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Friday, January 20, 2012

Quinoa for breakfast

Quinoa is a little grain that has a ton of protein, and is very popular among Vegans as a main dish or added to other dishes. I wondered how it would taste for breakfast with nuts and dried tart cherries, so I made a small batch last night. I bought some quinoa bread at the Farmer's Market and liked its nuttiness, so I bought a little at Sprouts here in El Paso. I found a lot of information at www.savvyvegetarian.com. Apparently, it tastes better if it is rinsed thoroughly, dried, and toasted. Luckily, I like to make breakfast at night because mornings are so hectic. I often make a pot of steel cut oatmeal on Sunday night, and I put it into 5 bowls for the entire week. In the morning, I reheat, add milk and dried fruit and nuts, and enjoy. I'm glad I did this in the evening because this takes time. After you rinse the quinoa, It has to dry and then you toast it to enhance the flavor. I toasted mine in the oven so I can have it ready for next time as well. At the same time, I toasted some walnuts and pecans for future use. The kitchen smelled toasty and nutty! Breakfast quinoa is cooked like oatmeal, in water or milk. I used water because I like to add milk later. It was so good that I ate a bowl right on the spot, with roasted pecans and raspberry preserves. I put the rest in two bowls for two breakfast. This morning, I added milk, walnuts, and dried sour cherries before heating, and it is like eating a fancy dessert for breakfast!
Ingredients:
1/2 cup quinoa, toasted
1 1/2 cups water
Dash sea salt
Cinnamon to taste
Honey or agave sweetener to taste
Method:
Bring the quinoa, water, & salt to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Like cereal, if it is getting too thick, add some hot water.
Sprinkle with cinnamon and sweeten with honey or agave.
Serve and add warm milk, fruit and nuts!

Italian-style Butternut Squash Stew

Oh, my gosh, I made this stew on Wednesday, and I cannot stop eating it! In October, I attended a "Taste of Home Cooking Show" here in El Paso, and the chef made a stew called "Groundnut Stew," which smelled so good I have not gotten it out of my mind, so I found the recipe and decided to play with it a bit and put in some Italian stuff & some Mexican heat, and it is so good I have to share. From Mom I learned that soup is just a pot of leftovers mixed with love! We always had soup, or stew, on Thursdays, before meatless Fridays , and sometimes on Saturday, if the fridge was full of bowls. I happened to have a lot of Italian stuff in the fridge. Hope you try it and love it, too.
Ingredients:
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 cup Italian sausage, cooked & crumbled
2 cups cubed butternut squash
2 cups warm chicken stock
1 cup marinara sauce
I roasted red pepper, chopped
2 TBS green chile sauce
1/2 tsp. chipotle powder
2 cups red kidney beans, cooked
Salt & pepper to taste
Pinch of pumpkin pie spice
3 tsp peanut butter
Method:
In a Dutch oven, soften onions in a bit of olive oil until they are getting brown; add the jalapeño and garlic and stir a few seconds until you smell the garlic; then add the crumbled sausage and stir some more to meld the favors. Now add the hot chicken stock, the marinara, squash cubes, green chile sauce, & kidney beans. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the squash is tender. Adjust the seasonings. If the stew is too thick, add some hot water: it will thicken with the pasta. Now take a bit of the soup and mix with the peanut butter and add to the soup. Add the cooked pasta and stir to warm the pasta. Bon appetit! Provecho!
I served this stew with homemade potato bread the first time, but it also tastes great with hot corn tortillas warmed & charred over the grill.
Note: I never cook pasta in the soup-- it gets mushy. When I re-heat the soup, I add more pasta each time.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Letting go of Christmas

