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VOL. 36 | NO. 43 | Friday, October 26, 2012

Cook and freeze for time-saving treats

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Spring sprang, summer sizzled and now fall has fallen, and it’s feeling good. I sometimes wish we could have these beautiful autumn days year-round. Cool, crisp mornings and short-sleeve, sunny afternoons. That’s a perfect combination.

Autumn also puts me in the mood for cooking, mainly large amounts of foods and freezing them for later use. Both of this week’s recipes can be done that way – made today, frozen and eaten later – provided you don’t eat all of it the day you make it. They are that yummy.

To accomplish this in a way that will get the job done, devote one or two days a month to making large batches of cinnamon rolls, doughnuts, cream cheese rolls and muffins, or soups. Then place them in heavy-duty, resealable plastic bags labeled with the date. (They freeze for about two months.) On busy mornings, it’s a snap to pop a few in the microwave, and you’ll love the fresh-baked flavor. Also, it’s quick and easy when you’re trying to shuffle kids to daycare, school and to after-school activities.

The Morning Maple Muffins recipe is an old recipe from Taste of Home magazine. It still gets rave reviews. They taste great and, for muffins, aren’t unhealthy. You can reduce the calories and fat by using a lighter milk, margarine instead of butter, lite sour cream and lite maple syrup.

Egg substitute also can be used instead of the egg. I can’t guarantee the resulting taste if you substitute all of those ingredients for their richer counterparts, but if you make them like that from the start you’ll never know the difference.

If you want to keep calories and fat to a minimum, then I would do that. You can also add a little maple flavoring to them to make them a bit more “maple-y.” However you make them, they’re delicious! They’re like eating a pancake in muffin form.

I haven’t tried freezing the soup (it never lasts that long); however, it can be made a week ahead and stored in the refrigerator. However, I bet it would freeze well, too.

Apple and Sweet Potato Chipotle Soup

2 tbsp. vegetable oil plus 1 cup for frying

1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger

2 Gala apples–peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 celery rib, thinly sliced crosswise

1 3/4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1 quart chicken stock or low-sodium broth

3 cups water

1 small can of chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce, seeded and minced

Salt and freshly ground white pepper

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. sugar

3 yellow ready-to-cook corn tortillas cut into 1/2-inch strips

In a medium soup pot, heat two tablespoons of the oil until hot. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and then cook over low heat, stirring until softened – about seven minutes. Add the apples and celery and cook for five minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and cook for five minutes. Add the chicken stock and water and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until the fruit and vegetables are very tender – about 45 minutes. Stir in the chipotle.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Season with salt and white pepper and return to the pot.

In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon and sugar with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Heat the remaining cup of oil in a medium skillet. Add the tortilla strips and fry over high heat, stirring, until crisp and golden – about two minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Serve the soup in shallow bowls and garnish with the fried tortilla strips.

Make ahead: The soup can be refrigerated for up to one week. The tortilla strips can be stored at room temperature for two days, or frozen and then crisped-up in a toaster oven.

Morning Maple Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup sour cream

1 egg

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


3 tbsp. all-purpose flour

3 tbsp. sugar

2 tbsp. chopped nuts

1/2 tbsp. ground cinnamon

2 cold butter

In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, combine the milk, butter, syrup, sour cream, egg and vanilla. Stir into the dry ingredients until moistened. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. For topping, combine the flour, sugar, nuts and cinnamon; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter. Bake at 400 degrees for 16 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.