Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vegetarian Chili with Pumpkin

I promised to post this one when I posted my pumpkin pancake recipe so here it is...I'm not a vegetarian anymore so I don't make this one very often... but it used to be a regular on my table in the fall and winter.

You can of course make this using all fresh ingredients... for the canned beans just substitute two-three cups cooked pintos or red beans, substitute fresh pumpkin puree for the canned. You can also use fresh tomatoes when in season by blanching several of them in boiling water, removing the skin and then chopping.

Meatless Chili

1 can crushed tomatoes
2 cans beans
1 C. onion
2/3 C. Bulgar wheat
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. salt
2 roasted and peeled green chilies, chopped
1 can solid packed pumpkin
1 C. red bell peppers
2 1/2 T. chili powder
1 t. garlic powder... or better yet use 2-3 cloves fresh garlic

In a large pot combine 4 cups of water with all ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30-35 minutes serve garnished with plain yogurt.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bobbing for Apples...

Bobbing for apples is a fun Halloween tradition that offers a healthy break from all the candy and treats that seem to rain down during this time of year. It originated as a Celtic tradition... but it has seen many incarnations throughout it's history as a game. It is interesting to note that most of the time apple bobbing has been a game used in fertility rites or to divine the name of the person you are going to marry (for more apple lore associated with love you can check out one from my archives... Apple of my Eye). An old game played during new years festivities maintained that the first person to get an apple would be the next to marry... and another game stated that if a girl placed her apple under her pillow she would dream of her future lover. Thankfully my girls are far too young for such nonsense. At our house bobbing for apples is just good clean fun!

Here are some photos from last years apple bobbing festivities...

After bobbing for apples what better way to cover up the teeth marks than to slap a little Carmel on 'um.

6 apples
1 (14 ounce) package individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
2 tablespoons milk

Remove the stem from each apple and press a craft stick into the top. Butter a baking sheet. Place caramels and milk in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave 2
minutes, stirring once. Allow to cool briefly. Roll each apple quickly in caramel sauce until well coated. Place or prepared sheet to set. If you want you can roll the still warm carmel apples in sprinkles nuts or granola to give them a little crunch.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Extending the Table

I have this really great cookbook that I use all the time. I thought some of you might be interested in checking it out. It is called Extending the Table:

It has a lot of really wonderful and simple recipes in it that are inexpensive to make. The recipes have been collected by missionaries in countries all around the world. I don't go to church myself... but you don't need to to understand the language of hospitality in this book. My mom and dad picked up this book for me a couple of years ago on a vacation...and I have been using it at least weekly ever since. Most of the recipes use everyday ingredients that you can easily pick up at the grocery store and yet they come together to make fun and exotic dishes that keep your table interesting.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pumpkin Pancakes

I have been taking the girls to the farmer's market on Tuesdays after I pick M up from school. It is a pretty small market with only a half a dozen or so booths...but the girls like to wander around and they usually want to buy something...and hey if it gets them interested in vegetables I am all for it.

A couple of weeks ago we picked up these cute little pumpkins for the girls to draw faces on. Closer to Halloween we will carve them... or possibly make a cool scare crow for the porch. I also plan on picking up a few cooking pumpkins and try my hand at making some pumpkin puree from scratch... I will be sure to document my experience of course... but until then I thought I would start thinking about the upcoming holiday season by posting a pumpkin recipe.

When I do get around to making pumpkin puree here is the perfect recipe:

Pumpkin Pancakes

I love pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie …so why not pumpkin pancakes… These taste great with a little extra cinnamon and you can even toss in a bit of ground cloves. Serve with real maple syrup…not the sugary fake stuff.

2 cups flour
2 T. granulated sugar
4 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
4 eggs, separated
1 C. pumpkin puree
1 1/2 C. milk
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter

Sift together dry ingredients. Combine milk, egg yolks, butter, and pumpkin puree. Stir into dry ingredients until just blended. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into batter. Pour onto hot, oiled griddle, about 1/4 cup at a time. Cook until tops bubble and turn and cook other side.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Joy of the Mountain

Oregano became popular in the states after WWII...before that it was know by it's Spanish name marjoram and was not a staple in the kitchen. Veterans who had been stationed in Italy brought back news of a wonderful dish called pizza and urged their mothers and wives to seek out this delicious herb.

Oregano, a member of the mint family, is originally from the Mediterranean and while not originally popular with US cooks it was brought to the new world early on and has a place in many Latin American dishes. The name oregano comes from the Greek orus (mountain) and ganus (joy)... and it truly is a joy that comes from the hillsides of the Mediterranean. It has been known by many names: wild marjoram, winter sweet, organy, and even Mexican sage.

