continue to simmer until the potatoes are very soft. Mash the potatoes lightly.

Combine the flour with about a cup or so of cold water and stir to make a paste. Gradually blend into the potatoes and stir until the soup is slightly thickened and bubbly. Add the cheese and milk along with enough water to make about a gallon or so of soup--to the consistency that you prefer. Continue to simmer for another 15 to 30 minutes. About 20 to 30 minutes before serving, stir in the partially thawed broccoli and heat until the soup returns to a slow simmer.

Serve in large soup mugs with grated cheddar or colby cheese and freshly ground pepper. Serves 8 to 12, depending on their appetites.

Other add-ins or variations:

Cheesy Broccoli soup
Stir 1 to 3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese into the soup after the broccoli is added and heat just long enough for the cheese to melt, stirring continuously.

Instead of, or in addition to the broccoli, stir in frozen peas, green beans, corn, mixed vegetables, etc. This can be a good way to use up leftover vegetables as well.

Diced leftover ham or turkey can be added near the end of the cooking time.

On the other hand, you can make this strictly vegetarian by using vegetable stock or vegetarian bouillon in place of the chicken broth/bouillon.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cabbage Gets Its Due

You may have noticed a little bit of a pattern in the past couple of posts, the ubiquity of cabbage and sweet potatoes.

The frequent use of sweet potatoes in my kitchen lately has been because of the stock that I gathered when they were on special before Christmas. Unlike the hard winter squashes and apples that are still enjoying the root cellar coolness of my garage, the sweet potatoes are clearly showing signs that they need to be used, soon.

The presence of cabbage in these last couple of dishes is not so seasonal. I have long loved this wonderful vegetable, especially in the days when my budget was really, really tight. It seems, though, that its reputation for being a thrifty cook's ingredient may have led some to ignore it. Well, that and the all too often mishandling that it has had over the years, when it has been boiled into a smelly, almost slimy side.

Today, just by coincidence, I found this article in the New York Times and wanted to share it with you all, especially if you were questioning trying these recipes just because of the cabbage.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/12/dining/12vege.html?ref=dining


Go ahead and try using cabbage, perhaps shredded to replace part of the lettuce in a salad or added to a soup or stew for some extra body and flavor. And then watch for sales in early March. Corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day usually brings out some really good prices for this great ingredient. It will keep in your refrigerator for several weeks, so go ahead and buy a couple of heads while the price is right.

High Nutrition Stuffed Tortillas



If increasing the nutritive value of some of your favorite meals is on your New Year’s resolution list, this quick lunch or light dinner meal will help in many ways. It includes a dark orange vegetable, a member of the cabbage family, some soy, whole grains, and no added salt beyond what is in the cheese—and that portion size is small enough to give some flavor without loading the overall meal with less than desirable fats.
To go with these burritos and round out the healthy theme, some crunchy apple or pear wedges on the side or a dish of diced orange pieces mixed with some stemmed grapes will provide great color and flavor balance.
Health Nut Burritos
1 c diced sweet potato
1/3 c chopped onion
canola oil
1 c edamame, precooked and shelled (see NOTE)
1/4 c chopped cilantro
cayenne pepper to taste (1/4 to 1/2 t)
1/4 to 1/2 t cumin
1 c finely shredded cabbage
1/2 c grated “taco blend” or Colby or mozzarella cheese
4 medium whole-wheat tortillas

Pour a small amount of oil in a medium sized skillet, just enough to “film” the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and sweet potatoes and cook slowly over medium heat until the onions are golden brown and the potatoes are just tender. (I like to cover the pan and add a few drops of water after about 3 or 4 minutes.)

Stir in the pepper, cumin, edamame and cilantro, stir, cover, and turn heat to low. Cook for another four to five minutes, until the mixture is well-warmed.

Meanwhile, warm the tortillas in the microwave for about 25 to 30 seconds.

Place a tortilla on each plate, arrange a quarter of the sweet potato mixture down the center of the tortilla and top with shredded cheese. If desired, put in microwave for 10 to 15 minutes, just long enough to melt cheese. Top with shredded cabbage and roll or fold like a burrito. If desired, add salsa and/or yogurt or fat free sour cream before rolling.

