Recipes

30 Days of Vitamix: Lemon Meringue Pie Smoothie

One of the best things about winter is citrus. Enjoying citrus on a cold, snowy morning is one of our digressions from "eating local." I have had lemon chess pie, lemon bars, and lemon meringue pie on my mind. Thanks to my in-laws, I have a big supply of beautiful, organic Meyer lemons. This is a delicious and healthy smoothie that evokes a lemon meringue pie, with a side of virtue.

Enjoy!

Lemon Meringue Pie Smoothie

  • Juice & zest of 1 lemon, preferably Meyer
  • 1/4 C plain soy yogurt (you can use any plain yogurt you prefer)
  • 2 Tbsp oats
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1-2 tsp ground flax
  • 1/3 C frozen banana slices
  • 1/3 C frozen mango chunks
  • 1 tsp honey, or more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • handful of ice

Lemon meringue pie smoothie

 

  1. Buzz up the oats in the Vitamix first, for a smoother texture.
  2. Add fruit, mango for sweetness and banana for custardy texture. Yogurt also adds protein and smooth tartness.
  3. Add ground flax seed, ginger, lemon juice and zest, egg whites. (If you're worried about raw egg whites or immune compromised, omit or use pasteurized cartoned egg whites.)
  4. Top with a handful of ice and set your Vitamix on smoothie.

 

 

 

Tips:

  • Did you know: heart healthy oats are a cinch to incorporate in smoothies? In this one, I buzzed up the oats first for a really smooth texture.
  • Egg whites are a good source of protein
  • Flax seed brings all kinds of nutrition- ALA or alpha-linoleic acid for one. Buy whole flax seeds and store in your freezer. I grind about a half a cup at a time and keep it in a shaker jar on the counter. Shake on/in smoothies, shake on oatmeal in the morning, salads at night.

30 Days of Vitamix - Say hello to Red!

I like red for so many reasons. It's lucky. It's life. It can pull me out of blue. It's the color of World AIDS Day, the color of Women's Heart Health. And it's just plain sexeh.

Meet Red

There's my early Xmas/Birthday present: a Pro Series Vitamix in Candy Apple Red. I'm calling her "Red." She's strong. Powerful. Occasionally loud. Gets the job done. I think we're going to be good friends. I hope she'll last half as long as my old handmixer did. (see Ode to a Handmixer.) That little Black & Decker handmixer, bought my first year of law school just died. I mean, like last week. The Waring anniversary blender a couple weeks ago. I thought I could make do with the food processor but I'm telling you, I'm a fool in love.

Red

There's Red. She's a beauty, isn't she?

 

As I registered her, I saw something about an affiliate program. Well, stay tuned on that.

#30DaysofVitamix

I'm starting a new series here: "30 Days of Vitamix". I'll be including posts on using the Vitamix. I'll cover techniques, ingredients to know, tips, and recipes, including some healthy and some boozy inspirations. Frozen Negroni anyone?  Here's a taste of just some of the things we'll be writing about soon.

 

 

Vitamix Collage

Thanks to my wonderful husband for this terrific gift! A great addition to the family!

No Soggy Bottoms! One Perfect Pumpkin Pie with Meringue Topping for Thanksgiving

Who doesn't love pie? I do, and I have had to learn to make them at home since the advent of my dairy allergy. Impossible to eat one out. Pie without butter? Is it any good? Yes. Yes it is. This recipe represents the best of three different recipes and many years of hosting, preparing, feasting. I culled two techniques from the venerable Rose Levy Berenbaum, a crust I love from Amy Traverso and a meringue topping from David Leite. I'll share the full recipe below along with some other terrific tips I've picked up along the way. Won't you join me? Pull up a fork!

two apple pies
two apple pies

Apple Pies for a birthday girl

strawberry_rhubarb_pie
strawberry_rhubarb_pie

Strawberry Rhubarb 

sweet potato pie
sweet potato pie
pm pie
pm pie

One Pumpkin Pie to Rule Them All

Pie Nation, Pie Boxes and more

  • Crust Dust: If you're making a fruit pie, this tip from Pie it Forward is worth the book. Gesine Bullock-Prado makes beautiful pies and some of her best tips can be yours. A soggy bottom is not a good thing. Not in most situations and certainly not in pies.
  • If you're taking a pie to someone's house, the Pie Box is essential!
Pie box 2
Pie box 2

Large enough to accommodate an Emile Henry pie dish

Pie Rules

There are some rules I'd say are non-negotiable.

  1. Make sure the fats are cold, and stay cold.
  2. Work quickly, calmly and with authority. If the fats get warm then pop it back into the fridge
  3. Always let the dough rest before rolling it out. But wait - Dorie Greenspan doyenne of Parisienne food says maybe not? Leite's Culinaria's Renaee Schettler Rossi asks "WWDD"? What Would Dorie Do?

Hm. Seems we have been given permission to ignore some of the rules. I'M IN!

Unified Pie Theory

So here's my unified theory of pie. It's okay to break rules and pick the best parts of various recipes.

My favorite crust at the moment is from Amy Traverso's Apple Lover's Cookbook. The Double Crust pie is a winner. To that, I add Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pie & Pastry Bible. I use the cooked custard technique as well as her terrific technique of crushed gingersnaps to line the bottom of the pie. It helps prevent the dreaded soggy bottom, much like the Crust Dust above for fruit pies. If you can enjoy nuts add pecans to the gingersnaps. 4 (2") gingersnaps and 1/4 C pecan halves. I just use 6 Snappy Gingersnaps.

Also, cooking the pumpkin puree and spices, blending in the food processor makes for a smooth, rich filling.

Finally, I loved the addition of a meringue topping and all who enjoyed it agreed. I have Leite's Culinaria to thank for that inspiration. Pumpkin Meringue Pie. And if you need some pie crimping ideas, say no more.

Thanksgiving 2014 - This Year's Theme: Relax. Recipes, Tips, Ideas to Help you Enjoy GivingThanks

GivingThanks

Many people are in full countdown mode and the onslaught of Thanksgiving  is approaching hurricane force: posts, tweets, recipes, emails, newsletters. I want to encourage you to calm down, take a deep breath and if any of this helps, I’m happy.

This name reversal popped into my head as I was thinking about people worrying about "the whole perfect Thanksgiving thing." If we focus on the Giving Thanks part rather than the frenzy must-be-perfect event part, we can calm the noise. In a nonsecular, gratitude and appreciation mode, let's call it GivingThanks instead of Thanksgiving.

