Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Risotto Style Barley or Quinoa and Easy Pumpkin Pudding

Another Tuesday, another ladies' luncheon.

I've been reading about risotto a lot. I've never had it or made it--mainly because it calls for arborio rice. And white rice makes my sugar skyrocket! So even though it looks interesting and all taste reports are nothing short of raves, I just could not see myself making or trying it.

Until yesterday.

I ran across a blog that featured Barley made risotto-style with great results. Then I wondered if I could do the same with quinoa--yes, recipes exist! So I knew I was on the verge of an idea.

So this morning I got up early and made two kinds of risotto--one with barley, the other with quinoa, but both with the same other ingredients. My plan was to stuff the risotto fillings into baked acorn squash halves for today's lunch for my five guests and I.

Personally I found the flavor of the barley version much more satisfying. Perhaps it was because of the size of the grain--larger than quinoa, it certainly absorbed much more broth (=flavor), and the texture was very nice. It even seemed creamier.

For dessert, I served a lovely Easy Pumpkin Pudding I concocted very quickly using sugar-free instant pudding as a starting point. What a treat, and delicious, to boot!

All in all, a long morning--but so worth it!

Risotto-Style Barley or Quinoa

As you may already know, risotto doesn't often have much of a recipe per se as a method. It is the method of cooking rather than a rule. So I'll share with you the procedure that I used, along with ingredients, as best as I can.

about 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, diced
1 pound white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup barley or quinoa, rinsed well
several cups chicken broth (amount depends on which grain you use; I used a combination of homemade chicken broth and tomato-chicken bullion, with a little red wine tossed in for good measure)
3 cups sliced cooked chicken
1/2 cup milk (I used 2% milk)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. In a hot stock pot or dutch oven set over a medium flame, add a good drizzle of olive oil (I'd guess about 2 tablespoons) and butter. Immediately add onion and mushrooms. Stir to coat all veggies with a coating of oil/butter mixture; continue to cook until mushrooms give up their liquid.

2. Stir in garlic and barley or quinoa. Stir until the liquid is absorbed. Ladle in (my ladle is about 1/2 cup volume) more broth and stir until the liquid is absorbed. (Note: I kept a large pot of my broth on a very low flame--just warm, not even a simmer--on a back burner so it was warm when I added it. This is an important step so you don't have to wait as long.) Continue this process of adding broth and stirring until liquid is absorbed until the grains will no longer absorb all of the liquid. You will know when you're getting close to that stage by tasting the grains as you go--when they are almost done, the texture will be al dente.

3. Stir in chicken, milk and parmesan cheese and cover; remove from heat and let rest 5 minutes. At this point, I covered the pan and put it in the oven to hold until lunchtime--but you could finish from here. Serve hot on its own or inside a roasted acorn squash half or any other way you wish.

I must admit that although the presentation was lovely in the acorn squash, the flavors did not blend overly well. Next time I'll skip the squash... but both rosottos were excellent.

Easy Pumpkin Pudding
serves 8

2 boxes (4-serving size) instant pudding mix (I used sugar free vanilla--butterscotch is perfect for this recipe, too) -- Prepare with milk according to package directions FOR PIE
1 15-ounce can solid pack pumpkin
cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate overnight. Serve in pretty glasses topped with whipped cream or--like I did--a wee bit of sugar-free non-dairy hazlenut creamer. Mmm!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Man Food: Brats n' Beer

Well, yesterday was another manly man day here at Chez W... and another fun food day for me! This time I made Bratwurst in Beer--one of the guys' favorites!

And of course it was our dear Wayne's birthday yesterday... so it was extra-special. My dear sister-in-law made him this cool birthday cake, which was not really a cake at all--it was a lightly sweet peanut butter bread, frosted and decorated just so.

But I digress.

Brats n' Beer is satisfying manly fare. After cooking for a few hours in the beer, it takes on a whole new personality--the sausages are darker, softened, the beer is reduced and tastes... well, nothing like beer, really, but becomes this wonderful jus perfect for soaking up with a bit of bread.

I served the brats n' beer alongside yellow and spicy brown mustards, onions and peppers also cooked in beer, ketchup, hot sauce and of course my homemade pickled cherry peppers--sure to blow their eyebrows right off!

Brats n Beer
8 manly portions or 16 regular portions

Bratwurst - I like at least 2 pounds... I had 24 links total, half were red 'beef brats,' and the other half were regular white brats
olive oil
1 package (of 8) hot dogs
2 16-count packages hot dog buns
2 large onions, sliced vertically
3 large green peppers, sliced
1 bag saurkraut, drained and rinsed 3 1-pint size cans beer

1. In a large saucepan, brown half the bratwurst in olive oil over a medium flame. When browned on all sides, poke each brat once or twice with a wooden skewer. Pour in 1 pint beer. Bring to a boil and remove from heat; transfer to a crock pot set to low.

2. Repeat with the second half of the bratwurst, and top with hot dogs. Let cook at least 2 hours on low. The longer the better--4 hours results in brats that are so soft they're falling apart.

3. In a little more olive oil, and again over medium heat, saute onions and green peppers until they begin to carmelize. Add the last pint of beer. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, until peppers become limp and liquid is reduced by at least half. Now here you could just add them to the crock pot with the brats, but because Mr.W is so very, very picky, I leave them separate in a foil-covered metal bowl in the oven at 200*F.

4. Serve warm with buns.

Note: I actually piled all the dogs & brats in the crock pot insert, covered with foil, and left in the oven at 250*F for 3-4 hours, and then put in the crock pot on low for serving.

There's nothing more manly than food cooked in beer. They were devoured with rave reviews. Devoured so quickly, in fact, that I could not get a photo of one of the bunned wonders... my digital camera's battery died and before I could turn around the food was no more!

Okay... I did get one terrible picture using my cell phone. Not great at all, the colorization is all wrong. It looks like a nasty green-tinted photo out of a 70s cookbook. But you get the idea. That stuff under the links that looks like rice is actually kraut.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ugliest Gourmet?

