Kay Wheeler Moore

Welcome to my blog

Hello. . .

The Newfangled Country Gardener is for anyone who has a garden, would like to have a garden, or who simply enjoys eating the garden-fresh way. I don't claim to be an expert; in this blog I'm simply sharing some of the experiences my husband and I have in preparing food that is home-grown.

About the author

Kay Wheeler Moore is the author of a new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden, that features six generations of recipes that call for ingredients that are fresh from the garden. With home gardening surging in popularity as frugal people become more resourceful, this recipe collection and the stories that accompany it ideally will inspire others to cook the garden-fresh way and to preserve their own family food stories as well. The stories in this book center around the Three Red-Haired Miller Girls (Kay's mother and aunts) who grew up in Delta County, TX, with their own backyard garden so lavish that they felt as though they were royalty after their Mama wielded her kitchen magic on all that was homegrown. Introduced in Kay's previous book, Way Back in the Country, the lively Miller Girls again draw readers into their growing-up world, in which a stringent economic era--not unlike today's tight times--saw people turn to the earth to put food on the table for their loved ones. The rollicking yarns (all with recipes attached) have love, family, and faith as common denominators and show how food evocatively bonds us to our life experiences.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Life-enhancing broccoli, tossed with tomatoes and avocado, featured at meal celebrating a life-marker event

A special event deserved a special meal. Our little 5-month-old munchkin over the weekend participated in his church's baby-dedication ceremony. His parents marched him across the stage as the pastor read a special Bible verse his mom and dad had chosen for his life's marching orders. This act symbolized their commitment to dedicate him to the Lord and the church's support for that pledge. Afterward both sets of grandparents and some friends gathered at the house for a celebratory dinner.

The entree, of course, could be none other than sliced barbecue beef from Mesquite (TX) Barbecue, the eatery founded by our legendary Uncle Herbert. Though he's long gone from this earth (read about him in the chapter "One Day in January" in my first cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden), barbecue prepared his way still can be purchased at this downtown Mesquite eatery. No important family occasion can occur without being graced by this dish, which we'd order as a take-out and bring to the meal.

But that barbecue beef called for some complimentary side dishes. One I had chosen was Broccoli and Tomato Salad that featured tomatoes and avocado as mix-ins. As each day goes by, broccoli gets more accolades as a super-food—one that people need as a diet staple because
of its health benefits. Broccoli’s noteworthy nutrients include vitamin C, vitamin A (mostly as beta-carotene), folic acid, calcium, and fiber. Calcium does more than build strong bones. Research shows that this mineral may play a role in controlling high blood pressure; it also may work to prevent colon cancer. Guacamole and tomatoes get rave reviews in the "must-have" foods area also.

A dressing that featured mustard, horseradish, and fat-free sour cream as its basic elements was tangy and provided a great marinade. The red-and-green salad mixture made a beautiful dish as we served our food buffet-style.

Munchkin won't remember the special weekend ceremony at the church and can relive it only through photos in his album and a video taken of the event. But we'll never dine on Broccoli and Tomato Salad in the future without it reminding us of this memorable day that we hope will help set a dear little boy on life's right pathway.

Broccoli and Tomato Salad

2 small heads broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup water
3 cups grape (or cherry) tomatoes, halved
1 large avocado, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 onion, sliced thin

2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream

Blend dressing ingredients with a whisk. Cut broccoli into florets. In a medium sauce pan cook broccoli in water over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until broccoli is desired softness; drain and cool. Combine broccoli, tomatoes, guacamole, and onion. Pour dressing over the salad. Mix to coat. Serve warm or chill before serving. Makes 4-6 servings.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Collard greens in a quiche? Why not? It works for spinach.

The final item I prepared for our ladies' lunch before we got those sewing machines humming to finish our quilts was the extraordinary Spicy Ham-and-Greens Quiche.

I never had heard of using collard greens in a quiche—spinach, yes; greens, no—but that's the imaginative Southern Living (source of the recipe) for you! Their January issue contained some far-out "tradition-with-a-twist" recipes that gave a fresh, new look at some old standbys. What could possibly be more Southern than a dose of collards and ham inserted into a quiche format? This recipe was a "just-had-to-try".

The original recipe in the magazine called for frozen chopped collard greens, but I subbed fresh greens, which I purchased in the ready-to-eat bag at the grocery store. I used about 10 ounces and in the microwave-steamed them until they were tender. I tested the recipe with the low-fat version of Bisquick Original Pancake and Baking Mix.

The lunch crowd was an appreciative audience for my quiche with the unusual mixture. With the Earthy Cauliflower Salad, Cranberry-Chocolate Chip Cookies, and homemade yeast rolls, the menu was perfect. I had enough ham, greens, and pepper jack cheese left over that I made an identical quiche two nights later, except in this second try I added some fresh mushrooms I had left over from the cauliflower salad. This great addition made a wonderful dish even better!