  • Don’t forget Kitchen Confidence can be yours. Like a personal trainer to help you up your game in the gym, I can come show you skills you’ll use for a lifetime, recipes that’ll make your friends and family swoon- in the comfort of your own kitchen. All for the price of a night out on the town.

sage 1

 Did you know sage can be easily preserved by drying in a microwave or regular oven?

Important things to focus on:

  • It’s about gratitude and enjoying our connection to others. Celebrating abundance. Football. Food and maybe overindulging.
  • It’s not about being perfect. If you are a giant sweaty stressball when you guests arrive, they're going to feel uncomfortable. If you're an amped-up boozy dictator “sit here” “do this” “eat that” you're no fun. Many of us choose “friendsgivings” to avoid the traumas of forced family fun.
  • If people at your table care more about the spot on the glass or the dustball in the corner, I'm hereby giving you permission to cross them off the list next year.

So, how to relax in the face of the tidal wave of new recipes to try, new craft projects to find time for, the urgings to create the perfect tablescape?

Plan the work, work the plan

Do three things today that will pay dividends next week. Now is the time to:

1. Make your menu. What are the dishes you must have on the menu? For us, it’s Turkey, Dressing/stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, bourbon sweet potatoes (AKA Jack’s Killer Sweets), gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving tends to be a menu that writes itself. Many of us long to try new inventive recipes or twists on classics while many at the table want the meal to be exactly the same as it is every year. Here’s one compromise: Make all the longed for classics, just as you always do. People do crave familiar routines and these create a sense of tradition that reinforces the ritual we love. Allow yourself to add one new dish to try if you’re so inclined and IF you can do so without stressing yourself out. We tried the sage butter sweet & white potato casserole one year and liked it so much, it got adopted. Yes, that means we have three potato dishes but if you have potato lovers at the table and more than a few, not a problem. We’re a small group this year so I may skip this.

Recipes for vegetarians, vegans, and others.

2. Finalize your guest list.

Tips for being a good guest/good host. Now is the time to figure out what food allergies, intolerances you may be dealing with. If a guest has some issue you are not sure you can safely address, have the discussion now and ask them to bring something they can eat and share.

A word about being a good guest:

  • do not show up with food you need to prep. The host will be busy in the kitchen and every square inch of the kitchen, every burner is likely to be occupied.
  • do not bring additional guests unless you are invited to do so first by the host
  • do offer to bring extra serving bowls, glasses, chairs or ask if there’s something they could use help with the day before.LINK: http://blog.jacquelinechurch.com/handle-sticky-situations-prickly-guests-holiday-table/

Tips for handling prickly situations at the holiday table.

3. Delegate tasks.

You need to divest yourself of the notion that you must do it all. Let go of that now. I mean it. You will have your hands full and a stressed host makes a stressful party. You deserve to enjoy the day and your guests deserve to enjoy your company too.

Things that are easily delegated:

  • Cleaning - hire a service to clean a day or two before; or enlist family members to chip in a little extra
  • Flowers or centerpiece (if you feel you need one) I like edible centerpieces. No room on the table anyway. How about a big bowl of fall fruits, apples pears, pomegranates, persimmons. Add drama by plopping them in a tall vase.
  • Wine/booze - everyone who sells beverages wants to tell you must have the perfectly stocked bar now. I’m seldom one to stand between friends and drinks, but in the spirit of simplifying: forget it. Select one good wine that people can drink before or with the meal. Choose one cocktail that’s easy to make (many can be mixed ahead in a pitcher) and offer guests a glass of wine or this year’s cocktail. Boom. If you’d really love to have that new amaro you tried last week but don’t have it int he budget, ask a guest to bring a bottle. After dinner drinks, done.a word about punch: it’s a great idea for serving a large crowd but unless you have a punchbowl and the room in the fridge/freezer to store ingredients and make ice molds, this can be an added stress in the guise of a helpful hint. I have no punchbowl, nor do I have room in the freezer or fridge.
  • PIE - I’m going to tell you that a delicious pie IS within your reach. I will teach you how in a Kitchen Confidence class. BUT, if you feel stressed about it and cannot fathom how or when: there are options: Community Servings; Bread and Salt. Dessert: done! Good deed: done! JJ Gonson's Cuisine en Locale team has a slew of sides, or the whole shebang if you want to have someone else do the cooking for you.

Today's to do items:

1. purchase extra zip top bags and large containers for food prep and leftovers

2. sniff and toss old spices

3. finalize guest list, menu

 

Tomorrow: Dishes to make ahead

  • Cranberry relish - recipe
  • Thanksgiving spice
  • Pie doughs
  • Gingersnaps and other cookie dough to slice and bake - recipe
  • Stock
  • Simple chocolate truffles
  • Rolls
  • Marinated mushrooms
  • Chex mix

roast turkey

Scones Fit for a Pascha - or Holiday Guests

Delighted to share another recipe I developed for Pascha Chocolates. Find the recipe here on their site. These are free of the top 8 allergens, free of gluten, too. You could make them with regular ingredients if allergens are not part of your family, too.

SCONES_FIN 006

 

These include blueberries but you could use cherries or even dried cranberries for a holiday treat. I also cut them into smaller squares for little hands. Please enjoy!

 

Witches, Marathons and Meetings - Falling for Fennel

Fennel is one of my favorite spices. While actually the fruit of the fennel plant (Foeniculum vulgare ) we typically refer to these tiny ridged and fragrant fruits, as seeds. fennel seed

The word “fennel” derives from the Roman for “fragrant hay” and has a lovely scent. I adore the fennel bulb, shaved thin in salads, roasted with root veg, or diced into marinara. I save the fronds to top salads or fish and the middle, green stalks go into my stock bag in the freezer. Fennel pollen is said to be what angels would sprinkle from their wings.

Fennel apple celery2

Fennel grows or is cultivated in temperate climes the world over, but is most associated with Mediterranean and Indian cuisines. Chinese Five Spice powder includes it, as does the Bengali version, panch phoron. Italians call the plant finocchio (also a slang term for cross-dressers) and admire the flavor as well as the quality of aiding digestion.

  • Back in Shakespearean times fennel was thought to ward off witches. Some believe it has magical powers including protection, longevity, purification, and healing.
  • Marathon (Marathonas) is the place where the Greeks defeated the Persians in 490. It is said the fields were abundant with fennel.
  • Puritans brought “meeting seeds” to chew during long sermons, dill and fennel were among them.

Fennel_Collage

Clockwise from top: Bulb of fennel; fennel, celery, Granny Smith apple; fennel pollen pork chops; shaved fennel, green apple, celery salad, fennel fronds, fennel pollen. 

