Monday, November 23, 2015

Tomato, Sausage, and Spinach Soup

I hate to tell you this, but we have still not finished moving! Oh, sure ... Most of the new place looks okay, but what lies beneath is wickedly messy. That aside, I’m keen to pass along this tasty little recipe before you indulge too heavily in the delights of an American Thanksgiving. 

This is an excellent Fall or Winter soup. It’s one of many I made in using up a bucket-load of frozen chicken stock in the process of moving house. The original recipe - which I modified slightly - comes from the 2015 September/October edition of The Costco Connection. With its spicy chorizo sausage, this truly great soup doesn’t need much salt.

Tomato, Sausage, and Spinach Soup:

4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 yellow-fleshed potato, peeled and diced 
One 28-oz. (796 mL) can diced tomatoes with juice
3 c. chicken stock (commercial or homemade)
2 chorizo sausages, rinsed and diced
2 c. fresh spinach, rinsed, stemmed, and sliced into strips
Salt and coarsely ground pepper, to taste

In a large pot, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil on medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and sugar, reducing heat to low. Stir constantly for 5 min.  until onion and garlic are tender and slightly caramelized. 

Stir together onion, garlic, and sugar in olive oil.

Add potato, tomatoes, and stock, briefly bringing to a boil before lowering heat to simmer 15 min., or until the potato is soft. Cool about 10 min. before puréeing in batches with a regular or stick blender. Return to medium heat.

Continuing to stir, add potato, tomatoes, and stock.

Cook 15 min., or until potato is soft. Cool slightly and purée.  

 In a skillet, heat remaining olive oil. Add chorizo, stirring constantly until golden brown, about 5 min. Transfer to hot soup, stirring occasionally about 5 min. to allow flavors to blend. Season to taste. Stir in spinach. Yields 4-to-5 servings.

Hot soup for a cool day: Absolutely delicious!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Movin’ Right Along ...

At the bottom of my last blog (below), I announced that we were moving house and that Id return in mid-November. That date may need some adjustment. Relocating has been a larger job than Id anticipated. Were not even close to finishing unpacking, repainting, rewiring, and doing the many other things needed to establish a household.
Weve traded city living for life in the country, where eggs come straight from the chicken, the neighbor down the road bakes and sells organic artisan breads, horses clip-clop down rural roads, and rabbits polish off the few flowers the deer somehow overlooked. Being more of an animal lover than a gardener, this suits me fine. So Ill see you in early December, and - Hey! Isn’t that a goat??? Wanna trim our lawn???

xox  Nicole

Friday, August 7, 2015

High-Energy Toffee Roll-Ups

I’ve just made this nutritious, energy-rich treat for kids young and old. Because the recipe’s three main ingredients are measured in equal portions, the quantity of these treats can easily be reduced or increased.
Carol Brauner
 Carol Brauner, my friend of more than 40 years, shared this recipe with me. Says Carol: “Kids love it, and so do I!” 

High-Energy Toffee Roll-Ups:

1/2 c. creamy peanut butter  
1/2 c. instant skim milk powder
1/2 c. liquid honey 
1/4-to-1/3 c. melted dark chocolate 
1/4 c. toasted, chopped pecans

Blend peanut butter, skim milk powder, and honey in food processor (see Note) to make creamy toffee. Divide into two or three equal portions. Place a damp, clean cloth on clean workspace. Lay one sheet of wax paper over cloth. On that sheet, place one portion of blended toffee with second sheet of wax paper on top. Using a heavy rolling pin, shape each portion between the wax paper sheets into a rectangle with a 1/8-in. thickness.
(At this point, Carol rolls up and stashes the rectangles in the freezer, slicing off a piece whenever she needs an energy boost. Ive modified her recipe to make it a little more decadent):
Stack and freeze rolled toffee rectangles between their wax paper sheets about 10 min. or until stiff. Freeze up to three months. 
Melt chocolate (see How to Melt Chocolate in Index); keep warm. 
Toast, cool, and chop pecans while chocolate melts (see How to Toast Nuts and Seeds in Index).
When ready to use, work with one rectangle at a time, keeping the rest in the freezer. Peel away top sheet of wax paper. Using a flexible silicone spatula, apply a thin layer of warm, melted chocolate over flattened toffee. 
Working quickly, sprinkle toasted, chopped pecans over still-warm chocolate. Carefully roll long end of rectangle jellyroll-style, using bottom sheet of wax paper to assist rolling before chocolate sets. Freeze 10 min. before wrapping each roll in cello or wax paper. Return to freezer. 
Store wrapped rolls in solid-sided plastic container. When ready to use, slice as many rolls as needed into 1/2-in. pieces, trimming away irregular edges. Serve and consume chilled so roll holds its shape ... Toffee softens almost immediately. 

