“Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!” Lewis Carol
I wait all year long for this month to have unbridled license to create soup pot after soup pot full of nutritious and soul warming soup. January is also “get healthy” month and I will take a wild bet that no less than 60% of you are thinking about cookies but are eating carrots right now. I know I am. But with a warm cup of soup in my hands, the fragrance swirling up to fill my senses, I’m okay without the cookies. Really I am.
It seems the love for soup and its prowess as a healthy food has been around forever. Well, maybe not forever, but when humanity finally figured out how to make pottery, about 5000BC, soup was born. Our ancestors had only dried meats, tough roots and grains in the winter that were much tastier boiled up into a broth. It also warms you up from the inside out, pretty important stuff when it is dark by 4:40pm and Jack Frost is running amuck.
I think one of the things I love about soup so much is how creative it is. Each soup I make takes on its own personality and qualities. I never know what is going to happen when I start to make a soup. One soup that I have been making for years, since my first encounter with it is pozole. I’ll never forget that first bite, the flavors exploded in my mouth and I had an epiphany. It was something like, “WOW!” That’s all. I don’t think I was at the stage yet when I broke down flavors or cultures in my mouth, but I knew I had to make it.
Pozole is an ancient stew that dates back to the pre-contact Mexico. The common ingredient in pozole is “nixtamalized” corn, also known as hominy, in which is corn soaked in lye water. I know it sounds weird but it is actually a very beneficial process as it makes the corn easier to digest and dramatically improves the availability of B vitamins, minerals and amino acids in the corn. Without this process, ancient societies that were reliant on corn as a major food experienced malnutrition. Nixtamalized corn is thought to have been done for over 3500 years. Those ancients knew more than just calendars!
Pozole is a very social dish in Mexico where it is served with many condiments at festive gatherings. It is usually made with pork, but I like to make it with turkey or chicken. After the holidays I usually have a freezer full of delicious homemade turkey broth that is just begging to be used and this is a great way of doing it. If you do not have homemade broth, try to use organic low sodium broth in its place. Here’s to a new year filled with warmth and health. (Instead of cookies)
Turkey or Chicken Pozole Rojo with an Avocado Relish
Chipotle chili powder and smoked paprika are available at Mother Nature’s in the bulk spice section. If you don’t have them, substitute regular chili powder and bump it up to 3 teaspoons. This soups serves 4-6 people as a main dish, more if a starter dish.
Perfect Spice mix;
1.5 teaspoons of chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1.5 teaspoons of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoons of cracked black pepper
.5 teaspoon of sea salt
Prepare the spice blend by mixing all the spices together in a small bowl. (Double it for a great spice mix to use on anything you please.)
1-2 tablespoon of olive or coconut oil
1.5 pounds of chopped raw chicken or turkey thighs
OR 2-3 cups of cooked and shredded turkey or chicken meat
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2-6 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 bell peppers, coarsely chopped
4-5 fat carrots, sliced into 1/4 rounds
1 30 ounce can of hominy drained or 2 cups of frozen sweet corn
1 32 oz container of low sodium organic chicken broth
OR 1 quart of homemade chicken or turkey broth
1 28 oz can of organic low sodium crushed tomatoes, un-drained
1 4.5 can of mild diced green chilies
1 small can of organic tomato paste
The juice of 1 to 2 limes
1 to 2 teaspoons of honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Get out your favorite soup pot, everyone has one, and sauté the chicken or turkey meat in the oil over medium high heat. While it is cooking sprinkle half the spice mix over it and mix in. Cook for 8 – 10 minutes stirring continuously. (If using pre-cooked meat just barely heat it up then proceed) Add the onions and garlic, and sauté a bit more till fragrant, about 5 minutes. Toss in the chopped carrots and bell peppers and sprinkle the rest of the spice mix over the mix while doing the cha cha. Sauté a bit longer then, pour in the hominy, broth, tomatoes, green chilies and paste and mix them in well. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 20-35 minutes till the carrot are just starting to get tender and the house smells like goodness. Taste and add the honey and the lime juice, a little bit at a time till you have the right flavor. Add any salt and pepper it might need and serve with the avocado relish, radishes and warm corn tortillas. Ole!
