Seasonal Serendipity

December 31, 2009 at 5:55 pm Leave a comment

   What was it I said here just last week?  Something about wishing everybody a “white – but not frigid – Christmas,” I believe.  And what is that old warning about being careful not to toss wishes about too casually?  I’ll refer you to the photo above to illustrate why I’ve been rethinking those sentiments – a view of my neighbor’s front yard four days after the 38° meltdown on the 25th. 

It’s since gotten very cold again, so we are skating our way through dog walks and unsuccessfully searching for some itty bitty boots for those itty bitty Chihuahua-size  paws.  (Last year we tried cutting the fingers out of rubber dishwashing gloves, but the resulting doggie overshoes were soon found everywhere but on doggie’s feet, and then all over the front lawn after last year’s spring thaw.) 

Of course being captive to the indoors due to the harshness of the outdoors leads to some quality kitchen time, and that can bring about happy discoveries in using up holiday leftovers.  Today, a selection of possibilities for you to try in the warmth of your own kitchen, starting with Mango Punch and Stuffed Celery, and followed by Shrimp Creole Soup, Sweet Potato Bread, and Marinated Cauliflower Salad.  This time of year you’re probably ready to turn down even one more homemade goodie, so how about a Bowl of  Sliced Kiwi Tossed with Dried Cranberries for a light, sweet end note. 

The punch I made for guests this year was spontaneous but quite a hit.  I used canned sweetened mango pulp left over from last week’s muffins.  To make your own pulp, puree peeled, sliced mangos with a bit of honey.  To assemble the punch serving by serving, which avoids wasted leftover beverage, add to each glass: 

2 parts mango puree               3 parts ginger ale               2 parts sparkling water                   1 frozen strawberry 

Stir well; top off with ice cubes. 

For the stuffed celery: 

3 oz light (NOT fat-free) cream cheese     1/3 C crunchy peanut butter     3 TB milk                                                                             1 slice ultra-crisp bacon, crumbled fine     4 large celery stalks, cut to 3″ pieces     

Combine the softened cream cheese, the peanut butter, and the milk until well blended.  Fill celery pieces with this mixture, then press on bacon crumbles.  

The soup is a simple combo of basic New Orleans-style ingredients and flavors: 

2 tsp olive oil                              1/2 C chopped onion                   1 yellow pepper, diced                                                                           2 cloves garlic, minced            1/2 C basmati rice                       2+ cups chicken broth                                                                        14.5 oz can diced tomatoes    2 C raw spinach, chopped        1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning                                                                     36 med shrimp, shelled            5 oz smoked turkey sausage, chopped 

Pour olive oil into a large, heavy soup kettle and place over medium low hear.  Add onions and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.  Add garlic, rice, broth, and tomatoes and cook at simmering for 20 minutes.  Add seasoning, shrimp, and sausage, and more broth or a bit of water if needed.  Bring soup back to the simmering point and let cook for another ten minutes.  Four smallish servings. 

For the bread: 

canola oil spray             2 envelopes active dry yeast      1/2 cup warm water     1/4 cup brown sugar                                     1/8 tsp salt                                      3 TB canola oil                2 eggs, beaten                         1 C mashed sweet potato                            2-1/2 cup flour             1-1/2 brown rice flour                           

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a medium mixing bowl and baking sheet with a light layer of canola oil.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yeast and water together, until the yeast dissolves. Add in the sugar, salt, and oil, and mix well; let rest for 15 minutes. Stir in the eggs and sweet potatoes.

In a separate bowl, whisk the two flours together.  Fold flour into wet mixture gradually, 1/2 cup at a time, working with your hands until all the flour is incorporated. Form dough into a small ball and sprinkle with enough flour to ease handling – about 1 TB. Place dough in the oiled bowl, turning once to coat with oil.

Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch the dough down and roll into a loaf about 8 inches by 3 inches. Place the loaf in the center of the prepared baking sheet. Cover and let rise until double in size, about 45 minutes. Bake the bread for about 40 minutes, or until golden. Remove the bread from the oven and transfer to a wire baking sheet and let cool.

And finally, the marinated salad:

4 C cauliflower florets                4 C broccoli florets                 1/4 C olive oil                                  2 cloves garlic, minced                4 TB red wine vinegar               1/2 C sliced olives                    1/4 C diced red onion                   1/2 C diced red peppers        1/4 C chopped parsley              2 TB capers (optional)           1 C chickpeas                                    salt/pepper to taste

Bring 8 cups of water to a rolling boil in a large soup kettle.  Rinse the florets and blanche them for a full minute at a full boil.  Remove immediately and rinse with cold water.  Whisk together the olive oil, garlic, and vinegar.  In a large bowl, toss the vegetable florets with the olives, onion, peppers, parsley, capers, and chickpeas.  Pour the dressing over all; add salt and pepper.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to overnight.  Take out of refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving.

“That Was the Year That Was” recaps are popular as December draws to a close.  I tend to enjoy these summaries of significant events, but this year the term “recap” makes me think of fighting the winter winds to keep my parka hood in place, so next week I plan to do my own “review” of the past half-year’s worth of foodie postings, offer a few miscellaneous recipes that didn’t make it onto these pages, and share with you Irma’s Scandinavian Sveske Sol, or Christmas Prune Stew, which also serves nicely to welcome in the New Year.

Until 2010, then, may your recaps be heartwarming, your review of the year past satisfactory, and your hopes and prayers for the New Year fulfilled.

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

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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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