Serves 2 for lunch, 4 for a snack.

NOTE: Trader Joe’s is now in our town, and they have very reasonably priced edamame in the freezer section, already cooked and out of the pod. More and more grocery stores are now carrying this very healthy food as well.

Make-ahead idea:
The sweet potato and edamame mixture can be doubled and refrigerated or even frozen for future meals. Spoon single serving amounts on to a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Then pack all these little lumps of filling into a freezer bag, ready for as many burritos as you want for a quick meal or snack.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Quick Chicken Curry





Looking for a really quick meal that's not quite your usual mac and cheese standby? This one is mild enough (without the pepper flakes) that even kids are likely to enjoy it.

Quick Curried Chicken and Vegetables
Canola oil
8 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in 1 to 2 inch cubes
1/2 c chopped onion
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced, about 1 cup
1 1/2 c finely shredded cabbage
1 c frozen peas—no need to defrost
1 to 2 t curry powder, to taste
Salt to taste
1/3 to 1/2 c cider or apple juice (see NOTE)
Pepper flakes, cayenne, or hot sauce (optional)

Put just enough oil in a large skillet to cover the bottom, probably about a tablespoon. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and the onion and sauté over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with the curry powder and salt. After about 5 minutes, add the sweet potato cubes, stirring all to evenly brown. After another 5 minutes, add the cabbage and half of the cider stir, and cover tightly. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the cabbage has begun to cook down. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding pepper flakes or hot sauce if desired. Stir in the peas and more cider if needed. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit until the peas are thoroughly heated. Serve over rice or noodles.

NOTE: If you don't happen to have either fresh cider or apple juice, you can use a tablespoon or so of frozen apple juice concentrate and about a third of a cup of water.

Now, a little narrative to go with the recipe:

It was 11:50 am and I needed to put together a really quick meal to serve 4 or 5 people in half an hour. There was half a chicken breast (not de-boned, about 13 oz including the bone and skin) in the refrigerator along with some sweet potatoes that needed to be used up. While I could have settled for a nice midwestern “casserole” with the sweet potatoes served up on the side, I was looking for something a little more adventurous.

The resulting “experiment” was so good that I tried it a second time just to be sure it worked—and it did! The dish seems meant to go with rice, but it even came across well with egg noodles, the “starch of choice” on my first try. (Don’t ask me why, because I don’t have an answer, but I somehow became fixated on using those noodles no matter how the chicken would be prepared!)

So how I was able to get this meal to the table in half an hour, rice included? (The noodles method took about the same time, but I really do think you'll like it better with rice.)

Method:
I was able to shave perhaps five to ten minutes off the total time by NOT preparing the ingredients mise en place. Maybe you’ve never seen this term, but you may well have been influenced by the method of preparation it represents.
Mise en place simply means that everything has been “put in place” before you begin to cook. So when Rachel Ray or the Barefoot Contessa or whoever begins to prepare a dish on one of your favorite food shows, there will be a line of little dishes and measuring cups with all the vegetables diced, the cheeses shredded, even the oil measured out.
It is all well and good to have gone through the entire recipe to make sure you have all the ingredients (or appropriate substitutions if necessary), and there are times when it is most efficient to have something prepared ahead of time. However, there are also times when you can begin cooking even as you are still cutting or shredding or whatever. This dish is one of those situations, as the following timetable shows.


Timetable
11:50 Pour oil into skillet; start the rice (for this timetable, I am using white rather than brown rice).
11:55 Take chicken from refrigerator. Preheat skillet with oil in it. Put on disposable gloves (optional) and cut up chicken, setting bones aside for making broth at another time. Put chicken in the skillet and take off gloves. (Because I would be using the bones for broth, I could cut the chicken quickly, not worrying if I left a lot on the bones; it would not be going to waste!)
12:00 Peel and chop onion and add to chicken. Stir.
12:05 Peel and dice sweet potato and add to chicken. Stir. Add seasonings and cover pan.
12:10 Shred cabbage and get cider out of refrigerator. When the sweet potatoes are just starting to become tender, add the cabbage and cider, cover, and let simmer. Stir rice and turn heat lower if now boiling.
12:15 to 12:20 At some point, taste the chicken and vegetables and adjust seasoning if necessary, adding a little more cider if desired as well. Take the rice off the heat when done, fluff with a fork, and keep in a warm place.
Between 12:15 and 12:25, you can set the table, perhaps set out a tray of fruit (Grapes? Apple, orange, or pear wedges? Whatever is in season is good), and be ready to serve the food within half an hour of starting out.
12:20 Add the peas, stir well, and allow to sit for about 5 minutes to be sure peas are heated through. That’s it; it’s ready to serve.

