“Homemade” Pumpkin Muffins, Compliments of Trader Joe’s

So I’m a week late for Halloween, but guess what’s right around the corner? You bet…it’s the Holiday season for sure. And man oh man do I have a short cut for you. Do you or your family enjoy pumpkin muffins/bread? This is THE best and easiest combination ever. And if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s in your hood, well guess where you can secure the mix…that’s right, from the Bezos machine. Quite convenient. Truthfully, it will delight you. I’m all about short cuts, and this is THE best one ever! Knock yourself out and enjoy!

All you need is:
1 box Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix
Eggs
Water
Oil
Brown Sugar as a Bonus Mix ingredient.
Bake according to instructions.
Sprinkle with brown sugar immediately upon removing from oven.

Cheese & Jalapeño Sour Cream Muffins

This is what you’ll need to create these treats:

Cooking spray
3/4 cup fine corn meal
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
3 Tbs light sour cream
3 Tbs canola oil
2 eggs
3 Tbs chopped jalapeños
3/4 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.
Lightly coat 8 muffin tins with cooking spray
Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in large bowl.
In separate bowl, whisk together sour cream, oil, and eggs.
Add sour cream mixture to cornmeal mixture, stirring until just combined.
Fold in jalapeños and cheese.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes until golden.
Insert knife or pick in center to test for doneness.
About 150 calories per muffin.

I was in Cabo when I concocted these little nuggets of a muffin, taking full advantage of the abundance of jalapeños. Fun fact: jalapeños account for thirty percent of Mexico’s chili production. I snapped the above left photo at the end of the day when they were freshly baked and the sun was streaming dreamily in through the living room window. The next day we pulled out the preserves and enjoyed brunch with the muffins reheated, along with Donaldo’s delicious version of Huevos Rancheros, where flavors comingle in the best imaginable way.

Donaldo is his Cabo name, assigned by the Diamante caddies. He is on those golf courses when not in the kitchen with his skillet in hand! Go on, send your taste buds on holiday.

Halloumi Za’atar Grilled Toast

Yummmmm…za’atar, that delicious Middle Eastern herb seasoning. I was first introduced to this seasoning at the Old Spice Souk in Dubai. The year was 2013 and we took an abra across Dubai Creek where a purveyor invited me to smell it. Then he sprinkled it on a slice of grilled halloumi and I was hooked for life. Join me on this journey half way ’round the world! This halloumi toast is terrific cut into small squares for an appetizer, or halve the whole piece of toast and serve it for brunch.

4 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs minced fresh parsley
1 Tbs minced fresh oregano
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbs Za’atar seasoning
1/2 t ground pepper
8 oz halloumi cheese, sliced into 3/4” slices
4 slices hearty sourdough or strong wheat bread
1 clove garlic, halved
1 cup microgreens

Whisk together olive oil, parsley, oregano, lemon juice, za’atar, and pepper.
Brush both sides of halloumi and bread with oil mixture.
Grill halloumi and bread on both sides until charred, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Rub one side of bread with garlic.
Top toasts with halloumi.
Drizzle with remaining oil mixture.
Sprinkle with lemon zest and micro greens.
Serves 8 for appetizers or 4 for brunch.

To the left is pictured a brunch serving of this wonderful toast, cut on the diagonal. I added bean sprouts, and pink salt to jazz it up a bit.

Baked Spaghetti Squash

Canyon Ranch, be still my heart, soul, and body. I would like to write you a love letter, because you provided so much positive assistance to me; alas, I pause…sort of! I have a series of recipes based on my Ranch experience. They cook with uncommon creativity, making everything healthy and tasty. I’m revealing secrets from the premier health institute in the USA. Enjoy. This is a national treasure and I’m certain that this recipe (and more shortly) will become a staple on your spreadsheet. Hit the pause button and enjoy. Sending love, good health, and lots of happiness!

Medium spaghetti squash
Pinch salt
Pinch black pepper
Baking spray to prep baking sheet

Images: Top Left ~ Whole Spaghetti Squash – Top Right ~ Top half seeded, bottom half, not!
Lower Left ~ Face down on cooking sheet – Lower Right ~ Straight out of the oven

Preheat oven to 375°.
Spray baking sheet with small amount of canola oil.
Cut spaghetti squash in half.
Scoop out seeds.
Place cut side down on baking sheet.
Bake 45 minutes or until soft.
Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Shred squash with a fork into a bowl.
Makes 6 one cup servings.
35 cal per serving.

