A bike ride at dawn, an early-morning jog to Mount Vernon or even a cross-country ski trip through Rock Creek Park with the first snow of the season -- it's the time of year when chilled bones welcome the rejuvenation that comes with a homemade hot lunch.
This fact was brought home last year when a group of beginning cross-country skiers was presented with a lunch of thick, cheesy corn chowder, sweet banana muffins, fresh fruit and chocolate chip cookies. Although the group's instructors had prepared the lunch the evening before for the sake of convenience, that was strictly to the advantage of the chowder. It had given the flavors 14 hours to meld.
It was hard to decide which was more appealing -- the roaring fire by which the skiers thawed frozen toes, or the lunch. But there was not a drop of chowder left as the fire roared on. CHEDDAR CHEESE CORN CHOWDER (4 to 6 servings) 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced 2 cups boiling salted water 1 bay leaf 1/4 teaspoon fresh sage 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds 3 tablespoons butter 1 onion, finely chopped 3 tablespoons flour 1 1/4 cups milk 2 cups canned corn 1 teaspooon each dried chopped chives and parsley 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg Salt and pepper to taste 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated 4 to 5 tablespoons dry white wine
Peel and dice the potatoes and boil them in the salted water with the bay leaf, sage and cumin seeds until just barely tender -- about 15 to 20 minutes. Melt the butter in a saucepan and saute' the chopped onion in it until tender; then add the flour. Mix well and add the milk, stirring with a whisk. Pour this sauce into the potatoes and their water, also adding the corn. Add the chopped herbs and the rest of the seasonings and let the soup simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Then stir in the grated cheese and the wine and mix well; heat until the cheese is completely melted, correct the seasoning and serve. WHOLE WHEAT BANANA MUFFINS (Makes 2 dozen large muffins) 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornmeal 1/4 teaspoons salt 1/3 cup rye flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/3 cup oil 1/3 cup honey 3/4 cup buttermilk 3 eggs 4 or 5 mashed bananas 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients together. Mash bananas and add to wet ingredients. Combine wet and dry ingredients, stirring just until flour is moistened. Fold in lemon rind and nuts. Spoon into greased muffin tins. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.