Spicy Ham-and-Greens Quiche

1 cup chopped baked ham
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 (16-ounce) package frozen chopped collard greens, thawed and drained
1/3 cup diced onion
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded pepper jack cheese
1 cup skim milk
2 large eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
1/2 cup all-purpose baking mix
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Saute´ham in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until browned. Stir in collards and onion. Saute´ 5 minutes or until onion is tender and liquid evaporates. Layer half of collard mixture in a lightly greased 9-inch pie plate; top with 3/4 cup cheese. Repeat layers once. Whisk together milk and remaining ingredients until smooth; pour over collard-and-cheese mixture in pie plate. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in center emerges clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before you serve. Makes 6-8 servings.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Earthy Cauliflower Salad helps get us through completing our quilt projects

Well, we did it—had the party to finish our quilts. In a previous blog I mentioned baking Cranberry-Chocolate Chip Cookies for the occasion this past weekend in which my quilting class from December was to meet at my house to finish our projects and have a “ladies’ lunch” as we stitched and gabbed.

The cookies were a big success. So was the Earthy Cauliflower Salad that I prepared for the luncheon and served alongside Spicy Ham and Collard Greens Quiche (see tomorrow’s blog for that recipe.) Earthy Cauliflower Salad is an interesting blend of fresh cauliflower, fresh mushrooms, pimiento, and onion. It was marinated overnight in an interesting mustard-based dressing. Very unusual; very good.

We dined on pink and green luncheon plates and used pink napkins to match the pink-and-green decor of my sewing room, which is amply spacious and has room for a little bistro table and chairs and a small kitchenette area with a microwave. These were my first guests in my “garret” (so named for Jo’s “garret”, or creative area, in the book, Little Women) since Hubby refurbished it for me out of a former dank warehouse area in our back yard.

After we dined, we got the sewing machines cranking and finished our current projects. Mine was a blue-and-white table runner in the "Bear Paw" pattern—now complete except for sewing the border around it.

Then I'll have two wonderful souvenirs of our time together—my Bear Paw table-topper and the recipe for Earthy Cauliflower Salad.

Earthy Cauliflower Salad

1/4 pound button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 lemon
1 small cauliflower head, broken into florets
2 onions, finely chopped
salt and pepper
paprika (optional)

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon honey

Put the oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic powder, and honey into a screw-top jar. In a large bowl sprinkle the mushrooms with the lemon juice; toss. Add cauliflower and onion, toss. Add salt and pepper to taste. Shake dressing well to blend before you pour it over the vegetables. Marinate for at least 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. (Also can marinate several hours or overnight.) Sprinkle with paprika and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Monday, January 24, 2011

We loved this great homemade granola—a breakfast must-have!

Last week a faithful blog reader wrote to ask whether I had a homemade granola recipe and if so, would I please share it with her?

I SO had a granola recipe—the "how-to’s” of the best homemade granola I've ever tasted—but it had escaped me. Recently I've wished to have it back and began thinking of which file might be bearing it, but I didn't have the first clue about where to turn.

Fortunately that very day we were headed up across the Red River to Ardmore for Hubby's follow-up eye exam for his emergency eye surgery that he undergone around Christmas time, so we dropped into the building of the Chickasaw Nutrition Services, the source of so many of my recipes posted on this blog. Of course the folks there efficiently had "Homemade Granola" file and cheerfully produced another copy of it for me.

Now I not only could email it to my friend, I could mix up a big batch for this past weekend’s breakfasts and reprint it in my blog. Total delight!

These recipe instructions call for a cup of pecans, which, as I've mentioned, we have amply stored away from our last year's pecan crop. The recipe called for 3/4 cup raisins, but I divided it to put in half dried cranberries with half of the regular raisins. I loved the way the cranberries flavored the oatmeal mixture. In serving it, I topped it all with blueberries from the deepfreeze. What a wonderful Saturday-morning treat!

In an airtight container I stored the rest of the mixture, which makes 16 1/2-cup servings. We are loving it. I know you will, too.

Homemade Granola

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup dry milk
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
5 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup raisins
pinch of salt (or salt substitute)
1 cup pecans, chopped

Mix brown sugar, oil, and honey in a saucepan. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Combine dry ingredients in a large cake pan. Pour sugar mixture over dry mixture; mix well. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Let cool in pan. Store in airtight container. Serve with skim milk; fruit optional.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sweet potato-chicken stir-fry combo warms all the way to the hair follicles on a cold night

An icy, biting went had blown in from the north. Overnight forecasts sent us to start the faucets dripping as protection in a freeze. Even our puppy dog made haste in from the cold as we let him out to do his business. The night called for a good warm meal—nothing but a skillet supper would fill the bill.