I add this baked version to a salad for extra flavor and fiber.
I really love this plain, warm out of the oven, room temp, or chilled.
The “add ons” can enhance the flavor if so desired.
You may add spaghetti sauce, maple syrup, Parmesan cheese, or top up a sandwich if you’re in the mood, just for extra fun. Pictured below is the squash topped with my homemade tomato sauce, along side a sculpture from my private collection by Jeff Kiefer.

The Rooms Where Life and Art Happen

The new issue of Veranda magazine arrived yesterday with the cover story titled “Living with Art” and that reminded me that it was time to make an art post. Their inspiration was the following quote from Henri Matisse, huge in my admiration pool of artists. “Art should be something like a good armchair in which to rest from physical fatigue.” The painting that inspired them is titled Large Red Interior, currently on view at the MoMA in NYC. It made me think of my own Matisse replica, Still Life with Sleeping Woman, that I purchased from the gift shop at The National Gallery way back in the late 1980’s. I was a young mother at the time, and it reflected perfectly how I often felt at the end of the day. It has been a staple on my desk for all of these years; now it inspires me to pick up my head and get on with the tasks at hand!

I have a deep appreciation for my collection of original art (more on that soon), but two rooms in my home feature replicas as well…the Matisse plaque in my kitchen, and the living room TV screen saver featuring an image of Gustav Klimt’s Fulfillment. I’m slightly obsessed with Klimt! I’m beyond thrilled to be attending the inaugural exhibition at the new Hall des Lumieres in NYC next month, titled Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion. Follow the link and check out this new exhibition space featuring immersive art exhibitions in a digital art center. It is housed in the historical former Emigrants Industrial Savings Bank. This is brought to North America from Culturespaces, France’s leading private manager of museums and cultural heritage sites. This is certain to be one for the memory bank!

Mexican Succotash

The original succotash was introduced by American Indians in the 1600’s. The name was derived from the Narragansett Indian word msickqqustash, meaning boiled corn. I’m not quite certain what they call it in Cabo, but corn is an obvious staple of Mexico; so, here we go! Last month at Diamante, the posse and I enjoyed poolside time, strict studying and taking notes while “reading” Audible books, the occasional margarita, wild golf cart rides around the property, and then back to the villa for cooking dinner. This is one sweet and spicey version of succotash that we concocted. It may be served warm, room temp, or even chilled…your choice! Take a look! PS. We served it with a grilled shrimp, and lime and honey fruit. That’s coming to you tomorrow right here! Stay tuned.

1 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 t butter
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
3/4 t salt
3/4 cup diced red pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced jalapeño pepper
1 Tbs minced garlic
1/2 cup diced fresh tomato
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t cracked black pepper
Pinch cayenne
1 cup green beans, cut on bias in 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup water
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 cup cooked fresh or frozen baby lima beans (thawed)

Heat oil and butter in skillet over medium heat.
Add onion and salt.
Cook stirring until onion is golden and soft, about 6 minutes.
Add pepper, Jalapeño, and garlic.
Cook until peppers are soft, about 3 minutes.
Add tomatoes, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne.
Cook and stir until heated through, about 1 minute.
Add green beans, water and 1/4 t salt.
Cook 4 minutes.
Add corn and lima beans. Cook, stirring for 3 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.

2/3 cup serving is 140 calories.


Soup Freezing = Healing Energy

Sup Dog!?? My cool collegiate city has an infamous beer and hot dog spot by that very name. But my pups aren’t fans of hot dogs. They love it best when I’m prepping soups for the sweater weather ahead. They hang out quite closely in the kitchen, waiting for the accidental chicken drop! We all know food feeds the body, but I happen to fully believe that it feeds our essence as well. Perhaps that’s why my favorite meal is always warm soup. To me, it helps calm, fight stress, and heal emotional wounds, and makes the common cold feel more tolerable as well! Somewhere a fork salesman weeps, and a spoon salesman cartwheels! Any time is a great time for my homemade Brunswick Stew.