Broth
About those bones: you could turn them into broth while you are preparing this meal (method follows), but it may be more efficient to put these bones into a container in the freezer and then make broth when you have a little larger supply. If you do have enough to make broth right now, you could start that pan at the same time that you start the rice and chicken curry, probably simmering a little longer while you eat dinner. (If you do this, I would advise you to set a timer so it isn’t completely forgotten—voice of experience talking here!) Then, as you are cleaning up the dinner dishes, you can lift the bones out of the broth, with the meat pieces falling off the bones, back into that wonderfully rich liquid. Dump the bones, pull the meat out and set aside for a chicken sandwich or casserole base, and either freeze the broth or refrigerate it for making some really good soup later in the week.
See how easy that is?!?

What follows is more a method than a recipe, since it is widely variable, dependent upon the amount of "bony stuff" you might have.


Rich Chicken Broth

Chicken bones left after deboning chicken parts (See NOTE)
Water
Poultry seasoning and/or sage
Salt
Place bones and any meat clinging to them in a large saucepan. If you have skinned the chicken and have some of that, it can also be added for more flavor.
Add enough water to cover the bones. Sprinkle with poultry seasoning or sage and salt, using about a teaspoon of each for each two to three cups of water. Cover and place over high heat.
Bring water to a boil and turn to a very slow simmer. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the amount being cooked. When the meat is falling completely off the bones, remove from heat and pour into a colander. Separate the meat from the bones for use in sandwiches, casseroles, etc., and discard the bones.
Chill the strained broth. When the fat has hardened, this can be lifted off and discarded, leaving fully de-fatted broth. This is usually very rich so you can usually dilute it half and half with water or milk in recipes calling for canned broth.

NOTE: This same method can be used for “cooked” bones left from a roast turkey or chicken, including that rotisserie chicken you picked up on an especially hectic day. Put the bones in a pan with any leftover drippings or juices and then add enough water to cover.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

...and on to the New

Some added comments to yesterday's post:

Pumpkin Seeds:

The method for roasting the pumpkin seeds may seem more cumbersome than the common approach to just rinse the seeds, coat with oil, and bake. The advantage to the brining is a much crunchier product and more even seasoning of the seeds.

Pumpkin Puree:

I neglected to weigh my pumpkin before roasting, so I can't give a good estimate of the ratio of uncooked pumpkin to pulp. However, as noted, I had paid less than $2 for the pumpkin, even as the price of canned pumpkin was well over $1 for the 15 ounce size. (There apparently was a significant pumpkin harvest shortfall in late 2009, so the price had jumped throughout all of 2010.) My pumpkin was "average" for the ones sold this fall; as seems typical here, pumpkins tend to be sold per fruit rather than by the pound.

What did I get for my $1.88? Eight cups of pumpkin puree and 2 1/2 cups of roasted pumpkin seeds. A good reminder to me to shop for pie pumpkins again next year, since they are so easy to prepare and can be frozen for ready use in recipes.

And how do I plan to use this pumpkin? Some will be frozen in half cup packages for adding to spaghetti sauce, chili, etc.--just as I use pureed squash, for adding to the nutrient load and building some added depth to the overall flavor.

There will also be some frozen in one cup portions for desserts. My August 24, 2009 post on this blog includes a recipe for a pumpkin apple upside down cake that makes a spectacular fall dessert. However, my personal, preferred dessert approach is pumpkin pudding, which is really just your favorite pumpkin pie filling poured into a pie plate or casserole dish and baked without any crust. Same great flavor but without the extra calories of the pastry.