Using Fennel Today

We now know that fennel is an excellent source of Vitamin C. It’s got antimicrobial qualities as well as potassium, and antioxidants. Many cultures value its mild anise or licorice flavor and chew the seeds after eating both for breath-freshening and to aid in digestion. Garnish fish dishes or salads with the fronds. Pork and chicken both love fennel. Try the seeds in your next rib rub. Or how about in biscuits?

Fennel_biscuit

 

Recipe: Fennel Seed - Black Pepper Buttermilk Biscuits

Teaching Kitchen Confidence clients biscuit technique is always a delight. Everyone loves a biscuit! I always recommend Nathalie Dupree's Southern Biscuits cookbook. I've modifeld her recipe ever so slightly to include a generous amount of both fennel seed and freshly ground black pepper. I also modified it to make them dairy-free, but you may feel free to use dairy.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups AP flour (+ 1/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tabelspoon fennel seed, crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup chilled shortening roughly cut into 1/4" pieces
  • 1/4 cup chilled shortening roughly cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I use So Delicious Dairy-free Coconut milk, soured with 1-2 tablespoons Bragg's Cider Vinegar)
  • softened butter for brushing

A note on ingredients: I like to use a combination of Nutiva Red Palm and Coconut Oil and Spectrum All Vegetable Shortening.

Directions:

A note on technique: Perfect biscuits require attention to three Ts: Technique, Temperature, Touch. Technique - fold and pat - no kneading! Cut straight down, not turning! Temperature - cold fat. Touch - quick work makes tender biscuits.

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Butter a 9" cake pan or large cast iron skillet.
  2. Measure your shortening and use a butter knife to scoop into 1/4" and 1/2" size pats. I wipe the knife on the edge of a bowl. Place bowl in freezer to harden the fats.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk 2 C of flour, baking powder, salt, spices, baking soda.
  4. Take the shortening out and pinch the pats into the flour, beginning with the smaller chunks. Be fast as you don't want the fat to melt. Snap and rub the larger chunks into the flour.
  5. Make a hollow in the center of the flour-fat mixture and pour in 3/4 C of the butter milk. Mix just until dry ingredients are moistened and you have a sticky dough.
  6. Lightly flour your clean counter, turn the dough onto the counter. If some flour remains in bowl, dribble a little more buttermilk into the bowl to pick it up.
  7. Pat or lightly roll your dough out to about 1/2" thickness. Fold and pat a few times, working quickly and ending with a dough circle about 3/4" thick.
  8. Use a biscuit cutter, dipped in flour, cut straight down, remove biscuit to pan. An offset metal spatula is helpful. Cut close to maximize first batch, the re-rolled scraps will be less tender but still tasty.
  9. Lightly brush biscuits with the leftover buttermilk.
  10. Bake 6 minutes then rotate pan. Bake another 10 or so minutes until they're golden brown. (milk and milk substitutes brown differently, you may wish to turn on the broiler a minute or so to get a nice brown top.)
  11. Remove from oven, brush lightly with soft butter.

These are perfect with Curried Kuri Squash Bisque, with turkey or pork meals, or just on their own. ENJOY.

 

Just in time for Halloween - Chocolate Sundrops

I was thrilled to add PASCHA Chocolates to my roster of clients and delighted to work with them. I learned about their fine chocolates at the Food Allergy Research and Education conference where I was a speaker last June in Chicago. I enjoyed meeting Courtenay Vuchnich and her chocolates so much, I had to tell EVERYONE to try them!

Now you can make these delicious cookies at home. Because they're free of the top 8 allergens (tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, soy, dairy, fish, shellfish, wheat) they're also safe for lunchbox or classroom treats that might get shared. Take a batch to your next Halloween party and watch them disappear. The recipe appears here on the PASCHA Chocolates website. Thanks Roz for the name!

drops_FIN 009

CIS Chix, A Step in the Right Direction, Towards Dinner. My Chat with National Geographic's The Plate

I was delighted to speak with Charlotte McGuinn Freeman and Maryn McKenna of National Geographic column, The Plate. Bring Back Home Economics: Three Food Writers on Teaching People to Cook – The Plate: Maryn McKenna.

The three of us were inspired by the success of Leanne Brown's Good and Cheap, a cookbook designed to address the needs of people receiving public assistance, showing them how to cook on an extremely limited budget. See Could You Eat Well on $4 a Day?

Many of us manage to feed ourselves and our families  well, while many more struggle with the basics. Some lacking money, some lacking skills, for others it's both. Have you ever come home from grocery shopping and wondered what the heck to do with all the random stuff you bought? So often people have mentioned to me that they don't know how to roast a chicken.

Cast Iron Cooking

The topic of how to use a CIS never gets old (see the Kitchn for this recent post and its long comment thread). I love my cast iron skillet and it's the perfect vessel for people on a budget. They're cheap They're nearly indestructible. They are multi-purpose tools that can be used to fry, roast, and bake. In fact, the older they get, the better.

Five steps to roasted chicken

 

On Gastrodiplomacy and Teaching Cooking

One of the ideas I've had for "selling" the need to schools to reinstate home ec is to make it an interdisciplinary learning platform. It's easy to use cooking as a way to teach simple things to youngsters (e.g. which is wet? which is dry? which bowl is the biggest? the smallest?) all the way up to university (culinary anthropology, history, politics of the plate and just this week the first PhD of Chocolate program was announced.)

As if by magic while I was photo editing, magically, this link appeared today in my Facebook stream. Gastrodiplomacy: Cooking up a Tasty Lesson on World Peace. At American University they're doing just this sort of food-centric interdisplinary teaching, though there it seems to be centered around eating out, rather than cooking. No reason we couldn't have both.

During our chat, we lamented the old days of the Food Network. When Molto Mario had the pull-down map and would cook while teaching history, geography. Alton Brown's Good Eats that teaches very basics to fancy stuff in a straightforward and entertaining fashion.

While we think about food, cooking as a life skill and how to reinvent Home Economics, let's first just roast a simple chicken.

Cast Iron Skillet Chix

I realized I keep thinking of this as "CIS Chix" Cast iron skillet chicken. "CIS" is a new term used in the field of gender identity studies and advocacy. It's a way to challenge the assumed majority behind the current thinking of gender. Rather than "transgender" as the "other" we can view sexuality on a continuum from CIS to Trans, CIS simply means someone who identifies with the gender that would be culturally assigned to the sex one has been assigned at birth. So I'm CIS female, identifying myself as female and having been born with those parts.

