By now most of us would like to have a little talk with Mother Nature about the possibilities of an early spring. The enchantment of those first fluffy snowflakes has long worn off as we've shoveled, tried in vain to keep our cars salt-free, trudged through slush and exhibited some interesting flailing of arms and legs as we've hit an unseen patch of ice. While I can't do anything to make spring weather magically appear outdoors, the recipes below will help warm your insides and lift your spirits.

Quick Winter Herb Bread

1 1/4 c. unbleached flour

1 1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. dried basil

1/4 t. dried marjoram

1/8 t. dried oregano

Pinch of dried thyme

1/2 c. raisins

1/2 c. chopped nuts

1 egg

2 T. honey

3/4 c. buttermilk

1/4 c. butter or margarine, melted and cooled

In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sprinkle in the basil, marjoram, oregano and thyme and toss together until evenly distributed. Mix in the raisins and nuts and toss again until evenly distributed. In another bowl, beat the egg until light and slightly thickened. Add the honey and beat to blend. Beat in the buttermilk and butter or margarine. Stir into the dry ingredients with just a few strokes. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and, using a pastry scraper, reach under the dough and lift it up on top of itself. Do this several times, then pat the mixture together gently with floured hands. If it is very sticky, sprinkle on a bit more flour, but be stingy. When the dough just holds together but is still lumpy, put it into a buttered 9-inch round pan. With lightly floured hands, pat lightly to fill the pan. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned and the middle feels springy when pressed. Do not overbake. Cut into wedges and serve warm. Serves 8 to 12.

Hearty Bean Soup

2/3 c. dried Great Northern beans

1 qt. water or chicken stock (approximately)

1/2 lb. chorizo sausage

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 t. salt

Ground black pepper

2 bay leaves

1 t. dried thyme

4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

6 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced

1/2 c. uncooked brown rice

Rinse the beans and remove any stones. Put the beans into a soup kettle and cover with 3 times as much cold water. Soak overnight. (A quicker method is to place them in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and let sit for 1 hour. Then proceed with the recipe.) Drain the beans and add the water or stock. Bring to a boil and add the sausage, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaves and thyme. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add the potatoes, carrots and rice (and more water or stock if needed) and simmer, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Serves 6 to 8.

Apple-Stuffed Pork Chops

4-6 thick (about 1 1/2 inches) pork chops

1 T. oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 c. unseasoned dry bread crumbs

1 large tart apple, peeled, cored and shredded

1/4 c. raisins, plumped in hot water for 10 minutes and drained

1 T. minced fresh parsley

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. dried sage

1/4 t. dried thyme

Salt and pepper

1 c. apple cider or apple juice, divided

2 T. red currant jelly

Trim the chops of excess fat and cut a pocket in the side of each. Brown in the oil in a large skillet. Remove from the skillet and sauté the onions in the drippings until tender. In a medium bowl, combine the onions with the breadcrumbs, apples, raisins, parsley, 1/4 t. salt, sage and thyme. Stuff each chop with the mixture and place them snugly together in a casserole. (This will prevent the stuffing from falling out as they bake.) Season with salt and pepper to taste, add 1/2 c. of the cider or juice to the casserole, cover and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for 20 to 30 minutes more, or until the chops are well done. Remove to a serving platter, skim the excess fat from the casserole and add the remaining 1/2 c. cider or juice. Stir in the jelly and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Serve the sauce over the chops.

Turkey and Spinach Meatloaf

1 lb. ground turkey

1 (10-oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and pressed to remove excess water

1 egg

3/4 c. dry breadcrumbs

1/2 c. chopped onions or 2 T. dried onion flakes

1 T. chopped fresh parsley

3 T. ketchup

2 t. lemon juice

1/2 t. salt or 1 t. soy sauce

1/4 t. ground black pepper

2 T. skim milk

In a large bowl, mix the turkey, spinach, egg, breadcrumbs, onions or onion flakes, parsley, ketchup, lemon juice, salt or soy sauce and pepper. Moisten with the skim milk. Put in a 9-x5-inch loaf pan and cover loosely with foil. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 30 minutes more. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Serves 4 to 6.

Pineapple Walnut Cake


2 c. unbleached flour

2 c. sugar

2 t. baking powder

2 eggs

1 (20-oz.) can crushed, unsweetened pineapple, with juice

1/2 to 1 c. chopped walnuts


2 c. sifted confectioners' sugar

3 T. butter or margarine, softened

3 T. milk

1/2 (3-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

1/4 t. salt

To make the cake: Combine the flour, sugar and baking powder in a medium bowl. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, and then add the pineapple and juice. Blend in the flour mixture. Add the walnuts and pour the mixture into an ungreased 9-x13-inch baking pan. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. To make the sauce: In a large bowl, beat the confectioners' sugar, butter or margarine, milk, cream cheese and salt until creamy. Serve on the side with the cake. Serves 12 to 14.