Note: A high-speed mini-chopper does an excellent job of mixing this small batch of toffeeHand-stirring doesnt produce the desired silky toffee” texture. 

Process first three ingredients at high speed until texture is silky. 

Roll divided dough thinly between wax paper sheets. Freeze. 

Lightly sprinkle nuts over warm, melted chocolate.

Using wax paper to assist, start rolling.

Job is easiest before rolled rectangle gets too warm, so work
quickly! Wrap and freeze; unwrap and slice as needed.
This produces a huge number of rolls!

Unfortunately, they dont seem to last very long!

Nicole Partons Favorite Recipes is moving to a new Time Zone (fooled you!) and Latitude (true). We’ll be saying goodbye to our familiar red kitchen and hello to a new one! Because the move is a big one, Ron, Frankie, and I won’t return until mid-November. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015


I’d planned to make Roti - a staple of Indian cooking - when I came across this astonishing post from today’s Wall Street Journal:
I’m in shock. Is this the future of home cooking? Will blogs like mine become irrelevant? (Don’t cheer all at once or you’ll scare the horses.) YouTube features a far simpler Roti maker, which bears a strong resemblance to an everyday crêpe maker ... 

(If you can’t view this, go to )
In response to the arrival of this simple machine, YouTube commentator Venki R. recently wrote: “ … It’s not good or soft as we make by hand that we can keep for longer, compared to these. All over India, we have lot of electricity scarcity and dono how much watts this sucks. The more we use machines the more we get sick with different diseases due to lack of activities and lack of healthy food. Now we know why get more and more diabetes and (blood pressure) cases compared to previous generations.” 

YIKES, that’s harsh! Though I do understand that India has major electricity issues, I’d hate to read what Venki R. has to say about fridges and stoves. But then I idly thought: “Gee ... If the Donald J. Trump household had a Roti maker in the kitchen, what would it look like?” Once again, YouTube provided the answer:

To see this, go to
I think I’ll give up on my silly notion to make Roti. I’m going to the beach, instead.  xox  Nicole

Apricot and Oat Bran Muffins

This prize-winning recipe was featured in the June, 2002 issue of Canadian Living Magazine. My friend Ruth,
Ruth Foster, fellow baker and friend
who passed it along, sometimes substitutes chocolate chips, nuts, an
other dried fruit, or a combination of all. To make a double batch of these high-fiber muffins, Ruth sometimes uses 1 c. of chopped apples and ½ c. raisins. I’ve modified this recipe from the original.

Apricot and Oat Bran Muffins:

1/2 c. natural (wheat) bran
1/2 c. boiling water
1-1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. quick-cooking rolled oats (not instant)
1/3 c. wheat germ
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. buttermilk
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 egg
3/4 c. chopped dried apricots
12 halved pecans (see Note)

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. In medium bowl, mix bran with 1/2 c. boiling water, stirring to ensure the bran soaks up the liquid. Cool to room temperature. In large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, wheat germ, baking soda, and salt. In blender, combine buttermilk, sugar, oil, and egg; pour over dry ingredients together with bran mixture. Add apricots, stirring just until combined. Spoon into ungreased paper-lined muffin cups. Bake 18-to-20 min., or until toothpick inserted near centre of muffin comes out dry. Yields 1 dozen standard-sized muffins. 

Note: If you wish, midway through baking, press a pecan half into centre of each muffin; continue baking as recipe directs.

Stir boiling water into natural bran; cool.

Combine flour, oats, wheat germ, baking soda, and salt.

Optional: Add a halved pecan midway through baking.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Canfastic Campfire Bread

As many of us head out to local campgrounds, foremost in our minds is the quest for quick, space-saving recipes. This simple bread is easy to make and tote. Carry the well-mixed dry ingredients in a zippered plastic bag, adding the wet ingredients after youve set up camp. This recipe comes from Fast and Easy Company Treats, a cookbook I wrote a whole lot of years ago, when I was a toddler. Yeah ... that’s it! A toddler ... yeah! Below this post is another very easy campfire bread. 