A recent Prevention magazine issue featured some inviting skillet-supper recipes. I clipped this one for Chicken-Sweet Potato Stir-Fry because sweet potatoes are one of Hubby’s heart's-dearest veggie (not to mention that they rate high as a super-food these days). I'd never before seen sweet potatoes in a stir-fry recipe. Healthy ingredients such as red peppers, peas, and cilantro, along with the bright orange of the sweet potato, made the dish colorful and appealing.

Prevention's recipe had called for quinoa as the grain in this recipe, but without that on hand and without desiring to venture out into the cold for a special trip to the grocery, I adapted this to use brown rice as a substitute. Addition of the jalapeno plus the cumin spice gave this stir-fry a little South-of-the-Border kick.

Good and filling, with mouth-watering zest. We thanked the Good Lord for the shelter of a cozy home and a dinner that warmed us from our hair follicles down to our tippy-toes.

Chicken-Sweet Potato Stir-Fry

1 cup water
1/2 cup brown rice
1 medium sweet potato (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 teaspoons canola oil
12-ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeno chile pepper, finely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Combine water and rice in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. Put sweet potato in a small saucepan with enough cold water to cover by 2-inches while rice is cooking. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in large nonstick frying pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to bowl Return pan to heat and add remaining 2 teaspoons of oil. Stir in onion and jalapeno pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute. Add bell pepper, garlic, and cumin. Cook until vegetables start to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in peas and reserved chicken. Cook 2 minutes. Add rice and sweet potato. Cook, stir frequently, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro, salt, and black pepper. Makes 6 servings.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

With luck Cranberry-Chocolate Chip treats will inspire us to be quilt-finishers

At last I'm learning to quilt. Even though I spent the vast preponderance of my life surrounded by expert quilters and picked up bucketloads of tips from them—and even though I've already stitched numerous quilt projects on my own—I'd never previously had someone meticulously teach me the basics—all the little tricks of the trade that prodigious quilters know. I knew I needed some "aha" moments that would explain why my finished work always looked a little . . . uh . . . different, shall we say, than the Great Ones’ quilts that I have hanging in my home.

In December I got that opportunity when I signed up for a beginners class at Suzy's Quilt Shop, that renowned emporium of beauty and knowledge on the square in Downtown Garland. Teacher Paula patiently sat by all us stumbling newcomers to watch us sew our crooked seams and with great longsuffering helped us get back on track.

I emerged with what had the potential to become a lovely blue-and-white, machine-quilted tabletopper made with the Bear Paw pattern. Long hours were spent under Paula's tutelage as I put my tabletopper together and ripped out seams and re-sewed until I got it right.

Only problem was, I didn't get finished. Neither, thankfully, did the others in my class. Time ran out in our class session before we acquired all the techniques for the finishing touches. So I suggested our group get together for a "Quilt-Finishing" party and offered my spacious sewing room that Hubby had installed for me in the ground-level of our outdoor storage facility in our back yard.

This weekend my classmates and their unfinished quilts, along with Teacher Paula, will arrive for her show us how to finish well. I promised to feed them a light lunch and a little snack, so before we get those sewing machines churning, I will offer them a plate of Cranberry-Chocolate Chip Treats, which I have made for the occasion. These turned out to be a delicious use of some leftover cranberries and had healthy oatmeal stirred in.

I hope my group will like them and that they'll spur us on to get those tabletoppers completed and ready to be displayed!

Cranberry-Chocolate Chip Treats

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
1/2 cup light brown sugar (or 1/4 cup brown-sugar substitute)
2 eggs beaten (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup fresh cranberries (each berry cut in half)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugars together until all is whipped and fluffy. Beat eggs; add to sugar mixture along with flour, oatmeal, and chocolate chips. Gently fold in cranberries. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet about 2-inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges; cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My mental image of great blackberry waffles became reality with this inspiring recipe

The last time I visited a particular favorite "serve-breakfast-all-day" eatery, I emerged bummed because I'd not chosen to order the fresh blackberry waffles. I left with "diner's remorse" because the entree I picked turned out to be not nearly as great as my mental image of what those blackberry waffles might have tasted like.

To my great joy after I returned home, I found that my new issue of Southern Living magazine contained none other than a recipe for Lemon- Poppy Seed Belgian Waffles with Blackberry Maple Syrup. Now in my own kitchen I could create a version of what I had bypassed at the restaurant. The Southern Living feature was extolling the virtues of cooking with citrus, in honor of this being citrus season in many locales. We'll get to experience that soon with a future trip to see the Arizona grandpersons and then will enjoy the bucketloads of citrus grown fresh in residents’ back yards.