For me, it has always been hard to let go of Christmas. My kids have been gone for many years now, so there is really no one to chide me about the Christmas decorations which have stayed up some years until February! Years ago, I bought a small artificial tree that I decorate for every season--I think it's a my way of not letting go. I love the lights and the many stuffed snowmen that seem to take on their own personalities and just don't went to go back into their boxes for another 11 months! Last night, as I drove home, I noticed many people in the neighborhood still have their lights on, and it reminded me of a joke someone made on TV last week about lazy people who never take down their Christmas lights. Even society says "Enough already," so I did turn off the outdoor lights and I took them down, but inside is another matter. I like to wait until the Feast of the Three Kings, which was Friday. So, Sunday, while I waited for the new episode of "The Good Wife," I began removing the tree decorations. This means going into the garage and getting all the boxes,(that's where the lazy comes in) and now the living room is strewn with boxes. I didn't finish Sunday, and I was busy yesterday, so now it's Tuesday, and I'm staring at the mess. I bought a new tree this year, a 7 1/2 footer that is so pretty it could stand alone without decorations. Once I get it back to the box, then the living room will look drab for a few weeks until my eyes get used to it without all the sparkle...the magic that is Christmas. I spent my whole Christmas reminiscing about all the wonderful Christmas times I have had, when there were children and noise, and so many things to do and so little time. Back then, I didn't appreciate it all the way I do now. Children and family notwithstanding, it's the spirit of the Christmas season-- that feeling of goodwill toward neighbors, friends, and even strangers that makes us all better people, if only for a month, that is hard to let go. It seems as if we all go back to our insular lives after the Holidays, at least until Valentine's day, but that's another mood. So, as I reluctantly put away all the outer manifestations of the Christmas season, I vow to carry that inner spirit of goodwill toward others with me throughout the New Year. And I still have my little tree, which will be festooned with red valentines soon, and with Easter egg garlands. I'm not alone in this: the Tres Amigos restaurant in town keeps their tree up all year, changing the decorations for every holiday, and at La Posta, in Old Mesilla, it is Christmas all year long! So there!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Contemplating 2012

I awoke at 5:30 on the last day of 2011, to the sound of the Cooking Channel on TV. I was watching old movies last night, and I fell asleep. I will have to catch the end of Little Women another evening. Anyway, all the chefs are making amazing breakfasts, so I am inspired to get up & whip up some yeast donuts (first time I use the dough hooks on the mixer) and some great scrambled eggs like my dad made us on Saturday mornings when I was a kid, with a little but of everything: potatoes, bologna, jalapeños, onions, cheese, and crumbled bacon. Then, I heat flour tortillas & make 2 burritos. Really good. The Neelys are drinking peach nectar with champagne, so I have some as well. My Paula Deen donuts taste more like bagels, so I only eat the donut holes. By the time my cooking spree is done, the kitchen is a mess--those TV chefs never have to clean up! It is after 1 when the kitchen is finally clean. I have to write my Resolutions, so I tune to a couple of past episodes of Joel Osteen for inspiration. I get dressed and walk my Beagle. Now it's 4:30 and time for him to eat & I have some Sesame noodles that I also whipped up this morning. I finish knitting a scarf I started weeks ago while listening to Tess of the D'Urbervilles on my iPhone. Now it is almost 10, but now I have my Resolutions down:
1. Exercise daily & lose 25 lbs. & continue daily walks with my Beagle;
2. Limit cooking & baking to 3 days a week & then stay out of kitchen!
3. Be creative in other areas at least 3 days a week, & rest Sunday;
4. Stay away from Fast Food--no more than once a week;
5. Continue to pray daily, but read my Bible and go to church more often;
6. Bond with people who appreciate me;
8. Use time wisely by planning & organizing;
9. Write more and read more; and
10. Sleep more!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Whatever Happened to Cake Mascara?

