Thursday, November 24, 2011


A few years ago I was writing a family blog over at another URL. I was recently reminded of a post I had written there with my thoughts on the Holiday Season. I would like to share it again...

As I enjoy my family on this Thanksgiving Day, I am reminded of the chorus from Handel's Messiah "Thanks Be To God". With this, I am prompted to reflect.....

We usually think of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day as three separate Holidays, and refer to them all, in general, as the Holiday Season. What if we changed our thinking of these Holy-days? What if the trio of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years could take on a more particular purpose? Three Holidays. I am reminded of the the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. Three separate and yet one in the same. I am inspired to re-think our three-fold Holiday Season with emphasis on greater spiritual significance.

We begin with Thanksgiving, a moment of reflection and gratefulness. A time to remember the ones who have gone before us, the relationships that formed our nation at its beginning. For me, a day of family and remembering, "Thanks be to God in the highest".

Then Christmas. A time that we have chosen to remember the birth of Jesus Christ. We follow our Thanksgiving with a period of remembering the eternal life brought to us by Him alone. The birth of Christ - a time for celebration and meditation. Truly, "Joy to the World".

Finally, New Years Day. Symbolic of the new birth brought by salvation. A fitting time to follow the commemoration of our Savior with a moment to consider our new beginning. Contemplation. Introspection.
I choose to believe there is a more divine purpose held within our three-fold Holiday Season. Thankfulness for our abundant blessings, rejoicing in the birth that brings eternal salvation, and then a clean slate....a fresh beginning. A time to let go of past mistakes and remember with joy the fresh start that we find new every morning in our Savior, in our new birth. "For unto us a Child is born..."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Business in the Front, Party in the Back

When my husband is traveling out of town, I often do something fun or out of the ordinary with my kiddo's. It helps take their minds off the absence of their very hands-on father. So while he was recently in Colorado, we continued on our pumpkin binge and decided to have a lazy day making pumpkin-chocolate-chip our 10 a.m. They especially loved the "hidden" chocolate chips in the back. We are all about surprises here. We skipped the regular all-purpose flour and went with oat flour instead. I was having a white-flour-free moment...not to be confused with my gluten-free moments or egg-free moments. What can I say? I have a few moments now and then. I am happy with how the pancakes turned out - nice and moist even with the oat flour. I haven't tried the recipe substituting all-purpose flour, but I am fairly sure it will still turn out just as well.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes

2 eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups oat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
mini chocolate chips

Preheat a skillet or griddle to 400 degrees. Combine eggs, buttermilk, butter, pumpkin, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl - when it comes to pancakes, I usually skip my big kitchen-aid mixer and do everything in a large bowl with a's an old habit and as we all know, those die hard. Whisk ingredients together until combined. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and allspice.  Mix the dry into the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. Pour the batter onto the griddle to form 5-inch circles. After the batter begins to bubble, sprinkle on the chocolate chips...
When your edges begin to dry, flip the pancakes and cook until golden on both sides. Keep pancakes in a warm oven until ready to serve.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Minestrone Madness

In keeping with my love of all things fall, I am so excited to have re-entered soup weather! Soup is one of my favorite things and the flavor combinations are endless. As I write this post, a heavy rain is pouring down outside, the sky is dark at merely 4pm and my house is filled with the warm, slurpy, fragrant happiness of soup. This hearty minestrone is fairly simple, the most difficult facet being found in the ingredient list. I live in a very small town and can't always lay my hands on swiss chard. I have attempted to make the soup without the chard, but the result is definitely lacking in flavor. So on a recent sprint through Kroger (doesn't every mom 'sprint' through the grocery store? who has time to meander?) I spotted some swiss chard and quickly snatched up the best looking bunch I could find. In retrospect, I should have bought more, doubled the recipe and filled my deep freeze for later...cause I know that swiss chard won't be there next time. Live and learn. 

Minestrone Soup
4-6 slices bacon, chopped
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large yellow onion
1/2 head of green cabbage, chopped
2-3 large leaves of swiss chard, washed and chopped
3 large carrots
2 stalks celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained, rinsed and 1/2 of them mashed
5-6 cans chicken broth (about 10 cups)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
3 Tbs. dried parsley
2 Tbs. dried basil
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. salt 
1//2 cup orzo

In the bottom of a large, heavy stock pot, brown chopped bacon in olive oil. While the bacon is cooking, place onion, carrots and celery in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Set aside. On a cutting board, coarsely chop the cabbage and swiss chard. I have attempted placing the cabbage and chard in the food processor, but the result is not the same - impossible to obtain a coarse enough chop as the food processor is best for fine chopping and the soup has a much better flavor and texture when the cabbage and chard are coarsely chopped. When the bacon pieces are crispy and brown, stir in all of the vegetables - onions, carrots, celery, garlic, cabbage and swiss chard - as well as all of the seasonings - parsley, basil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until the veggies become tender. Then add the coarsely chopped whole tomatoes, the pinto beans and the chicken broth. Stir well and bring to a simmer, then add the orzo and continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes - serve it up piping hot with some panini sandwiches or crusty bread - Enjoy!