However, I could enjoy a hint of citrus now—and satisfy my blackberry waffles cravings—with this simple recipe. So last night we had breakfast for dinner. I fired up the Belgian waffle griddle and mixed up a batch of this terrific batter. Using sugar-free maple syrup, low-fat baking mix, and egg substitute healthened-up this recipe and made possible eating quite a few of those waffle wedges without guilt. We didn't pile on the fresh cream, but a couple of teaspoons of sugar-free whipped topping didn’t hurt anything one iota.

Southern Living, you saved the day. And, oh yes, we do have leftovers.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Belgian Waffles with Blackberry Maple Syrup

2 cups low-fat all-purpose baking mix
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 1/4 cups cold club soda
1 large egg, lightly beaten (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
1/4 cup butter, melted
fresh whipped cream (or sugar-free whipped topping)

Stir together baking mix, poppy seeds, and lemon zest. Whisk together club soda, egg, and butter in a small bowl; gently whisk egg mixture into poppy-seed mixture. (Mixture will be lumpy.) Let stand 3 minutes. Cook batter (about 3/4 to 1 cup batter each) in a preheated, oiled Belgian-style waffle iron until golden. Serve with Blackberry Maple Syrup (below) and, if desired, fresh cream. Makes 4 servings.

Blackberry Maple Syrup:
1/2 cup sugar-free maple syrup
1 (12-ounce) package frozen blackberries, thawed (frozen mixed berries, thawed, may be subbed)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice

In a medium bowl combine all ingredients. Warm in microwave if you desire to serve this warm.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Soon those spinach leaves will be pick-able from our own garden, just planted

Our winter garden is in! From my home-office window and looking out past my deck toward the garden plot I see the onion shoots and the new spinach and red and green lettuce plants. These were put in the ground late last week after the snow melted and the temperatures rose above freezing. Afterward, steady, gentle rains throughout the weekend were absolutely perfect to soak the soil and give those baby plants a great start.

This year marks the earliest in January we've gotten the plantings in the ground. We've also never planted quite this much this early. If even a portion of our onion starts turn out, we'll be well-supplied with onions for months on end. Hallelujah! What a feeling of accomplishment!

Soon, Lord willing, the spinach I use for this and other recipes will be plucked straight from our leafy plants outdoors, but for now, bags of fresh, prewashed spinach from the grocery produce aisle help me get this food item on the table fast. Spinach with Feta Sauce can be served alone as a delicious side or as a sauce over pasta, cooked vegetables, or chicken. The first night we dined on it as a solo veggie. For later meals I cooked up a little spaghetti and topped it with the remaining spinach and sauce. That was divine-tasting as well.

The days ahead hold great promise because of our early 2011 garden (and hopefully the spring/summer plantings to follow). On gray January days—with a lot of winter-doldrum sameness to them—having a fun garden to look toward is a great morale booster.

Spinach and Feta Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup low-fat evaporated milk
1/2 cup feta cheese, packed firmly
14 cups (about 2 packages of prewashed) spinach

Cook oil, onion, and garlic in skillet over medium heat until soft. Add evaporated milk and cheese; simmer for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly. Add spinach; stir and cook until spinach just wilts. Serve as a veggie side or as a sauce, as described above. Makes four servings.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"MMM" definitely response to these surprise-middle muffins

Another Saturday needed for errand running—this one in the rain. The object: getting Hubby to accompany me. (After all, one of the errands was to exchange a Christmas gift that fit him wrong. Didn't that require his presence?) Some kind of special breakfast was in order to effect my bribe.

The title of this recipe intrigued me. What in the middle would evoke an "MMM" response? Two of Hubby's favorite food substances—peanut butter and banana—were wedged in the middle of the muffin. Had to give it a try and see whether it had persuasive powers.

The assemblage was easy, even though I erred on the side of conservatism (wouldn't my mother get a hoot out of that statement? She never believed anyone could err on the side of conservatism, especially the political variety.) where the banana slice was concerned. For fear the muffin batter wouldn't effectively cover it up as it baked, I made my banana slices a tad too skinny. Therefore the full-flavor idea of the hidden banana got shortchanged a little bit. Next time I'll insert a healthy-sized chunk—maybe up to one-inch in width. The 1/2 teaspoon of peanut butter as the recipe stated turned out to be just the right amount.

When the muffins popped out of the oven, they looked nondescript enough—with only the merest hint of the surprise contained within. But when Hubby bit into one, wow! Was he intrigued!