½ cup of chopped cilantro
1/3 cup of chopped green onions
1 diced and peeled avocado
Grated lime zest of one lime and juice
3 ounces of cotija cheese, crumbled (optional)
A pinch of salt
When the soup is almost ready to serve, dice the avocado up and squeeze a little lime juice over it and sprinkle with the lime zest. Add the cilantro, green onions and cheese then mix gently till barely mixed. Serve on the soup.
Tis the season for appetizers. It is their time to shine! My favorite parties to attend and give have revealers gathered around the holiday table laden with mouthwatering appetizers, chinking their glasses in celebration. If you are going to a holiday party or having one, appetizers are the shining star.
Imagine a stress free holiday party…The hostess and host are there around the table, enjoying the party, looking unhurried and relaxed, laughing with their guests. You think this impossible? It isn’t. With a bit of organization and some easy appetizers in the starring role, this could be your holiday party. After reading this, even if you have NEVER given a party… you will want to. So read on at your own risk of becoming a smooth operator.
Here are a few tips to making a holiday party come together like Beethoven’s 9th.
-First off, it is important to make appetizers that are easy to handle with one hand, as most people have a drink in hand. Also make sure they aren’t messy as folks tend to dress up a bit for parties and don’t want BBQ sauce on their Christmas shirt.
-Select easy hors d’oeuvres that you can serve at room temperature so that you can prepare all the food ahead of time and be relaxed and enjoy your friends at the party. There is nothing more stressful for everyone than a harried host that is running back and forth from the oven to the table.
-Have easy to serve drinks, like wine, pre-made punch and sparkling cider at a drink counter where guests can help themselves. Have all your appetizers ready on the table around the time that the first guest arrives.
-Arrange many different small sweets on a tray in an artful pattern for a fun way to serve your desserts. You don’t have to bake all these goodies, buy them from Bread and Ocean or one of our other fine stores. Try to arrange the desserts in a way that there is height, color contrast and shape. If you start with arranging slices of sweet bread, like pumpkin bread down the center, that gives it a grounding agent. Make sure and have some brightly colored fruit, like strawberres for interest.
Now for easy appetizers that you can make for your party or bring to a party, here are some delicious ideas for your holiday merry making.
Easy appetizers with maximum impact;
~Take a small round of brie at room temperature, place on a plate and drizzle with cranberry sauce, chopped fresh rosemary and honey. Serve with crackers or Bread and Ocean’s baguette slices. (This is truly amazing, simple but amazing)
~Make a cheese and fruit platter in the shape of a wreath on a large round platter. Use your imagination and have cedar boughs or salal leaves under it all in the form of a wreath, red grapes, dried fruit and nuts for contrast and cute little cheese rounds with crackers. Have fun with this one!
~Put out a platter of cooked shrimp and serve with cocktail sauce. (This never grows old)
~Bake a frittata of your choice and cut into bite sized pieces and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of green onions.
~Fill endive leaves with a tablespoon or two of hummus and garnish with smoked paprika and chopped green onions or olives. Arrange on the platter like flower petals with the bowl of hummus in the center. Arrange other veggies around the endive leaves in a floral pattern as well. (There has to be a veggie platter, just make it beautiful.)
~Make tiny tea sandwiches, like turkey, cream cheese and cranberry sauce on raisin bread or ham with artisan mustard, mayo and gouda cheese on rustic bread.
~ Everybody LOVES deviled eggs; just make them a wee bit dressier by adding smoked paprika, crumbled cooked bacon and hot sauce to the yolk mix. Garnish with cooked crumbled bacon, chopped chives and smoked paprika.
~Cut fingerling potatoes into fourths, length wise. Toss in olive oil and salt and pepper and roast in a hot oven, like 425 degrees till done. Arrange on a platter in a floral pattern with a garlic or red pepper aioli dip in the center.