In addition to it's culinary applications oregano has also been valued as a medicinal herb. Throughout history it has been prescribed for digestive woes, scorpion stings, visual impairment, and even as a tonic to cleanse the brain. I don't know about all that... but what I do know is that it grows well in my garden and really adds flavor to tomato sauces and salads.

Here is a recipe for a Greek style salad that I whipped up this week with the girls:

First we collected together the main ingredients: 1 cucumber (sliced), one large tomato (chopped), one jar or can of black olives (without pits...sliced or in this case slightly mangled), one small onion, a handful of radishes (sliced), a generous handful of oregano (minced), a couple of lemons, salt & pepper (to taste), feta cheese, and a generous drizzling of olive oil. When your ready to put it together just put your little ones to work cutting up the olives... this works well because there is no need for a sharp knife to get the job done. Then I chopped up the rest of the veggies (most importantly the oregano) and then dressed it all with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt & pepper. I put the feta cheese on the side so that the leftovers would last longer in the fridge.


All smudge marks in the top right hand corner of the photos are courtesy of a broken lense cap cover and my darling daughter L.
All this wonderful information about oregano comes from "The Spice Cookbook" by Avanelle Day and Lillie Stuckley

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Fall Renewal...

My garden experienced a bit of a ugly death as the summer heat burned it to a crisp. I didn't think that my mint plant would make a recovery... or my sage... but it looks like everything is coming back beautifully with the cooler fall temperatures. I've even planted a couple of new cooler weather plants like my cilantro. I don't have any vegetable growing right now... but my herb garden is still coming along. Here are some photos of my garden this fall:

Here is my mint plant... like a phoenix rising from the ashes... a few green buds grow on the brown and withered stems.

My sage too is making a recovery.

Here is my new addition... a cilantro plant that has tripled in size in just a few weeks since I replanted it in this larger pot.
Here is another new addition... a thyme plant... I usually like to plant it in the ground... but due to my dogs I decided to start this one out in a pot until it grows to a size where it is capable of fending for itself.

My basil is looking a little worse for wear... but the oregano is, as always bushy and beautiful... and the plant on the left is, I believe, lime kaffir. I had no idea when I bought it... but I believe it is a citrus shrub with edible leave... I can't wait to see how it grows. It has already grown by leaps and bounds since I purchased it in the spring.

My rosemary plant is about the same age as my oldest daughter...5... and while it is not as tall as she is it makes up for it in overall size.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Happy Birthday to my Little L!

I made my darling L a pink, sparkly birthday cake. I used the family Tomato Soup Cake recipe... I tried my MILs edits this time and I wasn't as happy with the texture of the cake... but it turned out fine. The real disaster was the cream cheese icing. I don't know what I did wrong this time... but the cream cheese was lumpy and it wouldn't get thick... I tried to frost the cake with it... and ended in tears... my husband and Betty Crocker saved the day with a trip to the store to buy some premade cream cheese frosting...not as good as homemade, but far better than tears.

Here is the Birthday Girl in action!
Happy Birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear L... Happy birthday to you!

Make a Wish!

Lick the candle clean.

And enjoy a birthday cupcake.

I hope she has a very good year...XXXOOOXXX

Friday, October 15, 2010

Going Green in the Kitchen!

I just thought that this Friday I'd offer a few tips on how to "go green" in the kitchen...and I'm not talking about eating your kale or broccoli... I'm talking, of course, about all those little choices you can make each day to make a difference to the environment. Many of these are obvious things... but hey... if we all did them all the time I'm sure that the world would be a cleaner place.

1. Use reusable shopping bags... a couple of years ago I didn't know anyone who used reusable shopping bags... most of us just felt superior at the store when asked "Paper or plastic?" and we opted for the paper (much to the annoyance of the clerk)... but the truth is the best choice is cloth or canvas. The production of paper bags is not green... it produces air pollution. Sure recycling is great... but reducing and reusing is a whole lot better!

2. Pack lunches using reusable bags and containers. Instead of buying all those prepackaged snacks or putting your kid's sandwich in a plastic bag... invest in a few containers that you can reuse time and time again. While you're at it leave out that bottled water or juice box and get a thermos or reusable water bottle.

3. Pay attention to packaging. Look for products that are packaged wisely. Sometimes it pays to buy in bulk... but only if your family will really use it. Buying things in bulk is usually a good idea due to the decrease in wasteful packaging... but if buying the super pack of paper towels encourages you to use more paper then go with the smaller package.

