Minnesota Mysteries and Boxtop Bonuses

July 29, 2010 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

   This is one of those sublime summer mornings when the temperature is perfect for walking and the sun beams down from a classic azure sky tufted with powder puff clouds.  The kind of day that inspires an appreciation of the blessings of the outdoors.  Infused with motivation, the pup and I take off with grateful hearts for a 45 minute pre-breakfast march through the park. 

Rounding the corner of a neighboring block and heading toward home, we are assaulted first by a blast of heavy metal rock music and then by a horrifying sight:  a woman, tucked into the far, dark, grimy recesses of her garage, labors away on a treadmill, some cable T.V. channel blaring at her as she huffs and pumps her way toward her fitness goal for the day. 

My mind screams with confusion.  Why would anyone pass up the opportunity to be outside on a day like today – anyone living in a state where residents spend half the year cursing the ice dams at the end of their driveways and yearning to leave their cabin fever behind them in a pile by the fireplace, along with the ubiquitous Minnesota lap robe? 

I have a white-blurred mental flash of all those days when many (I am the fool who trudges right on through sleet and snow) are forced inside to chug away on whatever apparatus they have managed to wedge into the last empty corner of their basement.  

Led Zeppelin fading into the distance behind us, my mind drifts to a recent Saturday when my husband and I actually ate our dinner seated on the weight-training equipment in a dank corner of our own basement, as we tracked warnings connected to a few capricious tornadoes that skittered around us. 

That night my jittery mind had entertained fears about  power surges and a fried home computer system, and losing hundreds of filed recipes, not to mention countless hours of labor spent on various writing projects.  “But wait,” I remember thinking – note my priorities, if you will – “There is a whole storehouse of good recipes printed on food packages right in my very own kitchen.” 

When the danger passed with no damage done, I scrambled upstairs to scour my cupboards for some samples, like Effortless Spinach Salad using Ocean Spray Craisins, Chicken and Dried Plum Pizza from the Mariani Premium Pitted Prunes folks, Oat Bran Muffins from everybody’s favorite grandfather figure, the Quaker Oats guy, Amaranth Date Nut Bread from the Arrowhead Mills people, and from Bob’s Red Mill, Five Grain Cookies, Tabbouleh Cracked Wheat Salad, and Outrageous Soy Flour Muffins, loaded with tasty extras.  (Recipes below.) 

Have you gone on a treasure hunt through your pantry lately?

 Effortless Spinach Salad 

8 ounces fresh spinach                                    1/2 C feta or goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced                    1/2 C Craisins® Original Dried Cranberries
2 TB toasted sliced almonds                           1/2 C bottled balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
2 TB orange juice                                            1 tsp orange zest

Wash and clean spinach. Tear into bite size pieces and place in a serving bowl. Add half of the feta or goat cheese and onion; toss to combine. 

Combine dressing, orange juice, and orange zest, pour over salad, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Top with dried cranberries and almonds. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings. 

Chicken and Dried Plum Pizza 

1 C (about 6 ounces) pitted dried plums                    1/4 C water
1 TB balsamic vinegar                                                 1 TB olive oil
2 cloves garlic                                                             1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp salt                                                                   10 oz whole grain flat bread or

1 prebaked thin Italian bread shell (10 ounces)          1 C chopped cooked chicken
1/2 C crumbled blue cheese                                        1/2 C thinly sliced red onion 

Heat oven to 450ºF. In food processor, process dried plums, water, vinegar, oil, garlic, rosemary and salt until finely chopped, pulsing on and off. Place bread shell on baking sheet; spread evenly with dried plum mixture. Arrange chicken, cheese and onion slices evenly over shell. Bake in center of oven 8 to 10 minutes or until heated through. Cut into wedges. 

Oat Bran Muffins 

2 C Quaker Oat Bran Hot Cereal (uncooked)            ¼ C packed brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder                                                   ½ tsp salt        

1 C skim milk                                                              2 egg whites or 1 whole egg

¼ C honey or molasses                                               2 TB canola oil

1 C raisins (optional)                                                   ¼ C chopped walnuts (optional) 

Heat oven to 425° F.   Line 12 medium muffin cups with paper baking cups or spray bottoms only with no-stick cooking spray. Combine dry ingredients; mix well. Add combined milk, egg, honey, and oil; mix just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Add walnuts and raisins and mix until just combined.  

Fill greased muffin cups ¾ full. Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until golden brown. 

Five Grain Cookies 

1-1/2 C 5-Grain Rolled Cereal                                    1 C whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp baking soda                                                     1/2 tsp salt

1/2 C butter                                                                 1 C brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract                                                  1/2 C water

2 eggs, well beaten                                                      1/2 C pecan halves, coarse chopped

1/2 C coconut flakes                                                   1/2 C dried cranberries

1/2 C golden raisins 

Preheat oven to 375.  Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets.  In a large bowl whisk together the flour, soda, and salt.  In separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth, then add vanilla and water and stir until combined.  Add eggs to butter mixture, then stir in flour mixture.  Stir in cereal, nuts, coconut, cranberries, and raisins until well mixed.  Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.  Makes two dozen. 

Tabbouleh 

2 C pre-soaked bulgur*                       3 C finely minced parsley                                                      

1/4 C finely chopped Mint                  3 green onions, finely sliced  

1/4 tsp black pepper                            1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp sea salt                                     2 med tomatoes, diced

3 TB fresh lemon juice                        3 TB olive oil

1 med cucumber, peeled and diced 

In a large bowl, gently toss together all the ingredients except lemon juice and oil. Add the lemon juice, toss, and chill for one hour to blend the flavors. Before serving, toss again with the oil. Serve in a mound on a few leaves of romaine lettuce.  Six servings.

*Place one cup bulgur in a bowl and cover with one cup water; let stand for 1 hour.  Yields two cups.

Soy Muffins

1/3 C fine grind cornmeal                               1/3 C soy flour

1 C whole wheat pastry flour                         ¼ C wheat germ

½ C brown sugar, packed                               ¾ tsp salt

1 C ground whole almonds                             1 tsp baking soda

2 lge eggs, beaten                                            1 C plain low fat yogurt         

1 tsp vanilla                                                     ½ C vegetable oil

Grated peel from 1 lge orange                        ½ C raisins

½ C diced dried apple

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease or paper-line muffing tins and set aside.

Mix dry ingredients and dried fruit together in a large bowl. Combine wet ingredients and stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Batter should be lumpy. Fill prepared muffin tin 2/3 full. Bake for about 25 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

*Grind whole almonds by pulsing carefully (do not make almond paste!) in a food processor. 

Okay.  So I’ve confirmed that there are hundreds of off-line sources of free recipes, and I shouldn’t lose any sleep over that issue.  Now I’m on the hunt for a good off-site backup service for the rest of my computer files.  Somehow I don’t think replacing 112 pages of a book manuscript would have quite as simple a solution just waiting for me, tucked into a corner of my study.

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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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