~Roast sweet potatoes cut in one inch cubes, tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper, in a hot oven till done. Fry up some sliced chicken apple sausage till brown. Stick one piece of sweet potato and a slice of sausage on a toothpick and serve with a garlic aioli dip. (delish!)
Here is a recipe for the hottest rage in hors d’oeuvres, bacon wrapped dates. They can be made so many ways but this is my favorite. I’ve also included a recipe for sparkling cranberries that are a beautiful and delicious on all your appetizer plates. So dear holiday partiers, whip up an appetizer and get out there and make merry. Tis the season!
2 cups of fresh cranberries
1 cup of cooking grade maple syrup
1 cup of granulated sugar
Rinse the cranberries and place in a colander to drain. Meanwhile heat maple syrup in a small sauce pan till warm, and almost getting hot. (If you get the syrup too hot is will cause the cranberries to pop. We don’t want that. No no no) Pour the cranberries into the syrup and let soak in the fridge overnight. The next day drain the cranberries and reserve the cranberry syrup for another use. Put the sugar in a pie plate and dump half the cranberries in there and roll around till sparkly. Remove from dish and place on a baking sheet, not touching, lined with parchment paper. Sugar the other half of the cranberries and add to the baking sheet. Let them dry for an hour or so. You can store these nuggets in an air tight container in a cool place for a day or two. Add to everything.
Bacon Wrapped Dates
24 large moist dates, such as medjool
12 not-too-thick slices of bacon
24 whole toasted unsalted almonds
Move oven rack to upper third of oven and preheat oven to 500°. Pit dates, by tearing them as little as possible. While the dates are awaiting their moment, halve the 12 slices of bacon crosswise. Stuff cavity of each date with 1 almond and then wrap 1 half-piece of bacon around the width of each date and put dates, seam side down, on a baking sheet, at least ½” apart. Bake until bacon is golden and crisp, 6-8 minutes. Set aside to cool briefly before serving or can be served at room temperature.
“We kids feared many things in those days – werewolves, dentists, North Koreans, Sunday School – but they all paled in comparison with Brussels sprouts.” Dave Barry
I have a new love affair and I’m willing to admit it, right here in the local paper. I’m in love with Brussels sprouts. Yup, those terribly misunderstood veggies that either you love or hate. (There is a reason for that which I will get to.) I’m here to stand on my soap box and sing about them.
Okay, let’s start with a story about Brussels sprouts. They have about as clouded of a history as they do a reputation but it is a widely accepted truth that they were cultivated from the great mother cabbage. In fact, all brassicas, like broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, and cauliflower are descendants from the venerable cabbage.
People took the cabbage and bred it into umpteen million different kinds of leafy greens and brassicas. You see, the cabbage used to be very important crop to the world due to its high nutritional content, great winter storage and its ability to grow in crappy soil and weird and cold conditions. For many years, in many places, the cabbage is what kept the human race going nutritionally. It is not a coincidence that just about every culture in the world has a recipe for some sort of pickled cabbage, you know like sauerkraut, kim chee, suan cai, etc.
Somewhere around the 5th, 13th, 15th 17th or 18th century Brussels sprouts were birthed in Northern Europe, most likely in Brussels. No one really knows. It is figured that they were cultivated to avoid freezing like regular cabbages do in the Northern climates. Their small buds on a stock grow faster and so get harvested quicker. They are basically a fast growing “mini me” of the cabbage.
This cruciferous vegetable contains 2-3 times the amount of phytonutrients called glucosinolates than are found in any other brassica. This chemical boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. (It is interesting to note that Brussels sprouts grow in a double helix pattern like DNA.) And that is a reason to love Brussels sprouts.
The reason to hate them is that there is another beneficial cancer blocking chemical, phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), which is either bitter or tasteless depending on one’s genetic makeup. This gene has been linked back to our Neanderthal ancestors who were wired with this gene that “bitter equals poison.” Oddly enough Homo sapiens with no Neanderthal genes in them do not taste PTC, so if Brussels sprouts taste bad to you, you are a caveman. Now you know.
