dijon vegetable chowderWhen you live in the Midwest, northern Minnesota to be more exact, where below-zero temperatures are no big deal, but just part of winter life, a hot bowl of hearty homemade soup is highly appreciated.

A few weeks ago I received a copy of "Enlightened Soups," by Camilla V. Saulsbury. As I was in the midst of holiday preparations, I didn’t have much time to look through the cookbook. But as the New Year rang in, I was ready to get back to a more healthful eating routine. And, during the first week of the new year, a few of Camilla’s Enlightened Soups have been a part of my lower fat, lower calorie eating plan.

As I paged through the cookbook filled with more than 135 light and healthful soup recipes, I soon noticed the recipes used ingredients that can be found in most supermarkets and that the soups did not take long to make. All can be prepared in an hour or less, some in just 20 minutes. Each recipe has a small illustration that shows how long it takes to prepare the soup. As I soon discovered, enlightened soups don’t need to cook for hours to deliver wonderful flavor.

Another feature of "Enlightened Soups" is the nutritional information included with each recipe. I first tried Red Lentil Mulligatawny. It was rich with flavor and took 45 minutes to prepare from start to finish.

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oystersplainEveryone has an event that ignites the holiday spirit. Maybe it’s a family outing to cut down a tree or baking spicy, fragrant cookies but for me it’s that annual telephone call a week in advance and the magical ride to Glidden Point Oyster Farm in Edgecomb, Maine.

The phone call and the ride is the start of the holiday season for me, it’s even better then listening to Handel’s Messiah. I order plenty to last from Christmas Eve through New Years Eve, and I serve them in copious quantities.

Barb Scully, the owner of the oyster farm, dives 40 foot deep into the ‘brisk’ water of the Damariscotta River in front of her business/home-that is her description. I should add that the brackish water is almost frozen by Christmas and she generally stops diving for oysters by the 25th, closing her operation down for a few months.

She is a skinny, short-haired woman with pasty white skin and a constant indentation circling her face from her diver’s wet suit. She has a rather abrupt manner to her, but boy, are her oysters the Rolls Royce of shellfish. When I get them they are barely hours old and she dives for the big ones, especially for me. I’ll eat little oysters if I have to but I prefer the older, jumbo ones - luncheon plate size.

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Leftover-Curried-Turkey-Salad-SandwichI’m calling it…the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers that is. This was truly the end of my turkey…those last two cups of shredded meat. It is December, time to wrap up this turkey thing and move on to the next holiday. However, I do know lots of you also make a gobbler for Christmas, so this recipe might come in handy at the end of the month. You’re welcome:).

I have to say I thought long and hard on how I was going to use up these last bits of the Thanksgiving bird. For me it’s a challenge, there’s no way I’m going to serve it with gravy like the regular holiday meal. I want to make something completely different.

Since it was lunchtime and after I fiddled through the spice cabinet, I decided on this A-M-A-Z-I-N-G sandwich. I added everything I possibly could because texture in a sandwich like this is key. Is has to have crunch.

My husband had it for lunch and requested more for dinner…it was that good. This is definitely a nice way to send off the bird for another year. (Okay I’m lying, I’ve stockpiled two turkeys in my deep freeze. I know I’ll be breaking them out over the winter.)

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braisedfingerlingsIf you listen to conventional wisdom, you might think roasting is the only way to go when it comes to cooking fingerling potatoes. Now, I am usually the poster-girl for roasting (potatoes or anything else), and I’d like not to be burned at the stake for potato heresy, but I think fingerling potatoes are usually better braised or simmered, or, yes, boiled—any method that involves a little liquid.

I hate to generalize, because there are, in fact, many different varieties of fingerling potatoes. Fingerlings themselves aren’t a variety, but more of a type of potato, defined by their size and shape—small, knobby, and elongated. Their flavor is usually rich and concentrated, but the color of their skin and flesh, as well as their starch content, can vary quite a bit from variety to variety. (Popular varieties include Russian Banana, Purple Peruvian, Ruby Crescent, and French Fingerling.)

The varying starch level is why some fingerlings lean towards being fluffy and dry (like a Russet potato), while others have creamy or waxy flesh (like a Red Bliss potato).  Unless you cook with the same variety a lot, it’s hard to always know exactly what you’re getting at the store (or the farmers’ market) or how it will behave in the dry heat of the oven. While I’ve had bad experiences with Russian Bananas over-drying when roasted, I’ve never had a fingerling that wasn’t perfectly delicious when cooked with a wet-heat method.  

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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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