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Orange Cranberry Muffins

To make these muffins you need to find sun-dried cranberries, not the fresh ones sold for cranberry sauce. The dried berries, like raisins, make a nice snack all by themselves, and they are a great addition to cookies, muffins, and sweetbreads. Combining them with orange juice makes for a festive muffin, something you might want to serve for breakfast on Christmas morning; if you have the right muffin tin, you can also make little one-inch muffins to serve with big roast beef or turkey dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. low sodium baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3 tbsps. vegetable oil
  • 4 tbsps. honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup orange juice

Directions: Put the cranberries in a small bowl, cover them with water and allow them to soak until softened (at least an hour; more if possible). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flours, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl. Combine the oil, honey, eggs and orange juice and stir to blend. Add the cranberries and the water in which they have soaked and stir. Pour this mixture over the flour mixture and stir gently only until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon the mixture into cups of a muffin tin lightly greased with butter, oil or vegetable shortening; the cups should be nearly full. Bake on the middle rack of the oven until a toothpick or knife blade inserted in a muffin comes out clean; this should take about 15 minutes. Turn the muffins out onto a rack to cool a bit before serving.

Couscous Salad with Carrots and Raisins

Cool couscous creates the basis for a hearty salad to serve as a side dish or a vegetarian main course.

Ingredients:

  • 1 10-oz. box quick-cooking couscous prepared according to directions, omitting salt.
  • 3 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 cup yellow raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsps. olive oil1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Directions: Allow the couscous to cool off completely, then add the carrots, raisins, parsley and red onion and toss to distribute. Sprinkle with the oil and vinegar and toss again. If the salad seems too dry, add a bit more oil and vinegar.

Spinach Salad with Cranberries and Pine Nuts

The cranberries and toasted pine nuts add flavor that elevates spinach to a memorable plane.

Ingredients:

  • 4 to 6 cups fresh spinach washed
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts

Directions: Rinse and dry the spinach and add to a large salad bowl. Heat a skillet to medium heat and add the pine nuts. Cook, shaking and stirring, for several minutes, until the nuts begin to brown. Remove the nuts from the skillet and add to the greens, followed by the cranberries and toss to distribute. Combine 1/2 cup of oil, vinegar, and pepper in a bowl and stir vigorously to combine. Pour this mixture over the salad and toss; then sprinkle with the sprouts.

Salad with Tomatoes, Chick Peas and Mozzarella

This hearty, tasty salad is a meal in itself and makes a great contribution to a church or community pot luck dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups seeded, diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup peeled, diced (1/2 – inch pieces) cucumber
  • 2 cups diced (1/2-inch pieces) salt-free mozzarella cheese
  • 1 15-oz. can salt-free chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup flat parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon

Directions: Combine the tomatoes, cucumber, mozzarella cheese, chickpeas and parsley leaves in a bowl and toss until all the ingredients are well distributed. Combine the oil, vinegar, chili powder, garlic, and pepper in a separate bowl and stir until well blended. Pour this mixture over the tomato mixture and toss again. Sprinkle with a bit more black pepper and lemon juice. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand for at least half an hour before serving.

Pork Loin Roasted in Molasses and Orange Juice

Here is a pork roast with a touch of the Caribbean, a bit sweet and deeply flavorful. At a recent dinner party, it was a smash hit.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pork loins, trimmed and tied for roasting, about 2 pounds
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt-free curry powder
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water

Directions: Rinse the pork loin in cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Combine the molasses, orange juice, vinegar, ginger, cumin, cayenne pepper, curry powder and black pepper in a bowl and stir to combine. Arrange the pork loins in a shallow ovenproof baking dish. Pour the molasses – orange juice mixture over them, turning them so that they are completely coated with it. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate for at least an hour. (Refrigerate if longer than an hour.)Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Add the chopped onion to the dish, distributing it evenly around the meat. Place on the middle rack of the oven. Cook for 45 minutes, until the meat, is cooked through (a temperature of 160 degrees on a thermometer stuck into the center of the roast). To serve, slice the meat from the end of the roast, arrange the slices on a platter and pour the juices from the pan over them.

Carrot Salad with Cilantro

A great combination of flavors turns the humble carrot into something special.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups carrots peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt-free curry powder
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion for garnish

Directions: Combine the carrot and cilantro in a large bowl and stir so that the cilantro is evenly distributed. In a small bowl, stir together the oil, lemon juice, curry powder and pepper. Pour this mixture over the carrots and stir to blend. Sprinkle the grated onion over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand for at least 1/2 an hour before serving.

Acorn Squash

Honey and allspice bring out the sweetness of this autumn favorite, a natural holiday tradition.

Ingredients:

  • 2 acorn squash
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 thin slices of unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise (from stem to tip) and remove the seeds and stringy pulp from the centers of the two halves. Place the halves on a baking sheet, flesh side up. Spread 1 tsp. of honey on each piece of squash, followed by grinding of pepper, two slices of butter a pinch of allspice. Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the squash gets very soft and begins to brown. This should take about 45 minutes to an hour. Allow the squash to cool slightly before serving.

A Sophisticated Chocolate Chip Cookie

The chocolate chip, or “toll house” cookie enjoys an honorable if mundane, reputation as after school snack and contribution to the church coffee hour. Here is a version presentable enough for the most sophisticated social event, given luxurious Valrhona chocolate and the subtleties of crushed nuts.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. low sodium baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 3.5 oz. bar Valrhona bittersweet chocolate or 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate bits

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cream the butter and add the sugars, beating until thoroughly mixed. Stir in the egg and vanilla. Spread the nuts between two sheets of waxed paper and roll with a rolling pin until they are crushed to a powder (or you can use a food processor to get the same result). Add the crushed nuts to the butter-sugar mixture. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon and stir them into the moist ingredients. Break the chocolate bar into small pieces and add them to the dough, stirring until they are well distributed.

Use a teaspoon to drop lumps of dough the size of walnuts onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Leave space between them so that they won’t run together as they spread out. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until edges are brown.

Risotto

Use arborio rice, a delicious large-grained Italian variety, for this tasty dish. You’ll find it in on the rice shelf of most supermarkets.

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 shallot finely chopped
  • 4 cups of low sodium chicken stock, store bought or homemade 
  • 3 garlic cloves, whole
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 6 medium mushrooms
  • freshly ground pepper

Directions: Put the butter, garlic, shallot, and mushrooms into a deep pot and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or so. Add the rice and 2 cups of the stock and stir to combine. As the stock cooks down add a cup at a time of the remaining stock until the rice is done. This will take about 30 minutes. When the rice is cooked, add the cheese and stir until smooth. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Lemon and Rosemary

Using breasts with the bones in and roasting them for a while produced a dish with unusually deep flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts, bones in
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary leaves
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil as needed

Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the breasts onto an ovenproof roasting pan or baking dish greased lightly with olive oil, arranging them skin side up. Season each breast with lemon juice, followed by rosemary leaves and black pepper. Then place 1/2 a tablespoon of butter on top of each breast. Place on the middle rack of the oven and roast, uncovered, until the breasts are cooked through; this should take 45 minutes.