Chocolate Chips Cookies — Yeah

I don’t know many people who don’t like chocolate chip cookies. It’s probably my grandson’s favorite cookie. He’s lucky because just about every time my mom makes some, she’ll fix up a bag for him. And my wife also is known to dabble in chocolate chips.

If you didn’t know, October is National Cookie Month. And to celebrate, Mrs. Fields has proclaimed today (Oct. 1) as its First Annual Free Cookie Day. Mrs. Fields baked its first batch of chocolate chip cookies more than 30 years ago, and this year, pays homage to the classic chocolate chip cookie and National Cookie Month with a nationwide free giveaway.

To kick off the festivities, participating Mrs. Fields stores will give away a free chocolate chip cookie to each customer today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The closest store to Grand Forks is in West Acres in Fargo. Throughout the month, Mrs. Fields stores will offer more deals and treats at its stores.

I know a lot of your are saying, shucks, it’s too bad we don’t have a Mrs. Fields store closer to us. But you know what, I bet your homemade chocolate chips are as good or better than anything you can buy.

We probably all have our favorite chocolate chip recipe (probably our mom’s), but it’s always nice to try something new. Here’s a recipe from the Mirepoix Cooking School in  Royal Oak, Mich., that might be worth a try.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2¼ cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup sugar
1¼ cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons 2 percent milk
1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips
In a heavy-bottom saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda and set aside.
Add the sugar and brown sugar to the melted butter and cream on medium speed, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and egg yolk, milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Chill the dough about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop the dough onto the baking sheet. For large cookies, place 6 cookies per sheet.
Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Remove from oven and cool 1 minute on the sheet. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
Yield: About 30 cookies
Approximate nutritional analysis per cooke: 192 calories (46 percent from fat), 10 grams fat (6 grams saturated fat), 25 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 87 milligrams sodium, 30 milligrams cholesterol, 17 milligrams calcium, 1 gram fiber.

Stuffed Peppers with a Twist

People aren’t born being good cooks. That comes with a lot of practice. And it starts with the little things. For me, I think, it was making that first fried egg sandwich. After that, I knew anything was possible.

But I believe the biggest reason for my success, besides loving to cook, is a penchant for not being afraid to try something new. Sure, I have a lot of favorites that we have on a weekly basis. But I like to throw in a new recipe at least once or twice every week or two.

Sometimes, that means just changing one or two of the ingredients in an old standby. For example, now when making stuffed grape leaves or cabbage rolls, I like to use brown rice instead of white. I do this not only because of the nutritional value of the brown rice but also its taste.

Another example is mashed potatoes and mashed rutabagas. I always loved them separately, but now my favorite way to have them is mixed together, in the same pot.

Speaking of the brown rice, my next venture with it is going to be in stuffed bell peppers. Not only did we get several nice green ones from one of Therese’s co-workers, Holly Cronquist, I have quite a few in my own garden, including about six or eight nice red ones.

So, of course, I’ve been looking for new recipes for stuffed peppers to try, and in one of my searches, came across the following that has one of the most unusual combinations. Not only do the stuffed peppers contain onion, potato, cabbage and nuts assertively seasoned with spices and cheese, they’re also cooked on the grill.

The recipe comes from barbecue guru Steven Raichlen and can be found in "The Barbecue Bible." One of the peppers looks like a meal in itself.