So dinner + an update from the gender identity front. Learning makes me hungry. Let's go!

 

Step 1 - Get a CIS

They are so very useful and cheap. You will use it a lifetime and then hand it down to some fortunate friend, nephew or niece. In fact, a garage sale is an excellent place to scoop one up for cheap. They're easy to recondition. They're also cheap new. But any way, just get one already.

Step 2 - Get a chicken

Commercial chickens are fed such horrible diets and are raised in such awful ways, that we limit our intake to Lilac Hedge Farms or Bell & Evans from Whole Foods.

Step 3 - Optional step - air dry chicken

Letting chicken rest in fridge nekkid, will allow the skin to dry out. This is a good thing if you like crispy skin. Overnight is best but even 1-3 hours will help. This method of roasting makes it less necessary than regular lower heat roasting but I try to do this when I can because I adore crunchy, crispy things.

Step 4a - Optional - herb butter

Again, totally optional. If you're at all new and feel overwhelmed. Skip it. You can simply rub a little oil or butter and sprinkle with S&P. Really. It'll be fine.

If you are inclined, chop some herbs up, maybe mash some garlic with some salt and then mix with softened butter. Or maybe you have a dried herb blend you could add to butter or oil. You can slide some between the breast meat and skin. And/or simply massage your bird with the seasoned oil or butter.

CIS Chicken 7

Step 4 - Pop the thighs open

The chicken's, not yours. That comes later if you like. Right now simply grasp the drumstick and thigh and bend down/outward from the body. You will feel a pop and see the tip of the thigh bone peek out. This is good. When your bird hits that preheated skillet, the dark meat will instantly begin to cook. This evens out the differential between the breast meat and thigh meat. A common challenge is cooking the thigh meat thoroughly enough without drying out the breast meat. This technique solves that issue.

Step 5 - Preheat oven to 500 degrees with the skillet

Place your empty skillet into your clean oven and preaheat to 500. That's a very hot oven. (Most chickens roasted in conventional ways go into a 350 or so oven.) Once the oven and skillet are preheated, carefully slide that hot pan out and place your chicken right on that dry, screaming hot skillet.

CIS Chicken 6

Now, you will have 30-40 minutes to do with, what you like.

CIS Chicken 10

At 30 minutes, I usually add some greens to the pan. Carefully, with tongs. The greens will begin to wilt in the hot pan and rendered chicken fat (mmm chicken fat). This particular day I added chard (stems chopped, leaves cut into ribbons) and two cloves of garlic, sliced thin. I had these GIANT leaves of rainbow chard so I just used two leaves.

CIS Chicken Chard

I also began my potatoes roasting. Back around step three, you can place potatoes in a pot of boiling water and par cook, till they're tender but not fully done. Then in our final roasting step, you add a sheet pan to the oven with some schmaltz or duck fat or high heat oil (not olive oil, it will burn). Again, the hot pan starts the crisping of the potatoes. CIS Chicken 14When the potatoes are done, drain the water, toss some smoked paprika, salt and pepper with the potatoes you've lightly smashed in the hot pan. Put the lid back on and shake the bejezus out of it. This will coat all those potatoes with the seasoned flour. Scrape all that good stuff onto the pre-heated sheet pan, and back into the oven. Toss them around the pan to get some fat/oil on all the potatoes.

Your chicken will be done around the 40 minute mark. Carefully remove that hot iron pan and beautiful bird - placing on a trivet or the stovetop. (I like to leave a potholder on the handle of the pan to remind myself not to grab it. The CIS will retain heat for a long time.) Let the chicken rest. Resist picking at the crispy bits if you can.

CIS Chicken 12

If you'd like something fresh, you can toss chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, thinly sliced onion with some olive oil and a splash of vinegar. These are purple cherokees and green zebras.

CIS Chicken 15 CIS Chicken 16

 

 

GGF Salad :: Grains + Greens + Fruit = Wonderful

This salad is a fantastic summer meal in itself, a great bring-with dish, and a side for barbecue. To make a quick version, use freekeh (cooks in 20 minutes!) or quinoa or barley. Barley and freekeh are quicker cooking grains, you could also use quinoa (not true grain) or bulgur (wheat) if you like a softer smaller quick-cooking grain . I particularly like the snappy chew of freekeh or wheatberries in this sort of substantial salad.

GGF salad Grains, Freekeh: Greens, Rainbow Chard; Fruit, Blueberries.

For this rendition, I got some beautiful Rainbow Chard, chopped and blanched the stems, chopped two small onions, half a red bell pepper, one mango. I made ribbons (chiffonade) of the chard leaves. No need to blanch unless they're really tough.

Dressing

I used the juice of one lemon. I added approximately two tsp grated fresh ginger, 2 tsp mild white miso, 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp dijon mustard. Whisked in Meyer lemon olive oil to taste.

Adjust seasoning with S & freshly ground black pepper.

 

Directions:

1. Make freekeh. Toast dry kernels in heavy bottom pot, just large enough to hold the completed amount. Add water when kernels begin to darken. I use a 3:1 ratio, draining off excess when it's all done. Pinch of salt. You can make ahead. Cool, cover, refrigerate.

2. Wash Swiss/Rainbow chard. Fold in half lengthwise, cutting along rib to remove it. Dice ribs. Make ribbons or chiffonade of leaves by rolling and slicing in about 1/3" ribbons.

3. Dice and blanch chard ribs.

4. Place chiffonade in dressing and massage. Set aside.

5. Prep your fruit and other vegetables. Here I sliced a bit of sweet white onion, rinsed and stemmed blueberries, diced a bit of red bell pepper, cut cubes of ripe mango.

6. If the freekeh has been made the day before and or cooled too much, heat it briefly in microwave. Add to dressing. Toss everything and sprinkle with crunchy sea salt (like Maldon) and fresh ground black pepper.

Garnish with Chinese 5 Spice nuts if you wish. Or simply zest a lemon over the top and toss.

 

Coconut Chai Panna Cotta

This is an easy recipe that comes together in minutes. I was inspired by two beautiful mangos, sitting on a platter in my kitchen. I also drew inspiration from Josh Lewin's list of indispensible Indian ingredients. A nice prelude to his upcoming Bread & Salt dinner, you should go if you haven't dined with Josh and Katrian yet. Or even if you have. Thinking about the ingredients I love and the items on hand, I put this panna cotta together.