Yup, after a breakfast of MMM . . . in the Middle Muffins, Hubby morphed into a compliant, willing, errand-running companion—for tasks that lasted most of the day Saturday. (And on a midday trip back to the house to drop off our belongings before the afternoon errand-run, he dove into the leftover muffin container for a replenishment.) The MMM factor worked, indeed.

MMM . . . in the Middle Muffins

3/4 cup milk, skim
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/3 cup margarine
2 tablespoons honey
2/3 cup sugar substitute
2 eggs (or 1/2 cup egg beaters)
1 banana, large, cut into 12 slices
2 tablespoons lowfat peanut butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 12-cup muffin tin. In small bowl combine milk and lemon juice. Set aside. In another small bowl combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Set this bowl aside also. In a large bowl mix margarine, honey, and sugar substitute. Add eggs (brought to room temperature) to the margarine mixture. To the margarine mixture add the flour mixture alternately with the milk. Fill each muffin tin about 1/3 full. Place banana slice onto the batter in each cup with 1/2 teaspoon of peanut butter. (Make sure the banana slice is fairly sizable.) Press down slightlly. Continue to fill each muffin cup with batter until it is 2/3 full and covers the banana. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Couldn't keep Hubby out of this tempting dish—and it wasn't dessert

I've never had such a tough time keeping Hubby from "sampling" a bite of a food item before the actual time to eat dinner. You'd think I was speaking of cookies or cake or some highly decadent sweet. Instead the object of temptation was none other than a slice of Baked Eggplant.

Baked Eggplant? Who would have thunk it? But these duded-up fresh eggplant slices, first dipped in egg white, then seasoned breadcrumbs, then tomato chunks and then a cheese mixture, were simply divine looking. When I was on a brief trip out of town yesterday, Hubby rang me up. Can I have them for lunch? he begged. Must wait until dinner, I replied. Have to take a photo of them for my blog before we dig in this evening.

At last the time arrived to warm them and pile them onto a plate alongside some spaghetti and spaghetti sauce for dinner. Mmmmm, just the best! Broiling them in the oven at the end of the baking made the tops crusty and good; the cheese and tomato mixture provided a great "top-hat" to the individual eggplant rounds.

Hubby wasn't the only one tempted. I had to restrain myself from gobbling up the slices he didn't eat so I could save some servings for another dinner. Baked Eggplant—indeed, who would have thunk it? Neither of us can wait to have these dressed-up eggplant slices for tonight's meal as well.

Baked Eggplant

Cooking spray
8 slices eggplant, 1/4-inch thick
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
2 cups whole-wheat bread crumbs, dry
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tomato, medium, chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 cup Italian dressing, fat-free

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use cooking spray on a baking sheet. In a small bowl whisk egg white and water. In another bowl mix breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning. Dip the eggplant slices one at a time into the egg and water mixture; then coat both sides with breadcrumbs. When the eggplant is coated, place each slice on the baking sheet. Top each slice with equal amounts of tomato, Parmesan cheese, and dressing. Bake in the oven about 15 minutes. Change the oven setting to broil and cook for 3 minutes. While broiling check slices to avoid burning. Makes 8 servings.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What kind of bread is from a garden pan? Recipe with weird title certainly worth trying.

The recipe couldn't have had a weirder name—Garden Pan Bread. But as I read the ingredients, I knew it was a "must-try". It called for pureed pumpkin (and I certainly had plenty of that stored in my freezer) and walnuts (plenty of those, too, because of Hubby's crusade about these Super Nuts). Then it specified the addition of cornmeal. What kind of mixture was this? I soon found out.

Garden Pan Bread (another recipe from the Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services) was a delightful cross between corn bread and pumpkin bread. It contained no oil (the mashed pumpkin and water gave it all the moisture it needed). It can be baked in an ovenproof skillet, such as a black cast-iron skillet, or in a baking pan (as I did, using a square one that had been lightly sprayed).

The bread carved up into nice, firm little squares that have been wonderful with a variety of meals, including ones with spaghetti and salmon patties as entrees. Served warm they taste even better with some sugar-free preserves or my pumpkin butter spread on them. For lunch yesterday Garden Pan Bread squares were great with an assortment of grapes and veggies with fat-free ranch dip.

Weird name, yes, but I'm glad I tried them. The recipe makes ample, so I think I'll freeze some for the winter soup days that I'm sure are still ahead until we roll the calendar over to spring.