Stuffed Tandoori Peppers
4 large green, red or yellow bell peppers
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, one coarsley chopped, one minced
1 piece (1/3-inch long) fresh ginger root
½ teaspoon salt
1 onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon each: cumin seeds, ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
1/3 small head green cabbage, cored, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon raisins
8 cashews, coarsely chopped
1 large potato, peeled, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 tomato, chopped
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup grated Gouda or mild Cheddar cheese
Cut stem ends from peppers to form caps; set aside. Scrape veins and seeds from peppers with a spoon or melon baller; set peppers aside. Combine the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the oil, the coarsely chopped garlic, ginger and the salt in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Brush interiors of the peppers and caps with this mixture; set aside.
Prepare the grill for indirect grilling using high heat. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat on stovetop. Add the minced garlic, onion, cumin seeds, turmeric and red pepper. Cook until the onion just begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cabbage, raisins, cashews, potato and tomato. Cook 2 minutes; reduce heat to low. Cover; cook the vegetables until soft, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes. (Check after 10 minutes; if the vegetables look wet, uncover the pan for the last 5 minutes to evaporate excess liquid.) Stir in the cilantro; cook 1 minute. Stir in cheese; remove from heat.
Spoon the filling into the peppers; top with pepper caps. Place the peppers in the center of the hot grate away from the heat source. Cover grill; cook until the peppers are nicely browned and tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Place peppers directly over the flames to lightly char skins before removing from heat. Serve hot.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 305 calories, 46 percent calories from fat, 17 grams fat (4.2 grams saturated), 16 milligrams cholesterol, 430 milligrams sodium, 35 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 7 grams fiber.

Improvised Shrimp Creole

Many of you probably have heard the saying "improvisation is the mother of invention." It’s one of my favorites quotes, especially when it comes to cooking.

Just the other day, I was contemplating making something with shrimp, using a few fresh vegetables from my garden, namely sweet peppers, onions, tomatoes and okra. I had an idea about what it the outcome should look like and how it should taste but was unsure of how to go about it.

So, I reached into the cupboard and pulled down one of my favorite cookbooks, "America Cooks," and proceeded to the index, where my eyes came across a listing for shrimp Creole. The recipe contained some of the aforementioned vegetables but not all of them. It was then that I decided to do a little improvising.

The recipe did contain peppers, onions and tomatoes but not okra, which often is used as a thickening agent in gumbos and other New Orleans-type dishes. It called for flour instead. So, I decided to use the okra and a little less of the flour. I also substituted about a half-cup of tomato sauce for some of the tomatoes. And instead of white rice, I used brown, which is much healthier.

The result was one of my better creations, so I thought I would share it with readers.

Shrimp Creole
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 green pepper bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
½ cup sweet onion, finely diced
½ cup celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
16 ounces okra (can be frozen)
2 tablespoons flour
4 tomatoes, skins removed and chopped
½ cup tomato sauce
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Dash cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup fresh parsley
Put olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and saute peppers, onions, celery and garlic for 10 minutes. Add flour, okra and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add shrimp, sugar and parsley and cook just until shrimp is done, about 10 minutes. Serve over rice.


A friend of mine told me she and a group of her cronies are heading up to Park River, N.D., on Sunday (Sept. 27) for the 35th Annual Lutefisk and Meatball Dinner at the Park River Bible Camp. Also on the menu are potatoes, gravy, coleslaw, veggies, cranberries, lefse, rolls, dessert and coffee.

I told her that everything looked pretty good, with maybe the exception of the lutefisk. Granted, a lot of folks love lutefisk, but I can take it or leave it. Meatballs, on the other hand, are one of my favorite foods. I particularily like them with spaghetti, although the Swedish-type come in a close second.

My favorite meatball recipe is in one of two Dom DeLuise cookbooks that I have. His Mamma’s Meatballs are great.

I recently came stumbled upon the following meatball recipe, from another Italian, actor Danny DeVito, which has a couple of different twists. DeVito uses the ground sirloin and mixes it with water-soaked bread for a lighter and fluffier meatballs, he says.

