Beloved Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes

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This morning I went for a run...fully in anticipation of these bad boys:





Yes, pancakes.  Blueberry oatmeal pancakes, to be exact.

Make them.

The recipe comes from an absolute favorite blog of mine.  If you haven't tapped into Molly's blog or her book, you are really missing out. 

Big time.

Please just do it.  Read her blog, read her book.  Just plain pursue her.

Well, don't really pursue her -she's married-but well, you know what I mean.

She's great.  And so's her food.  And so's her restaurant

Just like her.

Do it.

One of those days...

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OFFER!  My friends, please purchase this movie NOW.  It will be on sale until midnight tonight.  This is an eye-opening film that will make you aware of what you are eating and how it is being raised/created/manufactured.  If you are an American and you eat food from a grocery store (and feed this food to your children/husband/wife) then you NEED to see this movie.  Educate yourself and your family.  Do it!


Oh, my friends, today was just one of those days.

You know, the type of day that grows crazier by the minute until you reach that point where you feel your head is spinning a-la-Exorcist?

Yeah, one of those.

Anyway- most of us have one of these at least once a week.  Maybe every day.  Maybe every minute.

If this is you, it is highly likely that you'll get home and think, "There is NO way I'm making a meal right now.  Forget it.  Not gonna happen," then you proceed to pull out some scary-maybe-hairy looking leftovers, think better of it, and pull out the box of cheap mac and cheese.

Please don't make boxed mac and cheese.  Seriously?  Manufactured cheese powder?

Grody.

I exist to make sure you don't do this dastardly deed.

There are other options when all that's available are pre-packaged goods.  When I experience one of these days (like today) I generally make pasta, grab a bottle of some sort of sauce, and sprinkle a bit of grated cheese on top.  It's quick, simple, and I don't have to do a darn thing except boil water.

Does it get any easier than that?

Well, I'm sure it does but we wont discuss those unmentionables (ahem, T.V. dinners- ack!).

What's on the agenda tonight? 

Ravioli, my friends, with a simple pasta sauce and grated fresh Parmesan.  Incredibly tasty, quick, healthy, and easy. 




I love Rising Moon & Newman's Own products.  You can find either at your local health-foods store.  Extremely healthful, flavorful, and each carry an array of food essentials. 

Even boxed macaroni, if you just can't peel yourself away.  At least their cheese isn't made from chemicals. 

Just sayin'.



An oh, my love affair with cheese.  Especially fresh Parm.




And, because you took zero effort to make the meal,
and because you had a nasty day,
and, well, just because, pour yourself a delightful glass of this:



And YES, that's a martini glass.  I [gasp] don't own wine glasses.
 But oddly, I own martini glasses.  Hmm. 
Anyway- a glass is a glass, people. 
Often I don't even bother with the fancy stuff and just grab a Ball canning jar.

I roll like that.

Oh, lovely meal.  Thank you for making my day a touch easier,



A lot tastier,



And that-much-more pure and nutritious.

Bon Appetit!

Tale of Two Chowders: Day 2

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As promised, the final day of stoup is now underway! 

I know, I know, you are on the edge of your seat.  Sorry to keep you waiting.  But really- those cinnamon rolls were begging to have their spotlight.  I could not ignore their plea.

You understand my dilemma, I'm sure.

So the second round chowder is an absolute, once-a-month recipe for our little family.  It's incredibly quick and simple to create (that is becoming my motto, I'm well-aware) and enjoyed by everyone--even the picky eaters. 

And by picky eaters, I mean my husband.

HE loves this stuff and that alone should be cause to make mass amounts and feed it to everyone.  My friends, this man (of whom I so lovingly adore) does not do anything remotely "out-there". 

And by "out there" I mean anything with even a hint of green.  Yes.  He's one of those. 

However he loves this stuff.  I'm not kidding.

Enter, Cheesy Chicken Corn Chowder.

This is my meal-in-a-flash go-to.  My, I need-something-to-please the masses dish.  My, come-on-everyone-loves-chicken-corn-and-cheese meal.

Okay, enough of the hyphens.

Onto the recipe.