There are some ways to make sure Brussels sprouts taste good no matter what your gene pool is. First, make sure that they are very fresh. Brussels Sprouts grow on stocks and sometimes you will find them artfully so at a grocery store. This is the way to buy them if possible because they are most likely fresh. (I found some at Manzainta Fresh Foods this way. Happy day!) If they are sold loose, inspect them carefully to see if they are dry or have yellow or discolored leaves. That is a sign they are fairly old and leave them like a caveman would.
Second, it is very important how you cook them. Do not boil them as you will lose many of their dynamite nutrients and they taste awful. Cooking them by dry heat methods like roasting, sautéing, and even grilling is best. Water leeches flavor as well as nutrients and cannot produce the intensity of flavor that dry heat methods can. Whatever way you cook them, DO NOT OVERCOOK THEM!! That is the sure fire way to kill Brussels sprouts and give your children nightmares.
Indisputably, Brussels sprouts are most sumptuous when combined with a rich pork product like bacon, prosciutto or pancetta. (What isn’t better with bacon??) This basic recipe that I am humbly offering up here is the perfect way to cook them. I have included many variations on the theme which include bacon, of course. Just don’t overcook them or you will hate them whatever your genes pool is.
Basic Roasted Brussels Sprouts (even a caveman would like)
1 1/2 pounds of Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of cracked pepper
Preheat your campfire (oven) to 400 degrees. Prepare your Brussels sprouts by peeling off the ends and any yellow outer leaves then cutting them into halves. Place them into a bowl and toss them with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Then pour them out into a baking dish and spread them out to a single layer. Roast for 20-30 minutes, on the top shelf of the oven, stirring once during the baking time. You know they are done when they are just getting tender but still bright green in color. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper then serve immediately. (Some people swear by a little extra salt on them)
Bacon roasted Brussels sprouts
Before you roast the Brussels sprouts, cut up 5 pieces of thick center cut bacon into matchsticks and sauté in a heavy skillet then pour bacon grease and bacon pieces on the Brussels sprouts in the bowl and toss with salt and pepper. (if they seem a bit dry add a tablespoon of olive oil or so) Omit the olive oil and roast the same as the basic recipe.
Bacon walnut cranberry roasted Brussels sprouts
Do the same technique as above but add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts with the bacon and sauté together. Roast like the basic recipe. After the Brussels sprouts have roasted, toss ½ cup of dried cranberries with the sprouts. Perfect holiday side dish with all the bright colors.
Brewer’s yeast and walnut roasted Brussels sprouts
Do the same technique as the basic roasted Brussels sprouts but add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts to the mix when you are tossing the sprouts with the olive oil. After the Brussels sprouts are roasted toss with two to four tablespoons of brewer’s yeast, depending on how much you love the flavor, then serve immediately.
Garlic roasted parmesan Brussels sprouts
Do the same technique as the basic roasted Brussels sprouts but add three to six cloves of minced garlic to the sprouts when you toss them with the olive oil. Roast as directed in the basic recipe except half way through the roasting when you stir them, sprinkle them with 2-4 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese. Continue roasting the same as the basic recipe.
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” Julia Childs
Every once in a while it is time to make something extraordinary. Hubby’s family recently congregated here in Manzanita for the first time in years. It was time to bust my beloved mixer out of the closet and do our magic together. As you might know, the mixer and I are trying to spend less and less time together. It is better on my waist line and her motor, but sometimes you just have to toss moderation to the wind, (and rain!) and bake up a storm.
It just so happened that we were in Hood River Oregon, fruit capitol around here, recently and came back with a car full of fruit. One of the amazing fruits that Oregon and Washington are known for is its pears. In fact, the Northwest is the only geographical area in the United States that produces perfect pears. They are the #1 tree fruit crop in Oregon, rated 10th producer in the nation. What a unique distinction. I love living here as much as I love pears.
What isn’t there to love about pears? I love their buttery texture and how juicy sweet they are. So when I decided to do something special for the special people in my life the pears glowing bright on my counter stepped forward into the starring role. Yes, pears it is. It so happened that I also had this recipe that I have wanted to try for a few years and so everything was right. Magic happened.