Whatever happened to cake mascara? My tube of mascara has gone dry & it has been only about 6 weeks since I purchased it! I made a note to get some more, but went "drab" for several days before I happened to pass by Walgreens & remembered I need mascara. The Great Lash in the Pink tube, my fave, is almost $7 a tube! Frustrated, I searched for the cake version, which I discovered, does not exist at Walgreens! The sweet young clerk has no idea that mascara used to come in a cake. (I told her to ask her grandma about the good old days!) I grew up on the sixties, and i remember shopping at Woolworth's in downtown El Paso, where my sisters and I first bought cake mascara in a little red box and tubes of lipstick in Candy Pink for less than $1 Sigh. I know: that's 50 years ago! Does Woolworth's still exist in El Paso? Even if it does, a drive downtown entails parking fees, traffic congestion, headache. No one goes downtown except to serve Jury Duty! To the clerk, I commented that my mascara tube had gone dry in only 6 weeks & she said it should last about a month. I thought, "Yeah, if you put on 4 coats maybe!" I buy cosmetics twice a year, max, so I expect mascara to last longer than a month. I came home with that $7 tube of mascara, quite chagrined. I love the way mascara makes my lashes look when the tube is new: I don't even need to curl my very sparse and straight lashes for them to look great. Is $7 for a tube of mascara too much? I believe in minimalist makeup; however, I love my smokey eyes and you cannot have smokey eyes without mascara! People always tell me, "you have pretty eyes," so I have to agree with them! If I had only one item in my makeup bag, it would be mascara, not clumpy mascara, but 2 coats of the stuff to make my lashes look dark & shiny. I have researched Sephora, my online source for everything Mineral when it comes to makeup & eyeshadow, but they don't carry cake mascara. (I refuse to buy makeup at a store counter anymore where you are badgered into buying more than you want!) I got into the Mineral makeup kick several years ago, and I was so impressed with it that I treated my daughter and sister to makeovers & Starter Kits at the San Francisco Bare Escentuals studio here in El Paso! My daughter, Elisabeth Marie, who has oily skin, looks especially radiant in Mineral makeup. Once I used up my own Starter Kit, I found that it is cheaper & more convenient to order what I need online, & Sephora carries everything I need. But mascara: only the stuff in the pink tube will do--until I find the cake mascara, anyway.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bizcochitos

For me, the Holidays start when I bake a batch of Bizcochitos, the traditional Mexican anise-flavored sugar cookie I grew up making as a child in New Mexico, where I watched my great-aunt make them. There ae many versions of these cookies, and this is my favorite. These cookies  are not to be confused with sugar cookies, as they must be made with lard, not shortening or butter or you will not achieve the same light, delicate texture, and the anise is very important! I use tiny cookie cutters in star shapes for the Holidays and heart shapes for Valentine's Day.
Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder

1/8 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 T cinnamon
1 cup lard
1/3 cup red wine
2/3 cup sugar, preferably Baker's sugar
2 t anise, crushed
1/2 cup sugar and 2 t cinnamon for dusting
Procedure:
Sift together flour,baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Set aside.
In your mixer, cream lard with  cup sugar until very, very fluffy.  Add the egg yolks  one at a time, and the anise. Slowly add the flour mixture, alternating with red wine. Mixture should form a soft ball.  Divide the dough into 2 discs; wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
On a floured board, roll each disc to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into small shapes.  If you have enough baking sheets, cut out all your cookies and put them on baking sheets and refrigerate until yu are ready to bake all the cookies.    Then bake cookies in a hot oven (375)  for about 9 minutes.  Bake a sample batch with a few cookies to test your oven. Cookies should be golden brown around the edges.
While cookies are still warm, dredge in Superfine sugar and cinnamon mixture and allow to cool.  Bizcochitos must be refrigerated because they contain lard.  They freeze actually freeze and actually improve in taste.
Variations:
Add Chipotle powder; use orange zest and orange liqeuer instead of wine; use lemon zest and raspberry lemonade concentrate instead of the wine and cut cinnamon to 1/2 T.
Note:
The commercial versions of these cookies never come up to what you can produce in your own kitchen, so if you like Bizcochitos, try making them and they will become your favorite, too.