Cheesy Chicken Corn Chowder

2 T butter
1/4 C chopped yellow onion
1/4 C chopped celery
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & minced
2 T all-purpose flour
2 C 2% milk
2 C shredded, cooked chicken
1 1/2 C fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 (14oz) can cream-style corn
1 C shredded monterey jack cheese
1 C light beer (I like Corona or Bud Light Lime)
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp salt
Optional toppings: fresh cilantro, sour cream, fresh lime wedges

Instructions: Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add onion, celery, & jalapeno; cook for 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.  Add flour, stir to coat and cook one minute longer.  Slowly add milk then remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Cook until thick (about 5 min).  Top with extra cheese, sour cream, cilantro, and freshly squeezed lime (if desired).

Now chop up your onion and don't make yourself cry. 
Here's a little factoid for you: 
Did you know that if you are having sobbing issues while cutting onions your knife blade is likely the culprit?  Yes sir.  A dull knife when cutting an onion breeds tears, my friends.  The dull blade releases juices- a sharp blade cuts cleanly and thus avoids tears.

So sharpen away.  Unless you like crying.
Whatever, that's your prerogative.




Melt yourself some butter and continue chopping away.




Dice your celery...




And your jalapeno.  Now I like two jalapenos because I roll like that.
The more kick-in-the-pants, the better.
However, if you are a pansy mild sort, you can certainly just use one.




Now dump those kids in the pot and smell yourself to high heaven.




Ohhhhh.....it's nice.




While those veggies are sauteing away get the rest of your ingredients ready.
Here's what you'll need:




Once your veggies are tender, head back to the pot and sprinkle in your flour.




Once the flour is fully incorporated, slowly stir in the milk & beer.
Now unfortunately I used my last bottle of beer last time I made this and forgot to buy more--
and the flavor took a significant hit because of it.  You are more than welcome to leave it out but really, it adds unparalleled depth.  I use beer often in stews and even bread, truly, it's fabulous.




Let the mixture thicken a touch, then add the rest of your ingredients.




Oh chicken. 
Thank you for sacrificing yourself for me.  I promise, you wont be sorry.
You led a wonderful life on the ranch.
But you taste yummy and thus I couldn't spare you.
In you go!




Oh the glorious addition of cheese.  It's necessary.




SO very necessary.




Now let the flavors mingle and the stoup thicken (about 5 min). 
While it's getting ready, prepare your toppings.

Chop up some fresh cilantro and cut a few lime wedges.
I adore lime. 
Lime and I are forever friends, we met while I was pregnant and we've never looked back.



Your chowder should now be nice and thick. 
Pour yourself a heaping bowl, top with gobs of extra cheese, cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Go ahead and cut a few generous hunks of homemade bread and enjoy your flavorful meal.




This one, however, is for my husband.

And, like me, he doesn't share.
We work well together.  Unless it's the last bowl of chowder.
Then it's an all-out brawl.
But I'm sneaky and always hide some in the back of the fridge.
Shhh, don't tell.


Sunday morning bliss.

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Now I know I promised posts on stoup and stoup alone this week but I have to pause for an intermission of sorts.

Don't get cranky.  Be patient.

Patience is a virtue, you know.  One that I very often don't have but we'll just pretend I do today.

Because it's Sunday morning.

What, on this earth, really, is better than lazy Sunday mornings?

Nothing. 

So yes, a little pause in the stoup action to share something delightfully "Sunday" with you.

These ooey gooey lovelies:



Yes, cinnamon rolls. 



Now, I realize that one on the bottom right looks a little out-of-sorts.  But really, aren't we all a little off-kilter at 5:30 in the morning?  Because that's what time these babies arose. 

Literally.

And Mr. Lower-right-corner just not a morning person.

Don't judge him.

These bad boys were leftover from my last bread-making escapade.  I felt they needed to make an appearance today.  It just seemed right.




My husband agreed wholeheartedly.




Now really, don't you wish it were Sunday every morning?

I know I do.




Have a lazy day.

Tale of Two Chowders: Day 1

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As the title implies, I will be sharing a few creamy stoups with you over the course of two posts. 

If you're wondering why I refer to "soups" as "stoups" you quite obviously haven't read my previous post and for that you should be ashamed.  Very ashamed.  Do so immediately.  Harumph.

Now let's dive in to today's hearty blend of goodness...

First up:  Whatever-ya-got Veggie Chowder

Now this light-but-rich (oxymoron?  not quite...you'll see) stoup is not only delicious, but healthy and cost-effective.  What?  Another cheap, easy, tasty, and healthy dish?