This cake is simply amazing. I knew it was going to be good but no, this cake is outstanding! It is moist, not too sweet, beautiful and very fragrant. All of my favorite things wrapped up into one beautiful package. Please do not be put off by the long to-do list on this recipe. It is really easy to make but it just takes a long time to bake. (The baking time is an hour and 45 minutes so make sure and work that into your time management scheme.) You can bake this cake one to two days ahead time, like most cakes, it gets better with age.
I highly recommend this cake to be added to your table for Thanksgiving for the extraordinary people in your life you that you are thankful for. It is a dense, rich cake that can easily serve 12 people. Serve warm with gingered whip cream for those special people in your world to know they are truly special. My gift of gratitude to you dear readers, thanks for reading.
Gingered pear upside-down cake
For the gooey topping;
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of brown sugar
3 teaspoons of cinnamon
4-5 medium juicy, slightly firm pears, I used bartletts
For the batter;
1 cup of butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
3/4 cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, grated
3 large farm eggs
2/3 cups of unsulphured molasses
3 cups of unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups of buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and lightly butter a 9 inch springform pan. Cut out a piece of parchment paper the size of the bottom of the pan and line the inside of it. Now you can get busy making magic. To make the topping, melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the sugar and cinnamon and mix well. Pour into the lined pan and carefully spread evenly. Next, quarter your pears, core them and then slice them in 1/4 inch slices, length ways. (If you cut a slice and keep it connected at the top of the pear to the other slices, it makes it easy to fan them all pudry like) Place the fanned pears in a circle in the middle of the pan in the caramel stuff, then artfully arrange the rest of the pear slices on the outside edge. Keep layering the pears till you have at least four pears in there.
Time to make the batter, toss the butter and brown sugar in the mixer and cream on a medium speed for 3-5 minutes till the mixture take on a silky smooth texture. (yes, blend that long, it makes a difference) Add in the grated ginger and mix a little longer. With the mixer still going, add one egg at a time till it is incorporated then repeat with the other eggs. Slowly add the molasses and beat till it’s very fluffy. The mix may look like it is “breaking” and granulated but no worries. It will all work out.
In a mediumish mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt till well combined. Turn the mixture back on slow and add a cup of the flour mix, then a 1/2 cup of the butter milk and let mix a bit, then repeat till all mixed together. Do not over mix, as soon it is all incorporated turn off that blender! Pour carefully into the cake pan over the pears and smooth out. The pan will be almost full, amazingly enough. Tuck the cake in the oven on the center rack to bake for.. drum roll… 1 hour and 45 minutes. (Yes, you will have time to clean up the kitchen and organize the garage.) The cake will be done when the center does not jiggle and a long pick comes out clean. Cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire rack before taking off the cake ring. Place a plate on the exposed bottom of the cake and carefully flip upside down onto the plate. Remove the cake pan bottom and tenderly peel off the parchment paper and voila! A beautiful, yummy, delicious cake that is a wonder to all. Serve warm or at room temperature with gingered whip cream. (One teaspoon of ground ginger and 2 tablespoons of sugar per pint of whipped cream) Happy Thanksgiving!
“Don’t fear dying, fear not having lived.” Old Mexican saying
Signs of the summer’s death are all around us with the falling leaves, bare flower stalks and the decent of the rains. Our thoughts turn from the fertile garden beds, inwards towards the hearth. It seems like a fitting time to celebrate the dead.
Day of the Dead or “el Dia de los Muertos” is celebrated throughout Mexico roughly the weekend after Halloween. The week before this event, Mexico transforms. Suddenly the fresh flower stalls on the street are awash with marigolds, windows are dressed in brightly colored flags with skeletons dancing on them and sugar skulls are everywhere.
Families build alters to honor their departed beloveds, decorated with pictures, flowers, candles and smiling skeletons. Then the families loving prepare a feast filled with the favorite foods of their dead loved ones. Soon they pour out onto the streets, parading to the graveyards with food and drink in hand, to have a party with those in the ground.