Canfastic Campfire Bread:

1-1/2 c. packaged biscuit mix (such as Bisquick)

1/2 c. cornmeal
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
3 tbsp. skim milk powder
1/2 c. chopped walnuts, toasted
2 tbsp. canola oil plus enough water to make 1 c. 
2 clean, empty 14-oz. or 19-oz. well-washed cans, one end removed from each
Deep saucepan with lid
Enough water to half-fill saucepan, with extra water for topping up 
Canning tongs and/or heat-proof oven gloves
Wire rack for cooling

Combine biscuit mix, cornmeal, salt, sugar, skim milk powder, and walnuts. Mix well. Stir in combined oil and water, mixing only until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon into well greased cans, 1/2-to-2/3 full, covering with heavy-duty foil. Using canning tongs or silicone gloves, lower into saucepan of simmering water to a depth halfway up cans. Cover saucepan, steaming cans 35-to-40 min. Be  sure to check water level often, adding more as needed. Skewer inserted into centre of loaf should come out clean. Transfer filled cans to rack, cooling 10 min. before removing loaves. Slice when completely cool. Yields 2 small loaves with 6 slices per loaf.

Bannock Campfire Bread

This great little campfire recipe comes from Nicole Parton’s Galley Gourmet: Great Meals From Small Spaces, a cookbook I wrote when dinosaurs still roamed the earth. Using a simmer ring is optional; if your heat source has adjustable settings, you can eliminate it. 

Bannock Campfire Bread:

1-1/2 c. biscuit mix (such as Bisquick) plus extra as needed 
1/3 c. milk (see Note)
Flour, as needed
Heavy skillet or camp griddle
Heat-proof oven gloves
Wire rack for cooling

Combine biscuit mix and milk on heavy (preferably cast-iron) skillet or griddle lightly dusted with flour or with additional biscuit mix. Gather dough into a ball, kneading 10 times until smooth. Pat into 1/2-in. thick circle. Set circle of dough aside. Preheat skillet or griddle over medium heat, using a camp simmer ring, if you have it. Slip in circle or dough, allowing bottom crust to brown. Dough will rise during this time, but will remain soft in the middle. 

Flip to brown other side. Lower heat with simmer ring (optional) or by adjusting temperature of campfire cook stove. Tent skillet or griddle with foil to allow inside of dough to cook through, 10-to-15 min. Transfer to wire rack and let stand, covered, a further 2 or 3 min. Slice into 4-to-6 wedges. 

Note: If you don’t want to carry fresh milk to camp, there are a couple of easy ways to prepare it. For each cup of milk you need, shake together 1/4 c. instant skim milk powder and 1/2 c. cold water in a lidded jar until fully dissolved. Add additional water until milk reaches 1 c. level. Or ... For each cup of milk required, shake together 1/2 c. canned evaporated milk with 1/2 c. cold water in a lidded jar.

Take one far-away campsite ...

Add two young campers, eager to cook ...

And measure out the ingredients for Bannock Bread

Combine, flattening the ball of dough that results.

Working in a floured skillet, knead Bannock dough 10 times. 

Over medium heat, let Bannock brown on the bottom.

 Note that its shape doesnt have to be perfect!

(A watched skillet never burns!)

Flip the dough once ...

And tent it with foil, so the soft-in-the-middle* part cooks. 

Fry a little bacon and a few eggs, add Bannock and ...

There’s your hearty breakfast!

Time to relax after all that hard work!

Then off to the woods to explore!

*A little music while we cook the soft-in-the-middle part? 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Peanut Butter Energy Bars

When I made these high-energy bars for a group of volunteers last night, never did I dream they would become a “favorite”!
Peanut Butter Energy Bars: A big hit!
Packed with nutrition, these bars refrigerate and freeze well. With the ingredients already in my kitchen cupboard, I didn’t consider this expensive to make. Logical? Maybe. With energy bars selling for as much as $3 apiece, these homemade bars are a bargain! To make a gourmet bar, substitute macadamia nuts and white chocolate in place of the almonds and semi-sweet chocolate I used. This excellent recipe requires a food processor. 