I've made all sorts of ugly food: stews, soups, cakes, goulash and pasta dishes. We all know that delicious doesn't always mean pretty. At least not in my kitchen.

When I read about the Ugliest Gourmet contest (see the roundup and voting here) hosted by Not Eating Out in NY, so many dishes ran through my mind: hamburger stroganoff (you know the stuff--hamburger, cream of mushroom soup, a can of sliced shrooms and boiled egg noodles), split pea soup, and my beloved doro wat among them. But as I pondered these things, the one that took the cake (har) was this.

Now I realize that the idea behind this foodblogging event is to present delicious foods that just come out, well, regular-looking. The way food looked when mom slapped it on a plate for you when you were a kid. After all, most of us aren't restaurant chefs with varied garnishing accoutrements around, are we?

So yes, I am blurring the lines a bit by submitting this cake, but in support of my decision I DID have people gagging just looking at it. Seriously. One woman wouldn't even try it because it looked so... authentic. But it was delicious. Really!

Unappetizing at it's finest, it brought tremendous laughs and more than a few disgusted gags when we all dug in. Here's the recipe and procedure.

Kitty Box Cake

You can make any cake you like for this presentation, because you'll cut it up and cover it completely (more like a trifle, really). This is the cake recipe I love, specifically for it's flavor; the below recipe is pretty much identical to this original recipe except for my choice of liquid.

Cake ingredients:

2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup desired liquid (I puree thawed frozen unsweetened strawberries until I have the correct amount of liquid)

Topping ingredients:

sliced strawberries (optional)
3 or more boxes instant vanilla pudding, prepared according to package directions for pudding
1 box instant pistachio pudding NOT prepared
crushed vanilla wafer cookies
1 box Chocolate-Covered Mini Tootsie Rolls

1. Heat the oven to 350*F. Butter and flour a 9"x13" pan or whatever kind of cake pan you wish. Sift flour with the cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.

2. Cream the butter in an electric mixer, beat in the sugar, and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one by one, and then the vanilla, and continue beating 1 to 2 minutes. Sift a third of the flour over the butter mixture and fold them together, using a spoon. Fold in a third of the juice. Add the remaining flour and juice alternately in two batches.

3. Spread batter in the prepared pans and bake in the oven until the cakes start to shrink from the sides of the pan, 30 to 35 minutes; a metal skewer inserted in the center should come out clean. Let the cakes cool 10 minutes in the pans, then turn them out on a rack to cool completely.

4. Completely line a new kitty pan or dishpan with a turkey-sized oven roasting bag. Tape to exterior, if needed to secure.

5. Prepare 3 or more boxes (you'll have to do this part by eye) of instant vanilla pudding with milk for pudding directions according to box. Put in refrigerator to set up. Cut cooled cake into chunks to transfer to prepared kitty pan. I like 2" chunks, but you could do this any way you like, as long as it ends up being easy to serve with a scoop or spoon.

6. Top cake with a layer of sliced strawberries (optional). Then spread with pudding. Sprinkle with crushed/crumbly vanilla wafer cookies to resemble kitty litter. I used coarse and fine crumbs for texture. Dust with a scant amount of dry pistachio pudding mix for slight greenish color.

7. Pour Chocolate-Covered Mini Tootsie Rolls onto a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high in 20-second increments until soft but not completely melted. With gloved hands, shape into desired shapes and decorate the top of your cake, draping one or two over sides of pan, just like a naughty kitty.

8. Chill until ready to serve with a new, unused kitty scooper.

Note: Not for the faint of heart! Oh... and you may want to keep pets away from this dessert.

Edited post-script: I got the idea for the design of this cake from a poster on the Martha Stewart Food Boards.

See the round-up and voting here, and the winner here. I tied for 2nd place--not too shabby! Er... maybe I shouldn't be bragging about that...

A to Z of Kitchen Tips: C is for...

C is for...

  • Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce. Added to chili, stews, or anything you want to give a spicy, smoky flavor, they are an indispensible kitchen product when putting together quick meals. Because I don't use a whole can at one time, I spoon leftovers onto a wax paper-lined cookie sheet and put in the freezer until hard, then transfer to a freezer bag for easy use as needed, and no waste. Alternatively, you could freeze in ice cube trays.

  • Cornmeal. Sprinkled under bread or pizza crust, cornmeal keeps dough from sticking to your pan during baking.

  • Cleaning Copper Pots. To clean rust, soap scum or hard water stains on your copper pots, dip half a lemon in kosher salt and rub well. If that doesn't do the trick, steel wool is your next defense against more agressive stains and rust.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pumpkin Pie Dip

This one is super-easy and sure to please--and just in time for the upcoming holidays.

Pumpkin Pie Dip

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar or sugar substitute of choice
(I used Maple Buzz Whey Low)
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 pinch salt
dash ground cloves

Combine all ingredients and beat with electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. (If there are little cream cheese lumps, which sometimes happens if the cream cheese isn't soft enough, it still tastes good.)

Serve with fruit of choice. My favorite: sliced apples.

Adapted from this recipe that I originally saw in one of the early issues of Taste of Home magazine--oh, way back in the early- to mid-90s when I was living overseas. I do remember, however, that the original recipe was called 'Taffy Apple Dip' and called for 1 cup of brown sugar, not 3/4 cup. Either way, the original recipe is perfect--everyone loves it. But added pumpkin and reduced sugar (or sugar sub) is a great way for those on controlled-sugar diets to not feel left out during the holiday season--or any time of year, for that matter.

TGRWT #7: Roasted Cauliflower and Chicken Mole

This month's TGRWT event, hosted by Flavor Alchemy, is a challenge indeed. The rules are to pair carmelized cauliflower with cocoa! See the roundup here.

Roasted cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables. I always make it the same way: drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with freshly cracked black pepper and several generous scrapes of nutmeg, baked at 350*F until it looks like this. Then salt.