Yes, yes, I'm all about debunking preconceived notions.
And defying odds.
Watch out world.

So, yes, this stoup is all of the above and more.  It's also extremely versatile and entails digging in the innards of your fridge to find those random lonely veggies that might be on the verge of death.

Revive them!

Truly.  We all have those getting-a-little-droopy celery stalks or carrots that are starting to become a little too dry, or quite possibly that lonely parsnip that didn't make it into the meal with his friends.  Oh, please, give that poor parsnip a purpose, a reason to live.  Just call this dish group therapy for long-forgotten produce.

Trust me, this chowder will bring out their innermost demons, revive their souls, and bring them happiness once again.  Or you happiness, rather, since you'll be the one eating them.

On second thought, don't mention to your veggies that their rehab process will end in death. 

Actually, on third thought, if you are talking to your vegetables maybe you need rehab. 

Er, I never do that sort of thing.

Moving on.

This chowder is one of my favorites because there really is not defined recipe.  There are basics.  I use a few cups of whatever veggies happen to be hanging out in my fridge.  I chop up any fresh herbs remaining after other meals.  I use the remnants of whatever cheese happens to be chilling out in my freezer.  I use whatever milk, 2%, skim, or otherwise I have on hand.

Like I said, very versatile. 

It's one of those meals I pulled together randomly one day and...well, it worked.

And worked well.  Unbelievably well.

So well that it's become a go-to. 

I enjoy those sort of culinary surprises.  Don't you?

Let's get started. 

First things first, the recipe:

Note:  Keep in mind that any of these ingredients are up for swapping.  Like I said above, these are just what happened to be in my fridge that day--make your own concoctions!  It's a blast to see what arises from the rubble and remnants...

Whatever-ya-got Veggie Chowder

½ C chopped yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 Tbsp butter, melted
3 C favorite veggies (celery, cauliflower, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, spinach, etc)
4 Tbsp flour
2 ½ C chicken or veggie broth/stock
2 tsp salt or celery salt
1 ½ tsp thyme
½ tsp ground dry mustard
freshly ground pepper 
2 C milk (I like using a blend of 2% milk and half & half, but use whatever you like--the more fat content, the creamier and richer the broth, but if you are worried about calories feel free to use skim--the flavor isn't sacrificed too much).
1 tsp worcestershire
1 C whatever cheese you have
1 can white cannellini beans (or whatever bean you have)
2/3 C frozen peas
fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)
freshly grated parmesan (for topping)

1. Chop veggies into bite-sized pieces and mince garlic cloves. 
2. Melt butter in soup pot over medium-low heat.  Once melted, add veggies/garlic all at once, saute until tender
3. Once veggies are tender (3-4min), add flour and stir until veggies are coated.  Add broth, thyme, dry mustard, salt & pepper.  Let mixture thicken 3-4 minutes, stirring often.
4.  Once mixture has thickened, slowly add milk.  Cook a touch longer (2-3 min) then blend in Worcestershire, beans, peas, and cheese.  Let simmer until thick and cheese is melted (8-10min).
5. Garnish with chopped, fresh parsley, grated parmesan, and serve with a good crusty piece of bread.

Like I said, super easy and healthful.  Here are the ingredients I chose to work with:



Notice the lonely parsnip leftover from a Ladies' Night long ago, a few random carrots/celery, cauliflower (which I LOVE to use in place of potatoes in any dish--more fiber, less carbs than white potatoes and oh-so-filling).




Oh be still my heart.  I love me some veggies.

Anyway, melt the buttahh.  This is got to be, by far, one of my favorite smells (aside from freshly baked bread and chocolate chip cookies), the slow and steady simmer of butter.  Add to it a little garlic & onion and I'm in aroma heaven.




Now I chose to do 3 Tbsp butter, and 2 Tbsp olive oil to get those healthier fats but you do what you think is best.  If you want to go ahead and use all butter--I say GO FOR IT! 
I'm not one to judge.  Especially when it comes to butter.
Unless you use margarine.  Then I will judge. 
Just don't tell me about it.

Chop up those veggies.  See, don't they look all nice and merry together?  You are giving them hope for tomorrow, a better life.  They were drowning in a slow depression in that fridge crisper.



Now drop those guys into the pot.