I simply am in love with this holiday and have adopted it as a tradition in our household. It is a wonderful way to celebrate the lives of those we have lost. Often, we invited friends over and ask them to bring a picture of their lost loved one to add to the alter with their loved one’s favorite dish. During dinner, we each talk about the person or fur person that is being remembered and toast to their spirits and memories. When you are gone, you are not truly gone if someone remembers you and celebrates your life.
The day of the dead came early for me this year. As many of you know, my dear old furry cat friend and lap warmer, Lilly, left our world and went off to the stars to put some purr into them. Little does anyone know, but she was the co-author of my articles. She would sit on my lap and purr inspiration while I typed. Things feel pretty stark without the halo of white fur floating around me while I write.
I will not forget my sweet muse Lilly. I will celebrate her furry little life and hope I still find white hair poking out of keyboard in years to come. I will remember to lie in the sun, when it is peeking out, and be content with just that. I will live life to the fullest and bake chicken often and eat it in her honor. (She loved to eat chicken!)
I have been working on the perfect roast chicken recipe for a while now. Like Lilly did; I love to eat chicken so perfecting the right roast chicken has been a passion of mine. Start with an organic chicken, preferably local. This is a basic recipe that you can use over and over just change the spices to your liking. I used a Mexican theme here since we are celebrating Day of the Dead, but the classic way to roast chicken is to use rosemary, sage, thyme and lemon instead. Viva el dia de los muertos!
Mexican Spiced Roast Chicken
You can choose to roast the chicken whole or cut it in half.
3 cloves of garlic crushed
8 cups of cold water
4 tablespoons of kosher salt
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 tablespoon of whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
1 lime, halved and squeezed into the brine
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
1 tablespoon of chili powder
2 teaspoons of oregano
2 teaspoons of fresh cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
3 tablespoon of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1, 4 to 5 pound fat pasture raised whole chicken
1 small onion cut into fourths.
For the brining; You will think this step is not necessary. You will, perhaps, find it too fussy. Ignore those feelings and put your chicken in the salty spa. Trust me. Mix all the brine ingredients into large pot and stir until the salt is dissolved. Add some ice to bring the brine temperature down then add your chicken to the brine, making sure the whole thing is submerged. (It is okay to add more water to the brine to get it to cover the chicken) Place the pot in the fridge and brine for 2-12 hours.
While the chicken is brining, mix up everything from the spice mix but the oil, lime and garlic, in a small bowl. Turn the oven on to 400 degrees. Remove the chicken from the brine, (discard the brine) and pat the chicken dry then place the bird breast side up in heavy dutch oven. (If you do not have a dutch oven investing in one will be the best thing you could possibly do for your taste buds.) Squeeze the lime into the spice mix then tuck the lime halves and onion quarters in the cavity. Add the oil to the spice mix as well and spread that spicy oil mix gently under the skin and all over the chicken. (Sorry gotta get messy here since the best way to do it is with your hands.)
Tuck the chicken in the oven and bake for 30 minutes with the lid off. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees and then put the lid on the dutch oven and bake for another 30 minutes till beginning to brown. Take off the lid and baste with the delicious juices in the pot then let roast for 10-20 minutes more till the temperature at the deepest part of the thigh is 165-175 degrees and the skin is golden brown. It is about 20 minutes per pound cooking time. Don’t over bake it or you will have dried ole chicken that Lilly wouldn’t even eat. VERY IMPOTANT! Take out of the oven and let sit for 15 minutes to let the juices distribute into the meat. Serve with the pan juices on Mexican style rice sprinkled with cilantro and salsa. Meow.
It’s that time of the year again. The leaves are falling and the rains have returned after what seems like an endless summer here. Thoughts are turning from the fertile garden beds to the warmth of the hearth. Our kitchen and freezers are burgeoning with the wealth of the harvests this year, venison, salmon, tuna, garlic, apples, onions and many lovely lovely winter squash.