So instead of just snarfing the roasted cauliflower, I used it to make Roasted Cauliflower and Chicken Mole.

Roasted Cauliflower and Chicken Mole

1 28-ounce can peeled tomatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (I buy them in a bag this way in the baking aisle)
olive oil
1/4 cup roughly chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and ribs removed, roughly chopped
1/3 cup sesame seeds
2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken broth or stock
1 pound chicken, poached and torn into bite-sized pieces
2 cups roasted cauliflower

1. Toast pecan pieces in a dry skillet over medium heat to toast. Do not scorch. Transfer toasted pecans to crock pot.

2. In the same skillet over medium heat, saute onion in olive oil until just starting to become transparent. Add chopped garlic and saute until frangrant. Remove from heat and transfer to crock pot.

3. Add tomatoes, toasted pecans, onion, garlic, jalapenos, sesame seeds and chipotle peppers to the crock pot with the pecans, onion and garlic; puree with a hand blender (or you could do this in a regular blender in batches). Stir in cocoa, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and black pepper.

4. Add chicken broth and set crock pot on high. Stir in cooked chicken and roasted cauliflower. Cook for three hours. Serve hot over steamed brown rice.

The result? Good...

In all fairness, I've never tried mole before. I enjoyed the smoky combination of flavors and the gentle heat. I could absolutely see it as a sauce over shredded pork or chicken enchiladas.

But I don't think I'll add cauliflower next time. The fact is that I love roasted cauli all by itself. And the mole was good by itself. But together it took on a whole other personality--the perfectly roasted flavor of the cauliflower disappeared into the stew.

Don't get me wrong--I ate it. And liked it. I enjoy cauliflower in all forms, but the roasted nature of the vegetable was lost in this recipe.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Corned Beef & Colcannon

I love me some corned beef. Oh, yeah, just the thought of some salty red shreds get my mouth watering.

Watching foodtv last week, I saw Alton Brown actually MAKING corned beef from brisket. An admirable feat, no doubt. And I do like making things so that I know exactly what's in it--no preservatives, no msg, no nitrates, no added sugars or corn syrup, no abominations of any kind.


There are just times when I'm not going to make it myself. Like hot dogs. And bacon. And corned beef.

So I did the next best thing. I followed Alton's recipe for cooking that hunk-o-store-bought-corned beef, and not without a good bit of hesitation. I mean--allspice? Bay leaves? The only times I've made corned beef in the past I used the little balls of included spices in the meat package. But he'd never let me down before, so I put my trust in Good Eats.

Boy am I glad I did. Yum with a capital Y! Okay--the only difference is that I cooked the corned beef overnight in the crock pot. Wow, wow, wow. It was perfect.

And in my house, corned beef goes with colcannon.

The first time I had colcannon I was on a business trip to New York City where I stayed at the Fitzpatrick Grand Central Hotel. Room service offered a lovely colcannon that changed my life. No more boiled corned-beef-and-cabbage for me!

I can't say that it's much of a recipe, however. I just peel & coarsely cut up as many potatoes I want and dump them in a microwave-safe bowl (I use a jumbo glass bowl) with about 1/4 cup water. I top the bowl with a double-thick dampened paper towel that drapes over all the bowl's top and nuke until the potatoes are fork-tender (I start with 6 minutes on high and go from there). I drain off any remaining water and mash the potatoes with butter, salt, pepper and 2% milk until mashed & creamy. It's better to have a slightly firmer mashed potato mixture for colcannon, because you'll add the cooked cabbage, which brings extra moisture.

Cabbage is equally as easy. Now I did use savoy cabbage this time--it has a milder taste and I was hoping I could get Mr.W to give cabbage another try. Chopped coarsely but fairly small (maybe 1/4" by 3" slices), it's perfect to throw in a large skillet with 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) of salted butter and about 2 cups of water, salt and pepper. Just let it go until the cabbage is wilty and soft.

Then I set aside some mashed potatoes for Mr.W without the cabbage before mixing the rest with the cooked cabbage.

Served in bowls with hunks of corned beef stirred in, this is a deeeeeee-licious way to satisfy your corned beef cravings.
Oh... and Mr.W said the savoy cabbage is something I could carefully sneak into other foods, but in small amounts. Because it still tastes like cabbage.
And that's a bad thing how?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

An Autumn Morning

This morning Mr.W had to be at work at 6am and--silly me--I thought I'd just drop him off so I could keep the truck and do some running around.

So a little shopping here, and a little shopping there, at my local early-open marts... and there was beauty everywhere. Here's a photo I snapped with my cell phone as the sun rose to greet the colorful trees this morning.

Then I saw a bunch (a flock? a gaggle?) of wild turkeys, two young deer munching on the dewey grass, and smelled the obvious evidence of an angry skunk.

Aah, fall.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Scalloped Root Vegetables

I had set aside a fresh beet and a sweet potato for making chips (crisps, for my international friends). I've been keen to try out Giada's recipe--they look so delicious!

But disaster struck. I couldn't get the beets to slice thin enough.

Now, the slicer I do have is from a hideous plastic microwave potato-chip maker my grandmother gave me a number of years ago. I have no idea where the rest of the thing went, but I have used the slicer quite a bit over the years. In fact, it does a wonderful job of making paper-thin cucumber slices. So I have no idea why it cut the beet and sweet potato rather thickly. Perhaps because they were both so tough that I wasn't fast enough? Hmm...

(Is that reason enough to justify buying a mandoline?)

1/16" thick is relatively thin, but not thin enough for chips.

So I decided to add a white potato to the bowl of beet and sweet potato slices for added variety, and make a version of scalloped potatoes.

This was a really interesting experiment. The beet flavor was certainly wonderful paired with sweet potato--and the entire business was tinged with oranges and red. Like a sunset in a dish.

