Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Preserved fruit improves breakfast

I love variety in breakfast choices. I think about that during fruit growing season when I envision the cold darkness of a winter morning, like we’re having these days. So while our raspberries were growing, I froze handfuls in small bags. When we found beautifully ripe plums, I tried to make jelly. The freezing turned out well (hard for it not to). The jelly-making, however, gave me jars of plum syrup and jars of a hard, could’ve-been-jelly-at-one-point, substance. I didn’t get any true plum jelly.

Fear not, plum fans. I have found a couple of good ways to use that jelly to add a little bit of local fruit to breakfast. One is as a syrup for French Toast.  Another is as a sweetener in oatmeal.

This morning, I made steel-cut oats for breakfast. As I neared the end of the cooking cycle, I thought about adding honey to give them a little sweetness. Then I remembered the hard, plum jelly. I spooned out a little bit and added it to the oatmeal. It dissolved into the oats so I added a little more.

Next, I took one of those small bags of raspberries out of the freezer. In hot oatmeal, it doesn’t take long for them to unthaw. I also toasted a few pumpkin seeds to top my breakfast. After eating a healthy bowl of it, I knew it was a success.

My other experiences came last week when I made French Toast, which some of you know from my past postings is a breakfast favorite of mine. To turn the jelly into a thick syrup, I reconstituted it in a warm skillet, adding small amounts of water until it was almost the consistency I sought. I also added raspberries from the freezer into the syrup then topped the treat with lightly toast walnuts and pumpkin seeds.

I’m already wondering what else I can do with that hard jelly because there’s still plenty hanging around on my shelf.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Put the soup on . . . it’s Supper Club Time

Our Full Moon Supper Club continues to meet monthly on or near the full moon and our January hostess had a bountiful idea—everyone bring a crock pot of soup plus containers to take home leftovers. What an easy and long-lasting meal that turned out to be!

We had a good variety of soups to choose from: tomato and quinoa, Portuguese kale and sausage, cheesy tortellini, white bean, potato and my Mexican turkey and bean. Add bread and dessert and you have a meal for many, or a meal for the seven of us who attended then took home leftovers.

I would love to see your favorite soup recipe, so feel free to post it in the comments section. I won’t say the one I’m posting is my favorite (I have lots of favorite soups), but it’s a filling choice when there’s leftover turkey in the freezer and you have dry beans you want to use. I’ve only slightly varied this recipe from the original version I clipped out of Cooking Light magazine years ago.

Mexican Turkey and Bean Soup

1 tsp. olive oil
½ C chopped onion
1 C coarsely chopped cooked turkey
1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. garlic powder (or added chopped garlic)
1/8 tsp. red pepper or hot pepper sauce
16 oz. cooked navy beans (if using canned, rinse them)
15 oz. cooked chickpeas (garbanzos, and again, if using canned, rinse them)
16 oz. fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
4.5 oz. can chopped green chiles, drained
¾ cup wild or brown rice (can use quick-cooking type)
sour cream and tortilla chips to top

Heat olive oil and sauté chopped onion 5 minutes or so. Stir in chopped turkey and next 8 ingredients. Bring to boil; cover and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in rice and cook until rice is done. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fold and squish that bread

Yesterday afternoon a friend needed a favor. Many people don’t understand that a writer who works from a home office is actually working. It’s like a regular job. But the truth is, one of the reasons I chose to do this was because I wanted to be available to my friends. Busy-ness in life can pull us away from too much that’s important. So when she asked me to pick up her son when his morning kindergarten class concluded, I said yes.

The next thing I wondered was what I could do so his afternoon wouldn’t be totally spent with a computer game in his hands. His mom told me he would be happy to sit quietly and play with his device, but I just don’t have it in me to sit a child in front of technology, be it computer or television, to occupy themselves for an afternoon. So we made bread. Children love Play Doh and what is so different about kneading bread?

A child can help with more than you might imagine if you’ve never cooked with a little one. Although he readily admitted he would rather play in mud than take a bath, my assistant didn’t even mind washing his hands for the task. He happily helped me gather ingredients then measure them into the bowl. We mixed the ingredients then I explained that the yeast in the bread would make it get puffy but in order for that to happen, we had to knead it. He helped me spread flour on the counter, put some on his hands then we cleaned the bowl of dough and began to knead. When you think about it, kneading isn’t difficult. “Fold it then squish it I,” I said, after demonstrating. He complied with his seriousness.

By the time we were done, he had turned into a flour-covered boy. With a five-year-old, though, even beating the flour off his jeans wasn’t a problem. It was all an adventure. And he’ll tell you it was more fun than a video game.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A local meal to ring in the new year

Winter provides a challenge to those of us who try to eat primarily from our own gardens and from other local sources. Kentucky doesn’t grow citrus and even locally-grown apples that come out of cold storage aren’t always the best. The last one I bit into was mealy and spotted with a bitter brown. The persistent gardener can produce fresh greens, but that hasn’t been me this winter. So how, I wondered, can I plan a locally flavored meal for January 1 to bring in 2014, and to celebrate the wedding anniversary of friends?

Look to the shelf of canned goods. Yes, that summer flavor does return with a nice dish of spaghetti and meatballs made with our canned tomato sauce. The choice worked well for me because I did receive my own chitarra (see my November 19 post) as a Christmas gift and I wanted to try it out for our meal.

To accompany the pasta, I used our butternut squash, remaining beets, purple potatoes and sweet potatoes for a roasted vegetable dish. I also bought salad greens to provide a fresh accompaniment. Next, I made the Italian focaccia bread I learned in my class in Italy. And for dessert? I raided the freezer for blackberries, blueberries and raspberries so I could make a Kentucky berry and cornmeal cake

What have you preserved that you’re digging into this January?