Category Archives: Food (glorious food)

Jenny’s Pumpkin Muffins

Haven’t written for a while — amazing how working fulltime absorbs the hours and focus of one’s life. This morning, Peter suggested I be sure and do something for myself, as I expect the afternoon to be stressful… so I decided to share a favorite new recipe from my neighbor Jenny.

These muffins are something quick and easy if you want to impress your friends and warm up their tummies!Pumpkin_Muffins It’s become my “go to” item over the last couple months, for when I want to whip up something for an early-morning meeting or feel the need for comfort food that’s not as caloric as macaroni or brownies.


Jenny’s pumpkin muffins

Spice cake mix
1 small can (15 oz. size)  pumpkin
A little vanilla (I use about a teaspoon)
1/2 cup water
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Mix the first four ingredients together well; the pumpkin will lose its briliant orange and become a more mellow color when well blended with the cake mix. Fold in the chocolate chips; the batter will be smooth and creamy but on the thick side. You can fill the muffin cups fairly full.

Bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes. I have always had enough batter for 12 regular-size muffins and a small Pyrex bowl.

I’ve seen similar recipes online that don’t add the water; we may need the extra moister for our high altitude, I’m not sure. You could also start with a yellow cake mix and add spices — but golly, that makes it more work 🙂


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Watch out for the bite! (8/7)

When we owned Dark Horse Books, one fall we went to Chicago for CIROBE (short for the Chicago International Remainders and Overstock Book Expo). It was a wonderful weekend of pouring through stacks and stacks of books, taking in the Art Museum, walking around the Windy City, and checking out some world-class restaurants. One of the dineries we fell in love with was called “Heaven on Seven.”  Peter had heard that this nondescript spot, located on the seventh floor of an office building, was a local favorite. We wanted to find out if its walls really were lined with bottles of hundreds of brands of Tobasco sauce (they were) and whether the wait staff truly wore Mardi Gras beads and called everyone “cher” (they did).

When we stepped off the elevator, the sounds of a jazz trio wafted down the hallway — along with the enticing smells of cajun specialties.  Yum yum — hot and spicy!

This place, in a word, DELIVERED exactly what we were looking for, exactly what we’d been promised.

We’ve always liked cooking (and eating) foods that rank fairly highly on the Scoville Heat Unit scale (it judges the amount of capsaicin in a particular item). My longterm favorite recipe is called Crocodile ChiliIt’s bean-free, doesn’t use Tobasco, and it’s not from New Orleans, but can certainly be made as hot and spicy as you’d like.

A month after we moved to Teton Valley, I created a big pot of it to enter a chili cook-off at the fairgrounds in Driggs — and I won! I wrote about that experience in an essay I wrote, years later, for the Idaho Humanities Council cookbook anthology called Dishrag Soup and Poverty Cake).

This chili has some “legs,” as some might say. 

Now this is one of my rare posts that won’t have a photo, but instead includes the full-on tried and true recipe for Crocodile Chili.

A word of caution and a funny memory: one time we were making it and the top came off of the red-chili-pepper bottle, spilling way too many flakes into the chili. We each took a bite and ended up throwing the rest out!

So check the lid on all spices before you shake them in, and enjoy your very own piece of “heaven on seven”!

Crocodile Chili
(watch out for the bite!)

2-3 pounds lean pork, cut into bite-size pieces
¼ cup (or so) flour seasoned with cayenne, salt and pepper
2 Tblspns oil
2 Tblspns butter
2 small onions, diced
2 green peppers, diced
2 or 3 cans of diced green chili peppers (we usually use one hot and two mild)
shake of red pepper flakes (optional)
Sour cream

Put the seasoned flour in a brown paper bag and add the pork; shake well to coat. Heat the oil and butter in a big pot on medium heat, and add the flour-covered pork and whatever flour’s left in the bag (probably won’t be much, depending on the size of the pieces of pork.) Stir well; the extra flour will start a roux, which will thicken the chili.

When the meat’s just about browned, throw in the raw vegetables and stir – some of the flour will stick to the vegetables, too. When the onions start to become translucent (not browned), add the chili peppers, red pepper flakes to taste, and enough water to cover everything.

When it starts to bubble, turn the heat down low and keep stirring and tasting as it simmers. If it doesn’t taste hot enough, add a few more red pepper flakes (the taste will intensify as the chili cooks.) If the chili thickens too much before serving, stir in a bit of water. It can cook a long time for richer flavor.

When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and add a dollop of sour cream for garnish (also helps cool the palate between bites.) Serve with warm tortillas. Makes great leftovers to take for lunch at work and a wonderful topping over scrambled eggs for breakfast.

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March Madness 26: Latte art

Coffee_art_at_PendlsPendl’s is our favorite coffee place, and this week, Adley, one of the barristas, served Peter this lovely bird-bedecked mocha.

Balkan Ghosts is just one of a couple dozen books one or the other (or both of us) intends to read before we head to the Balkans in May!

26th in a series: stay tuned
for more March Madness.

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March Madness 18: Better (REALLY! So much better!) than a restaurant

We have always liked working together in the kitchen. One of us is chef, tveal_osso_bucohe other helps prep. We consider it “cooking for fun.”

Since Peter arrived home from Philadelphia on Friday, he’s been cooking up a veritable storm of nutritious and colorful gourmet dinners. That night, we ate a fantastic Italian veal osso buco, smothered in saucy vegetables, with mushroom risotto and a fancy arugula salad.