It would pair well with a strongly-flavored meat dish, and perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

Scalloped Root Vegetables

1 medium beet, peeled and sliced thin
1 medium potato, peeled and sliced thin
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and sliced thin
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 cup milk
1 cup flour (I used oat bran flour)
2 tablespoons butter, cut in small chunks

Grease a glass or ceramic pie plate or loaf pan with olive oil. Layer beet and potato slices however desired. Because I had more sweet potato slices than anything else, I started with a layer of sweet, then white, then sweet, then beet, then sweet, white and finished with sweet. I gave the top a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper--about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together milk and flour. Pour over sliced vegetables in dish. Top with butter chunks. Top with foil and bake at 350*F for 30 minutes, or until vegetables are fork-tender. Remove foil and bake another 15-20 minutes, or until liquid has evaporated and top is browned.

Serve hot.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pasta Presto Night: Easy Skillet Pasta

It's been one of those days... and I needed to throw something together for dinner, and fast! Mr.W skipped lunch and his tummy was grumbling.

My plan for just these kinds of days is to get a pot of water on the stove and start a package of frozen hamburger in a skillet... THEN figure out what's for dinner. This is how the most pleasing comfort food is created.

Thus emerged Easy Skillet Pasta, with a side of butter & sugar corn-on-the cob for Mr.W. (I try to avoid starchy veggies when I'm indulging in pasta.)

Easy Skillet Pasta

1.5 pounds ground beef
2 cups dried bowtie pasta
1 28-ounce jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
14 ounces warm water (1/2 jar after you've emptied the spaghetti sauce)
salt and pepper to taste
generous sprinkle hot pepper flakes (optional)

Brown ground beef in skillet set over medium-high heat; strain away the grease by dumping cooked meat into a wire mesh strainer set in your sink or a bowl. Discard grease. Return meat to skillet; reduce heat to medium. Add remaining ingredients; cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until pasta is al dente.

Serve in bowls and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese, if desired.

Super simple and fresh from your own kitchen, this is a quick-fix weeknight meal that is sure to please. This makes enough for four helpings. Paired with a salad or a side veggie and some garlic bread it's plenty for a family of four. And you can adjust this to your taste, adding veggies from your fridge or freezer, onion & garlic, upping the herbs or adding more water for more of a goulash. A splash of red wine would be a nice addition, as well.

This is my entry for this week's Presto Pasta Night.

Bon appetit,

A to Z of Kitchen Tips: B is for...

B is for...

  • Breadcrumbs - If you have bread, bagels, rolls or english muffins that you know you won't use before they go stale or moldy, throw them in a bag in the freezer. When you have time, take them out and grate (still frozen) over the large holes on a box grater. Return to the freezer. You'll be able to take out what you need and leave the rest for next time. Unlike meat, bread--and crumbs--can be refrozen. I even like to take some crumbs and mix in some grated parmesan cheese for quick use over italian dishes or for breading chicken.

  • Bananas - If your bananas start to get a little spotty for your taste, just put them in the freezer. They'll turn black within a day, to be sure, but that's alright. They're good for future baking use in muffins and breads.

  • Baker's Grease - For when a recipe calls for greasing and flouring your cake pans, keep a batch of baker's grease on hand in a jar in the refrigerator, made from equal parts canola oil, flour and shortening, beaten with a mixer until blended & fluffy. Paint it onto your baking pans with a basting brush for easy application.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Quinoa Stuffed Winter Squash

Every Tuesday I host a ladies' lunch in my home. Many of the ladies have dietary restrictions, so I try to prepare low fat, low glycemic-index meals to share.

Yesterday I had a three-and-a-half pound hubbard squash just calling to be cooked. Now I've never even had hubbard squash, so this was a true mission into the unknown. But I heard it's the king of all squash--so that was promising.

I adapted a favorite stuffing recipe. Now that I no longer indulge in bread, I try to replace bread with other healthy grains. And quinoa is one of my new favorites! So it was natural to use quinoa instead of cubed bread for this stuffing.

Here is the hubbard squash, already stuffed, but before roasting.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the cooked, stuffed hubby; however since the recipe made more stuffing than would fit in the cavity of the hubbard squash, I sliced open a butternut squash, as well. Here's a picture of that.

Winter Squash with Quinoa and Sausage Stuffing

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth/stock
1 cup water
winter squash (I used a 3.5 lb hubbard squash plus one 3 lb butternut squash)

1 1/2 lb sweet italian sausage, casings removed (I used low fat sweet pork sausage because I had it on hand, and added some red pepper flake to spice it up... but it would be good with hot sausage, too.)
2 tablespoons butter
1 med. onion, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine or stock of choice
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth/stock
1 medium tart apple, peeled, cored & diced (I used MacIntosh)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped dates
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Place first three ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed (10-15 minutes). When done, grains will be translucent and the outer germ layer will separate. Makes 3 cups cooked. Set aside.

Split or otherwise open winter squash. (For the hubbard squash, I cut a lid out of the top. For the butternut, I split it down the middle.) Remove seeds and strings.

Cook crumbled sausage in a large skillet in olive oil until cooked through. Remove sausage. Melt butter in skillet; add onion and saute until soft and transparent.

Add wine, broth, apples, dried cranberries, dates, salt and pepper, cooked sausage. Stir until combined; simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes to allow flavors to marry. Stir in prepared quinoa and remove from heat. Let stand 10-15 minutes. Quinoa will absorb remaining liquid.

Brush interior and cut sides of squash with melted butter. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Scoop quinoa-sausage mixture into squash cavity. I spooned stuffing into my hubbard squash and replaced the lid, put in a baking dish and added about ½ cup water in the bottom of the pan. For the butternut squash, I filled the cavity and piled additional stuffing over the rest of the squash on the cookie sheet, added some water to the bottom of the pan, and covered with foil to bake. Bake at 350 degrees until tender, about 2 hours. Serve hot.

Serves 8.

My guests loved it--as did I! Here's an 'after' photo:

From the carnage you can see that we devoured the hubbard--and that we're not shy about eating! This was a perfect autumn meal. It would be wonderful as a Thanksgiving side dish... especially if you prefer to roast your turkey unstuffed, a stuffed squash is a real treat!

