Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Bare-Bones with Style: Pumpkin

Happy New Year...and welcome to the start of a brand-new series, Bare Bones with Style. We're starting this series with a surprise ingredient:


I'd always thought of this squash-y item as something for pies and muffins. But it turns out that pumpkin makes a slightly-sweet, mellow and nutritious addition to all sorts of main dishes. Starting with soup...

Donna Groesbeck, a good friend in Cheyenne, WY, fed me a bowl of this one tired evening. It was full-flavored and delicious...and has remained that way, every time I've made it. It also has an amazing ability to adapt to whatever you've got in the refrigerator. Thanks so much, Donna...

(adapted from LDS Living)

4 tablespoons butter  (I usually use 1 tablespoon)
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, pressed (or 1 teaspoon dried garlic)
2 cups canned pumpkin -- or puree
4 cups water
6 chicken bouillon cubes
3 chicken breasts, cubed (I've used as few as one - or substituted a couple of boneless thighs)
1/2 - 1 teaspoon curry powder
pinch nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups half-and-half   (or substitute whole milk, or sour cream)
1 1/2 - 3 cups cooked rice   (great for using up leftover rice)

Saute onions and garlic in butter for a few minutes, then add everything but cream and rice. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add cream and rice to pot and stir-- Or I often put a large tablespoon or two of rice in the bottom of each bowl, pour in the hot soup, and top with a spoonful of sour cream. Makes enough for 4, plus a little leftover for seconds.
      And they'll want it -- this soup is THAT good.

Another interesting recipe, also from LDS Living:


1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 finely chopped onion
12 ounces chili sauce
1/2 cup pumpkin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce

Brown the beef and onion, then add everything else. Simmer for an hour, then spoon onto buns to serve. Makes 6-8 sloppy joes.

*optional -- but if you want it, mix 4 tablespoons cinnamon, 4 teaspoon nutmeg, 4 teaspoons ground ginger and 3 teaspoons allspice. Good for pies.
     A variation that makes a smaller amount: 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/8 teaspoon cloves.

Next on Bare Bones with Style:   Eggs, Eggs, The Cackleberry Fruit

Introducing A New Series: Bare Bones With Style!

    Hopefully you're enjoying your holiday rest...and starting to plan for the new year.

We've got a start for you:
     A whole series of great dishes that are budget-priced, easy to make...
          and best of all,


Bare Bones with Style

Come back soon -- we'll be posting these regularly in coming weeks.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas!

And it came to pass, that the Virgin delivered a Child...

Christ the Lord, our Savior. 

May your Christmastime be restful and illuminating. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Seven Fish Dish Alert!

We've started up the annual fussing for the Seven Fish Dish celebration our family enjoys on Christmas Eve.

Go on over to our sister blog, Christmas Goodies, and take a look!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A New Way to Use Zucchini -- Pie!

(This post ran recently on my regular blog, A Brick Looks At Life. )

I could use a break. Both Monday and Tuesday were jammed tight with reports and e-mail...and NOT the Cheyenne appraisals I was supposed to be working on. (Sorry, ladies -- I will get them out today!)

Friend Sharon brought this unusual pie over for dinner recently. I was amazed at how much it tasted like apple pie. She bakes it with sugar substitute (Splenda) for her husband, who's diabetic. But it would be delicious with regular sugar, too.

And yes, it uses that scourge (or gift) of the summer: zucchini. 


Here's the recipe. Simple, huh?


Peel, core and slice 8 cups zucchini. Mix with 2/3 cup lemon juice, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 1/14 cups sugar or Splenda. Simmer till zucchini is tender. Mix in cornstarch with water to thicken.

Pour into a pastry pie crust, and top with a second crust. Bake 350 degrees 30-35 min., until lightly brown. Serves about 8.

Could you add other fruit, like rhubarb, with this? I'm betting you could. It might be worth experimenting.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Which Came First: The Peep or the Egg?

Betty Crocker has a new cupcake recipe out that makes great use of Peep brand marshmallow chickens for Easter.
    You not only get the chicken -- but the eggs and sprinkles are inside!

I'm still not sure whether to be thrilled or weirded out...but you could use this idea to make other cupcakes-with-goodies-inside, including Reese's pieces, chocolate chips, chopped-up Almond Roca. Ooh, I'm getting ideas now.

Here they are, if you want to make them.

   (I just might.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Bare Bones II Finale: Spring Saute

Hopefully you've been enjoying the pasta dishes in this latest series. Pasta is one of the great ways to look elegant, and stay within your budget. To add to its nutritional benefits (and there are many), this saute takes less than a half-hour to make!

Spring's rock-bottom prices on asparagus prompted this final entry in the Bare Bones series. If shrimp isn't on sale in your neck of the woods, substitute finely-chopped chicken or salmon for a toothsome dish. Other veggies can also be used as they come into season.