Roses and a Queen

 

Culinary rosebuds figure in the cuisines of ancients Romans, Persians, Indians all use them and rosewater is distilled essence of rose is a favorite ingredient in baking. Gulab jamun is an Indian sweet of fried balls of sweetened condense milk drizzled with rose scented syrup.

Cardamom, those little green pods in the photo, are a wonderful addition to both sweet and savory dishes. Known as the Queen of Spices you might be surprised at the diversity of ways you can employ cardamom. Along with rose, it's a component of ras al hanout the complex spice blend that gives tagines of North Africa their unique fragrance. It appears in rices, curries, puddings and cookies.

Cardamom is in the ginger family the aromatic pods have notes of camphor, eucalyptus and pine. Hand-harvested and air-dried, it's nearly as costly as saffron. It's native to India's Ghat Mountains and Sri Lanka. In India one of the first foods babies are fed is cardamom-scented rice. Try dropping a pod or two in the next pot of rice you make or substituting cardamom for cinnamon in cookies. coconut chai panna cotta 2

Coconut Chai Panna Cotta

Panna cotta literally means cooked cream. It's an easy dessert, especially well-suited to dinner guests and warm weather. Why? It needs to be made ahead of time! Panna cotta is a favorite of mine as it's easy to make dairy-free. In this version I use a combination of canned coconut milk as you find in Asian markets and coconut based milk alternatives you find in regular grocery stores.

Chai spices are warm and often contain cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg. Here's a lovely story and recipe from my friend Raghavan Iyer.

A note about vanilla sugar: Have you ever used whole vanilla bean? It's wonderful and the great thing about the fragrant pods is that you get dual use from them. Usually recipes will ask you to scrape the sticky middle out of the pod - but don't throw away the pod itself! Drop it into a jar of sugar and put in the cabinet. In a short time, you'll have vanilla sugar. Use one bean, whole or scraped to 2 cups of sugar.

Ingredients:

  • 1 14 oz can coconut milk, divided
  • 1 packet gelatin (you could also use agar agar for a totally vegan version)
  • ~ 1/2 C milk substitute (like So Delicious Coconut Milk)
  • 1/4 C vanilla sugar (or regular sugar + 1/4 tsp vanilla)
  • 6 dried rosebuds (culinary)
  • 8 green cardamom pods
  • 1-2 TBSP chai spice (here I used the last of my Arvinda's blend)

Directions:

  1. Reserve about 1/2 C of cocunut milk in a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over it, whisk to dissolve.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring remaining coconut milk/milk subst (to fill 2 C measure) just to boil with with sugar, chai spice, rosebuds and cardamom pods. Do not scorch, reduce heat to medium.
  3. Stir until sugar has dissolved and milk has become infused with the spices, just a few minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, whisk in the dissolved gelatin (which will look like snow-white mashed potatoes at this point.)
  5. Strain into small cups. Decorate if you wish with rose petals, chill.

coconut chai panna cotta 1

Serve with slices of fresh, ripe mango.

 

What to pack, how to prep when you're a food-allergic traveler

The thrill of travel is my siren song. I used to dream of filling a passport before it expired. Never happened, but I did manage to get to many great places. Machu Picchu, Xi'an, Tulum. Life can throw you one curveball after another, some good, some not so good. Layoffs, pink slips, food allergies. My high-flying life came to a decidedly more earthbound home. For several years I had time to travel but not the money.

The bitter and the sweet

As we get older, we begin to appreciate that one is enhanced by the other. Fast-forward several years and I am slowly building an entrepreneur's life. This means we swing from one trapeze landing to another, sometimes the grip is so tenuous, the next check so long in coming. But we learn to live with the anxiety that would have done us in before and push on, move forward. Grab and let go. Let go, grab.

This week I'm preparing for my first trip to Europe since my flight through de Gaulle to go to Mali but the last visit when I stayed and explored was a media trip to Valencia, Spain. That was wonderful, too. Both trips like evanescent dreams. Wonderful memories.

New opportunities, new challenges

I'm getting on a plane again 48 hours from this moment. I'm off to Brussels to work with the fabulous Nathan Fong on behalf of sustainable, delicious British Columbia seafood. After our success at  Seafood Expo North America (#sena2014) - stir-frying with the Trade Minister! We're bringing the dynamic duo to the largest seafood expo in the world, Brussels! Now I'm dealing with multiple food allergies. Looking at the food there, dairy is definitely going to be a problem. I won't have time to shop all over and my Flemish is pretty weak. I think I've got this one down though: "Aangenamen Kennismaking" (Nice to meet you) it's just plain fun to say, isn't it?

It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't have food allergies. But imagine you're somewhere unfamiliar, and you literally cannot risk eating food because you may end up in anaphylactic shock. And traveling in a professional capacity, you don't want to make every group meal a tiresome litany of your issue and allergies. "Who knows Flemish for 'allergy'?"

Moules Frites? Waffles? (butter, dairy) Carbonnade? Waterzooi? (butter, cream) Food, glorious food. It's what I live for, what I organize my life around, what I share with friends, family and clients. But the prospect of being unable to find anything to eat made me realize I now have an extra list of travel prep tasks: researching, prepping, baking, planning. Even the flight to Belgium is a problem. Special diet meals include vegetarian (with cheese, nuts) Asian Vegetarian (may include dairy); Vegetarian (dairy). So what can I eat during the flight? Grab and go in the airport? Can you trust the labels on pre-packed foods? The fast food training? Erm, no. Basically, there was not one option that I could choose that was both free of dairy and free of tree nuts. Swiss International Airlines announced an "allergy friendly" service but to me it sounds like only a baby step further than what other airlines do.

Chips? (made in a facility that also processes nuts) etc. It's impossible!

Luckily, I'm a good cook. And I have good friends. And a very caring husband. He has turned into the best food sleuth!

My goal was to find things easy to pack and dense with protein to keep me going in the worst case scenario.

Tips:

1. Research, research, research. What are the typical foods in your destination? What capacity does your hotel have to accommodate your allergies? (Or even, to speak English?) Check with TSA and your airlines.

2. Pack pouches. Really good tuna, quinoa cereal, and terrific peanut butter all come in these easy-to-pack pouches. Thanks Doc!

pouches

3. Bake ahead. Energy Bites; Crackers, Apple-Quinoa Cake.

choco chunks, fruit

rye crackers

travel snack

4. Try to order Allergy warning cards in the destination language. I ordered cards from Allergic Traveler - hope they'll arrive in time!

 

Recipes:

The energy bites are great pre/post workout snacks. I love that they're not overly sweet and they're super easy to customize. This is based on Kim O'Donnel's original recipe from her Washington Post days. Her Lulu's Cookies became my Choco-fruit Energy Bites.

