Wild Rice and Quinoa Pilaf with Pecans and Pomegranate Seeds

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by Joseph Erdos

pomwildrice.jpgStuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole. Most people will say that Thanksgiving isn't a holiday without these traditional dishes, but that doesn't have to be the case. Although they are classics, it doesn't mean they can't be reinterpreted, reimagined, or replaced with an equally interesting seasonal side dish. When vegetarians are around, it's also courteous to keep them in mind when planning the menu.

Rice rarely gets attention on Thanksgiving. Some people make it just in case it's requested, but most often it's ignored altogether. Rice pilaf is actually a very appropriate dish to serve at Thanksgiving. This recipe, made with wild rice and quinoa, is perfect for the holiday. It's altogether symbolic of the season and is studded with toasted pecans and pomegranate seeds. It's a good side kick or even alternative to classic dishes, such as stuffing.

Wild rice is very American. It was and still is cultivated by Native Americans. But it's actually not a rice but a seed of a grass that grows in marshy areas and it can only be collected by boat. Pecans are a specialty of the South, where pecan trees are everywhere. So what could be more American than this dish? The addition of quinoa, a South American grain, adds protein and texture to the dish. Gladly serve it to the vegetarians in your family.

Winter Citrus

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by Matt Armendariz

copia-blog-citrus-bowl.jpgI know many of you love winter so I shall do my best not to disparage it. However, it’s not my most favorite time of year as I’m a creature of warm weather and open-toed shoes. But if there’s one bright shining spot to the season it’s most definitely citrus. Citrus in any form. When I begin to see the beautiful stacks of pommelos and meyers I can’t help but get excited and my mouth begins to experience sympathy pucker just looking at them.

Not many people realize this, but all citrus fruits come from over 4 million miles away in outer space and magically appear to make our culinary endeavors magical. Alright alright, I know I’m fibbing here but as far as I’m concerned that might as well be my reality. They are some of the most useful fruits on the planet. They preserve, they tang, they balance and they contrast. They do just about everything and anything you need them to do. And they’re equally at home in the savories as they are in the sweets. I told you there were magical!

It’s not unusual to find a big bowl of lemons and limes in my house at all times. I find that with a quick sprinkle of citrus zest even the most basic can be made to shine, not to mention the fact that they’re just so damn gorgeous and cheery, don’t cha think?

Quick & Easy: Warm Duck Breast Salad

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by Lisa McRee

ducksalad.jpgIf you don’t think salad is a hearty enough meal for the dead of winter, this one will certainly change your mind… With a warm duck breast sliced atop a flavor packed mix of greens, vegetables, nuts and cheese, it’s a dish that’s rich and satisfying but also pretty skinny.

I only recently stumbled upon this fabulous combination of flavors at The Waterfront Restaurant in our favorite home away from home, Camden, Maine. It was Christmastime and there was a fresh blanket of snow on the ground…but the sun was bright, the sky a vivid blue and the outside temperature was an almost balmy 34 degrees. Somehow, I didn’t feel like a cold seafood salad but didn’t really want a hot chowder either.

I ended up ordering this dish instead and, by the time lunch was finished–and everyone at the table had sampled my plate–we all decided that this warm salad would be perfect any time of year.

What is a Cherimoya? Perhaps the Greatest Fruit on the Planet.

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by Susan Russo

altThe cherimoya (pronounced chair-uh-MOY-yuh) is the king of fruit. This is no surprise given that this ancient Incan fruit was originally reserved for royalty.

From external appearances, the cherimoya isn't exactly captivating. It looks more like something out of The Flintstones rather than an exquisite fruit. Don't let its pre-historic appearance put you off. Slice open a cherimoya and you will discover a fragrant, ivory, custard-like flesh, hence its common name "custard apple."

When selecting cherimoyas, look for green skin with a gold hue. Some fruits may be tinged with brown, which is ok; however, avoid fruits that are black or shriveled. Allow cherimoyas to ripen at room temperature. A ripe cherimoya, like a ripe avocado, should yield to gentle pressure, and will have a browner skin. (Note: In the first photo, the green cherimoya in the forefront needs a couple more days to ripen, while the browner cherimoya in the back is ready to eat.)

Hearty Rotisserie Chicken Soup with Pasta Shells, Tomatoes, and Zucchini

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by James Moore

There’s nothing better than hearty soups during the winter months. When I don’t have time for long simmering stews, I like to turn to this recipe for a super fast soup with lots of flavor. It’s worth using homemade chicken stock, but if you don’t have it on hand, store bought low-sodium broth will do.

pastasoup 2 tablespoon vegetable oil or chicken fat
1 store-bought rotisserie chicken (about 4lbs), skin discarded, meat shredded into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)
2 medium onions, cut into medium dice
2 quarts chicken stock (preferably homemade)
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 medium ribs celery, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 medium zucchini, cut into medium dice
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained (I use Muir Glen)
1 cup pasta shells (small or medium)
1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
Salt and ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Heat oil (or chicken fat) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, carrots, celery, and zucchini; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add thyme and tomatoes and sauté for 1 minute. Add chicken stock and shredded chicken; simmer until vegetables are tender and flavors meld, 10 to 15 minutes. Add shells and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings, stir in basil, and serve with parmesan cheese on the side.