Winter squash is so sense fulfilling from their gorgeous abundant forms and vibrant colors to their rich nutritious meat. I kinda have a love affair with squash every autumn. This year I am particularly seeking solace in squash as I lost my beloved 16 years old cat to bone cancer. The grief has me reaching for my kitchen knife and the winter squash that promise of a fine comfort food.
For the second year in a row our CSA has dropped a rouge vif d’Etampes AKA Cinderella squash on our doorstep. The rouge vif d’Etampes which loosely translated means “stamped red” is a very old French heirloom squash that looks just like the pumpkin Cinderella’s Godmother turned into her chariot. It is beautiful. It is also big and makes a lot of puree!
I roasted one, cut into fourths today and set in a parchment lined baking sheet in the oven. Then I scooped out the flesh and pureed it in the food processor till it was glowing orange and inviting me to create. It was time to make some gluten and grain free pumpkin bars from this great blog PaleOMG that had been haunting me since reading about them last week. Yes, I needed to try them. This was about emotional rescue folks.
The puree from the squash was a wee bit watery so first I drained it on a cheese cloth for a few hours then made the magic. These bars looked funny and surprised me since I didn’t fully read the recipe when I started. (Guilty as charged) The crust you bake but the topping is no bake. I was already half way into it so might as well finish! But if you have designs on eating these hot out of the oven, you will be disappointed. You need to cool the crust and then chill the filling for a few hours to make them hold together. They are worth the wait. Seriously.
I ended up giving a lot of them away to clients and friends, (Once again sans hunter in the house) and even the non paleo folks were impressed and asked for the recipe. They have a very rich pumpkin flavor that is also not overly sweet. Very nice nom noms. Make these anytime for guilt free emotional rescue and fill the house with the fragrance of autumn.
Paleo Pumpkin Pie Bars
This recipe is basically from PaleOMG. I’ve liberally tweaked it.
For the crust;
8 dates, pits removed
1 cup of almond butter
2 farm fresh eggs
2 tablespoons of honey
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
Pinch of salt
For the filling;
1 14 oz can or 1 ¾ cups of pumpkin puree
½ cup of coconut milk
¼ cup of coconut butter (or the cream at the top of the can if you can’t find coconut butter)
3 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted
¼ cup of maple syrup
2 teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon of ground ginger
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
¼ teaspoon of allspice and ginger
1/8 teaspoon of allspice
For the nummy pecan topping;
1 cup of pecans, unchopped
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Let’s put this all together now. First off, stoke the fire to 350 degrees, (turn on the oven) While that is heating up, time to make the crust. In you handy dandy food processor pulse all the ingredients together till well blended. Pour into a well-oiled 9×9 baking dish and smooth out with a rubber spatula. Tuck in the oven for 12-15 minutes or till the top barely starts to brown and is firm to the touch. Take it out and let it cool till it won’t melt the filling. Keep the oven on to roast the pecans.
While that is baking make your pumpkin filling. In your cleaned food processor or blender, add all the filling ingredients and give it a whirl till well blended. Pour into the cooled crust and smooth out with that handy rubber spatula.
The pecans are so easy you are going to be amazed. Pour the pecans into a one cup measuring device and then drizzle the maple syrup over them. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and mix till all the nuts are covered. Spread evenly on a small baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper and roast for 8-10 minutes stirring once. When the maple syrup gets shiny and starts to bubble take them out and let them cool. (Before eating them so you won’t burn your fingers!) Sprinkle half of them over the filling and then place in the fridge for a couple hours to firm up before cutting. Enjoy the rest of the pecan as special little snacks or on salads.
“Hunting has been the cornerstone and most important conservation development in the 20th Century” Conservationforce.org
Hunting came into my life during my vegetarian years in the form of my husband. Here I was a dyed in the wool vegetarian that had just been diagnosed with anemia. My doctor had just told me, eat more red meat. “Eat more red meat!? I don’t eat any red meat sir.” I said with a sniff. This didn’t ruffle him a bit, “Well then it is time to start.” With this information rolling around in my thoughts, in stepped strong and handsome hunter, stage left.
