how to win friends and feed people

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Beef and Bean Chili

Like most things in my life these days, the holidays usually revolve around The Food. What kind will there be? Will there be enough? Who is making it? Can I make it? Can we make sure there is salad? And chocolate? And breakfast? What about Second Breakfast?

You get the idea.

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real quick

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(Note the dirty dishes in the cover photo. Because when you cook a lot, you wash a lot)

There is much to say.

But there is not time. At least not today. I would love to wax eloquently about the things I’ve learned this past semester, but if I don’t go study, the exam that is bearing down on me this coming Monday will get the best of me. I’m reminded of an exam I took my sophomore year of college, when the professor warned us that The Bridegroom Cometh for You Next Week, Lest You Find Yourself Unprepared. I’ve always been a fan of a well-placed Biblical reference used to strike fear into the hearts of unsuspecting undergraduates, but at the time I was one of the foolish, unprepared virgins who found themselves without enough oil in their lamps, and afterwards there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But now I’m older, possibly wiser, not living in a dorm and not chasing boys and I would like to hope I’m less distracted than I was then, or at least I am more disciplined and more scared of failing because, well, we did move here for this.

But I digress. Here is a relatively quick, incredibly easy recipe that has all of the seasonal warmth and comfort you can hope for, full of protein, flavor and color, and I ate it for dinner today. I also made it for a lovely group of senior citizens this past semester as part of a lunch demonstration; they were kind enough to at least pretend they liked it, and I think some of them actually did.

This recipe feeds at least 4 generously as a main course.

Squash, Pumpkin Seed and Quinoa salad:

1 cup of quinoa/grain mixture/couscous
1 small acorn squash, cut in half and seeded, sliced and cut into small cubes
OR
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup dried cranberrys
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus a little
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 cup vinegar (rice or apple cider)
salt and pepper to taste

*I made this twice, once with butternut and once with acorn squash. I think the acorn squash was my favorite, and the easiest, because you don’t need to peel it. The butternut is squash a little sweeter, the acorn a little more buttery. FYI in case you have a preference.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. On a baking sheet, toss the prepared squash with a small amount of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until tender and slightly charred around the edges. Let cool slightly.

Cook the quinoa/grain mixture according to the package directions. While its cooking, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar in a small bowl. When the quinoa is finished, combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Adjust flavors to taste. Serve in bowls.

 

turkey stew

It took me 12 minutes to get home from work yesterday, and an extra three to change out of my work clothes, wrap myself in a blanket and turn on Gilmore Girls. I allowed myself this leisure because I had gotten up at 5:45 that morning and sleepily went to the gym (which was surprisingly not packed), showered and got dressed and was early for work. The day before I made this turkey stew, so dinner was already prepared = winning. And then today I ignored my alarm and overslept by an hour and half, just making it to work on time.

Balance?

Moving on. Its finally cold here so I feel more justified eating soups and stews, something we eat all the time anyway, but they add a level of comfort to our old and drafty house that is much needed in the colder temps.

Also, did you really make it if you didn’t take a picture of it? Because that’s what happened here. I made a stew and didn’t awkwardly and artfully pose pictures of it for you. But it happened, I promise, and it was really great, and even better the second day. You can substitute the turkey with any meat here, or even use lentils or beans and vegetable broth to make it vegetarian. Its the perfect soup to help you stick to your new years healthy resolutions, especially on days where you get “extra” sleep and forego the gym.

Turkey Stew
serves 6-8

1 pound ground turkey
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
4 large carrots, scrubbed and chopped small
5-6 celery sticks, tops removed, scrubbed and chopped small
6 ounce can of tomato paste
4 cups (more or less) chicken stock
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Goat cheese, to serve
Chips or crusty bread, to serve

In a medium pan, brown the turkey until cooked through, set aside.

In a medium soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, and cook till translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots, then the celery, as you chop them. Cover and cook for another 10 or so minutes, until the carrots are tender/can be pierced with a fork. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper and spices, cook for 1 minute more.

Add the stock (you can also add the turkey, but see the next step first), let simmer for about 20 minutes. At this point, I used my immersion blender to pulse the vegetables, leaving a few chunky pieces, because I like my stews a little smoother and not just chunks of vegetables. Feel free to skip this step. Add the turkey, let simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Its ready to eat now, but the longer it simmers the better the flavors will be. Its even better the next day. Serve garnished with goat cheese and crusty bread or tortilla chips. Enjoy!

a deep breath / risotto

I discovered that October, November, and most of the December we’ve had so far has passed me by in an over-caffeinated, sleep-deprived haze. You see, I work the regular 8-5 type job, but for some reason I decided to take some classes this semester. Maybe it was 10 hours of classes. And I also decided to take the GRE, not once, but twice, because apparently I’m a glutton for punishment.

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mushrooms, whole

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potato soup

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I was really excited about making this soup. I had come home from work, changed into my ‘cooking clothes’ (baggy shorts, tshirt held together by threads, hair in crazy bun) and was chopping and mixing and completely comfortable when I discovered that my potatoes were moldy and also trying to grow new potatoes. Whatever, potatoes!

new potatoes

new potatoes

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spinach and bacon pie

baked.

baked.

So sometimes feeding yourself consists of putting enough fuel in your body so that moving is still an option on the table. This generally means that there will be lots of coffee, and meal time is quick and to the point. Sometimes that means you eat frozen pizza twice in one week. Last week was kind of like that, we rotated between salad with grilled chicken one night then frozen pizza the next. And repeat.

Sunday was finally a day when I had enough energy/time to get in the kitchen and actually make some things happen that required more attention than dump and stir. And what happened was a spinach pie with a bacon lattice top.

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