Choco-fruit Energy Bites

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 C of a combo of: sunflower seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and sesame seeds (I omitted sesame and used a combo of peanuts, bran, amaranth for the third 1/2 C.)
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds.
  • 3 C flour [I used 1 C Irish Wholemeal flour +1 C White Whole Wheat + 1 C AP flour]
  • 2 cups rolled oats [I used rolled instant] + 1/3 C brown rice crispies + 1/4 flaked coconut
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dried fruit - cherries, prunes, apricots
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 3/4 C coconut + canola oil
  • 3/4 C honey + golden syrup
  • 1/2 - 3/4 C cup Enjoy Life chocolate chunks (free of 8 major allergens and made in an allergen free facility)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast seeds on a baking sheet about 8 minutes, or until the seeds turn a golden color. Be careful not to burn seeds.
  2.  Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly.
  3.  In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder and salt.
  4.  Soak dried fruit in hot water for about 15 minutes. Drain, but reserve soaking water.
  5.  Add dried fruit soaking water to dry mixture, plus oil and honey. With a rubber spatula, stir until combined. Add cooled seeds and stir to combine, then add fruit and chocolate chips. Don't over-mix.
  6.  Form teaspoon-sized patties onto a cookie sheet, preferably lined with parchment paper.
  7.  Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Don't over-bake; the cookies will turn into rocks.

Makes about 50 cookies.

I love that these are like two bite energy bars without all the overly sweet, highly processed ingredients. These are like bites of shortbread chunks of sweet dried fruits and chocolate.

 

What are your tips for traveling with food allergies or intolerances?

Next up, the apple quinoa cake!

Tuscan Garlic & Herb Salt

Herbs and Spices can enliven your cooking with out added fat. Simple herb salts like this one can play well with lamb, beef, chicken and pork. It's also terrific on roasted potatoes. Mix it into softened butter or olive oil to roast a chicken or sprinkle over barley. You're getting the picture, right? True utility player. photo 3

One of the best ways to perk up your cooking is with fresh herbs and spices. But what about dried? We always worry they’ve been kicking around the spice cabinet too long. Often, we are correct.

Here’s a post with tips on various spice blends as well as links to some great resources. One of my new favorites, is inspired by Lynn Rosetto Kasper’s Splendid Table.

I call it Tuscan Garlic & Herb Salt. I use quite a bit less salt than her recipe calls for and it’s heavenly on a roast chicken (place a little with butter under the skin), with pork, or potatoes. It’s so simple to make, and your hands and house will smell divine in the process. Try it with these proportions and adjust to your own tastes.

The technique could not be simpler:

  • Take one bunch of fresh rosemary, one of fresh sage, about 4-5 good sized cloves of garlic and about 1/4 C of Kosher salt.
  • Peel the garlic cloves, removing any green sprouts (they indicate the garlic is a bit old and they’ll add bitterness.)
  • Pick the sage leaves from their stems, zip the rosemary leaves off their woody stems by pinching and dragging in the opposite direction from how the grow (tip backwards).
  • Give your garlic a few rough chops and begin adding herbs and salt. Chop, chop, chop with a good sharp knife, holding the tip down with one hand and bringing the handle of the knife up and down — much like one of those old school paper cutters.
  • Dry out on the counter on a cookie sheet for a couple of days or overnight in the oven with the light on/or if you have a dehydrating function set to low.

It’s done when it’s no longer moist. This time will vary depending on the method you use and where you live.

Store in a pretty little jar, or any old jar, but just try it. I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

photo 2

Now, get chopping! Need to brush up those knife skills? We’ve got you covered with Kitchen Confidence!

 

Dried Herbs and Spices - Homemade Blends and Resources

People, here's the thing: we all do it. You pick up a spice intending to make some new dish that will dazzle...and you just don't get around to it. Or, you do, but then it wasn't dazzling enough to become a regular thing and here it is six months or maybe a year or two after the "use by" date on the bottle. And yet, we never throw these away. I found a bottle of some "chili spice" in my mom's cabinet that dated from around the time of the first moon landing. There's probably something in my own spice cabinet older than small children I know.

So, one of these snowy days when you've done all the jigsaw puzzles you have and are sick of Netflix, take a box or bag over to the cabinet and begin. If it's too overwhelming, just do one shelf.

I dump the contents and save bottles that can be reused.

five spices

Favorite DIY Spice blends

Making your own spice blends is fun. It's a kick to have your own Chinese Five Spice powder on the next roast chicken or to sprinkle into your next fried rice. Or, make some of these killer spiced nuts.

 

Chinese 5 Spice nuts

 

DIY and better for you "Sazon" 

Make the best yellow rice, season grains, add to soups and sauces to bring some umami and color to a dish. This has turmeric, a bit of dried garlic, some kombu.

Turmeric_OPT Turmeric - terrific for you with anti-inflammatory and other benefits. Turmeric can stand in for saffron in a pinch, but also stand on its own merit in many dishes.

 

Thanksgiving Spice

You may have heard of a spice blend called Bell's Seasoning. I decided one year to make my own. It's a quintessential Thanksgiving fragrance, perfect on turkey, chicken or pork. Sage is the driving force of this one.

spice blend

Fajita Spice

This is a blend I used when marinating meat for burrito or taco night. Making chili? Red beans? Toss it in! Great on pork, chicken, beef. It changes from batch to batch but always includes cumin, various chili powders like ancho, chipotle, and oregano.

Fajita Spice

Tuscan Herb and Garlic Salt

This one is a blast to make because your kitchen smells divine: rosemary, sage, garlic and salt. You'll be singing like a Nonna and dreaming of Tuscany. I follow the recipe on Lynne Rosetto Kasper's Splendid Table whenever I see great looking sage. Sprinkle this over beans, in soup, on a roast chicken. Simple to do, you simply chop all these fresh ingredients together with salt and let it dehydrate - or use your dehydrate function if you have one on your stove.

photo 3

Quatre Epices

This sexy little blend enlivens lamb, beef or chicken. It's a classic French blend of warm and slightly sweet spices. I follow Deb Krasner's recipe (try her Red Barn spice, too) and bump it up to Cinq or five spices.

Quatre Epices

Gomashio

I add flax to the traditional sesame salt grinder common in Japanese households.

DSC_0010_2

Shopping for dried herbs and spices? Don't go to the grocery - latimes.com.

What is the oldest spice in your cabinet?