Garden Pan Bread

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
3/4 cup pureed pumpkin
1 cup water
2 eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl combine 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside. In a small bowl combine 3/4 cup pumpkin, 1 cup water, and eggs or egg substitute. Stir until well-mixed. Stir pumpkin mixture into cornmeal mixture. Mix until dry ingredients are moistened. Gently stir in 1/2 cup raisins and 1/2 cup walnuts. Lightly spray skillet or baking pan. Spoon batter into skillet or baking pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until bread is golden brown and pulls away from edges. A wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the bread will emerge clean. Makes 12-15 servings depending on the size of your squares.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bow-tie pasta, veggies bring a smile alongside this snow-day skillet dinner

The last of my "snow meals" (all the white stuff is melted now—unlike our Richmond days, when snow stuck around for weeks on end and then turned dirty brown as it lay piled up in parking lots) was a skillet dinner—Veggie Bow-Tie Skillet, which just seemed like health and comfort food (and lots of leftover meals) all stirred into one.

Two cups of chopped tomato and a cup of chopped green pepper lifted this home-concocted dinner above the Hamburger Helper genre. Ground turkey was subbed in for the ground beef called for in the recipe.

The snow has been fun to look at but was even more enjoyable because it's been SO-O-O-O good for the recently tilled and mulched garden. All that moisture on the soil has been just perfect to get things prepped for the winter plantings (weather permitting, the first onion sets go into the ground this weekend). Oh, happy day!)

But first, to get past the snow, this skillet meal was fun and quick—and the cute little bow-tie pasta pieces couldn't help but bring a smile.

Veggie Bow-Tie Skillet

1 pound ground turkey
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups bow-tie pasta, uncooked
3/4 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon salt-free Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 cups chopped fresh tomato
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, reduced fat

In a large skillet cook ground turkey and onion over medium heat until done. Rinse and drain turkey/onions and return to skillet. In a separate pan cook pasta as directed but omit salt and fat. To the skillet stir in the broth, cooked and drained pasta, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer. Add bell pepper and tomato and cook about 2 minutes. Stir occasionally. Sprinkle top with cheese and stir. Makes 9 (3/4-cup) servings.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A colorful mini-quiche baked in a muffin tin

More "snow" cooking—food items that seemed would hit the spot and as well as keep us healthy on the recent snowy, confined days that we experienced in the DFW Metroplex. Another goodie was a recipe for Italian Spinach Mini Quiche, which actually called for frozen spinach, but I happened to have some fresh spinach I needed to use up (in my ubiquitous quest for ways to get fresh leftover spinach leaves quickly hustled into foods), so I steamed it and subbed it for the frozen. Wonderful!

These mini-quiches were baked in regular muffin tins that had been lightly sprayed. I worried that they might fall apart when I lifted them out of the individual pans, but they held together wonderfully. A couple of them plus some red grapes made a perfect evening meal for a snowy Sunday night as we watched the rare (for North Texas) flakes dust everything around.

The colorful green spinach plus the chopped red bell peppers in the mini-quiches inspired me to list this as a Christmas-morning breakfast possibility as well (compiling my recipe wish-list for 2011 already). They also were terrific warmed for lunch the next day.

Italian Spinach Mini Quiche

16 ounces cottage cheese (low-fat)
10 ounces fresh spinach, cooked and drained thoroughly (or 1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed, drained well)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, skin
2 eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
2 egg whites (or 1/2 cup egg-white substitute)
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon oregano, dried
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients until well blended. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Spoon 1/3 cup of the mixture into each muffin cup. Evenly divide between the 12 cups any mixture that is left over. Bake for 30 minutes or until center is set. Let cool in the muffin tins for 5 minutes before you try to remove. Makes 12 servings.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow, beware: we have our Pear-Granola Muffins to keep us warm

When we saw it on the horizon, I went into my kneejerk Richmond, VA, reaction. The forecast for plummeting temps and snow was pretty sure to happen in the DFW Metroplex in the hours and days ahead. So, as we always observed Richmonders do during our past years of spending winters in Virginia, we grocery-shopped and cooked for the impending days of cocooning.

When the cold front finally hit on Sunday, I was ready. Pear-Granola Muffins helped make a warm breakfast on a blustery, thermometer-dipping morning (although Hubby vowed these muffins were just as good fresh from the fridge because the pear chunks tasted great super-cold). Two whole pears peeled and cubed, nonfat vanilla yogurt, whole-wheat flour, and lowfat granola (with some reserved for a crunchy topping) were the health features of this super item.

When the snow arrived (rare but not unheard of for our area of Texas), we had our healthy Pear-Granola Muffins (thanks, Chickasaw Nutrition Services for the recipe) to help us enjoy its beauty.

Pear-Granola Muffins

cooking spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
3/4 cup brown sugar (or 3/8 cup brown-sugar substitute)
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt, nonfat
2 tablespoon margarine, melted
2 pears, diced into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cup lowfat granola, divided

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray cooking spray into cups of a 12-cup muffin tin. In a large bowl whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl whisk together eggs, brown sugar, yogurt, and melted margarine. In the center of the flour mixture make a well. Add egg mixture to the well and mix until combined. Gently fold in 1/2 cup granola and pears. Spoon batter (1/4 cup each) into prepared muffin tin. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup granola, divided among the muffins. Bake 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before you remove from muffin tin. Makes 12 muffins.