If you are an ice cream lover, you can also take your favorite pumpkin pie filling recipe, omit the eggs, cut the milk in half (or omit completely), double the spices, and stir into about an equal amount of softened vanilla ice cream. Refreeze and enjoy at any season, not just when pumpkin pie ice cream might possibly be available. (You can choose to stir the pumpkin and ice cream together thoroughly for a solid effect or only marble the filling into the ice cream.)

The recipe I use as a basis for pumpkin pie, pumpkin pudding, or pumpkin ice cream is essentially the "Libby's Classic Pumpkin Pie" that you will find all over the internet--as well as on the side of Libby's pumpkin. I will admit to a couple of adjustments: the original recipe calls for 1/2 t salt, which I omit, and I often shake the cinnamon and ginger into the filling a little more generously than called for. Other than that, I try to actually follow this recipe!

Pumpkin Pie Filling

2 c pumpkin, either canned or prepared at home
2 eggs
3/4 c sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ginger
1/4 t cloves
1 2/3 c evaporated milk ( 12 oz can)

Combine all ingredients, beating to be sure everything is well blended. If making a pie, place in a 9 inch prepared pie shell. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350 and bake 45 more minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.


I am also going to include a recipe that I have not personally tested, since it comes highly recommended by my daughter and is one that my sister Linda made often when her kids were growing up. Looking at the amount of sugar in the recipe, it is clear that these are the kind of muffins that should be for dessert, not as a bread side--but then, that seems to be what all muffins are now. I think I'm showing my age when I say that the muffins I learned how to make in home ec class years ago were all pretty plain, usually intended as a base for some butter and homemade jams and jellies.

Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins

2 1/2 c flour
2 c sugar
1 T pumpkin pie spice
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 eggs
1 c solid pack pumpkin
1/2 c oil
2 c finely chopped apple

Streusel Topping
2 T flour
1/4 c sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
4 t butter

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the eggs, pumpkin and oil and add to the flour mixture, stirring gently until just moistened--do not overbeat. Fold in the apples.

Spoon batter into greased or paper-lined muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full. Sprinkle with Streusel Topping and bake for 35 to 40 minutes for large muffins, a little less for medium muffins. Makes 6 giant muffins, 9 to 12 medium muffins.

Streusel Topping
Combine flour, sugar and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.


And finally,

Black-eyed Peas

I started my New Year's with black-eyed peas, but not in the way I had initially planned. I decided to try a bowl of them for breakfast with only a scoop of good salsa over the top. My fears about these being too strong-flavored were instantly gone, as I found the flavor of this combination perfect as a savory start to the day and the new year.

An aside:
I had prepared the peas by soaking in salt water and then rinsing that off before cooking, and the final product didn't need any salt at all. I had written about this approach in an earlier blog but hadn't tried it until now--I would always forget and just start soaking beans, not thinking of the salting step until too late. I'd love to find a site that may have scientifically checked the sodium levels of beans prepared this way.

But back to the black-eyed peas. I decided to go for a kind of wintery salad mix instead of making a vegetarian version of Hoppin' John or anything similar, pulling out things already in the cupboard and produce drawer.

New Year's Salad

1 c cubed sweet potato (1 medium)
4 c cooked black-eyed peas, drained (probably two cans if you are not using those prepared yourself)
1 c coarsely chopped orange bell pepper (l large)
1/2 c chopped red onion (1/2 medium)
3/4 c diced celery
4 oz can diced green chiles; do not drain
1 c frozen corn
1/3 to 1/2 c chopped cilantro, or more to taste
3 T olive oil
2 T balsamic or cider vinegar--or a mixture
2 t cumin
1 t dried basil
2 to 3 T sugar, to taste
seasoning salt and black pepper to taste

Place the sweet potato cubes in a covered container with about a teaspoon of water and microwave for about 2 to 3 minutes until just tender.

Combine all ingredients in a large glass bowl and toss to mix well. Allow to marinate a few hours, taste for seasoning, and serve.

Not sure about any good luck this will bring, but it certainly does add a lot of flavor to any foods with which it is served!