Drop me an answer in the comments and the oldest one gets a batch of my next custom spice blend!

Dead Easy Chocolate Snack Cake - Spiked with Chile

When I was freshly diagnosed with my dairy allergy, I was lamenting to a friend that my days of cake were behind me. Not so fast, she said. You've gotta try this recipe for "Amazon Cake." No dairy needed. Well, I've no idea what part of the "Amazon" this thing hails from, but tongue firmly planted in cheek, I gave it a whirl and added some geographic flair.

Amazon_Collage_tagged

Chocolate-chile Spiked Snack Cake

If you recall the boxed "Snakin' Cake" of the '70s this is something like that. Needs no frosting. A dusting of confectioner's sugar if you like. Or ice it, you could even make a double batch and frost it. Here, I've added a hint of heat, a bit of Kahlua, and some espresso. You may easily omit all three - using a full 1C of water.  Ancho chile is a mild chile with chocolatey undertones, it pairs well with chocolate.

Making with or for kids, simply omit the chile and Kahlua. You could pretend that dusting it with confectioner's sugar is making it snow!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups sifted flour (I use 1 C AP and 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tsp espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
  • 1 C cold water minus 1 TBSP
  • 1 TBSP Kahlua
  • 5 tablespoons corn oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

 Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar and salt.  If using, include espresso powder, chile here.
  3. In a large liquid measuring cup, measure 1C of cold water, replace 1 TBSP of it with 1 TBSP of Kahlua, if using.
  4. Whisk together the oil, vanilla and vinegar with the water.
  5. Whisk into the dry ingredients, blending until completely lump-free.
  6. Pour into a greased 9-inch round cake pan.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed gently.  Cool before removing from pan (yes this matters)  and dusting with confectioners’ sugar, or frosting if desired.

 

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

 

Food Gifts by Mail - Five Great Choices

A friend asked me about favorite products to send to foodies on your gift list. I tossed off this quick list of five and thought I may as well share it here for those of you not following my every twitch on social media. I buy mail order for some things and these are terrific companies that are well worth supporting. I use these myself and have been enriched by support from some of them as sponsors at one time or another. Readers know that I only have sponsors that I shop from, that I support.


1. Katz Farm Table - so good you can drink them. Perfect for mignonettes, salads, try the honey Viognier on roasted veg.

Katz_gift
2. Koda Farms - A California Farming Legacy Since 1928 - foodies will know they were called best brown rice by NYT Mark Bittman, their barley is the best you will try and look at this gorgeous heirloom varietal white rice. This is the rice I dream of and I most often use. Much lower than industry standard for broken grains.

rice


3. Pasolivo Olive Oil - heirloom varietal olive oils, and some pressed with various citrus grown right next to their olives. I've baked their Bergamot Olive oil into these fantastic brownies, and their Lime Oil into this Margarita Bundt cake. lime__oil
4. ILoveBLueSea.com - low flat rate shipping of pristine seafood from small family operations and sustainable fisheries. Great oyster selection, too! Take a look at these Dungeness Crabs I got from them.

Dungy Collage
5. Askinosie Chocolate - terrific single origins the ex lawyer founder is mission driven and partners with the growers to go way beyond fair trade. Ab fab. Here are the brownies mentioned above - I think I used Soconusco chocolate and the Pasolivo Bergamot oil.

bergamot_askinosie_brownies

Sweet Potato Pie - a Sweet Bridge to the Past

Maybe it was the surprise meeting with a friend from decades ago. Maybe it's the holidays, the end of the year, the encroaching birthday...but I was feeling a little nostalgic the other day. There I was, few days past Thanksgiving and the leftovers were nearly all gone, transformed into new dishes (croquettes, soup, muffins) or enjoyed caveman-style late night, head in the fridge. As far as I'm concerned, one of the all-time best things about being a grownup is the ability to eat out of the fridge, standing in the door, sneaking a piece of this or a bite of that. Even if these new fridges beep at you, it's not your Mom yelling at you to "Shut the goddamned refrigerator!", even if your Mom didn't yell that, she definitely yelled some version of it.

Reconnecting with family during the holidays gives us a chance to tell the family stories over again. In the telling and retelling, we renew the ties that bind us together as families. The time that Mom waited so long to buy the turkey that the only one left was the size of my Grandma who soon thereafter left us. I love the photo of us gathered around that behemoth, Grandma's head barely clearing it.

And the colorful refrain above comes courtesy of my friend Tom McGowan, whose crazy family introduced me to the Irish knack for story-telling years before I moved to Boston. His family story is that his youngest brother Terry literally spoke not a word until one day uttering a complete sentence: "Shut the goddamned refrigerator!" Being the youngest of five, it was the sentence he'd heard most often, you see.

Monday, I got the chance to tell Tom and Cheryl that I recall that story to this day when some new parent is fretting over a child's reluctance to start using words. A McGowan family story carried forward by an old friend, no doubt being told over again at their family gatherings.

Sweet Potatoes and a Bittersweet Memories

In college I got the chance to see a folk legend, Odetta in a teeny, tiny bar somewhere near my college in New Paltz, in New York's Hudson Valley. If memory serves it was Kingston, or Rhinebeck, possibly Woodstock. Folk is really not my thing, but I knew that it was an opportunity to learn something new, see an icon perform.

We sat in a tiny room on straight-backed chairs and I was almost close enough to touch the legendary Odetta. In this intimate setting, the room was darkened, a single light overhead, illuminating this commanding, yet gentle African-American singer. She played gently on a smallish, sweet sounding acoustic guitar and sang movingly in her clear and strong voice.

When Odetta sang a song about sweet potatoes (an old traditional children's song, I think) I was struck by the connection through sweet potatoes reaching back in her history here, slaves growing what they could to survive and my family in Japan. During the war, my grandmother had evacuated the city of Tokyo taking her girls and a cousin far north to escape the impending bombing.

These city kids were fish out of water in the rural north. Their accents, their clothes and their lifestyles completely out of sync in rugged north. Years later my grandmother would lament to me that she feared she failed these kids. So often all they had to eat were sweet potatoes which she grew in a tiny plot of earth she begged use of from some monks. She was sure that she should have and could have fed them better, regretted not having been able to do so. To this day, my mother will not eat dandelion greens, that being one of the few greens they could get their hands on. Foraging was not hip, it was survival.

I was thrilled to meet my mother's cousin years later in Japan and had to ask him if he hated sweet potatoes. He looked at me quizzically and said "No, why?" I told him of my Grandmother's burden. We laughed. I don't remember exactly, but I think she shrugged it off when I told her.

