Archive for October, 2012

Autumn Produce…It’s Gourdgeous!

Well here we are, that time of the year again.  The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are dropping fast.  Next week is Halloween; and in no time the holidays will be here.  I am not a fan of the heat, so I won’t pretend that I’m sad to see the mercury falling.  But I was loving all the fresh local produce that we’ve been enjoying over the past few months.  It made me sad to think we reached the end of another growing season.

In Minnesota we have very sharply defined seasons.  This time of the year we are wrapping up the last harvests of such delicious eats as apples, pears, and sweet corn; definitely some of my favorites. But recently I’ve been exposed to some other wonderful autumn vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash.  We never ate much of those when I was growing up, so I never really developed a taste for them.  But as I get older and find myself straying from meat and leaning to a more flexitarian diet, I am becoming more adventurous in my food choices.

Last week my husband returned from the grocery store with a squash.  I asked him what he was going to do with it, having never experimented with cooking that myself.  What we had for dinner that night was surprising and delicious!  So in honor of autumn harvests, the last of the local farmers’ markets, and another growing season coming to a close, here is the recipe for the winter squash and chicken stew that we ate last week.  If you don’t like squash, you’re going to love this!

Winter Squash and Chicken Stew with Indian Spices

2 tsp olive oil

6 chicken thighs, skin removed (we used chicken breasts)


1 1/3 C chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 ½ tsp curry powder

1 ½ tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground cinnamon

4 C 1-inch pcs peeled butternut or acorn squash

2 C 1-inch pcs peeled russet potatoes

1 C low salt chicken broth

1 can (14-16 ounce) can diced tomatoes with liquid

2 T chopped fresh cilantro


Heat one teaspoon oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Add to Dutch oven; sauté until brown on all sides, about eight minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

Heat remaining oil in same pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic; sauté until golden, about five minutes.  Add curry powder, cumin, and cinnamon; stir one minute.  Return chicken to pot.  Add squash, potatoes, broth and tomatoes.  Cover and simmer fifteen minutes.  Uncover and simmer until chicken and potatoes are cooked through and liquid is slightly reduced, about eight minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with cilantro.

8 Servings      223 calories    7g total fat     2g saturated fat        41mg cholesterol


From Bon Appétit ◊ November 1995


50,000 Things to do in November

Ah, here it is; the end of October.  That time of year when a girl’s thoughts turn to Black Friday, Thanksgiving dinner, and projects I can reasonably plan to make for Christmas gifts.  Then I read a blog post from Lisa J. Jackson on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.  “Hey, I should write a book in November!”  Enter ‘something-shiny syndrome’.

To give a little explanation, the post I read was about NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.  It’s a challenge to write a book of 50,000 words or more in the thirty days of November.  Sound crazy?  Yeah, it is!  But why not try it?  So I signed up on the website with 300,000 of my new best friends around the world.  What a great way to force myself to focus and write, with no restraint and no editing, for a whole month.  Once I broke it down to a daily number-1667 words a day to be precise- it didn’t seem like such an insurmountable task.  In fact, my enthusiasm has been passed on to my oldest daughter who will hopefully join me in the madness.

However, there is always that little realist in me that likes to rear his ugly head, “How can you possibly fit 50,000 more things into your holiday frenzy?”  That killjoy is an underhanded troublemaker who is constantly out to restrict my creativity.  So here is what I am going to do; plan, plan, and plan.  Yep, that’s right; I, Queen List Maker, will get a plan on paper and stick to it.  Seriously.  I know, I know I’m also full of good intentions and there’s probably a picture of me on my husband’s desk with the caption “Easily Distracted” written on it.  But I think I can do this one.  How you ask?

  • I already have a number of homemade things that I can use as Christmas presents.  I am making a list and shopping early—especially at small local shops—for the remainder.  I like to save December for baking, not shopping.
  • I have cooked Thanksgiving dinner so many times that I could probably do it in my sleep.  The menu is the same and I already have the non-perishables in my cupboard.
  • All holiday volunteering will be done in December instead of November this year.
  • Chores are already delegated so we all do our share.  If things are a little dusty for a month, eh, what’s a month?  Laundry can be done simultaneously with writing.  And yes, for thirty days I can deal with wrinkly clothes if necessary.
  • I am blessed with a husband who likes to cook.  We usually share this duty, but I will let him do extra and supplement what we have stocked ahead in the freezer.