P.S. I understand tickets are hard to come by for the bible camp fundraiser. So, if you’re planning on going, give a call to Mary Weltz in Park River at (701) 284-7030 or Wayne Nygard in Edinburg, N.D., at (701) 993-8580 to see if there still are tickets available.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
2 slices whole wheat bread
½ pound lean ground sirloin
2 medium garlic cloves, crushed
8 fresh sage leaves, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried sage)
½ cup frozen chopped onion
2 tablespoons raisins
1 large egg
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ cup pasta sauce
4 ounces spaghetti
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil.
Meanwhile, pour 1 cup water over bread and set aside. Place sirloin, garlic, sage, onion, raisins and egg in a bowl or food processor. Squeeze the bread dry and add it to the meat mixture; pulse or stir just to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Form into 4 balls.
Heat oil in a small nonstick skillet. Brown the meatballs on all sides, about 5 minutes. Mix pasta sauce with ¾ cup water and add to pan. Simmer 10 minutes, carefully turning the meatballs once.
Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in boiling water according to package instructions. Drain and divide between 2 plates. Top with meatballs and sauce.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 638 calories (27 percent from fat), 19.2 grams fat (4.4 grams saturated, 9.6 grams monounsaturated), 175 milligrams cholesterol, 39.4 grams protein, 76.2 grams carbohydrates, 6.5 grams fiber, 638 milligrams sodium.

Simple Salmon

I’ve become a pretty big fan of salmon over the past few years. Not only is it easy to prepare, it’s good for you — full of omega-3 fatty acids, the good fats that nutritionists say are heart-healthy.

Speaking of simple ways to fix salmon, the other night I cooked a couple of Coho fillets on the Foreman Grill. I bought the wild salmon fillets at a local supermarket and was quite pleased with the quality. And they cost only about $8 a pound.

I’m familiar with Cohos, which also are called silver salmon. My cousin, Paul Hendrickson, who lives in Anchorage, Alaska, over the years has given me silvers as well as Kings on occasion. Sometimes, I get them from his 90-year-old dad, Curt, who has gone to Alaska to fish just about every year in the past three decades.

All I did this time was marinate them in a little soy and teriyaki sauce along with some garlic powder for about three hours. Then, it was on the grill for just four to five minutes. The salmon went perfectly with some new potatoes and beans from my garden and some sliced cucumbers and tomatoes.

Sometimes, I like to bake my salmon in a Dutch oven with some onion, garlic and herbs in a little oil and wine and serve them with baked potatoes. Some people like to broil theirs, which is the method used in the following recipe, which salmon lovers may like to try.

Bourbon and Maple-Glazed Salmon Fillets
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon
4 (about 6 ounces each) salmon fillets with skin on
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable saute, optional (see note)
Rinse the fillets under cold water and pat dry.
In a small bowl combine the oil, Dijon, maple syrup and bourbon. Set aside half the glaze.
Place the salmon fillets in a shallow dish and brush with half the glaze. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and up to 3 hours before broiling.
Preheat the broiler to low. Coat a broiler pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place the salmon fillets on the pan, skin side down. Season with salt and pepper.
Broil for about 8 minutes. Brush with the reserved glaze and continue broiling, another 4 to 5 minutes depending on the thickness, until the salmon is just cooked through.
Remove the salmon by sliding a spatula between the flesh and skin, leaving the skin on the broiler pan.
Serve immediately with the vegetable saute if desired.
Note: To make the vegetable saute, clean and trim 2 cups fresh green beans. Cut the beans in half. Wash and cut 1 small zucchini into 1-inch pieces. Cut kernels from 1 large ear of fresh corn. In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil with 1 tablespoon butter. Add the beans and zucchini and saute 3 to 4 minutes or until just crisp-tender. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in the corn kernels just before serving.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 315 calories (44 percent from fat ), 15 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 8 grams carbohydrates, 35 grams protein, 360 milligrams sodium, 96 milligrams cholesterol, no fiber.

Walleye and Wild Rice

This morning, a friend at the gym, Roger Peterson, asked about how to cook trout. It seems someone gave him a rainbow — with head attached — and he was at a loss at what to do with it after his wife made queries about how to fix it.

I told him it was OK to cook the fish the way it was (with head on) and offered a couple of recipe suggestions.

He also told me about all of the walleye he had, and I suggested a walleye wild rice soup. Earlier this week, our outdoor editor, Brad Dokken, forwarded a recipe he received from for the soup. It looked delicious, and I thought my friend might like to try it. According to the folks at Winkelman, the soup is easy to freeze, too.

For those of you who would like to make the soup, here is the recipe, along with another for Wild Rice Crusted Walleye.