Friday, January 7, 2011

OK, walnuts it'll be; healthy carrot cake bars help me keep resolve

For a long time it's been my knee-jerk substitution: if a recipe called for walnuts, I'd automatically sub in pecans. Around our house pecans are in ready supply (in previous blogs I've mentioned about our "forest" of 13 pecan trees). Besides, I've never particularly cared for the taste of walnuts—too strong, too bitter.

But lately Hubby has been extolling the health wonders of walnuts. The new issue of Prevention magazine features walnuts as the current in-season superfood. Hubby had been reading this and at his latest grocery-store run brought home a bad of freshly shelled walnuts. He's been munching them the way I munch almonds—as my mid-morning health snack.

Prevention magazine mentions how walnuts give dishes a heart-healthy punch; they score highest of all nuts in the omega-3s that protect against heart disease. Their stores of fiber and unsaturated fat can help lower bad LDL cholesterol naturally. Oh, OK. I give in. Walnuts need to make their way into my diet.

That resolve, plus some leftover carrots dippers from my New Year's artichoke dip and a dab of leftover cream cheese from holiday cookie preparation, gave me good reason to try this Healthy Low-Fat Carrot Cake Bars recipe. I used walnuts where I'd normally sub pecans. The result produced some delightful bars (recipe provided by www.carrotrecipes.net); I can serve some now and freeze the rest for a later occasion.

O how virtuous I feel as I ingest this carrot-rich dessert that is infused with walnuts, the in-season superfood. May be a while before I can bring myself to munch on walnuts full-bore, but at least with this recipe I've taken the first step toward my change-over.

Healthy Low-Fat Carrot Cake Bars

3 eggs (or 3/4 cup egg substitute)
1 3-ounce jar baby-food carrots (or carrots pureed in blender to make 3 ounces)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (or 1/4 cup brown-sugar substitute)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups grated fresh carrot
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3-ounces Neufchatel cheese, softened (low-fat option subbed for cream cheese)
1 teaspoon vanilla
powdered sugar sifted to make 2 cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line with a foil a 13-inch-by-9-in baking pan and lightly grease the top of the foil; let foil extend over the ends of the pan. In a large bowl beat together eggs, carrots, sugar, oil, vanilla, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Add flour slowly; beat to incorporate. Stir in carrots, ginger, and walnuts until just mixed. Spread into foil-lined pan. Bake 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle emerges clean. Cool pan on a wire rack. Meanwhile prepare the frosting: In a small bowl beat together butter, cream cheese, and vanilla. Add sugar and beat on low until thick and smooth. Spread over cooled cake. Sprinkle a few chopped walnuts onto top of cake. Cut cake into bars. Lift foil by ends to remove cake from pan. Remove bars to serving tray or airtight storage container. Keep refrigerated. Makes 18 bars.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Heart O' Green Casserole blends the unusual; hints of spring

Ample folks get the winter doldrums when cooking this time of year is concerned. After all the exotic foods of Christmas and New Year's, planning meals and finding recipes to suit can be rather ho-hum.

Not for me. I've got a nice pile of "untried"s that have been waiting for Christmas to end so I can get back to regular meal preparation; I don't have to live off my life-saving frozen-meal supply any more. I've been pleased these last few nights to wipe the dust off the plastic sleeve that contains my wish-list recipe cards. (Besides, our garden spot that has slept through the winter is about to be tilled on Friday to get ready for those first plantings. Can spring be far behind?) I'm stoked.

One of the first on my to-do list was Heart O' Green Casserole which (no surprise, considering this recipe hails from the Chickasaw Nutrition Services) once again mixes the unusual and emerges with a winner. Heart O' Green (couldn't this be served again for St. Patrick's Day in March?) combines fresh green beans and artichoke hearts into a most interesting yet incredibly tasty casserole that adds new (and of course, healthy) spark to the dinner table.

I loved the freshness and the golden crumb topping. This makes a nice accompaniment to the black-eyed peas Hubby made that we're still downing for our New Year's good luck. (Wish I'd tried Heart O'Green before Christmas so I could have added it to my potluck offerings. Bet I will in 2011!)