1 pound pasta, any kind

1/2 pound shrimp (shelled and de-tailed)
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic
1/2 pound asparagus, thinly sliced (do it diagonally, for a prettier look)
4 chopped green onions
1/2 red pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped basil or cilantro
1/2 cup sour cream

Cook the pasta until tooth-tender in boiling water. While it's cooking, gently saute the sauce ingredients in the butter or olive oil at low temp. Drain the pasta and add to the saute, then stir in the chopped spice and sour cream. Salt to taste and serve right away to 2-4 hungry people. (A sprinkle of romano or parmesan cheese won't hurt matters, either.)

Next:  Eggses, We Loves 'Em, We Does

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bare Bones II: Goulash

     When it's cold and dreary, a hot plate of Goulash makes all the difference. Serve it with a crisp green salad, with coffee and cookies afterward, and you've got an easy meal, too. 

      I grew up on this version...we often made it with home-canned tomatoes. Commercially-canned tomatoes are good, too. This dish is excellent for hiding small amounts of leftover veggies. 


1 quart canned tomatoes (or a can of diced tomatoes)
1 pound hamburger or sausage
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms (or one small can mushroom pieces)
1 pound elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons Italian spices (or garlic, basil, oregano to taste)
2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella cheese OR grated parmesan

Start a saucepan of water to cook the macaroni. While it's heating, slowly brown the meat and vegetables until they're done; add the tomatoes and spices, and turn heat down to a simmer.
    Cook macaroni until done - about 8 min. Drain and add to meat mixture; sprinkle with cheese and serve hot. Makes about 8 servings...fast!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bare Bones II: Spaghetti Carbonara

One of pasta's best attributes is its speed -- in 15 minutes, you can have a plate of steaming spaghetti or linguine out and ready for your hungry family. (Or appetite!) I keep a package of bacon handy as much as possible, so I can make Carbonara at a moment's notice. Once the meat and veggies are sauteed, the rest literally cook in with the pasta.
    It's great for using up leftover bits and pieces from a salad, too.


1 pound spaghetti or linguine
1/3 - 1/2 pound bacon
2-3 cups chopped or sliced vegetables
 (Candidates include onion, zucchini or other squash, fresh tomatoes, green beans, carrots, bits of cabbage, mushrooms, red or green peppers, etc.)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic (or a healthy shake or two of dried powdered garlic)
2 eggs
parsley for garnish
Parmesan cheese 

Start cooking the pasta in a separate pan. Meanwhile, add the bacon, chopped fine, to the vegetables and garlic; saute slowly while the spaghetti cooks. Add eggs to either the bacon mixture (if you like separate pieces of egg), or the spaghetti, once it's cooked and drained (if you like each piece of pasta coated with egg). Mix in the bacon mixture, garnish with parsley and cheese, and serve!  (Makes 4-6 servings)

'Chef John's' version is here. He says its sauce "is simply a thin egg and cheese custard, spiked with pork and black pepper. Try to find pancetta or guanciale (pork cheek cured like pancetta) for a really authentic taste!"

However you want to describe it -- it's delicious.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Bare Bones II: alla Puttanesca

   Want something tangy, tomato-y and tasty...all in short order? Try Spaghetti all Puttanesca. (Translation: Sauce of the Whore.)  I'd read that this pasta dish got its name for its ease of preparation -- that prostitutes, tired after their night's work, could mix and cook it quickly on a small fire.

Wikipedia has a different story:
    In a 2005 article from Il Golfo—a daily newspaper serving the Italian islands of Ischia and Procida—Annarita Cuomo asserted that sugo alla puttanesca was invented in the 1950s by Sandro Petti, co-owner of Rancio Fellone, a famous Ischian restaurant and nightspot.[5] According to Cuomo...near closing one evening—Petti found a group of customers sitting at one of his tables. He was low on ingredients and so told them he didn't have enough to make them a meal. They complained that it was late and they were hungry. "Facci una puttanata qualsiasi," or "Make any kind of garbage," they insisted.a[›] Petti had nothing more than four tomatoes, two olives and some capers—the basic ingredients for the sugo, “So I used them to make the sauce for the spaghetti,” Petti told Cuomo. Later, Petti included this dish on his menu as spaghetti alla puttanesca.

Anchovies are a must; so are plenty of garlic, onion, and chopped peppers. You can improvise with the rest. Try this version from nigella.com. And think of all the smirking you can do while serving it.