Walleye Wild Rice Soup
1 6-ounce box long grain and wild rice soup mix
1/3 cup flour
4 cups milk
1½ tablespoonsp butter
1 small onion (chopped)
16 ounces clam juice
1 cup heavy cream
1½ cups walleye filet cut into pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare rice soup according to directions on box. Meanwhile, stir together flour, salt pepper and a ½ cup milk until smooth, set aside. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until tender. Increase heat to medium and stir in clam juice, cream and remaining milk; heat to a boil. Add flour mixture stirring constantly. Let boil 1 minute. Add fish pieces and rice soup mixture cook until fish flakes.

Wild Rice Crusted Walleye
¼ cup oil (canola is preferred)
1 cup wild rice, hand-harvested and hand-parched
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
1 to 6 walleye fillets
3 tablespoons butter
Heat oil in a medium saute pan on medium heat (350 degrees). When the oil is hot, throw the wild rice in the oil and watch as it pops and roasts. Keep moving the rice in the pan to prevent burning. (Cultivated wild rice won’t pop; if using it, be especially careful that it doesn’t burn). Once all the rice has popped, within 2 to 3 minutes, lay the rice on paper towels to absorb some of the oil.
After the rice has cooled, put it in a coffee grinder and grind it to a fine paste or powder. Mix regular flour with salt and pepper. Add wild rice paste to flour mixture and blend.
Lightly coat each walleye fillet in the breading. Saute the walleye with clarified butter (slowly melted and the top foam removed) until golden brown.

Pork — the Other White Meat

I missed out on a pork dinner the other night at my mom’s. Both of my brothers were home for a visit, and she bought a pork roast to make, along with all the fixings. She extended an invitation, but previous plans made it impossible for us to attend. We did get a rain check, though.

When I was growing up, we used to have pork roast for Sunday dinner about once or twice a month. It was either that or fried chicken or roast beef. And, of course, there always was mashed potatoes and homemade gravy and often dressing.

These days, we’re not big pork eaters, although I still love the "other white meat." A few times a year, we have baby back pork ribs with sauerkraut and mashed spuds. And I always pick up 5 to 10 pounds of smoked bacon from a friend of mine in Westby, Mont., who raises and butchers his own pigs and makes bacon.

I also like the occasional pork chop, and the following recipe with mushrooms and zucchini is one that may have to be tucked away for future use.

Boneless Pork Chops with Mushroom and Zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 5-ounce boneless center-cut pork loin cutlets
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 medium onion, sliced
2 medium zucchini, diced
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Season pork cutlets with salt and pepper and place in skillet. Leave untouched for 4 to 5 minutes, until one side browns quite well, then turn with tongs. Cook for another 4 to 5 minutes until well browned. Transfer pork to a plate and tent with aluminum foil. Add onion, zucchini and mushrooms to pan and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and lemon zest. Raise the heat to medium high and add chicken broth. Scrape up any browned bits on the skillet’s bottom, bring to a simmer, and reduce the liquid by half. This should take about 5 minutes. Whisk in butter. Reduce heat to medium, return pork and accumulated juices to pan, and cook until an instant read thermometer inserted into the side of one of the cutlets registers 160 degrees. Season sauce with salt and pepper before serving.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 287 calories (51 percent from fat), 16.4 grams fat (4.9 grams saturated, 8.6 grams monounsaturated), 70.2 milligrams cholesterol, 27.2 grams protein, 8.2 grams carbohydrates, 2.1 grams fiber, 260.3 milligrams sodium.

Fabulous Flips

This great weather has been a boon for people who like to grill. While we have used a the outdoors grill a few times this summer, I’ve been more inclined to pull out the Foreman because of its convinience.

Today, though, I’m thinking of getting out the gas grill and tossing on a few burgers. While looking for something different, I came across these recipes and thought you might like to try them.

Along with some fresh veggies from the garden (beans, tomatoes and onions), I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the end of summer.

