Creative Cooking as a Metaphor for Life?

September 28, 2009 at 6:05 pm Leave a comment

black beans and squash 004    As I dig my wooly sweater out of storage and begin to contemplate the symbolism of season-change, I tend to wax a bit philosophic:  Putting a pot of Italian Wedding Soup on to heat while I head downstairs to work out, I forget to reduce the heat to low, scorching two-dozen tediously formed miniature meatballs to the pan bottom over the next 40 minutes, but anger turns to insight when I accept this minor event as a lesson in humility; for tonight’s menu, I assess the obstacles to turning Chicken Cordon Bleu into Chicken Cordon New – something I can feel good about serving my family – when the thought occurs to approach it with a mind open to the possibilities; I ditch the flawed package instructions for my favorite Basmati Rice in frustration and draw on my own senses for guidance, thinking, rely on your own experience:  the experts aren’t always right; and finally, I search frantically for a clipped recipe for Squash and Black Beans, and begin to comprehend that I can trust God to provide the essentials, and I can challenge myself to put those gifts and resources to good use.

The Pineapple Bran Muffins are just a tweaker’s  happy accident, a kind of Frankenmuffin amalgamation of three different recipes I pulled from my humongous collection – because not everything has to be profoundly meaningful, right?  A Big Bowl of Dried Fruits (Apricots, Plums, Pears, and Berries?) might be a nice finish with after-dinner coffee or tea.

For the main dish chicken, you’ll need:

6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts                         6 ultra-thin slices lean ham

6 thin slices Swiss cheese                                               2 tsp olive oil – approx.

1/3 C ultra fine whole grain bread crumbs              salt and pepper to taste

                                                          1/4 tsp parika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pound the chicken breasts with a wooden mallet to about 1/4″ thickness.  Layer one slice of ham and one slice of cheese on each chicken breast, roll the chicken breasts tightly, and secure each with two toothpicks.  Brush the rolls lightly with the olive oil, season the bread crumbs with salt, pepper, and paprika, then roll each breast in the crumb mixture.  Place the breaded breasts in a shallow baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.  Ladle a little sauce over each piece before serving.

And for the sauce:

2 TB non-fat dry milk powder      1-1/2 TB cornstarch           1 tsp salt                      

1/4 tsp pepper                                    1/8 tsp nutmeg                    1/2 tsp onion powder

1-3/4 C chicken broth – chilled     1/4 C white wine                 1  TB fat free sour cream

In a medium saucepan, whisk together milk powder, cornstarch, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and onion powder.  Whisk in cold chicken broth and heat over medium, stirring frequently, until mixture bubbles and thickens – about five minutes.  Whisk in white wine and fat free sour cream and heat through.  (There will be leftover sauce, which freezes well.)

The rice is certainly optional, but it makes a nice bed for the chicken.  The formula I settled on was a 3:1 water to rice ratio, with a chicken bouillon cube dissolved in the water as it heats.  When the water is boiling, stir in the rice, reduce the heat, and continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.  Keep warm.

The squash and black bean side calls for:

1 medium-large buttercup or acorn squash            2-1/2 C black beans, rinsed               2 tsp olive oil                                                              1/2 white onion, cut in 1/2″ dice                      2 yellow sweet peppers, 1/2″ dice                               1/4 tsp cinnamon                                   1/8 tsp cumin                                                             1/8 tsp coriander                        

If you are using dried beans (much less expensive), follow the package directions for soaking, but also cook them in boiling water until they are no longer al dente.  Pierce the squash several times with the tip of a paring knife and microwave it on high for 10-12 minutes, or until it tests tender, but still firm enough to peel away the skin and cut the meaty orange insides into 1/2″ cubes after it cools.  

Spread the olive oil over the bottom of a large non-stick skillet, place over low-medium-low heat, and immediately add onion to pan.  Cook it low and slow for about 15 minutes, or until caramelized, stirring often.  Stir in sweet peppers and sauté another 5-6 minutes, stirring often.   Mix the cinnamon, cumin, and coriander together and sprinkle over vegetables in pan.  Fold in 3 C of the cooked, cubed squash and the 2-1/2 C black beans.  Cover, heat through, keep warm.                                   

The muffins will require: 

1 C All-Bran™ cereal                            1/2 C milk                            1/4 C molasses          

1/4 C pineapple juice                 1 egg                                      1/4 C canola oil

1/2 C shredded pineapple                   1/2 C flour                       1/2 C graham flour

3 tsp baking powder                                   1/2 tsp salt                               1/2 C chopped nuts 

In a large bowl, combine the cereal, milk, molasses, and pineapple juice and let stand for at least 15 minutes.  Add the egg, oil, and pineapple and stir to combine.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt.  Add to moist ingredients, stirring only until combined.  Fold in chopped almonds, walnuts, or pecans.  Fill greased muffin pans 2/3 full and bake at 400° for 20-22 minutes.

Now, munch a few antioxidant-laden dried fruit morsels, stroke your chin, and contemplate how the flip-side of “garbage in/garbage out” translates – loosely – “to good stuff in/good energy out.”

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Entry filed under: Musings of a Midwestern Foodie. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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About

Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

And what is the "something" we are aiming for here? Simply a life of robust good health in every important area - spiritual, physical, cognitive, and emotional.

To that end we offer inspirational real-life stories about PEOPLE OF FAITH AND COURAGE; menus and cooking directions meant to fuel your creative inclinations and your healthy body in the form of MUSINGS OF A MIDWESTERN FOODIE; and ADVICE FOR LIFE from the perspective of those who have lived it to maturity. (Click on the green category tabs at the top of this page to learn more about each section.)

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