Warm, squashy greetings from my home to yours,

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Apples & Thyme: Not Your Mother's Pork Chops and Applesauce

“Pawk Chaaaahps an' appleshaash. Gee, Alish, that'sh shwell.” --Peter Brady

I grew up eating in front of the tv. My mother's schizophrenia emerged when I was seven years old and my brother was six, and my grandmother—crusty, independent, and fiercely over-protective—did everything she could to take care of us and our mom.

Our dad had left years earlier, and our grandfather wasn't in the picture, either. So g'ma did the best she could, for which I am forever grateful. She made her monthly retirement and social security checks stretch to cover meals for the whole family, which I prepared according to her growled instructions.

I won't lie. It's not easy having a mentally ill person in your home. Even more difficult when it's your mom. Everyone in the family resents having to live like that, and everyone is on edge.

But that's life, and it's amazing how much strength God gives you when you need it.

One of our regular meals was pork chops and applesauce. You know the kind. A leathery slab of over-cooked pork with a blob of applesauce served right from the jar at table. With instant mashed, of course.

We often ate from tv trays in front of the television. Because of mom's illness, she would become angry at the least provocation—sometimes no provocation at all. So conversation was limited at home, in attempt to keep the inevitable from happening. It was simpler to eat in front of the tv—no talking, just watching tv. And the Brady Bunch was one of our favorites.

When Vanielje Kitchen announced this foodblogging event, celebrating mothers and grandmothers with a recipe, I really racked my brain. I can not truly say that anyone taught me good cooking—no, I was taught cooking for sustenance using canned produce and boxed starches... until, that is, I left home and taught myself how to cook, using fresh foods. Most of my childhood is better left forgotten, truth be told.

So instead I celebrate myself today, because I—with strength from my God—reached past my upbringing. I've overcome my own past. I've loved, I've travelled all over the world, and I've enjoyed a measure of success in the professional world. I have a good marriage to a wonderful, decent man. And I've lived to forgive—my mother, for being sick; my grandmother, for being crusty and suffocatingly restrictive; my father, for leaving us to such a fate; and myself, for those unfair feelings I've had toward my own family.

And for this theme of Apples and Thyme, I offer you my rendition of the meal from my favorite Brady Bunch Episode... and I hope Inge will not be offended that I, too, used Apples and Thyme as my main ingredients. I think this dish truly does reflect my relationship with both my mother and grandmother—because I have reinvented myself, and my cooking.

Not Your Mother's Pork Chops and Applesauce

2 boneless pork chops, 1-inch thick
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
1 tablespoon mustard
1 cup apple cider
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried sage leaves
1 tablespoon butter

Season chops with salt and pepper. Brown in olive oil in a skillet over a medium flame. When browned on both sides, remove chops from pan and drain off excess grease. Return pan to stove and set flame to low. Add mustard, cider, thyme and sage; whisk to blend. Return chops to pan, cover, and simmer 10 minutes. (This results in a well done chop; if you prefer your pork less than well done, start checking after 5 minutes.)

Remove chops from pan again; increase flame to medium-high to bring sauce to a boil. Reduce pan sauce to ½ cup (it took me about 5 minutes). Turn off heat and add butter; stir to melt.

Serve chops with pan sauce over steamed brown rice, or any desired side dish. I like it just by itself!

Note: This would be lovely with shallot in the sauce; I just didn't have any.

While this event is a celebration to honor the women who shaped our lives, I have to say that I am who I've become in spite of what has happened. And so thankful, so very thankful, that neither I nor my dear, sweet, wonderful brother, were trapped by our circumstances.
To see the roundup of this year's Apples & Thyme event, click here.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Man Food: Spicy Black Bean Chili

Every other Sunday afternoon, Mr.W and a bunch of his guy friends get together for an afternoon of games, burping, scratching, and whatever else men do when they're in a room together for several hours. They like to gather in our basement, where there is a large wood table, several mismatched chairs, a coffee pot, a microwave, and enough room for about 10 men.

I usually cook something for these man-meetings. No canapes or delicate vegetable concoctions will do--no, indeed they require something spicy, something greasy, something... manly.

Yesterday I served Spicy Black Bean Chili. It's assertive yet moderate heat builds slowly as you eat. With an array of optional toppings, it's a veritable feast fit for a roomful of kings!

Spicy Black Bean Chili

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds ground beef (I prefer coarse ground if I can find it)
1 tablespoon chopped onion
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce, plus 4 canfulls (32 ounces total) hot water
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon cumin
2/3 cup chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 15-ounce cans black beans
1 heaping tablespoon masa flour

Heat a large skillet or over a medium flame. Add olive oil and turn pan to coat. Add ground beef and cook, stirring frequently, until no pink is visible. Drain ground beef in a sieve to remove rendered grease. Now transfer meat to a large stock pot--this make a large, manly amount of chili! Add to the cooked ground beef: onion, garlic, tomato sauce, salt, paprika, oregano, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and black beans. Stir well to combine. Set over a medium flame and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a glass or plastic measuring cup, combine 1/2 cup hot water with masa flour. Stir to make a thin, pourable mixture.

Pour masa mixture into simmering chili; cover pot and simmer for another 15 minutes to thicken. Serve in mugs or bowls with any number of toppings, which might include: salsa, sour cream, shredded or chunk cheddar or colby or monterey jack cheese, chopped onion and jalapeno slices.

This is the first of many future man food blog entries--I encourage you to make these recipes for yourselves, or your hairy loved ones. It's not pretty, no, it's not girly, or even something that photographs well--but it's good!


Saturday, October 13, 2007

A to Z of Kitchen Tips: A is for...

I've been cooking full-time since I was fourteen years old. I won't tell you exactly how many years that has been, but suffice it to say a long time! But in that time, I've learned a few tricks around the kitchen.

