Uncommon Autumns and Simple Pre-Holiday Fare

November 25, 2009 at 10:48 pm Leave a comment

   I don’t know if you ever do this, and I probably shouldn’t admit to it, but I occasionally find myself totally at sea as to where I am on the calendar.  For example, I’ll be making out a check in early July, but I start to write “September” as the date.  Even when I stop to think about it, it may take a few seconds before I’m back in touch with the reality that we did, in fact, just celebrate Independence Day, for heaven’s sake. 

Following an early-October snowfall that left us quaking at the prospect of having two extra months of winter tacked onto the front end of the season, we Twin Citians now find ourselves finishing off a November which will go down as the second warmest in recorded Minnesota weather history. So as I walk the neighborhood on my daily constitutional in 50+ degree temps, I look down to see rusty tree leaves damming up the street gutters, and up to see Christmas wreaths and crèche scenes slowly rising around me as neighbors take advantage of warm weekends to install decorations before our weather luck runs out.  It’s another calendar disconnect.

To confuse things even more, I decide to do a holiday-style dinner two days before the 26th, and bake a nice, plump lean Boneless Ham or Turkey Breast to serve with Mashed Potatoes and Squash, Steamed Broccoli with Roasted Red Pepper Strips, a Four-Fruit Medley, and Amaranth Date Muffins.  In anticipation of feast day later in the week, no indulgent dessert, just a nice big slab of Queso Fresco to complement the fruit and muffins.  Heck, that is dessert – if not ambrosia, then at least a heavenly combination of  flavors.  And with the amaranth being a good source of manganese, iron, magnesium, and phosphorous, I am hopeful that this high-quality fuel will keep my neurons firing efficiently and perhaps strengthen my grasp of where I am in time. 

 The turkey breast can be baked according to package instructions, and the potatoes and squash use a simple short-cut to ease preparation:

 4 large baking potatoes            1 pkg frozen acorn squash

1 TB butter                               1/4 C evaporated skim milk         

Peel potatoes and cut into chunks; cook in boiling water 20-30 minutes, or until mashable.   Cook frozen squash according to directions – usually in a heavy saucepan over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Drain potatoes and mash coarsely with a hand-held potato masher.  Add butter and milk and continue to mash until well combined.  Stir in cooked squash and dust with nutmeg, if desired. 

Toss steamed broccoli with roasted – washed, trimmed, cut into 1/4″ strips and tossed with olive oil, then laid on a cookie sheet and baked for 20 minutes at 350° – sweet red peppers.  (I have recently discovered the long, narrow “Ancients,” an elongated red pepper which becomes unbelievably sweet during roasting .  I highly recommend them.)  Sprinkle with sea salt.

For my fruit bowl, I used a combination of cubed gala apples (4), cubed pineapple (1-1/2 cups), cubed kiwi (4), and thick-sliced banana (2 large).  Sprinkle with 2 TB toasted coconut if desired. 

And for the “dessert” muffins:

1 C chopped dates                1/2 C amaranth grain

1 C boiling water                2 eggs

1/2 C honey                             1/4 C canola oil

2 C whole wheat flour                   1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp baking powder                        1 C chopped pecans             

Soak dates and amaranth in water for up to several hours.  (I soaked mine for about six hours because I got lost in that time-warp thing again…) 

Beat eggs well, then beat in honey, oil, and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.  Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and stir to combine.  Stir in pecans.  Spoon into 12 well-greased muffin cups and bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes.  Check these after 25 minutes, especially if you have soaked the amaranth forever, like I did. 

Whether you are reading this pre- or post-Thanksgiving, may you and yours be blessed with bountiful tables and grateful hearts.  As for me, I am very thankful to be able to share these postings with you.

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

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