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 4 anchovy fillets (chopped)
  • 1 small red chili (deseeded and finely chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons capers (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 tin black olives (pitted, quartered)
  •   1 can (approx. 15 oz)  tomatoes (chopped)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh flatleaf parsley (fresh, chopped) 

     Cook a pound package of spaghetti in boiling water. While it's cooking, slowly saute the rest of the ingredients (except parsley) in three or four tablespoons of olive oil. (Omit the salt, if you like -- this dish is plenty salty as-is.)  Add parsley to the sauce just before serving. Pile the spaghetti on a platter, and spoon the sauce over top. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan or Romano cheese. (Serves 4.) 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Bare Bones II begins -- Pasta Fazool

Winter's still hanging on...and your wallet feels surprisingly empty. (Darn Christmas presents, anyway.) What to do, when your expenses aren't meeting your income?
     ...Or you're saving for a new car
     ...Or graduation...
     ...Or an upcoming trip?

It's time to go back to the bare bones -- of fine cooking, that is. We've done Bare Bones series before; this one will focus on that workhorse, Pasta.

It's invaluable for a good, hearty meal that will keep you going. "Carb-loading" is famous for runners and other athletes, because its effects can fuel your body for hours. Now that gluten-free pasta is available, even allergy-prone families can enjoy a warm, steaming plate of spaghetti. Served with a green salad and veggies, it's a tasty mainstay.

First up:  PASTA FAZOOL.  This easy-to-make soup warms on a cold, bleak night. Try the leftovers warmed up for a quick lunch, too. This version is based on an old Italian grandma's recipe: the best kind.


'Meatballs' area first! Mix ingredients together, form into marble-sized meatballs and put in a 350-degree oven to bake while you assemble the rest of the soup.

Using a large soup kettle, saute the chopped vegetables in the olive oil for a few minutes. Gradually add the rest of the ingredients, stirring as you go. The meatballs should be lightly browned and bubbling; add them to the soup. Simmer for a few hours. (Or put in a slow cooker on low for 7-10 hours.) This soup really does need time for the flavors to blend, so don't skimp.

Serves 4-6 hungry people, with a slice of garlic bread. Add a platter of sliced raw veggies, if you want to be extra-healthy.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bits and Pieces

[This post comes from my regular stint, A Brick Looks at Life....I'll be back writing again here soon.]

After a few days of incredible warmth (yes, in the FORTIES), we woke up to ice-coated trees and a fine mist of snow in the air. It's still snowing, but at least the sun comes out now and then.

Welcome to January.

I thought I was completely recovered from the flu...I'm not. Easily chilled. Aching all over. Head banging. No energy. I can read now (couldn't even do that when I was really sick), but can't seem to force myself to finish up jobs. I get part way, run out of energy...and stop.
    I have reports that need to be done. I have to get a quilt bound and shipped out -- it's overdue now.

These need to be finished. I need to force myself to keep going.

The dogs stay close. They are the goofiest, most endearing personalities right now. Is it because they know I need the warmth and doggy love?

The chickens burst out of the coop like clowns in a circus car every morning. Then they realize it's still cold; many times they'll try to fly over the snow to get to the food and watering dishes. (Hilarious when they run out of steam -- but not snow!) They're still laying fairly regularly - between 7-11 eggs daily for 19 chickens. Not bad...but not outstanding, either.
    A smackerel of feed, a quick drink of water...and if it's chilly, back in the coop. Not that I blame them -- it's got a heat lamp in there, after all.

Food prep's been minimal. Mostly, I've been trying to hold off on a trip to the grocery until Friday, and use up bits and pieces leftover from holiday dishes, instead. We had oyster stew last night (finished off the oysters from Angels on Horseback), plus 'Spinach Spheres,' a goofy-sounding dish. My variation follows -- try these, they're good, even if you're not a spinach-lover.


1/2 bunch chopped fresh spinach (or 1 10 oz. pkg frozen) -- use the stems first
4 chopped green onions
4 mushrooms, chopped
2 cups breadcrumbs or stuffing
            (I used stuffing-flavored bread, about 7 slices, ripped into small chunks)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
2 tomatoes, sliced thick

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Nuke the spinach and butter until butter is melted, then mix in everything else but tomatoes. (It's easiest to mix by hand.)
    Arrange the tomatoes on an ungreased baking sheet. Form the stuffing mix into balls, and place one on each of the tomato slices. (I know. This sounds weird. Do it.)
    Bake for 20 min., or until lightly browned. After you taste the first one, concentrate hard on trying not to wolf the others down. Makes about 8; serves 4 (or two wolves).

And thanks to Kevin and Nancy Mills of Help! My House Has A Kitchen!
     I will not doubt you again.

The other leftovers show up mixed into other things, like soup and casseroles -- sometimes disguised, sometimes not. I am beginning to see bare space on the shelves again, thanks to concentrating on using the extra food up.  Well, except for the crisper, which still holds 25 pounds or so of apples, stashed away in the fall.

Maybe I'll make apple crisp for supper