MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 11, 2012

Fun, inspiration or wisdom? Readers can choose favorite flavor for holiday read

By Melony Carey
Food by the Book

— The Christmas season always brings out inspirational stocking stuffers and leisurely holiday novels. Getting high marks on all the book blogs is Linda Lael Miller’s “An Outlaw’s Christmas.” Another in her McKettrick Men series, this one finds Sawyer McKettrick heading out from the family’s Triple M ranch in Arizona to take a job as marshal in Texas in 1915. Upon arrival, he is shot and left for dead in the midst of a blinding snowstorm, only to be found by the prim and proper schoolmarm, Piper St. James. She takes in the shirtless stranger, but rumors are sparked by their seeming impropriety. Sawyer’s solution, marry him. If you are looking for a quick, fun read set at Christmastime, this is a winner.

For something a little more inspirational, former Guggenheim Fellow, Anne Lamott, just released “Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.” In this slim volume, Lamott explores the ideas of asking for assistance, appreciating the good in the everyday, and feeling awe at the wonders of the world. Lamott’s thoughts on prayer give us hope when we run out of ways to fix the unfixable. Prayers range from Merton’s famous words, “My Lord God, I have no idea where I’m going. I do not see the road ahead of me…” to radical gratitude for whatever life throws our way and a simple “Wow” at the awesomeness of life. Lamott’s sensible take on prayer comes from growing up in a liberal, atheistic household where prayer and God were eschewed, a deprivation she understood even as a small child. Her views may still be a bit radical for some, but her experiences have given her a deeper insight into our need for everyday prayer.

And finally, when it comes to words of wisdom gained through experience, Nelson Mandela’s new book, “Notes to the Future,” is a compilation of quotes from his personal archives encompassing the last 60 years. From his imprisonment to being the first democratically elected president in South Africa and winning the Nobel Prize, Mandela passes on profound observations on leadership, democracy, and the transformative power of education that those who have lived an easier life often forget. Although he is critical of post-911 America, he is most inspirational when he talks about personal growth, being old, and the expectation to perform far above his real ability.

Some good food to go with your holiday reading is a must. With a little help from precooked ingredients to ease cooking time, your family will say “thanks” and “wow.”



Southwest

Lasagna

1 store-bought roasted chicken, garlic or Southwest flavor, shredded

4 poblano chile peppers

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups frozen corn, thawed

2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup thinly sliced white onion

1 large zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise

12 sheets no-boil lasagna noodles

2 cups shredded mozzarella

1 cup shredded pepper jack

Preheat broiler. Rinse, halve and seed the poblano peppers. Place cut-side down on baking sheet and broil until brown and skin is easy to peel, about 5 minutes. Let cool then peel off skin and slice peppers into thin strips; set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in sauté pan over medium heat and add 2 of the minced garlic cloves, sautéing for about 1 minute. Add in corn and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in cream and thyme leaves and reduce heat, cooking about 5 minutes to mingle flavors. Turn off heat; add about 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in skillet and add onion, sautéing until translucent. Add remaining garlic clove and cook 1 minute. Add zucchini and poblano strips and cook an additional 5 – 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread about 1/4 cream/corn mixture in the bottom of an 8x11” baking dish. Cover with 3 sheets of lasagna. Top with part of the shredded chicken, poblano mixture and the cheeses. Repeat layers 3 additional times. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake approximately 1 hour. Remove foil and broil until golden brown, if desired. Adapted from Food Network Magazine, December 2012.



Chunky

Guacamole Salad

2 large ripe avocado

1 large tomato

1 small red onion

1 small bell pepper

3 long green chiles

Juice of 1/2 lime

Salt to taste

Shredded lettuce

Chop all ingredients fine, but do not mash. Mix together with the lime juice and add salt to taste. Serve on a bed of lettuce with corn chips. Serves 4.

Spanish Rice

1/4 cup olive oil

1 yellow onion

1/2 bell pepper

1 clove garlic

1 14 oz. can stewed tomatoes

1 teaspoon chile powder

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

1 cup regular rice

2 cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

Chop onion and pepper; mince garlic. Sauté in olive oil until onion is transparent. Mix in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to simmer for about 20 minutes. Serves 4 – 6.