4. Recycle... I know... it is a no brainer... but it pays to take a look at what your curbside recycle bin can take... and look for other options to recycle what it won't. Our curbside service just expanded and will now take plastics and paper that they wouldn't in the past. In the past we had to take our colored plastics and some of our paper to a local service... now the city takes it all.

5. Compost kitchen waste if you have a garden. It's good for your garden... and while your out there plant some herbs and veggies... the more you grow the less you have to buy at the store. But once again garden wisely... if you live in Arizona think long and hard before planting something that requires a lot of resourses.

6. Buy organic and local... but use your brain about it. Sometimes a green label doesn't mean that it is really green. A six pack of organic milk in little plastic bottles may seem like a good idea for you kids lunch... but what about those 6 little plastic bottles? Buy a gallon of organic milk instead and put it in a reusable container.

OK... enough self righteous preachiness... it's time to go to my kitchen and wrap the entire contents of my fridge in plastic wrap while cleaning all my counter tops with toxic chemicals.

What do you do to make your kitchen more green?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Carne de Res en Chile Colorado

This is a traditional preparation of beef in Mexico. It is very flavorful... but surprisingly it is not terribly spicy. The dried chilies have a rich flavor that match their rich color but at least the variety I use are low on the Scoville scale.
At our local grocery there are stacks of dried chilies in the produce department... but if you are not that lucky you might find them in the spice isle or the department specializing in Mexican food. I know that Fiesta brand sells bagged chilies... The New Mexico or the Chili Cascavel would probably be your best bet. I always find that it is fun to experiment with new ingredients... You can always make the sauce ahead of time and if it isn't to your liking try another variety of chili.

Put 1-2 lbs of lean stewing beef in a pan and barely cover with water. Sprinkle with salt and bring to a boil. Cook this on low heat for about 2 hours until the beef is cooked through and tender. The key is keeping the heat low... and make sure you add the salt.

Core and seed chilies and put in a sauce pan with about a cup of water. Simmer for about 10 minutes (or if you are like me you'll forget about them until the water is all gone and it starts to burn....then you'll try your luck anyway and be pleasantly surprised by howwell the sauce comes out).

Place chilies and some water (use the cooking water from the chilies that is left) and add 1/2 t. cumin, a handful of fresh oregano (or1/2 t. dried), 3 cloves garlic and blend until smooth. Start out with a 1/2 of the cooking water and add it until it is a thin gravy-like paste.

Heat oil in a skillet and add the blended sauce and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Add the meat and heat through coating the meat with the sauce.

Serve in warm tortillas with beans... and in this case Jicama-orange salad.

Buen Provecho!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A list and a plan for healthier eating...

I have been making lots of changes lately. I have been doing yoga, exercising regularly, and working on creativity through this blog, song writing and crafty projects. These changes are good and I feel healthier and happier as a result. I haven't, however, examined my diet and my family's diet in some time. Whenever you seek to change something it is always good to look at the things that you are already doing right... and frankly I feel like my husband and I eat a pretty good diet and feed our kids well. We eat tons of fruit. We always have vegetables at dinner (and I don't consider french fries or ketchup a vegetable serving). We are VERY moderate in our junk food and fast food consumption. We buy organic milk and eggs and we try to eat organic meats and veggies whenever possible. All in all we aren't doing too bad... but like most things we could do better and so I've compiled this list of things we might change to help us eat a healthier diet.

1. I need to plan a family meeting to talk about this list and get ideas from my husband and kids.

2. Keep a food journal for myself and my family for a few days to find out what we are doing wrong and what we are doing right.

3. Make copies of the food pyramids and find out good serving sizes for me, my husband and the kids.

4. Make a list of vegetable side dishes and salads so that we can increase our vegetable consumption and add variety into dinner. We tend to get in a side dish rut around here.

5. Drink more water and help the kids do the same.

6. Make lunch and breakfast more interesting and balanced meals. Breakfast, especially, tends to be rich in carbs... How can we add more fruits and veggies to these meals?

7. Get the kids more involved in planning and cooking healthy foods. Have them make salads and such to increase their interest and awareness of this neglected food group.

8. Improve on snack options. Make a list of healthy snacks and have them ready and on hand so that the kids can help themselves to a wide variety of "anytime" foods.

9. Replace one unhealthy eating habit with a healthy one. Example- make smoothies for a treat instead of heading to sonic for a cherry limeade.