Peanut Butter Energy Bars:

2 c. packed dates, pitted (see Note)
1/2 c. natural whole almonds, skin on
3 c. large-flake uncooked rolled oats
1/2 c. liquid honey
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.  Line 10 in. x15 in. jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Set aside. 
Soften dates by pour boiling water over them for 10 min. Squeeze dry. Process dates on high speed until they form a ball and only small bits remain. Place in medium bowl. Do not wash food processor.
Spread almonds over cookie sheet, stirring once or twice as nuts toast 15-to-20 min. (see Additional Note). Add almonds to processor, chopping in bursts using pulse setting. Add to dates in bowl.
Spread oats over cookie sheet, stirring once or twice as oats toast 15-to-20 min. Add oats to dates and nuts in bowl. Combine thoroughly, using clean hands. Set aside. 
In microwave-safe container, stir together honey and peanut butter on medium-low heat, just until warm. Pour over date-nut-oatmeal mixture, combining well.
Press well-combined mixture into prepared pan, covering with cello wrap and rolling or pressing to even thickness. Cover with foil and chill 15-to-30 minutes before slicing into bars. These are high-calorie and sweet, so I cut these bars small. Yields 4-to-5 dozen 1 in. x 3 in. bars. 

Note: Substituting dried apricots for the dates in this recipe would also work well.

Additional Note: My induction oven does a very poor job of browning foods. Items do not brown or toast as expected. Despite that, toasting the almonds and oats even without browning them produces a far superior flavor than adding them to this recipe untoasted.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Colon Rockets

The name says it all ...
Passed along without comment … The name of these muffins says it all! A tasty way to … um, do the trick! If you prefer your muffins sweeter, reduce the molasses to 3/4 c. and add 1/4 c. honey.

Colon Rockets:

4 c. natural wheat bran
2 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. sunflower seeds, lightly toasted
2 tbsp. flax seed
2 tbsp. chia or hemp seeds
3 c. milk
2 eggs
1 c. fancy-style molasses (see Note)
2/3 c. coarsely chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
1 c. plumped raisins (see Another Note)
1 c. fresh, dried, or frozen blueberries (see Additional Note)

Preheat oven to 325 deg. F. In medium bowl, combine bran, flour, baking soda, and seeds. In a separate medium bowl, combine milk, eggs, and molasses. Add combined liquids all at once, stirring just until moist. Mix in walnuts and fruit, just until evenly dispersed. Spoon into ungreased paper liners in muffin pan, filling each 2/3 full. Bake 20-to-25 min., or until a toothpick comes out clean. Makes about 2 dozen standard-sized muffins.

Note: If you prefer your muffins sweeter, reduce the molasses to 3/4 c. and add 1/4 c. honey.

Another Note: See Index for How to Plump Dried Fruits.

Additional Note: If using frozen blueberries, thaw, drain, and pat dry before adding to muffin mixture.

Best Tip Ever: If you find yourself with enough batter for a couple of extra muffins, save oven time and energy by baking the extras alongside the other muffins. Bake the extras in metal measuring cups in the 1 c., 1/2 c., and 1/3 c. sizes.

Combine dry ingredients.

Final step: Stir in fruit.

Bake extra muffin batter in metal measuring cups.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Heart ’n’ Soul Guacamole

I’m always surprised to see that I haven’t yet posted a recipe for Guacamole - but who needs a recipe? Guacamole is something you make from the heart and soul - no need for a cookbook.
The ingredients vary by cultural and individual preference, but the basic avocado, tomato, salt, hot seasoning, and lime (or lemon) juice are always present. A short while ago, I found a Guacamole recipe that uses mayonnaise - yuck, yuck, and yuck - not to my taste, but perhaps to yours. 
Guacamole offers many variations on a theme, the worst of which resembles a menacing shade of green once prevalent in toothpaste and on the walls of institutions for the incurably, criminally insane. I speak from experience. Of the former. Not the latter. Not yet, anyway.
Some supermarkets try to pass off this glow-in-the-dark horror as Guacamole. Make no mistake: It is not. Watch as it slowly slithers and slides from its opaque plastic container - a congealed brick of glop. Avoid this product lest you land in an institution for the incurably, criminally insane 
For those of you Dollinks who have been duped and brainwashed into thinking this is how Guacamole tastes, I’ve got news for you. The recipe below is proof positive that you can make a very decent Guacamole for very little money and very little time. The ingredients, quantity, and proportions are approximate - taste it until you like it, but don’t taste it all or youll have nothing left. 
Guacamole is excellent served with chips, small crackers, or beside the salsa and sour cream you serve with quesadillas. We aim to please, so if you want to make some of those quesadillas, youll find my Three-Pepper Quesadillas indexed under Mexican. Happy eating, muchachas y muchachos!

