Friday, October 26, 2012

38 Power Foods, Week 20 -- Papaya -- Papaya-Candied Ginger Muffins with Cashews

A crispy-moist, very gingery muffin made with oats, whole wheat, and yogurt. Don't tell.

Somewhere on toward 6:30 and there was no light anywhere that October morning. Only the too-lazy-to-make-their-own-coffee guys were struggling down the street to the gas station where ethanol-fragranced cheap brews waited.   No birds stirred.  The dogs slept on.  Donning jeans and t-shirt in the dark, she searched for her moccasins by sitting down and feeling around on the floor of the closet with her hands. Toddling down the hall to the bathroom, she made peace with her body, and then carefully made her way down the stairs, feeling each tread with her toes before proceeding to the next.

Friday, October 19, 2012

38 Power Foods, Week 19 -- Kiwi -- Quick Individual Kiwi Tarts with Gingersnap Crust

An ultra thin ginger snap smothered with hot pastry cream serves as the "crust."
How the Quick Kiwi Tart with Gingersnap Crust came to be...

While I love to bake a pie as much as the next woman (more than most, I'd guess), I also like nearly instant desserts that are luscious and don't wear out the soles of your trainers.  (Like after you've cooked for company all day and still need dessert.)  I have a pocketful of favorites like a 30-second pumpkin custard (it'll be in my soup book) and a blink-done  individual chocolate flourless "cake." I also have no-bake favorites like a strawberry ice cream parfait layered with crumbled ginger shortbread and fresh peaches. In cases of real emergencies, I buy ice cream and cones--and not just for the kids.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Guinness Beef Pot Pie with Cheddar-Dill Biscuits or I'm So Full I Don't Know Where I'm Going to Sleep Tonight

Made in a deep, heavy 8 quart cast iron pot with a  lid  (Dutch oven)
Last year around this time, I made a pot roast with big pieces of butternut squash and halved onions in the oven.  A day later I took the leftovers, including the gravy, and made stew.  Stew from leftovers is definitely an improvement over freshly made stew.   There's a deeper, fuller, and more flavorful rich quality--without question.  It's just that there's usually less than when you make a fresh pot. That stew made very quickly with the addition of more onions, celery, and Guinness stout, etc., was divine.   I mean it, it was an incredible stew.

No who knows totally why one time things are so scrumptious you want more and more -- and another time (same ingredients and method apparently) it's like, "This is ok. Yeah, we can eat dinner here."  Perhaps it's the quality of the meat (in the case of stew) or maybe it's a little pixie dust.  Your taste buds might be on their "A" game so that you are able to season the pot in an extraordinary way.   Truly, I just don't know.  I know when I'm tired -- really exhausted-- the meal prepared under those circumstances is plebian.  I just did that recently, so I know.  I know when I don't give something my undivided attention that it's bound to be less interesting.  (As in the kids are hungry-throw a bunch of cut-up chicken in the oven and make some rice for God's sake.)

Friday, October 12, 2012

38 Power Foods, Week 18 -- Citrus -- Step-by-Step Pear or Apple Crostata (Pie 101)

Scroll down for recipe.

Come fall, I make crostatas regularly.  They're beautiful, terribly good to eat, and generally make folks quite happy.  A free-form fruit pie (often made with homemade jam in Italy), they're easier to make than traditional American pie and are show-stoppers when you have friends to dinner.  I've blogged the crostatas before, and have taught them several times for the Italian classes I've done at home.  But I didn't think of them in terms of citrus until our Power Foods list came up this week.  While citrus (lemon particularly) is a huge part of my cooking, I think about it less in terms of baking.   

  For instance:  I rarely make a green salad without squeezing a lemon over it.  Either I have lemon and oil, lemon alone, or lemon before a vinaigrette.  Whatever choice I make, lemon, as an acid, is always followed by salt and pepper on my salads because salt dissolves best in acid.  For that reason, if I'm making a vinaigrette, I always put the salt in the acid -- whether citrus or vinegar-- before adding the oil. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pear-Grilled Fig Salad with Goat Cheese

 There are moments when I'm aware enough of the blessed goodness in my life.  Maybe.  I know not everyone has a counter full of butternut squash, apples, onions, shallots, garlic, hundreds (literally) of tiny green and red tomatoes, and Bosc pears.  I know not everyone has a warm snug lying next to them come the cold, dark morning.  Or a reason to get up and do something with the bounty in the kitchen downstairs.  I probably don't truly understand it, but I get it.  My life hasn't been all rose teacups and long walks along the river with the dogs.

This morning I read a post on a blog I follow (there's a link in my blogroll at right, too).

leave it where jesus flang it

Margaret writes daily there.   It's a prayer journal of sorts.  She's an Episcopal priest on an Indian reservation in South Dakota and life's hard there.  The loss and the poorness and the hurt are hardscabble painful and it's her job to keep showing up for the difficult moments and beyond.  Today she writes about people nearby whose babies have just died...  And (having had babies who died) I understand where this is and where it goes.  What I am drawn to these many years later is twofold:

1. why...if we need each other so very badly through the crazy, hilarious, dipping, winding, bottoming-out life trek, and if church is meant to provide that for us...why are so many of us no longer part of that community?   Or, if we are a part, are those communities truly sustaining us? and 2.  a bursting grateful noise for all I have and all those who have loved me through the nearly killing losses.   I come back to the idea that to begin with thanksgiving is a perfect way to pray/live and I have to learn it all over again, all over again, all over again.   Even if God isn't a welcomed presence in your life, I think the settling of near-constant thanksgiving in our bodies is a positive way to breathe on earth.

Friday, October 5, 2012

38 Power Foods, Week 17 -- Berries -- Fresh Berry Cake

Just looking at this cake will tell you that it's not difficult to make and it's NOT.  A quick glance at the recipe, however, might put you off.  Don't let it.  There may be a little reading involved, but the cooking and baking are fairly simple and don't take long.  In fact, though it's two layers, you only bake one cake.  After it's cool, you cut it in half.

But listen, if you're not a baker, this is just the cake for you... because you can get away without baking a cake at all!  Just buy a Sara Lee pound cake and cut it into layers--maybe three?--and do a loaf-shaped cake on a pretty rectangular tray.  Follow the rest of the directions for the berries and filling and there you are!   You could also bake a box cake into cupcakes, slice them, put half in a pretty coffee cup and decorate from there.  Whatever you do, this is a beautiful, tasty cake for Easter, Mother's Day, or the Memorial Day picnic.  (Assemble this cake where you're serving it.)  If you don't have a special cake plate, don't worry about it.  Whoever eats this will be happy no matter what.  Next time you run in Good Will, see a funky antique shop or a garage sale,  keep an eye our for great serving pieces.  No need to spend a fortune at the department stores. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Salmon on Kale with Lemon and Thyme--One-Pan Dinner

 I'm a firm fan of the frozen salmon that comes in the individual or duo vacuum pack.  It's delicious, less expensive than fresh, and sometimes fresher than the fish in the seafood case.  I've been buying packages  all summer long at a price of about $4 and change per approximately 6 oz. serving.  (This is a quote from my blog, DINNER PLACE-- THE SOLO COOK.)