Heart O'Green Casserole

3/4 pound fresh green beens, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch slices
2 tablespoons margarine, melted, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup skim milk
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained, quartered
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook green beans in a large pot of boiling water for 4-6 minutes. Drain beans and set aside. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat melt 1 tablespoon margarine. Add garlic and saute. Whisk in flour. Do not let brown. Gradually whisk in milk; bring to a boil. Continue stirring and reduce to a simmer until sauce has thickened. Into sauce stir in green beans, artichoke hearts, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Remove from heat and transfer to an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking dish. Toss remaining margarine with bread crumbs and sprinkle on top of bean-articuoke mixture. Bake until crumbs are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Makes 8 1/2-cup servings.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Warm chicken salad recipe, though from a "dated" source, is very "today" with health-consciousness

My goal for the holiday getaway, besides total relaxation, of course, was to emerge with one new, healthy, garden-fresh recipe.

I succeeded, but the "find" sprang from a most unusual source.

Hubby and I chose to spend our New Year's Eve night in an amazing bed-and-breakfast accommodation not far from the Metroplex—in the town of Weatherford, west of Fort Worth. We discovered the Angel's Nest B&B, a magnificently restored Victorian beauty high on a hill overlooking this town where the West is in full sway. An in-room breakfast, a Jacuzzi, a fireplace, and some breathtaking antiques add to the ambience of this escape place.

Fortunately my recipe source wasn't as ancient as is the 114-year-old lodging—once the belle of Weatherford dwellings situated on the highest point in Parker County—but it was up in years by today's fresh recipe standards. Our in-room reading contained the 1991 edition of the Bon Appetit Recipe Yearbook, a collection of recipes from Bon Appetit magazine from that year. Twenty years ago health-conscious eating wasn't a biggie, but this gem of a recipe certainly reflected all that people today espouse about eating the garden-fresh way.

The recipe for Warm Wild Rice and Chicken Salad called for delicious ingredients such as fresh apples, red and green bell pepper, dried cranberries, red onion, and toasted pecans, all diced. Usually warm chicken-salad recipes get "heavy" with the addition of cheeses or mayonnaise, but this one contained a simple balsamic vinegar and olive-oil dressing that kept the salad light. Served over spinach leaves, this food item was health personified—an amazing attribute for a recipe originated two decades ago.

After our getaway, we brought the recipe home and tried it out for dinner last night—a wonderful souvenir of a memorable start to 2011.

Warm Wild Rice and Chicken Salad

3/4 cups wild rice
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt or salt substitute
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 large red apple, unpeeled, cord, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
spinach leaves

In large saucepan put water, rice, and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer about 35 minutes or until rice is cooked and water absorbed. To cooked rice add shredded chicken, cranberries, and chopped red onion, bell peppers, and pecans. Season with pepper. Toss with vinegar, oil, and salt. Arrange spinach leaves on salad plates; top with warm salad. Makes 4 servings.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Fiesta Hot Artichoke Dip got the new year off to a warm, healthy start

No big New Year's weekend party at our house. Just Hubby and me, plus a little 4-month-old munchkin who arrived for a sleepover so his parents could have a much-needed, 24-hour break before the ratrace of work resumed this week.

But that didn't mean we couldn't party like the best of 'em. Grandmunchkin was too little to appreciate it, but for Hubby and me I prepared a dip that had been on my wish-list since a friend brought this unforgettable item to a covered-dish Christmas buffet two years ago.

Fiesta Hot Artichoke Dip is the sort of appetizer that lifts dips out of the doldrums. It makes you want to stand over the veggie tray and graze ad infinitum. It tasted great with chips and crackers, too (as well as atop a barbecue sandwich I had for dinner last night.)

Made with Neufchatel cheese instead of the higher-fat-content regular cream cheese, you can graze on it without guilt (especially when you think about all the fresh veggies that are going down alongside it). An ample contribution of fresh green onions and artichoke hearts (rinse the hearts thoroughly to help lessen the sodium content) into the dip mixture makes this a healthy option.

Even though the word "hot" is in the recipe, we found it just as delightful served cold and straight out of the fridge. But taking time to warm it makes it easier to scoop the veggies and chips into. (Save this recipe for your Super Bowl Blowout Party next month.)

The new year of 2011 got off to a great start, tastebuds- and health-wise, with the introduction of Fiesta Hot Artichoke Dip into our culinary fare.

Fiesta Hot Artichoke Dip

1 (1-ounce) package taco spices and seasonings (I used the lower-sodium variety)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (8-ounce) package Neufchatel cheese
2 (14-ounce) cans artichoke hearts, drained (cut each heart into several sections)
1 (8-ounce) package Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup sliced green onion (divided into two 1/4 cups)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl combine all ingredients except 1/4 cup green onions. In 2-quart greased baking dish spoon artichoke mixture. Bake 25 minute or until heated through. Garnish with remaining green onions and serve with assorted fresh vegetables or tortilla chips. Makes 5 cups.