Heart ’n’ Soul Guacamole:

1/4 c. finely chopped onion
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1-1/2 tsp. fresh lime juice (or half a lime, juiced)
1-1/2-to-2 tsp. hot sauce
1 tsp. chopped fresh garlic
3/4 tsp. salt (do not reduce)
1/4 tsp. chili powder
2-to-3 ripe avocados, peeled at the last moment and lightly mashed (see Note)
Cilantro sprigs, as garnish

In a work bowl, combine all except cilantro. Cover and let flavors blend at least 45 min. This is mandatory, unless you miss the good ol school days when you thought library paste was a food group. Consider yourself warned. Transfer Guacamole to serving dish; garnish with cilantro.

Note: I’ve found that the very best place to mash avocados is on a clean chopping board. From there, they just slip into your work bowl, never giving them a chance to brown. Don’t over-mash them or you’ll purée the mixture; a light mashing produces the irregular, appealing texture that sticks to the cracker, crisp, or stomach onto which you heap this Heart ’n’ Soul Guacamole. 

Guilty-Secret Note: The best way to make Guacamole is with clean fingers and hands. A spoon, fork, or (No! No! No!) electric mixer is a poor second-best to your Hände.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Carole’s Superb Roasted Veggies

Meet Carole Dickinson Ridley, my friend for the past 40 years. ACK! ACK! ACK! Carole’s going to kill me! I can’t seem to remove
the photo on the left! Carole’s a great cook who rarely uses recipes (She rarely reads this blog, either, which is also great: The photo won’t go away). Carole and I have laughed together (which goes without saying) and cried together. There was a time when we were so close that she even suggested we trade outfits. I politely declined without giving a reason, but hinted that she had big shoes to fill and I couldn’t possibly be as stylish as she is.  

Carole’s also in the  shot on the right - hair askew, no makeup on her face. 
Shes very brave to allow herself to be photographed that way. Personally, I wouldn’t dare. I’ve never been caught without makeup, mostly because every photographer whos tried has run from the room, screaming. 
I stayed at Carole’s house last week, enjoying her hospitality and - ta dah! - her superb vegetables roasted in coconut oil. I said I wanted the recipe. She said she didn’t have one.  Carole says this method works with any vegetable, though she went through some trial and error before she achieved success. Preheating her oven to 350 deg. F., then she set to work. So here’s what I watched her do!

Carole’s Superb Roasted Veggies:

Use your choice of assorted vegetables such as broccoli, red onions, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, and so forth. Peel and prepare veggies as you would for boiling or steaming. Salt and pepper them to taste.
Carole leaves the skin on small potatoes, sprinkling the spuds with garlic powder and/or fresh rosemary on top of the usual S&P. Dot these veggies with generous lashings of refrigerated (see Note) coconut (or olive) oil, with the amount of oil dependent on the amount of potatoes you’re preparingToss everything to thoroughly combine the oil and spuds well; roast, uncovered, about 35 min. Toss them once or twice as they roast, checking their tenderness. 
Cauliflower, Carole trims into biggish chunks in a separate uncovered casserole dish, following the same method, temperature, and time. 
Broccoli and red onions, Carole roasts together, in one casserole dish, because she likes the blend of flavors. Be sure to combine veggies of the same approximate cooking times rather than adding mushrooms to carrots, for example. If one type of vegetable is finished before another, she simply covers it with foil so it wont over-roast before the rest is done.
Once again, Carole pours coconut (or olive) oil over everything, tossing everything well before placing it in the oven, uncovered, to roast as she does above. 
Carole does mushrooms differently: She baked the ones she served me (also at 350 deg. F.), slicing them directly into a little coconut oil in a small casserole, giving them a little toss, and covering the casserole to keep them from drying out. How long, I asked? “I don’t time these, but they don’t take very long,” she says.

Note: Refrigerating the oil will solidify it, allowing it to be dabbed rather than poured. 

Postscript: Meet Bud Ridley, Carole’s loving mate. Everyone says they have so much in common ...