I must confess, this was a conundrum, I really liked this guy but he was a “hunter”. He kept wooing me and I kept being wooed and before you knew it he brought venison to the freezer. Then he got busy cooking it up. (He is a remarkable cook.) I cautiously peered into his giant skillet filled with sizzling meat, onions and apples. Hummm, it smelled amazing! Then I took my first bite and I was teetering dangerously on enjoying this but I was still conflicted.
Later, I was explaining to a friend how delicious this meat was but this guy was a “hunter”. She laughed at me and said “Girl wake up! Hunting is as old as the hills and it is a way more honest way to eat. You actually have to kill something and get dirty butchering it. It is completely different than buying your package of meat, all clean and sterile. What an honor to have a man in your life that eats honest.” She was right so I married him and no longer have anemia.
Not only is hunting hard, honest and time honored work, but hunters are some of our biggest wildlife and land conservationist. The father of this movement was none other than President Teddy Roosevelt. He had bought a ranch in 1884 in the “badlands” of North Dakota expecting to do some big game hunting. When he arrived he was shocked at the damage that had been done to the wildlife and the land. This started the wheels turning and when he was elected president in 1901 he used his authority to protect over 230,000,000 acres of public land, established 51 Federal Bird Reserves, 4 National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, 18 National Monuments and 5 National Parks during his presidency.
Fortunately the legacy didn’t die with him and many hunter established conservation organizations have continued to preserve our wildlife and lands. A few of them well worth mentioning are “Ducks Unlimited” which has conserved more than 12.4 million acres of waterfowl habitat and the “Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation” which has preserved over 6.1 million acres of habitat and helped to restore long-absent elk populations throughout the United States. Sportsmen contribute $7.5 million every day, adding to more than $2.7 billion every year for conservation.
I am very thankful for the hunters in this world and especially mine. He has continued to provide us with the most delicious and nutritious meat that I am so grateful for. He is also very careful to use as much meat as possible from his harvest and so lots of sinewy stew meat is in the freezer. I have gotten great at making stew! This is my hunter’s very favorite one that I cook and I must admit it is amazing. Use grass fed beef stew meat if you don’t have access to venison.
Venison or Beef Bourguignon
1 tablespoon of good olive oil
8 oz of a good center cut bacon, cut into small pieces
2.5 pounds of venison or beef stew meat
Kosher Salt and pepper for meat
1 pound of carrots sliced into 1 inch chunks
1 pound of parsnips, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 fat yellow onions cut into chunks
2-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 750 ml bottle of a good dry red wine
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 28 ounce of canned crushed organic tomatoes
1 teaspoon of dried or 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon of minced fresh or 2 teaspoons of dried parsley
1 tablespoon of minced fresh or 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary
1 pound of mushrooms sliced
2 teaspoons of kosher salt and ground pepper
Preheat the campfire(oven) to 350 degrees. Heat up your olive oil in a heavy dutch oven you could knock a bear out with and cook the bacon chunks over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the bacon is fragrant and lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate with a paper towel on it.
While the bacon is cooking, lay your venison cubes out on a cutting board and dry them with a paper towel, (no I’m not crazy, this makes the meat brown better) then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. When the bacon is done, sear the cubes in the bacon fat in small batches of a single layer of meat for 3-5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the meat with your slotted spoon when browned to a bowl and finish searing the rest.
After the meat is done, toss in the carrots, parsnips, garlic and onions and cook for 10 minutes or so stirring occasionally until the onions are lightly browned. Add the meat and bacon back to the stew pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Turn off the burner and stir the pot till everything gets to know each other. (This step can be done the night before and stored in the fridge till you are ready to cook it)
Place the pot into the middle of the oven and stand back and let magic happen. Cook for two hours while the house filled with the most amazing scent that will bring people off the streets. Carefully take out of the oven after two hours, taste and adjust the seasonings, then serve on garlic mashed potatoes for the best comfort food ever. Enjoy!