So I'm going to start sharing my A to Z list with all of you--and I hope that you will offer your tips as well!

To begin...

A is for Apples and Avocados:

  • To keep cut apples from turning brown, sprinkle them with a little lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit juice.
  • Have you ever made guacamole from mashed avocado? If so, have you seen how it can turn an unappetizing grey color upon sitting? To keep your guacamole looking green and fresh, save one of your avocado pits and bury in your guac, then cover the surface with plastic wrap.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Flax Muffins

Mr.W and I share one vehicle. But because I don't work outside of the home, it's not a problem for us, most of the time.

Except when I'm having a sweet tooth attack. I remember last winter I ate a whole bag of marshmallows out of my pantry. Yeah.

So if I'm going to be good, and eat the way I should, I have to keep safe snacks around the house. Like string cheese, thin-sliced pepperoni, frozen berries, sugar-free whipped cream (or at least heavy cream to make my own), sour cream, sugar-free pudding mixes, sugar-free soy milk in various flavors, and these muffins.

Flaxmeal is extremely good for you, chock full of omega-3 fatty acids. And these muffins are a perfect way to get that sweet fix without cheating.

A few things I feel I must mention about these muffins:

  • I have never made these with real sugar or all-purpose flour; I have only made these as low-carb muffins.
  • Using stevia, as I do, they are only very lightly sweetened.
  • These actually taste BETTER after they've been frozen, IMHO.
  • Because these muffins are very high in fiber they may cause a... well... a laxative effect if you eat too many.
  • I often use these as a meal replacer--one with a cup of yogurt does the trick.
This recipe is not originally mine; it is an adaptation of this one.

Spiced Sour Cream and Flaxseed Muffins
makes 1 dozen muffins

Beat together in a small bowl:

3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream


1/2 cup sugar (or equivalent sweetness using artificial sweetner; I use 1/2 tsp stevia powder) 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 pinches ground cardamom

Once this is all mixed together, add in a slow stream while stirring:

6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, cooled

In another bowl, combine:

1 cup flax meal
1/4 cup flour (I use soy flour)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oat bran (optional)

Add wet mixture to dry and mix well. Add:

1-1/2 ounces sliced almonds or nut of choice (optional)

Stir to combine. (Variation: you could omit nuts altogether, or sprinkle them on top of the muffins before baking.)

Pour muffin mixture into greased muffin pan and bake in a preheated 350*F oven for 15-20 minutes or until puffed and a cake tester comes out clean.

This is a very versatile recipe that can be adapted according to your tastes and dietary needs; this recipe is also excellent with added cocoa (actually in the photo I had added 1/4 cup cocoa to the recipe), can be adjusted with other ingredients and flavoring extracts, or even made with savory seasonings + less sweetener as a bread replacement (one Thanksgiving I made these with garlic & onion powder and toasted to use in my stuffing). Try different flavorings and nuts as desired. These freeze extremely well.

I topped my muffins with a sweetened sour cream, dusted with a little freshly ground nutmeg. Perfect for a sweet treat or a quick bite on-the-go!


Spaghetti Squash with Sausage-Pumpkin-Sage Sauce

The geese are on the move! I could hear them all morning yesterday as they flew past. Which means one thing.

Winter is coming.

The weather forecast says it'll be rainy and in the 50s (Fareinheit) all week, then back up to the 60s by Monday next. So it's not very cold just yet. And I'm enjoying this gentle cool... perfect for getting the crock pot going. And I'm craving fall flavors--which led me to today's post.

I was expecting company and was looking for something easy and different, without a lot of last-minute work, and low carb is a must in my house. I found a can of solid-pack pumpkin in the pantry, and looked at my plethora of winter squash. Aha! There's my pasta. So an italian-inspired sauce it would be.

Now obviously the spaghetti squash is my pasta-replacer, but this would be just as wonderful over a traditional pasta shape, like angel hair or shells.

This recipe is unbelievably delicious. Don't go by the picture--it just doesn't do it justice.

Spaghetti Squash with Sausage-Pumpkin-Sage Sauce
Serves 6

olive oil
1.5 pounds sweet italian sausage (I used low-fat pork sausage), casings removed
1 large onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1-3/4 cups canned solid pack pumpkin or pureed pumpkin
4 cups vegetable stock (I used a homemade low-salt chicken-ham broth), divided
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons dried sage leaves (or 2 tablespoons fresh)
1 teaspoon dried parsley
few scrapes nutmeg
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream

whole spaghetti squash

In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, brown sausage in olive oil until cooked through; transfer sausage to a large pot, crock pot or dutch oven and set aside.

Add more olive oil to skillet if needed, and saute onion over medium heat until transparent; add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add onion mixture to sausage in pot.

Deglaze pan with 1/2 cup of stock over low heat. Add pumpkin and stir to combine, adding stock in 1/2 cup increments until all has been incorporated with the pumpkin puree. Add cream cheese, parmesan, sage, parsley, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper. Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, until the cream cheese is melted. Add heavy cream and stir to combine; bring to a low simmer and immediately remove from heat.

Pour pumpkin sauce over sausage mixture in reserved pot. Keep warm until ready to use.

Poke holes in spaghetti squash with a wooden skewer or knife. Place whole squash in microwave and cook for 6 minutes on high. Turn squash over and cook another 6 minutes on high. Let rest 15 minutes. Slice off stem end and cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds from center and discard. With a fork, release spaghetti-like squash flesh from the plant into a bowl.

Serve sauce over squash strands and enjoy.

Cook's notes: I should have added mushrooms! The rich, earthy taste of this sauce really shouted for mushrooms--a definite for next time. Deglazing the pan with white wine would also be a wonderful addition. Do resist the urge to add more traditional italian sauce ingredients such as oregano or basil--they would really overpower the delicate balance of flavors here. This would be fabulous served as a soup, too.

My guests and I took tentative first bites; I was a bit concerned with the perfume of the dish--that sage was very fragrant, but appropriately so. Then everyone dove into their plates. Nary a word was spoken until plates were clean and they started digging in for second helpings.