10. Reduce reliance on processed foods. We don't eat too many of these... but there is certainly room for improvement.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Jicama is a popular street food in Mexico. It is usually chopped into strips and served in a plastic bag with fresh lemon juice drizzled over it and a generous sprinkling of chili powder. You'll generally find it at fruit stands or you might have it handed up to your bus seat at a filling station. I loved jicama served this way and I often serve it as an appetizer at a party...I think that it looks so beautiful with it's white flesh sprinkled with chili powder.

If you 've never used jicama before all you need to do is peel off the papery brown skin to get to the pear like white flesh inside. Don't be scared to try something new. Pick up a Jicama next time you go to the store and try it the traditional way... or you might want to try it in this salad. It is a great way to incorporate this wonderful vegetable into a family meal.

Orange-Jicama Salad

1 medium jicama (3 cups chopped)
4 oranges, peeled and sectioned
1 cup red onion
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1 T. sugar
1/4 t. salt

Mix jicama, orange and onion in a small bowl. Combine remaining and pour over salad. Mix well and chill for several hours. This salad is especially good if you allow it to chill overnight. Mix several times while chilling.

Photo at top from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup is the Tex-Mex version of the Mexican soup called Sopa Azteca. It is a delicious soup that can be made with endless variations. my opinion... is truly Chicken Soup for the soul... and not that watered down canned variety with flavorless chicken bits and soggy noodles. I make mine with chicken... but it is totally cool to make a veggie variety... Just substitute a vegetable or a tomato broth for the chicken broth and if you want a little more substance add in some pinto beans, chickpeas of hominy in place of the diced chicken.

I start out by cooking my chicken pieces in water to create the stock. I cook the chicken in a mixture of broth and water rather than taking the time to make true homemade broth... but I'm usually short on time and this is one of my few shortcuts. While that is cooking I saute peppers, tomatoes, tomatillas, onion, and garlic.

When the chicken is cooked I remove it from the broth and cut it into small bites. Then you just return it to the pot with the sauteed vegetables and a handful of chopped, fresh oregano. Cook for 30 minutes or so and wah-la... Now all you need are some add ins to garnish the soup at the table. In my opinion the add ins are what make the soup. Bowls of interesting garnishes ont he table that the family can add as they like make this dish a favorite at my house.

I like to cut up corn tortillas and fry them... but you can use store bought corn chips if you'd like. You'll also want to grate some cheese. Other add ins are cilantro, sour cream, chopped radishes or cabbage, and diced avocado.

Dig in!

Blog Hop...

I don't ususally do blog hops because they are usually about promoting products through give aways or promotions... or the subject matter of the hop has nothing to do with my blog topic. But this one has what I was looking for... The Hump Day Hop.... and who doesn't like humping? The draw to this hop is that I can write about what I want to write about... and when I look at the other blogs listed on the hop I know I'm not going to be asked to give my opinion about a face cream... or sign up to win fabulous prizes.
I've discovered some pretty cool blogs already and look forward to seeing a few more!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Seeing Red

When was the last time you had a bowl of "love apple" soup? You better be careful with this delicious soup... because tomatoes have been know to "increase sexual passion and cure sterility." I will admit that the soup was good... but I can't really say it was THAT kind of good... but hey if it gives you a warm special glow that goes beyond that cozy "soup is good food" feeling... then I say put the kids to bed early and go with it!

As cool weather begins to tease this poor Texas girl... I find myself craving soup. Maybe it is because I know that tomorrow may bring temperatures in the 90's again... but as I sit at the kitchen table over a bowl of steaming soup I dream of fall and all the wonderful flavors it brings. There have been nights recently that I put soup on the menu only to find that it was a bit warm for such musings... on those nights I close the windows... crank up the air conditioner... and dream!

I made tomato soup and grilled cheese for dinner the other night. The soup I made was called Hungarian Tomato Soup... It was a far cry better (in my opionion) than the stuff that comes in a can... and it was so easy to make. Tomatoes aren't really in season right now so if you can't find any good ones you can substitute 1 28-oz can diced or crushed tomatoes.

You'll need: 2 T. oil, 1diced onion, 1/2 diced red bell pepper, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 1/2 t. paprika, 4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, 2 oz cooked and chopped bacon, 6 cups chicken or veggie stock, and salt and pepper to taste.

Saute onion and bell pepper until soft.

Stir in garlic and paprika and cook until all ingredients are mixed together.

Stir in bacon, tomatoes and stock and cook for at least 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste... Pure simplicity!

Serve with grilled cheese. I like to make mine on a nice crunchy wheat bread with lots of texture. I'm not a fan of American Cheese... so I usually make my grilled cheese with mozzarella or Monterrey Jack. You can make toasted cheese sandwiches if you are watching your waistline... but I always like to use real butter and grill mine to perfection.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...