– Recipe courtesy of Cook Like James

Avocado Pomegranate Salad with Miso Dressing

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by Amy Sherman

pomegranatemisosaladHappy New Year! It's hard after the holidays not to want to take a break from all the indulgence and make sweeping resolutions. My diet resolutions this year are simply to eat more soups and salads. Sure, I'd love to eat healthy, exercise more and lose weight but I'm trying to be realistic.

When it comes to soup, there is no problem. I probably eat soup for dinner once a week. While I grew up eating salad every night, it's just not all that popular around my dinner table. I have a couple of ideas to shake things up. I am going to try to develop more interesting salad combinations and recipes. I am going to get creative with salad dressings and I am also going to try eating more salad for lunch.

This is a salad I served on New Year's Eve. It is very festive looking, don't you think? The salad is light and healthy, but has a good variety of flavors and textures. The Napa cabbage adds color and crunch, the pomegranate adds color but also sweetness, which is balanced by the saltiness of the miso dressing.

Beef Daube

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by Joseph Erdos

beefdaubeWhat are chilly winter days without comfort foods to soothe our weary souls and hungry stomachs? One of the best examples of comfort food is the stew. In it's basic form, a stew is relatively inexpensive meat stewed with vegetables in flavorful liquid. It takes simple preparation to put together, then it's just a matter of waiting for it cook. But the most important part about a stew is that it be hearty enough to keep hunger at bay for a long time. Beef stew is the remedy! And who knows beef stew better than the French?

Boeuf Bourguignon, the dish made famous by Julia Child, is the best example of French country cuisine. An entire bottle of Burgundy separates this champion from the contenders. But each region has its own famous stew. Provençe has beef daube, a Mediterranean-style stew with bright flavors influenced by surrounding Italy and north Africa. This stew might not be as well known as beef Burgundy but it's amazing in it's own right.

More Than a Jarful

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by Brenda Athanus

oranges.jpgIt's winter and time for preserving all the glorious citrus fruit while it's at its peak in the market and I'm lucky to have Seville oranges. I've read about Seville oranges but never have seen them in my market until last week. Well, you imagine my excitement as I  tore endless plastic bags from the roll, filling them quickly as the display of oranges disappeared. A Seville orange isn't the nicest looking orange I've every seen but a little sugar and a little heat and I guarantee I will transform them into the prettiest jars in my pantry!

I love making marmalade especially in the quiet month of January here in Maine. Life slows down as snow and ice covers the vista and I spend a lot less time outdoors and more time in my kitchen. Is marmalade difficult you ask? If you are a patient person, the answer is no but if you don't have lots of patience, pick something else to make.

The process of peeling the rind and only the rind with no white pith is an involved task that takes a fair amount of skill and time but it is the most important part of marmalade making because this is what make it unpleasantly bitter. So, take your time in the beginning and you'll reap the rewards when you open that first jar-I promise!

Cranberry-Cornmeal Quick Bread

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by Cathy Pollak

cranbread.jpgI swear I have no idea what has come over me. I have been cranking out loaves in epic proportions. It's almost as if the loaf pans were on the counter and I just kept using them. Okay, that's really what happened.

I think I only have about fifty more recipes I want to try. I know....scary.

Anyway, I wanted a dense, cornbread-like-loaf that would go well with chili. This Cranberry-Cornmeal Quick Bread was perfect with lots of different textures from the cornmeal, cranberries and pecans. And right out of the oven, slathered in was so good.

A Creamy Soup for a New (Healthy) Year

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by Sue Doeden

apple-squash-soup-mainAs the New Year begins, it only seems right to offer a recipe for a soup that is chock full of vegetables and even a little bit of fruit. The creamy soup will incorporate nicely into a regime of healthful menus.

I’ve been making this soup for years. A long time ago, much longer than I’d like to admit, I joined a group of women once a month for a Sunday afternoon meal. We called it our Recipe Exchange Group. We would each prepare a part of the meal and bring along the recipe to share. Elsa, our friend from Argentina, brought this soup to one of those long-ago meals where we’d not only eat, but also chat about our kids, our husbands, and food. It was an appreciated outlet for all of us in this small group of moms who liked to cook.

If you have made a resolution to eat more fruits and vegetables each day, this soup will make it easy. There is a fair amount of chopping involved, but once that task has been accomplished, the soup will be ready to eat in no time.


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