I love it when that happens.

This recipe is my entry for this week's Presto Pasta Night.

Be well,

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Nice Day

Yesterday was Columbus Day. In honor of Mr. Columbus' discovery of the New World, the U.S. designates the first Monday in October a federal holiday. As such, Mr.W was off from work, and we were able to take the opportunity to get away from our little city for the day.

The fall color is really starting to come in. It was raining or drizzling most of the day, so it was rather wet and chilly, but it didn't detract from nature's beauty.

We arrived at around 9:00am in Little Falls to look at the tiny rapids. It's nestled in a small nook in the rocks along New York's Mohawk River.

This little park is next to the river, where people can dock their boats. Alongside is a 2-mile walking trail, which was the river's original towpath, from back when packet-boats were pulled along the water trail by horse or mule cart. So it was very nice at the waterside. That is, until we turned around.

Directly across the street from the pretty little waterside park is this dilapidated building. I can only speculate as to how much money would be required to restore this to its former splendor. Even the bridge we were standing on had caution signs, warning people not to park on the bridge. Barrels and rusty chains kept pedestrians safely away from the handrail, which appeared to be separating from the bridge itself and precariously leaning over a 50-foot drop.

It seems, though, that Little Falls is attempting a facelift, but they have a long way to go. Criss-crossing bridges and roads mar the view significantly, and dilapidated bulidings are everywhere. One tiny fashionable strip mall recalling a more genteel time along with the nicest McDonald's I've ever seen are the best Little Falls has to offer.

So we ate breakfast at McDonald's and left Little Falls with nary a backward glance.

We drove into Herkimer, NY for some antiquing at one of my favorite junk shops--The Valley Exchange. Mr.W rifled through the book section, and even found a Barry Manilow LP that he insisted he wanted.

"But we don't have a record player."

"But he writes the songs that make the young girls cry!"

Who can argue with that logic?

We bought a few things and headed into Ilion to meet up with some friends; the group of us drove back into Herkimer for a lovely lunch at one of my favorite hideaways: Brian's Roast Beef Deli.

Brian's is a veritable hole in the wall--but the food is fantastic. Ignore the dark burgundy velvet-flecked wallpaper and dark panelling. Order the steak or fish special. Or a sandwich. It's ALL good. I had the covered sausage and peppers sandwich--sans bread. Yum. And sweet potato fries. Double yum.

On the way back, we stopped at my favorite farmer's stand for another peek at what yummy items they have for sale. I indulged in some butter & sugar corn and a butternut squash. They'll be closing in a couple of weeks until spring, so I need to get what I can get now!

The day continued at our local Barnes & Noble... coffee & some light reading... then home to crash with a mug of hot escarole soup in front of the tv, just in time for Prison Break and Heroes. Aah, it's good to be home after all.


Sunday, October 7, 2007

Garlic BBQ Sauce

While surfing various foodblogs I stumbled across Habeas Brulee's event for pairing garlic with unusual ingredients. It befuddled me. What doesn't garlic go with? Mint? No... middle eastern cuisine is rampant with garlic-and-mint creations. Fruit? No... a fruited salsa could contain garlic. A neighbor of my parents owns a farm that cultivates tons of garlic--they even make garlic ice cream! So what would be an interesting challenge?

Dr. Pepper, which is my dear Mr.W's beverage of choice.

Yes, indeed, Dr. Pepper it would be. I thought immediately of the U.S. South, rampant with their bar-b-que sauces. Everyone has their own version, and I know that many cooks--in Georgia, especially--use Coca-Cola in their sauces, so why not Dr. Pepper?

So here is my entry for Yes, Of Course You Can Pair Garlic With That! Visit the roundup.

Garlic BBQ Sauce

5 cloves garlic, peeled and rough-chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup Dr. Pepper
1/3 cup prepared ketchup
1 tablespoon prepared mustard

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1-1/2 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
pinch cinnamon

Combine garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle; bash around until you have a chunky paste. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until reduced to about half. (This took about 15 minutes.) Cool slightly and transfer to a bowl or jar (put a metal spoon in your container to avoid cracking). Cool thoroughly, cover and refrigerate.

Makes about 1 cup.

I was really pleased with the resulting flavor--certainly a sweet bbq sauce, perfect for chicken or ribs, but unlike the usual sickeningly-sweet sauces available on the market, the garlic really helped to balance this sauce's sweetness. It is not a super-thick sauce, either. This would offer your grilled meat of choice a sweet glaze without overpowering the taste of the meat itself. I really like it!

And Mr.W's verdict?

"It's garlicky... good. What's in it?"

"Dr. Pepper."

"You used some of my Doctor for cooking?"



"But you like it."

"It is good."


Pickled Cherry Peppers

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers;
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked;
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
--Mother Goose

Why they're in my kitchen, of course! Well... maybe not a peck. More like a half-pound.

This is a sweet-hot mix I found at the farmer's stand on sale this week; I bought them with the idea I would pickle them.

That sounds difficult, doesn't it? Not here, it isn't. I don't do anything difficult--I just cut 'em up and pour white distilled vinegar over, seal it up and pop it in the fridge. There's nothing simpler. And what I love most about these pickled peppers is that their heat goes into the vinegar, making it a yummy condiment anytime.

I use these pickled cherry peppers in vegetable stir-frys, chicken riggies (a local area favorite of chicken in a spiced-up vodka cream sauce over rigatoni) and numerous other italian pasta dishes. As long as they're in vinegar, they'll keep for months.

Happy pickling,

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Happy Disarray

Today I had two very special houseguests. A boy, 8, named Rio, and a girl, 12, named Tiffany. They spent time here for Children's Church, followed by a couple of movies.

We had a very special lesson about bullies, what bullies are, whether or not we've had to deal with bullies at school or elsewhere, whether or not we ourselves have been bullies in the past, and what God says about bullies.

