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.

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Image‘Tis the season to be eating pomegranate. The season for fresh pomegranates is short. But for me, the red pomegranate has perfect timing. The ruby-colored seeds (or arils) are the perfect color to add holiday sparkle to so many beverages and dishes.

They are a natural when it comes to jazzing up a salad of fresh greens. Their sweet and tart flavor along with a little crunch in each seed make them irresistable.

I had some avocadoes in my kitchen, just waiting to be sliced and layered on sandwiches with some turkey that was leftover after Thanksgiving dinner.

I decided to turn the avocadoes into guacamole instead. This way, I could eat the creamy dip with chips as well as spread it on my turkey sandwich.

I mixed up the guacamole similar to the way I always do — white onion, red onion, serrano chiles, garlic, lime juice….and usually, chopped tomatoes. But, it’s hard to find good tomatoes this time of year where I live. So, out came the bowl of pomegranate seeds from the refrigerator. They would add bright color to the guac, along with texture and bright flavor.

It worked. I like eating the Holiday Guacamole with chips. But on turkey sandwiches…delicious!

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tomatosoupFor all of you out there with cold feet, throbbing headaches, and damp socks.

For those who trudged through 1 ½ feet of sleet water to cross the street over and over again.

For those who shoveled for hours even after the snow turned to rain and then to solid ice.

For those who got stuck on the train in a tunnel for a half hour and then missed your meeting.

For those who forgot to eat lunch and took it out on everyone during the slow bus ride home.

For those of you trapped at home with no power.

For the cabs with spinning wheels and no traction.

For those with 3 pairs of soaked “waterproof” boots.

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polentastuffedartichokesMy recipe for polenta stuffed artichokes came about thanks to winning some heirloom artichokes from Ocean Mist. When I was working on my first cookbook I needed artichokes and it wasn’t quite artichoke season. Fortunately Ocean Mist came to my rescue and kindly shipped me a whole carton full and I’ve been a fan ever since. I've found each of the varieties of artichokes they grow to be particularly plump and meaty with great flavor and not overly bitter. I'm a subscriber to their newsletter, which alerts me to when and where artichokes are on sale locally and sometimes also gives away artichokes.

Most recipes use just the artichoke hearts or they call for stuffing the whole artichoke with bread crumb stuffing. I decided to try an entirely different kind of stuffing — lemon and goat cheese polenta. Artichokes tend to make other ingredients taste sweet, so the tangy and salty flavor profile of lemon and cheese complements it perfectly. It will seem like a lot of polenta, but it's what makes the dish so hearty. Use as much or as little of the polenta as you like.

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ImageI love mushrooms for their flavor, texture, and meatiness. It's almost odd to say so, but mushrooms do have a texture and deep flavor that reminds me of meat. One of my favorite comfort foods is a bowl of mushroom soup. For me it's just as satisfying as a bowl of chili. Like little sponges, mushrooms easily take on the flavors of other ingredients that they cook with. Sautéing them in garlic or onions makes them especially wonderfully robust. This soup uses cremini mushrooms, the brown button type, and dried porcini mushrooms, which have an intense almost nutty flavor. This soup has a lot of good going for it.

Not surprisingly, there are hundreds of varieties of mushrooms, but surprisingly the ones that we buy in grocery stores are almost all the same. White button, cremini, and portobello are all forms of the common mushroom. All our supermarket mushrooms are cultivated, grown on inoculated logs in mushroom farms. The most popular, button mushrooms, are white as a result of mutation. But the common mushroom is typically brown, such as cremini, or baby bella as they are marketed. When they are large and mature, they are sold as portobello mushrooms. All of these mushrooms are great in the kitchen, but each one has its best use. Portobellos, for example are exceptional when grilled and can be eaten like a burger. Cremini, with their full flavor yet tender size, are perfect for soups.

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