Oh look, they are happier already. 
Add your flour, stir to coat, and then add the liquids/herbs/seasonings:




Once blended and beginning to thicken, slowly add milk:




Continue to stir often as the mixture thickens.  You don't want to burn it.  Burned milk/cream is horrid.
Please don't do this.

Now dig around in your fridge for whatever cheese you have.  This is what I happened to find:



About a cup will do.  Unless you want more.  If you want more, dump more, baby.
I love cheese.  It's a glorious thing, cheese.
As you can see, me and cholesterol get along.  Which likely defies the whole purpose in writing this blog. 
But like I always say, everything in moderation! 
It's my motto.



Lastly, add some beans.  Beans always make a soup that-much-better (and healthier) in my opinion.
Fiber and protein.




Rinse and dump them in.

Oh take a gander at that thick, bubbly goodness. 




Really, take a look:




Ahhhh, the smell is fabulous.  Now add your peas (if you so choose).  Mine were quite obviously in cavernous depths of my freezer (notice the freezer-burn).  Oh well.  Like I said, this is group-therapy, they will revive themselves.  Sorry about the smokiness of the photo--that pot was a-simmerin'!




Now chop up some fresh parsley.  I adore parsley.  It makes everything taste a bit more fresh & flavorful.  I often throw a little on top of soups and pasta dishes. 




Looks ready for eatin'!



Grab yourself the butt-end of a hearty baguette, my favorite part as a matter-of-fact.
No comments, please.
Grabbing a large bowl, top your stoup with the parsley, and freshly grated parmesan.



Oh me-oh my.  It's simply perfect.  Perfect for a chilly, icy, holed-in day.
Or for a summer evening.
Or for a snack.
Or for anything, really.  I don't need an excuse.





And, and, and...the best thing about stoups is the leftovers.  I always make loads more than I need so I can freeze the rest.  It's far better the second and third and fourth time around, as the flavors mingle and get cozy.



So, please, I beg you, give hope to your downtrodden vegetables.
Give them a reason to live.
Revive their souls.

And satisfy yours...

Aunt Janet's Vegetarian Chili

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I'm dedicating the next few posts to the wonderful world of soup.

However, I'm not a fan of the word "soup." It seems so...well, soupy.

The noun itself sounds meak and needy. And why shouldn't it? Soup is what we go to when we are feeble, when we need liquids, not solids, when we can't hold down substance or flavor--when we feel like vomiting.

Sorry, didn't mean to get graphic there.

But really, who would want to eat "souuuup" on a regular basis?

Yuck, not me.

However I LOVE it. And thus have begun to use Rachael Ray's clever word, Stoup, because it encapsulates a little more umph, a lot more flavor, that extra muscle the loathesome noun craves. "Stoup" isn't as hearty and dense as a stew, yet substantial enough to make the meal sound appealing.
Yes, stoup will do just fine.

So, I will refer to each of the following concotions as such, because, well...soup just doesn't cut it.

In addition to being stick-to-your-ribs yummy. Stoup is also one of the easiest, most economical ways to cook for a large group of people, or for your little family--thus retaining leftovers. In fact, I make a big batch of at least one stoup per week. Last week's stoup will be revealed in the next post. I do this for multiple reasons, but one of those being it's a quick, simple way for me to have an instant meal, on hand, when I don't feel like cooking. And yes, there are many nights where I just don't feel like it.

Shocking, I know. I'm human. I never said I was Martha, people.

Not only does stoup save time, it saves money.  Stoup utilizes a small amount of meat, and a larger amount of cost-effective goods (legumes, vegetables). I very often add beans in place of meat/chicken for the extra protein and fiber. However, since my husband is of the need-at-least-some-meat-to-survive sort I often throw a little shredded chicken or stew beef chunks in there to appease his mind. It's the best of both worlds. He gets a bit of meat (which he likes) with a lot of veggies (which I like).
A very compatible meal, indeed.

Today's stoup hails from the wonderful town of New Paltz. Remember it? Please say you do, I dedicated
two hours of my life sharing, drafting, editing, and revealing this beautiful village to you last week.

Anytime I devote two hours of my busy, time-is-of-the-essence life to something you better darn well know it must be good.

And New Paltz is. And so is this stoup.