It was a really interesting discussion, since the kids had different ideas of what a bully is and why they act the way they do. It was also interesting to watch both kids admit that they have been bullies in the past to others. I was so proud that they were able to recognize that they are not without guilt in that area... I think we all have had opportunity to bully others in some way or another.

And we talked about praying for our enemies, repaying good for evil, and having compassion for a bully, who might have been bullied or abused in the past, or even currently.

I just hope the lesson settled in their hearts.

We had a very nice lunch of rotisserie chicken (from the grocery), homemade sweet potato fries (just cut into sticks and deep fried) served with ranch dip, and sliced cucumbers. I made each of the kids a mock strawberry milkshake to enjoy with their meals. I selected this particular menu because Rio is a hyperactive child and his parents prefer to avoid sugary treats... this of course is hard for a young person, so I like to offer 'treats' that are tasty without asking him to cheat on his diet. Plus it's good for my own diet!

We watched a couple of movies: Wallis & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Flushed Away, while munching on some organic veggie chips (store-bought). We finished the afternoon with 30 minutes of car racing on the X-Box before they were picked up.

My house is a wreck, but it was a lovely day, and well worth the mess. There's a real blessing that comes with visiting children--they bring such a sweet innocence to the house.


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Quick Fix: Mock Strawberry Milkshake

Well, we're still cleaning my friends' house... so that doesn't leave a whole lot of time in my life to cook these days.

Thankfully, Mr.W has stepped up to the plate. When we haven't been able to grab a quick (and healthy!) bite out at our favorite little places in town, he's whipped up a quick meal here and there. He really is a gem.

Today I was just frothing at the mouth for something sweet--ice cream, to be specific. But my diet doesn't really allow for ice cream... even the 'no sugar added' store-bought variety has a lot of carbs. It's fine for the occasional treat, but for the weekly ice cream fix, I've stumbled across just the right thing.

Mock Strawberry Milkshake

1 cup frozen strawberries (no sugar or syrup--just the berries)
1 cup sugar-free vanilla soy milk

Combine in a blender (or, in my case, I used a regular cup and my hand blender) and puree until thick and milk-shakey.

Mmm... just right!


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A Rant: Renters Can Be So Nasty

Please allow me a few minutes to rant.

A year ago, my friend M and her husband remodeled the house that they rent to two nurses and their two kids, because they wanted to sell. The tenants (the nurses) wanted to purchase, so the remodel was done to their specifications in regard to colors, etc. A year later, and chance after chance after chance, they still had not secured a loan. M and her husband evicted them.

So now we're now in the process of cleaning up the house so that it can be put on the market.

The tenants trashed the place.

Carpet that was new last year has never been vacuumed or swept. The nurses' dog left his hair everywhere. Ceiling fans were never cleaned. Bathrooms were never cleaned. They didn't even clean out their stuff.

This experience is teaching me two main lessons: first, never rent. Ever. Second, even if a person is a nurse, it doesn't mean they live a sanitary life.

I'm horrified. Absolutely horrified. The utter filth that these folks lived in--and raise their children in--is shocking. Garbage all over the kitchen. Mice turds everywhere. Fruit flies--my Lord, the fruit flies! The old food all over the kitchen... it's ghastly. And the dog odor is like walking into a brick wall as you enter the front door! Really, truly disgusting.


Over the last few days I personally have hauled load upon load of junk from the upstairs bedrooms, I've cleaned out lower kitchen cabinets (mouse dukey and all), I've cleaned out the oven & broiler (mouse crap there, too), scrubbed caked-on dust from ceiling fans, removed paint overspray from mahogany woodwork (the one room the nurses painted themselves resulted in multitudinous drips and dribbles all over that beautiful wood). Oh!

Can I just say that I love my house? I love that my house is clean--even when my house is messy, it is clean. And free of mice.

Okay... thank you for listening to my diatribe.


Monday, October 1, 2007

Boobie Bake-Off: Strawberry Icebox Cheesecake

The very clever Marye of Apron Strings & Simmering Things is hosting this very pink foodblogging event this month in support of breast cancer research. How awesome is that?

So the challenge is to make a dish that is PINK. And who wouldn't love pink food? At the roundup, people can vote on their favorite recipe. Votes cost $1, and monies will be donated to breast cancer research. I love it! Read more about the event and learn how to vote here. (Edited note: voting is finished and see the winner here.)

So for this particular event, and I suppose this is cheating a little bit, but I created a Sugar-Free Strawberry Icebox Cheesecake (because I do prefer sugar free treats). And it might be cheating just a bit for an icebox recipe to be entered in a baking challenge, but I hope the spirit of the thing is what matters here. Besides, the crust IS baked!

Here is my yummy pink dessert:

Sugar-Free Strawberry Icebox Cheesecake

1 cup coarsely ground pecans
1/4 cup soy flour (regular all-purpose flour may be used)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 cups heavy cream
3 teaspoons sweetener of choice

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon stevia (or the equivalent sweetness of 1/3 cup sugar)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup fresh or frozen strawberries, pureed

Combine ground pecans, soy flour and melted butter and stir well to combine thoroughly. Press into the bottom of a lightly greased 7-inch cake or springform pan. Bake in a preheated 350*F oven for 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Whip heavy cream in stand mixer or with electric hand mixer with the equivalent of three teaspoons sugar using sweetener of choice (I used the 3 pinches stevia powder, but you could use sugar, sweet n'low, splenda, or whatever you prefer) until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Beat together cream cheese, 1/4 teaspoon stevia and vanilla until smooth. Stir in pureed strawberries to incorporate. Fold in 1/4 of the prepared whipped cream. Carefully spread cream cheese mixture in the prepared pan. Top with the remaining whipped cream. Cover the surface of the whipped cream with plastic wrap and put pan in the freezer for at least one hour to set, or overnight.

Remove from freezer 1/2 to 1 hour before serving.

Yum! My friends gobbled it up!

Pink, creamy regards,

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