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Find Comfort And Warmth In The Foods You Prepare

By Laura Carnie Correspondent

As winter winds whip around the corner, the kitchen becomes a natural shelter. Preparing warming foods provides comfort. Added satisfaction comes from eating well, with more fruits and vegetables, minimal fat and cholesterol, increased fiber and visually appealing presentations.

For enhanced appeal, keep meals simple but interesting. Concentrate on contrasting colors, shapes and textures. Each of the following recipes adds vegetables or fruits to the menu and includes simple garnishing suggestions for added eye appeal.

Butternut Squash Soup

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 potato, peeled and diced

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced

3 cans (14.5 ounces each) chicken broth

1/2 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed

Salt and pepper, to taste

Fresh thyme, parsley or celery leaves (optional garnish)

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic. Cook and stir until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in carrots and celery. Cook and stir until tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in potatoes, squash, chicken broth, honey and thyme. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 30 to 45 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Remove from heat and cool slightly. Working in small batches, transfer mixture to blender or food processor. Process each batch until smooth. Return pureed soup to pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat until hot and serve. If desired, garnish with sprigs of fresh thyme, parsley or celery leaves.

Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 292 calories, 5 grams protein, 65 grams carbohydrate, 9.6 grams fiber, 4.5 grams fat (14 percent fat calories), 10 milligrams cholesterol, 858 milligrams sodium.

Firecracker Shrimp

1/3 cup honey

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons grated orange peel

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 cup snow peas, cut into 1-inch pieces

1-1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined

3 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces

6 cups cooked white rice, optional

Orange wheels or twists and/or green onion brushes, optional garnish

In small container, whisk together honey, soy sauce, vinegar, cornstarch, orange peel and red pepper flakes until thoroughly mixed and cornstarch is dissolved. Set aside.

Heat oil in wok or large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic and ginger; stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add bell pepper and snow peas; stir-fry 1 minute until crisp-tender. Add shrimp and green onions; stir-fry until shrimp just turns pink, about 1 minute. Stir in reserved soy sauce mixture; cook and stir until sauce boils and thickens.

If desired, serve over cooked rice and garnish with orange pieces and/ or green onions with white ends trimmed and sliced lengthwise several times to form “brushes.”

Yield: 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 342 calories, 37 grams protein, 34 grams carbohydrate, 2.24 grams fat (6 percent fat calories), 3.24 grams dietary fiber, 259 milligrams cholesterol, 1,287 milligrams sodium.

Horseradish-Potato Pancakes

Adapted for home kitchens from an original recipe by Chef Cindy Pawlcyn of the Fog City Diner in San Francisco.

5 pounds baking potatoes

6 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 bunch green onions, minced

4 teaspoons prepared horseradish

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 bunch chives, chopped

Wash potatoes and bake at 375 degrees until cooked through, about 55 to 60 minutes. While still hot, split potatoes in half and scoop the meat out into a bowl; discard skins.

Add remaining ingredients to bowl, reserving about 2 tablespoons chopped chives for garnish. Blend all ingredients with an electric beater until well blended. Using a 4-ounce ice cream scoop, drop onto a sheet pan and form into 10 equal patties. Let cool.

Just before serving, cook on a griddle like regular pancakes, turning when the bottom side browns. Garnish with chopped chives.

Yield: 10 pancakes.

Mushroom and Broccoli Bulgur

1 pound mushrooms, sliced

1 small onion, chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1-1/2 cups chicken broth

1 cup bulgur (cracked wheat)

3/4 pound broccoli florets

Salt and pepper

Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, optional

In medium saucepan, saute the mushrooms and onion with butter until vegetables are tender. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.

If desired, reserve four attractive broccoli florets for garnish. Stir bulgur and the remaining broccoli into boiling broth, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and/ or fresh broccoli florets.

Yield: 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 244 calories, 7 grams fat (26 percent fat calories).

Winter Vegetable Salad

4 medium boiling potatoes

2 large carrots

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 medium tart apple

1 cup cabbage, grated

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Carrot curls, optional garnish

Cook the potatoes and carrots for about 15 to 20 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse under cold water until they are cool enough to handle and dice into 1/2-inch pieces.

Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the oil, mustard, vinegar and sugar in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake until the sugar is dissolved. Cut the apple into small pieces and shred the cabbage.

Combine potatoes, carrot, apple, cabbage and dressing in a large bowl, tossing well to mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours. The salad is best if made a day ahead; it will keep for up to 3 days.

If desired, garnish serving bowl or individual servings with crisp carrot curls. To make, peel thin slices of carrot, roll into a coil, secure with a toothpick and drop into ice water for a few minutes.

Yield: 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 190 calories, 7 grams fat (33 percent fat calories).

, DataTimes MEMO: Have a food question? Looking for a recipe? Laura Carnie, a certified family and consumer scientist and food consultant in Coeur d’Alene, would like to hear from you. Write to Cook’s Notebook, Features Department, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. As many letters as possible will be answered in this column; sorry, no individual replies.

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, RECIPE - The Seasonal Cook

Have a food question? Looking for a recipe? Laura Carnie, a certified family and consumer scientist and food consultant in Coeur d’Alene, would like to hear from you. Write to Cook’s Notebook, Features Department, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. As many letters as possible will be answered in this column; sorry, no individual replies.

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, RECIPE - The Seasonal Cook

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