The Great Burger
3 pounds ground chuck
1 to 2 large red onions, diced
Large handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 egg yolk
Mix the beef, onions and parsley together. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
Divide into six equal portions and roll each one into a large ball. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
Preheat the barbecue for 10 minutes. Place burgers on grill and cook a few minutes on each side over high heat, just until starting to brown. Then move the burgers to the side, where it is slightly cooler, to finish cooking.
Yield: Serves 6.

Cilantro Pesto Burger
2 pounds ground chuck, chilled
Sea salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 slices provolone cheese
4 ciabatta buns
1 large tomato, sliced
Large handful arugula

Cilantro Arugula Pesto
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed
12 roasted, salted macadamia nuts
1 or 2 garlic cloves, to taste
2 cups packed arugula
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/3 teaspoon grated lime zest
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano

Grilled Onion Steaks
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 large Vidalia or Maui onion, peeled and cut into four thick slices
4 to 6 soaked bamboo skewers
For the pesto: Finely chop the nuts and garlic in a food processor. Add the cilantro, arugula, lime juice and zest and process to coarse puree. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a thin stream and process until smooth. Pulse in the cheese and season to taste. The pesto will keep, chilled, up to two days.
In a bowl, mix the meat, ¼ cup of the pesto and 1½ teaspoons pepper. Divide the meat into four evenly sized patties and chill several hours or overnight.
Preheat the barbecue for the onions. Whisk together the oil, mustard, honey and vinegar, and set aside. Thread one or two skewers through each onion slice. Brush the onions with the oil mixture and season with salt and pepper, then grill them for 15 minutes, flipping several times as they caramelize.
Season the meat on both sides with salt and pepper, and grill for 7 to 10 minutes to desired doneness. For the last minute or two of cooking, drape a slice of cheese over each burger to melt. 5. To serve, spread the bun bottoms with pesto. Top with tomato and arugula. Add the patties and then a grilled onion.
Yield: Serves 4.

Lamb Burgers with Tzatzki
1 pound good quality ground lamb
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Sea salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 artisan style hard rolls
4 handfuls baby spinach leaves

Marinated Onions
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar

Tzatziki Sauce
2-inch piece English cucumber, coarsely grated
¼ cup Greek-style plain yogurt
¼ teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Mix the lamb, garlic, cloves, cumin and plenty of ground black pepper until well combined. Shape into four burgers. Chill until ready to cook.
Mix the red onion with the vinegar and sugar. Let marinate while you prepare the tzatziki sauce.
Squeeze the cucumber to remove excess moisture, then mix with the yogurt, garlic, mint and a little salt and pepper. Chill.
Sprinkle the burgers with a little salt and brush with olive oil. Grill until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
Split the rolls and layer on the baby spinach leaves, burger, tzatziki sauce and the drained, marinated onions.
Yield: Serves 4.

Brazilian Rock Shrimp Burgers
1/3-inch piece peeled fresh ginger
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons unsweetened coconut milk
Sea salt and black pepper
1½ pounds rock shrimp, chilled
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 slices brioche bread or buns
¼ cup mayonnaise
4 to 8 slices ripe tomato
2 handfuls salad mix

Avocado-Mango Salsa
1 ripe but firm avocado, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch dice
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ ripe mango, peeled and diced
3 tablespoons diced red onion
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons diced jicama or water chestnuts, fresh or canned
2 tablespoons red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 small garlic clove, minced
In a food processor, finely chop the ginger and garlic. Add the coconut milk, 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, shrimp and cilantro and pulse until coarsely ground.
Wet hands, then shape the shrimp mixture into four evenly sized patties, about 1-inch thick. Cover and chill for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.
Mix the salsa ingredients gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill.
When ready to cook, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Brush the burgers on both sides with oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
Toast the bread. Brush with mayonnaise, and layer on the tomatoes, greens and patties. Add a little mango salsa and cover with remaining bread.
Yield: Serves 4.
Note: This also can be made with ground chicken or turkey.