Breast meat of 1 roasted chicken, chopped
1 lb cooked, chopped pork tenderloin*
2 cups low fat, low sodium chicken broth         
1 1/2 cups frozen lima beans
1 1/2 cup frozen white corn
14 oz can diced tomatoes        
10 oz can Rotel     
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs basil (in tube)
*May use purchased fresh BBQ for ease if desired

Bring chicken broth to a boil.
Add lima beans and corn.
Cover and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Add tomatoes and Rotel (both undrained), Worcestershire and basil.
Stir and cook 5 minutes.
Add chopped chicken and pork
Stir well to combine all.
Cook covered on medium low for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
Serves 8.
Appx 350 for cup and a half serving.

Potatas Bravas

Back, oh, a decade or so ago, Brenton fell in love with the lifestyle and cuisine of Southern Spain. Upon her return to the grand USofA, we experimented with numerous recipes, based on her taste bud memories. One of our favorites, and a routine “go to” even in this decade is the Potato Frittata. It’s all about gaming your brain with a delicious amount of starch…and while we have you dancing around in that head of yours, here’s another starchy option, appetizer style, served all fancy! Here are the particulars!

Olive oil
2 diced plum tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t paprika
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed

Cook tomatoes in olive oil until softened, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add garlic, thyme, paprika, and pepper flakes.
Cook 3 to 4 more minutes.
In separate skillet, cook potatoes in olive oil until tender and golden, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Drain on paper towels.
Sprinkle with salt.
Serve in spoons over tomato sauce.
Drizzle with “aioli” sauce.

Sauce:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
In medium bowl, whisk together all three ingredients until well combined.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
Makes 20 spoons.

Baha Peninsula Artichoke Appetizer

I Know I Know I Know…Cabo Stories are becoming a bit nonplussed; however, to know me is to know that I love our Diamante villa in Cabo. You may find it odd that I am a very pale, natural blond, 66 year old Grand. That is to say that I don’t sit in the sun; but I am all about being out there in the pool with the fam and friends, 50+ sunscreen, most of the time in long sleeve SPF shirts, soaking up the fun. In the interim, I’m all about dreaming up new manners in which to cook our favorite bites when we gather around the dinner table! The Baha Peninsula is known for many, many things, one of which is growing artichokes. The baby ones are the best, most tender, and just yummy. So, we enjoyed them, a lot!

Above, from left: the don is mixing the cheeses. ~ the Cabo Grocery Girls couldn’t find wonton wrappers while stocking our kitchen, so…improvise. I used the Diamante Market pizza dough instead; and with no rolling pin, enter the empty Ciroc bottle to roll the dough (yes my arms did get some sun that day!). ~ Improvising again, with no cookie cutter, hello glass to cut the rounds of dough to fit into the muffin tin. Check out the results below!

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 t garlic powder
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup water packed baby artichokes, drained and chopped
24 wonton wrappers
Chopped fresh chives for garnish
Mini muffin tin

In mixing bowl, combine Parmesan, mayonnaise, and garlic powder.
Mix well.
Stir in Monterey Jack and artichokes.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Spray 2 mini muffin tin pans with nonstick spray.
Press one wonton wrapper into each small muffin cup.
Bake 5 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.
Fill each cup with artichoke mixture.
Bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes…but keep your eye on it!
Garnish with chives and serve warm.

Cinnamon Bread Pinwheels

Hellodie Hellodie and Happy Hump da Hump Day! Each post that involves my grands is especially fun for me, so come on and get happy! They may seem to be bouncing off the walls sometimes, but they’re just being children; so hold on to the magic…they grow up fast! And now, here’s a little show and tell. May your cookie jar never be empty!

4 slices cinnamon raison bread
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
4 long hors d’oeuvres picks

Cut the crust off each piece of bread, keeping it totally intact.
Start at one end of each piece of bread crust and roll it up, creating 4 pinwheels.
Secure each pinwheel with a pick.
Melt butter, sugar, and cinnamon in skillet, stirring to combine.
Add pinwheels to skillet and allow to toast about a minute per side.
Remove from skillet onto plate and allow pinwheels to cool and crispen.