I partook (is that a word?) in this delightful dish while visiting. Aunt Janet and Uncle Jim are vegetarians in the strictest sense. In fact, many New Paltzians are herbivores, not a wan breed of tofu-ians, but rather vegetable extraordinaires who are passionate about the potential of soil and seed. Remember the sprout man?:



Really, it's a calling.

Thus, Janet and Jim have lived their lives creating fabulous meals from a variety of seasonal, hearty, sustainable
produce. So when Janet mentioned we'd be having her vegetarian chili the first evening of my stay, I was absolutely thrilled.

Like, pee-my-pants thrilled. Yes, I tend to overly enjoy my veggies--that, or I drink too much coffee.

Anyway.

I anxiously awaited the meal, giddy with excitement at what it might entail (she didn't reveal any details until
the dinner itself)...it was a looooong few hours. Not to mention the smells coming out of the kitchen. I nearly
couldn't contain myself. And then, out she came:



And, Oh. My. Word.

Loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Have I mentioned I LOVED it?

I very nearly kissed the pot. But that would have been weird and I'm not like that.

Ahem.

I was very nearly about to ask for a bowl to start dishing (and devouring) but noticed Uncle Jim passing out plates instead.

What? Plates? Doesn't chili involve bowls?



Not in this family, apparently.

Check out this festive tableware:






No, siree. We put that hearty blend of deliciousness (is that a word? It should be) over rice and topped with just about anything and everything that you might imagine. Think, sour cream, fresh greens, guacamole, salsa, cheese...oh my. Have I ever shared my love affair with cheese? I'm certain that obsession is bound to rear it's ugly head in the near future.   Just wait for it.

Anyway, this stuff was good. Lacking in nothing. Meat? Who the heck needs it.  Really.

Aunt Janet's Vegetarian Chili

1-3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 medium white onions, diced
2-4 Cloves garlic, minced
1 Cup diced peppers – red, yellow, green
1-2 Cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
4-5 Cups Tomato Sauce
½ Cup assorted sliced mushrooms
1-2 Cups assorted other veggies of your choice (spinach, chopped carrots, etc)
4 Cups of cooked black beans
1-2 Cups cooked kidney beans
1 Cup garbanzo beans
2 Cups refried black beans
2-3 Cups of your choice of Textured Protein (aka vegan ground protein, found at your local organic foods store)
Suggested spices: chili powder, cumin, cayenne, garlic and onion, dash of cinnamon, lime (use at your own discretion, or, if you want to save time/energy, you can use 1-2 packets taco seasoning).

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In a large pot with lid, sauté diced onions, garlic, pepper, corn, mushrooms, other veggies of choice and textured protein in a few teaspoons of olive oil. Once the onions and veggies are glistening but still crisp, add about a cup of tomato sauce, stir and continue to simmer another 5-10 minutes. Then stir in cooked beans, corn, spices and continue to heat on lowest heat for another 10 minutes. If you like your chili thicker, add more beans. If you want it less thick, add more tomato sauce.  Stir often to avoid sticking.
3. When ingredients seem well mixed and at your favorite consistency, pour or scoop all ingredients into a large baking dish. (I prefer round and use my old ceramic crock pot).  Place in preheated oven 20 min or so to marry the ingredients.  Serve over brown or basmati rice with a variety of toppings. Spritz lime over the whole mixture.

Note:  If you plan to serve the next day (it tastes fabulous the longer it sits!), take out of the oven after ½ hour and let cool, then refrigerate overnight. The next day, un-refrigerate about ½ hour. While the chili is adjusting from refrigerator to room temperature, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake for another 30-45 minutes until hot. Check and stir after 30 minutes to see if the chili is at a uniformed temperature you want.

Other thoughts from Janet: The extra veggies and how one spices depends on the taste of you and your guests. I prefer very little oil, lots of garlic, heavy on the cumin and enough cayenne so that the chili has a kick to it. Some folks do not like the taste of onion coming through nor do they like mushrooms. Some folks like it more or less spicy and more or less garlic-y.

Go make yourself some. It will change your life. Or maybe, quite possibly, change you into veggiophile.

Yes, that's my own adjective. Shakespeare created words, as does Rachael Ray, why can't I?

I don't see why not.

Did you know "EVOO" is now in the dictionary?  Just sayin', people.  You too can be famous.

Go enjoy yourself some produce. And stoup.  And make up some words while you're at it.

I'm all about cheap thrills.