Sunday Supper Burgers
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup pickle relish
2 to 3 tablespoons ketchup
3 to 4 drops Tabasco
1 drop Worcestershire
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon cognac
2 strips bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 pound ground beef
Sea salt and black pepper
½ cup grated sharp Cheddar
6 small brioche or slider buns
1 cup arugula
1 tablespoon minced scallions
Mix the dressing ingredients, and set aside.
Cook the bacon until crisp.
Form the beef into six or more small patties. Season with salt and pepper, and grill them over high heat, a few minutes per side. Top with the grated cheese.
Spread the bottom of each bun with dressing. Top with the arugula, the patty, and finally the crisp bacon and minced scallions. Cover with the tops of the buns and serve.
Yield: Serves 4.

Harvest Vegetable Soup

Being a gardener and a person who loves to share my bounty, I was quite interested in a story in today’s paper about Thief River Falls native Don Armstrong, who plans giving away more than 90,000 pounds of produce Saturday in his hometown (

Armstrong, who is president of Armstrong Potatoes LLC in Michigan, said he tells people he’s doing this because one day God and Jesus were having coffee and they said "Don, we want you to give away some produce."

Well, that works for me.

This isn’t the first time Armstrong has undertaken a project like this, nor will it be the last. Among the items he’ll be handing out are 43,000 pounds of potatoes, 20,000 pounds of pumpkins, 17,000 pounds of squash 12,000 pounds of cabbage, 1,000 colossal onions and 2,500 can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. To me, that sounds like a lot of fixings for soup, which gets me in the mood to make a big pot.

The following recipe doesn’t use all of those veggies, but for the soup lovers among you, it’s a good start.

Harvest Vegetable Soup
1 tablespoon canola oil
¾ cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup diced red bell pepper
½ cup diced orange bell pepper
1 14.5-ounce can no-salt added diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can reduced-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium potato, peeled, in ½-inch pieces
1 4-ounce can chopped green chili peppers
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
4 cups vegetable or fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
¾ cup frozen corn kernels
Salt and ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
6 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into 6 wedges
In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often. Add red and orange peppers, and cook until they start to soften, 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, beans, potato, green chilies, oregano and broth. Bring liquid to boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add corn, cover, and cook until potato is tender, 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, divide soup among six deep bowls. Add 1 tablespoon cilantro to each bowl, and garnish with wedge of lime. This soup keeps for up to 4 days, covered in the refrigerator.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 140 calories, 2.5 grams fat (no saturated), 27 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 6 grams dietary fiber, 530 milligrams sodium.


Mediterranean Cooking

One of the nice things I like most about being a food writer is the access to so many good recipes. I have a number of sources, and the list keeps growing everyday.

One that is rapidly becoming a favorite is McCormick & Co., the spice people. Recently, a McCormick release centered on the Mediterranean Diet, which was introduced to the U.S. in the 1990s and since has attracted much attention.

It pointed out that the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, which was developed in 1993 by Oldways, a nonprofit food issues think tank, was updated to showcase the role of herbs and spices.

According to K. Dun Gifford, president of Oldways, updating the pryamid to emphasize herbs and spices was an easy choice, considering there is a growing body of research linking herbs and spices and their high levels of antioxidants with an array of promising health benefits.

But what I like most about the material sent by McCormick are the recipes, including the following one-pan supper that can be served simply with a fruit or vegetable salad.

Rosemary-Baked Chicken with Potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon paprika
1½ teaspoons rosemary leaves, finely crushed
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper, coarsely round
½ teaspoon garlic powder
6 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed (about 2 pounds)
1½ pounds small red potatoes, halved
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix oil, paprika, rosemary, sea salt, pepper and garlic powder in large bowl. Add chicken and potatoes; toss to coat well.
Arrange potatoes in single layer on foil-lined 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan sprayed with no stick cooking spray. Bake 15 minutes. Push potatoes to one side of pan. Place chicken on pan.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes longer or until the potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through, turning potatoes occasionally.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 264 calories, 12 grams fat, 20 grams protein, 19 grams carbohydrates, 64 milligrams cholesterol, 334 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.