the last of them

It's a little cooler and getting dark earlier now. Gone are the spring rolls and grilled chicken salads on the patio, and here are the soups and warm, one-dish meals at the kitchen table. I made dirty rice (with ground turkey, no livers or sausage) the other night. Everyone gobbled it right up. And apple pie. Fall is for apple pie. Good thing we've had so many apples.

We've made three apple pies, two were for our new neighbors. (We have two sets of new neighbors. Can I say how much I love having friendly neighbors?) I wing the filling and buy the crusts. And try to keep vanilla ice cream on hand. J and I also made two big batches of crock pot apple sauce, loosely using this recipe. I added the juice of 1/2 a lemon and a pinch of salt and subbed brown for regular sugar. The first batch was so sweet. The second we barely added any brown sugar, maybe a scant 1/4 cup. It was better. I'm wondering if the sugar is even necessary.

This is the last of the free apples. The kids are begging for hand pies. Evenings are crazy this week, so maybe this weekend. Fall photoshoots start in earnest Saturday, so even as things ease up for the kids, I'll be swamped next week. But good swamped.

It's raining today. I wish I knew of a free pear tree. 

. . . . . . .

I've been at habit this month and last. As my friend Eren, who is there with me, says, habit is such a gift. 

chipotle bowls at home

Chipotle is a sure bet around here. We all love it! Saturday afternoon it popped into my head that we could make our own Chipotle bowls at home. Why didn't I ever think of this before?! Hey, you're smarties. I'm sure you've already made this. Come on, it's pretty much just taco salad with rice. But in case you've never thought of this either, here's what we did:

We marinated two chicken breasts in the juice of a lime and a bit of taco seasoning- then an hour later- onto the grill they went. After they were done we chopped them up.

While Brian took care of the chicken, I got the toppings ready.

I cooked some brown rice and when it was slightly cooled, I stirred in a smidge of butter, a BIG handful of finely chopped cilantro and the juice of another lime.

I cut the kernels off an ear of corn and sautéed it in a skillet with a little olive oil and some salt and fresh ground pepper.

I warmed up a can of black beans.

I  chopped some lettuce. And some more cilantro.

Got out the (store-bought) fresh salsa, shredded cheese, and sour cream.

 

Then we all went to town dressing up our homemade Chipotle bowls just how we like them. No cheese or sour cream for me, thankyouverymuch. And put a few restaurant style corn chips on the side. And a cold beer. Don't forget the beer.

Woooo weeee- winner winner! Saturday night easy dinner!

feb 10

I have suffered from headaches for many years. There is a diet that helps me, that I mostly follow while cooking and eating at home, but they've still been bad this winter. I recently read an article that said a sensitivity to wheat can contribute to chronic headaches, so I've gone wheat free (except for an unfortunate incident involving a donut, ahem) for a couple of weeks now. I'm unsure if it's helping the headaches or not, but one thing is for sure. I FEEL BETTER. My head feels clearer. That 3pm lull that I usually get is gone. And I'm just feeling more energetic in general.

So I'm dabbling my toes into gluten free baking. I don't think I've ever had any digestion issues with wheat or gluten, so it's not like it will hurt me to eat some now and then. But if I keep feeling this good, I may just start cooking and baking wheat free here at home from now on. 

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feb 6

My mom has these rectangular glass snack plates with little divisions in them- kind of old fashion luncheon trays. On snowy days she would make us toasted cheese sandwiches for them. We'd sit on the floor; the hearth was the perfect height for a table. We'd dip the edges into tomato soup and nibble our sandwiches in front of the crackling fire. She'd give us our drinks in dainty red glass teacups that fit perfectly into the cup side of the plates. It felt so special and fancy. It was one of those small things moms do to make you feel loved. A hug from the inside out.

I try to do little things like that- I bought some of those plates a thrift store one time, but I never remember to use them. But hot soup on a snowy day? That I can do. Partly because I love soup but mostly because I love my people. 

I got this recipe from my friend, Jamie, years ago. I had to adapt her recipe to make it a little more headache friendly. Here's how I make it.

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Jamie's Italian Sausage Chowder (12-14 servings)

  • 1 lb Italian sausage (I always use turkey Italian sausage)
  • 1 C chopped green onion
  • 1 C chopped celery
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 4 C chicken broth
  • 4 C frozen hash browns (her recipe calls for O'Brien hash browns but onions give me headaches)
  • 1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano flakes
  • a heaping handful or two fresh spinach coursely chopped
  • 1 1/2 C milk
  • 1/3 C flour (optional)
  • 1/2 C shredded good quality American cheese (the original recipe calls for cheddar, which I'm sure is WAY yummier, but it gives me headaches)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Remove casings from sausage and put in a 6-qt soup pot. Cook until meat is brown, stirring frequently to crumble. Remove sausage, leaving drippings.

Add onion, celery and garlic to drippings and cook, stirring frequently until veggies are tender. Return sausage to pot and add chicken broth, potatoes, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. Stir in spinach and heat, stirring frequently, 5-10 minutes.

After all the spinach has wilted in to your satisfaction, add milk and cheese. If you'd like to make the soup thicker, stir the flour into the milk before you add it. I skip this step every time. Stir often until slightly thickened and cheese is melted. Watch carefully- you don't want the soup to boil after you've added the milk. It may separate. Add salt (if needed) and pepper to taste.

I have to say, adding the milk and cheese make this soup a slightly unappetizing color, but the creaminess they add are delicious. 

 

Eat some soup, will ya? And then come over and finish this puzzle. I'm tired of it.

mmm... donuts

I bought the cutest little baked donut pan at an estate sale for a quarter a few months ago. We might be hooked.

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The first recipe we tried was this one from Joy the Baker. It was pretty good, a nice, dense cake donut. But I craved a little more flavor.

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Yesterday I made these chocolate donuts from Use Real Butter. They were delicious- chocolate cake in the shape of a donut. That's just not terrible! N wants me to make them for her birthday treats at school.

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I think next I want to find an apple/apple cider version to try, maybe rolled in cinnamon sugar. I think this may be the year of the donut; we'll try a new recipe every month. That's a resolution to stick with.