Saturday he created for us marinated salmon filets, wrapped in parchment-paper packets with vegetables. We had squid-ink noodles tossed with broccoli and peppers on the side.

salmon filetsTonight, an elegant beef Wellington graced our plates, with sautéed Brussel sprouts and potato croquettes with yogurt sauce; I made a peppercorn sauce for the melt-in-your-mouth, oh-so-tender meat. beeef wellington

During our three-plus decades together, we’ve cooked in the tiniest of spaces so now especially enjoy our big kitchen and its granite countertops and all the gadgets we’ve assembled over the years.

I’m a great hand at chopping vegetables and just enjoying the show; we also have another ritual — the one who is NOT wielding the knife or spoon reads aloud — extra fun this weekend since we’re planning a trip in just a couple of months.


Peter is planning a series of seven restaurant-type meals, though not all in a row.



What a guy! I’m so lucky: he does nearly all the grocery shopping, not just for special meals but every day.

We’ve enjoyed many memorable nights out, and have hosted our share of dinner parties, but there’s nothing quite like cooking in, just for us….


These three pictures, of the entreés, are from those he’s posted in albums on his Facebook page. If you go there to check ’em out, be sure and comment; I want him to have all the encouragement possible!

Eighteenth in a series of month-long posts:
stay tuned for more March Madness.

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March Madness 11: Nigella’s no-churn super-airy coffee ice cream

When our TV’s on, especially in the kitchen, it seems like we always have it tuned in to a cooking show — amazing how many are broadcast! Last week, PPic_of_Ice_Creameter happened to catch an episode of Nigella Lawson on PBS, and was drawn in by this no-churn coffee ice cream recipe, which she said was “so easy it’s almost embarrasing.”  The better cook in our house (by about a thousand-fold), he picked up the ingredients and made it for us to try that night.

Yum! “A simple way to make an elegant and creamy dessert confection,” is how he put it. I agree: it’s truly “super-airy,” fluffy and light, more like mousse (but NOT mousse), and also not strong and dense like some kinds of ice cream.

You need only a very small serving, so this would be a great treat for six to eight at a dinner party. Eating it ourselves, the quart-bowl full lasted a string of evenings. We added chocolate sauce one time to make it mocha-style, whch made it almost too rich.


2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons espresso liqueur
1 and 1/4 cups heavy (whipping) cream

Put the condensed milk in a bowl and stir in the espresso powder and liqueur (for this, another version I found on line substituted a tablespoon each of cold brewed coffee and bourbon — which we might try another time).

In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until it reaches soft peaks (Peter used our counter-top mixer).

Fold the cream into the condensed milk/coffee mixture. It should be the same color as a latte’.

Pour into an airtight container and freeze either overnight or for at least six hours.

Serve straight from the freezer.

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Susie’s Santa Fe Stew

Recently, I went to a friend’s home for “Ladies Night Out,” with plenty of chatting, terrific appetizers (which I’ll post another time) and a stick-to-your-ribs, spice-up-your-perspective main course. It’s chili but with a couple twists. I further tweaked Susie Work’s recipe when I made it here at home last week — those variations are indicated below). Enjoy!
Santa Fe Stew
  • 1 lb. ground meat (I used more — somewhere between 1.25 and 1.33 pounds of lean beef)
  • 2 yellow onions chopped (had a good-sized one, so only used that)
  • 1 pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch dressing dry mix
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 2 cans pinto beans (I only used one can, but it was chipotle flavored)
  • 2 cans whole corn (used 3 cups frozen, since I already had that)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (these, too, had some special seasonings, lime and cilantro — I used what I had in the cupboard)
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can blackeyed peas (I used jalapeno black beans instead)
  • 15 oz. tomato juice ( Susie uses V-8 — I bought the store brand vegetable juice and it worked well, too, and I increased this to 2 cups)
  • 1 tsp. crusted red pepper flakes or 1 tsp. tabasco sauce (Susie didn’t put these in for our dinner — with the extra spices in the beans, I didn’t need them either)

Use a big stewpot. (I chose my every-day chili pan and next time I’ll go even bigger because by the time all the ingredients were added, it barely fit). Brown the meat and the onions until cooked.  Drain (didn’t need to do this step with lean beef) and add the two dry-mix packages (taco seasoning and ranch dressing).  Stir and simmer for a few minutes.

Her original directions called for doing the meat separately and then the rest in the big pot, combining them after the beans have cooked a bit. However, I misread that, and just used a single pan, which also worked great.

Add all the canned items, undrained, plus the juice and hot stuff if desired, and mix it all together well. Cook on low for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. I was to this step before starting an interview for the magazine, so mine probably was on the stove for closer to 45 minutes.
I served it plain; at the women’s dinner, they passed sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and parmesan to put on top. Also yummy served over rice, Susie says, and I bet it’d be good over pasta, too.
Best thing, especially with such a large batch — it freezes well. I split it into five glass containers to make it easier to defrost a single-serving or two at a time.
This recipe just might have to be what I make for next year’s Teton Arts Council Souper Bowl! No, that’s not a football game, but posting this crowd-pleaser today — the day the Giants and the Patriots meet in Super Bowl XLVI — is appropriate!
And no photo. We ate the evidence. Will remember to take one next time.

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Yummy granola

I admit it. I like granola! Especially with raisins addedin and  topped with yogurt and a banana.   Although I have several good recipes for granola, this is one of the easiest.  Might be one of the healthiest, too…..

5 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup chopped or sliced almonds (or walnuts)
1 cup unrefined sesame seeds
1 cup soy flour
1 cup powdered milk (*not* instant)
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup sunflower seeds, if you’re feeling really nutty

1 cup honey
1 cup vegetable oil

Top the dry stuff with the wet stuff, and stir well. Then bake in a 200-degree oven for 20 minutes (stir it every so often while it’s baking) or until it’s crunchy enough for you.



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