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Addiction

It started in my book club. We read a chef memoir/biography titled A Thousand Days in Venice and I was hooked. While an avid reader, I've never been inclined to spend too much of my time on fiction. I do, from time to time, sit down with a good crime thriller - I have, after all, read all of the The Girl with... books by Stieg Larsson - three books which are not, by the way, for the faint of heart, the mild of spirit or the easily perturbed by our sick society. They definitely do not fit, "whatsoever things are pure" and at moments left me questioning my sensibilities for utilizing my spare time absorbing them. Setting that confession aside, I am addicted to biographies and memoirs, particularly those dealing with life in the kitchen. I miss, sometimes ache, for life "on the line" - the busy hectic pace of a restaurant kitchen. The steam, the sweat, the adrenaline. Professional kitchens are filled with adrenaline junkies, myself included. Reading about the thrill that others too have found in restaurant work is a pleasure I often oblige in. After A Thousand Days in Venice...

...came Blood, Bones and Butter...

...and then I was starving for more and thankful for Amazon, especially their handy "books like this" tool where I can continue to find morsels of enjoyment similar to those I have already devoured. Following Gabrielle Hamilton was Jacques Pepin's work, the cleanest in the language department and my favorite thus far...

He simply led the most exciting life and his childhood alone was remarkable. I grew up watching "Jacques and Julia" on public television and they alone are responsible for my support of PBS broadcasting. Without such programs my culinary development would not be what it is as they simply engage the audience and challenge viewers to really know and love their food. Currently, I am working my way through the humorous and rowdy adventure (anything written about or pertaining to Mario Batali would indeed include the descriptive 'rowdy') that Bill Buford undertook in order to give us Heat:

I'm a little panicked as I look at my saved shopping cart on Amazon (it's dwindling) and anxious to find more good reads. In the meantime, I'm happy that I still have this treasure to delve into next...

Happy reading everyone!! It truly is one of life's simplest and most fulfilling pleasures.

Hello Fall

Fall is finally here and with it comes a renewed joy of baking. The hot oven no longer brings beads of sweat along my forehead, but comfort and joy like a warm blanket around my shoulders. I love being in the kitchen, but loathe becoming drenched in sweat from a heavy work week. Fall and winter bring relief from the negative side of food business and I have been busy relishing each cool breeze through my kitchen window. This is the first post of several "batter-licious" recipes I've been making of late. I hope you enjoy them all. 

Preparing this particular recipe was a learning experience. Not because the recipe is difficult - it isn't. Not because the ingredients were difficult to find - they weren't. Simply because I realized that I have acquired a severe allergy to uncooked pumpkin containing pumpkin pulp. Did you know that one can be allergic to the seeds and pulp of pumpkin, but not the meat? This is certainly the case and extremely so in my situation and more disturbingly appears to be a recent development as I can't recall any reactions to pumpkin seeds or pulp in the past. Watermelon, yes. Bananas, for as long as I can remember, but not pumpkin. At any rate, I will tread carefully from this moment on when dealing with pumpkin. I was in the process of making this bread, batter prepared, in the pan and in the oven when I couldn't resist a quick lick of the spatula before washing the mixing bowl. What followed was unlike any allergic reaction I have had. First, you must understand the full picture. I was home with all four kiddo's by myself as my hubs was in Colorado attending a conference. I am still nursing my youngest which in and of itself is kin to a full time job. We had been decorating for Christmas, so the house was a bit messy from the fake pine needles and the dusty attic storage containers. I had been in major multi-tasking mode, feeling energized by the cooler weather and attempting a mad deep cleaning spree much  like a spring-clean-out-everything-and-reorganize-my-workspace-and-every-closet whirlwind when I was struck with the thought to make pumpkin bread as well. Then one lick of that raw batter and my energy spree came to a screeching halt. Within minutes the whelps began appearing, first on my arms, then on my neck, finally on my back, stomach and face, while watching my hands swell at an incredible rate. At first I thought my older children must have brought in poison ivy oil on their clothing after an afternoon rendezvous in the brush surrounding our yard, but quickly realized I was the only one affected and they were perfectly fine. The next several hours were difficult to say the least and ironically, the pumpkin bread was quite enjoyable though I had to wait until the next day to devour a slice as I was quickly reeled into bed by the aid of benadryl while covered in steroid cream. Alas, do not lick the batter, but do make the bread. I'm certain things like this only happen to me. Quite sure of it.

Pumpkin Bread

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
3/4 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9x5 inch loaf pans. In a large mixing bowl, mix together pumpkin, oil, sugar, and eggs. Combine the flour, pecans, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and stir into the pumpkin mixture until well blended. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour - the top of the loaf should spring back when lightly pressed. Butter a warm slice and enjoy!