Most of all, what will help me to get through the next month without a nervous breakdown, is realizing things are not perfect.  I am a Pinterest junky.  I pin crafts, meals, Christmas tree pictures, etc., and they’re all perfect.  But for this year, for the thirty days of November, I will agree to accept ‘passable’ and write with reckless abandon.  Why?  Because I can.

Recycle Your Family Tree!

My husband received a call the other day from the secretary at the cemetery where his parents are buried.  There was some confusion as to who was in which space and which empty plots were being held for whom.  Now if this seems odd, I’ll give you a little hint—everyone is named Matthew, John, or Peter!  Okay maybe not everyone, but a large portion of the males in this family have one of those three names.  Back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s it was very common to give the first born son the name of his grandfather.  When subsequent sons came along, they usually got one of the other two.  This got us talking about family trees.

A few years back my mother gave me a bag of information, some clippings/pictures, and a rough-draft family tree.  Having the best of intentions, I took the bag home and carefully stored it in my office for when I had some time to really dig in.  In the interest of full disclosure, I am a huge procrastinator and that bag is still in there somewhere.  But after the secretary’s call we did go online and look at a few different websites to try to get the information for the cemetery.

I’ve seen the commercials for the popular genealogy website on TV.  This is a membership-type site and you have to purchase your entrance.  Like many others, our public library has a membership; but I just didn’t have the time to go there to dig around.  So we looked up a site I’d heard about before when doing some research,   It was awesome!  We found some records we needed to help out the secretary, and put to rest the rumor that the family’s lineage wasn’t really 100% German.  We poked around and looked up a few other old family names.  I even found my grandfather’s entry to America through Ellis Island.  What an amazing site.

I don’t know if everyone is as interested in their family history as we are.  But if you are, I urge you to recycle that family tree!  There are so many websites devoted to genealogy that you are almost sure to find something that will lead you in the right direction.  If you Google genealogy websites there are a bunch that pop up.  Poke around; enter in a name or two.  And by all means, dig that old bag out of the office and check it out!

Woo Hoo It’s Appletoberfest!

It’s my favorite time of the year, Appletoberfest.  Okay, maybe that is not a real word, but it combines two of my most loved holidays, Oktoberfest and the Bayfield, WI Apple Festival.  If you have never been to this particular feeding frenzy up north in Bayfield, you owe it to yourself to take the trip.  About 60,000 people converge on this tiny, hilly town on Lake Superior and eat and drink everything apple.  From cider to pie to apple brats, if you want it apple flavored, they probably have it.

The culmination of the weekend is the parade on Sunday afternoon.  High school bands come from all over to play in the hour and a half long display.  It’s always fun to see if we’ll freeze or sweat as we watch.  On the shores of Lake Superior you just never know!  But one thing is for sure, this festival has been voted top ten in the country for a reason and you don’t want to miss it.

My other beloved celebration is Oktoberfest.  There’s a full-blooded German in my house, and he loves their food.  Since we can’t make it to Munich, we try to bring Munich to Minnesota.  It has been a fun and challenging labor of love to learn to cook this food; but it is worth every minute.  I’ve written in a previous post about my skepticism towards vinegar.  Now that I’ve gotten over that fear and embraced my new bitter friend, it’s like a whole new world out there.

One of my favorite side dishes is red cabbage.  Now don’t go wrinkling your nose and saying you don’t like it.  Try it, you’ll be surprised!  I used to think coleslaw was the only use for cabbage.  Oh I am so sorry, cabbage Gods.  This dish mixes the sweetness of the wine and apple with the tartness of the vinegar and onion, and who doesn’t love bacon?  Okay, you could leave that out for your vegetarian friends, but try this dish.  It’s not just for Appletoberfest anymore!

Red Cabbage

1 small head red cabbage                                                                       

4 T red wine vinegar or cider vinegar

1.5 T butter or olive oil

1 T sugar

1 medium onion

2-3 tart apples

1 C red wine

3-4 cloves

2-3 bay leaves

salt (good pinch)

5-6 pieces of bacon (optional)

 Wash the cabbage.  Remove the trunk and cut into fine strips.  Brown the sugar in the butter until light brown.  Add the onion (finely chopped), the bacon (chopped), and the apple (peeled and cubed).  Saute a few minutes and add the cabbage.  Pour the vinegar on the cabbage to keep the color, then mix all the pan together.  Season with salt, the wine, bay leaves, and cloves.  Cover and steam over medium heat about 45-60 minutes until the cabbage is tender.  Add salt and pepper or more wine if desired.  Remove the bay leaves before serving.