So back to my shared moment with Odetta. I waited in line after the performance, nervously. She had that kind of presence that says "you SHOULD know who I am" without saying a word. When I got my chance to speak to her, her gentle smile became a little forced. I told her of "our connection", how my grandmother in Japan had fed her family on sweet potatoes during the war....and got a look that said pfft, and Next! So much for a mystical connection with a legend over a humble tuber. The queen had dismissed me. Move along.

sweet potato pie

Sweet Potato Pie

I think Sweet Potato Pie is sort of a Southern thing, and friends up here generally fall into two camps: one is disappointed it's not pumpkin and the other is thrilled to find it. I have not met a sweet potato I didn't like, in almost any form but for the marshmallow topped variety. I love a casserole dish of orange-Bourbon scented sweet potatoes at the Thanksgiving table and they're often called for by repeat guests. This year we had such a small group, I ended up with leftovers.

I decided that it was time to try a sweet potato pie. Since they're baked and basted with the brown sugar and Bourbon and orange glaze, these were plenty sweet so I borrowed the template from Joy the Baker and made some adjustments. I had a crust in the fridge, so it was pretty quick to put together. I modified it to make it dairy-free. I loved the results, but cannot, okay will not, eat an entire pie myself and my husband falls into the pumpkin camp.

Luckily I've got friends in the building who can help me/save me.

Ingredients: 

2 C mashed, cooked sweet potatoes (I used leftover Killer Sweets) 3/4 C packed brown sugar (I cut it back to 1/3 C) 1 1/4 tsp ground coriander 1/2 tsp cinnamon (I added more, by accident, not bad) 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 tsp salt 1/4 C unsalted butter 1 1/4 C So Delicious Coconut Milk 1/3 C granulated sugar (I used about 1/4 C) 3 large eggs 1 TBSP vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Place a rack in the upper third of the oven.

To make the filling, first peel the sweet potatoes.  Dice the sweet potatoes into large, 3-inch chunks.  Place potato pieces in a large pot and cover with cool water.  Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender throughout, about 20 minutes.  Test the doneness of the potatoes using a thin knife.  If the knife meets any resistance, simmer the potatoes a bit longer.

Drain into a colander.

In the same large pot place cooked  potato pieces, the packed brown sugar, all of the spices, salt, butter, and half of the evaporated milk. Cook on low flame, using a potato masher to mash the potatoes and they cook.  Simmer for about 5 minutes.  Make sure that the mixture is as smooth as possible.  I used an  immersion blender to completely smooth the mixture. Once mixture is smooth and fragrant, remove from fire and let cool in pot.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining evaporated milk, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract.  Whisk well.  Pour the egg mixture into the warm sweet potato mixture.

Pour the prepared filling into the pie crust.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees F.  Reduce the heat to 325 degrees F and cook until cooked through, about 45 to 50 minutes.

To test the pie for doneness lightly shake the baking sheet.  If the center of the pie has a wavy jiggle it needs more time in the oven.  If the center of the pie has a lighter, more structured jiggle, it’s done!

# # #

 

Thanks to Joy for sharing her family recipe and allowing it to become part of ours.

 

Jack’s Killer Sweets - Orange, Bourbon Sweet Potatoes

As a former editor of mine once said, “who doesn’t need more Bourbon around the holidays?”  These sweet potatoes are a standard item on our Thanksgiving menu, one that I'm told cannot go away. This year, I modified it for a Kitchen Confidence client who needed a non-alcoholic version for kiddos. This would pair equally well with roast chicken or pork.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 1 C light brown sugar
  • 1/2 stick (4 TBSP) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 C fresh squeezed OJ + zest
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 C maple syrup
  • 1 tsp orange flower water

This is the safe-for-everyone version of my “killer sweets” which include Bourbon. The original includes 1/3- 1/2 C Bourbon and a drizzle of maple syrup to taste.

Directions:

1. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into chunks. 2. Place over boiling water, steam till nearly tender. 3. Place in buttered baking dish. 4. Simmer sugar, butter, OJ, salt until sugar is dissolved and syrup thickens. Stir in Bourbon. (alternately: stir in maple syrup and orange flower water) 5. Drizzle over potatoes. 6. Bake about an hour, baste occasionally. 7. Top with a swirl of maple syrup. (omit if doing Bourbon-free version)

Can be made ahead. Make some double fluffy biscuits to dip in the syrup!

 

 

Fresh, Tart, Salad - Perfect Foil to all the Buttery, Braised and Roasted Thanksgiving Foods

I realize some people don't love fennel as much as I do. But I think even more have simply never had it. Pity. Maybe I can persuade you to try it? FenneCollage

When we're preparing a meal that has so many rich, baked, braised, roasted, covered-in-gravy type components, a nice tart, crunchy salad is perfectly refreshing to have as a mid-course or you could serve it at the end before dessert and coffee.

This combination of green apple, fennel and celery wakes up your palate and gets it ready for seconds or dessert. The combination of the licorice flavor of the fennel, tart apples and juicy celery is tough to beat.

Shaved Salad of Fennel, Apple, Celery

A mandoline is handy but you can make this with a good chef's knife or even cut in dice if you'd like.

To serve four:

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium fennel bulb (pick one that's snowy white and heavy for its size)
  • 3 ribs of organic celery
  • 1 large or two small Granny Smith or RI Greening apples - (tart)
  • 1 medium to large shallot

Directions:

  1. Shave or slice thin, or even simply chop all ingredients. Save some fennel fronds for garnish.
  2. Toss with bright fruity vinegar - favorite here is Katz' Gravenstein or Sauvignon Blanc vinegar and a drizzle of best olive oil you've got.
  3. Plate and garnish with the feathery fronds.

Optional:

  • Garnish with little apple cut-outs using small decorative cutter.
  • Zest organic orange and add fresh orange juice to dressing. Fennel and orange are fast friends.
  • You could add supremes of orange or even sliced kumquats.

 

 

 

 

Four Thanksgiving Dishes to Please Any Crowd

If you want something as a "ta- da" dish -- a centerpiece that's not meat, I've got some dishes to consider. First, think of the all the sides that we love. Many or most of them don't require any meat or meat stock to be crowd pleasing. People love stuffing and gravy. Why not do leek-mushroom-herb stuffing in muffin tins and a mushroom gravy? No bones and no griping.

The Main Dish

For an elegant centerpiece dish: try the Kale Butternut Squash Phyllo Pie made in a springform pan. Elegant and beautiful with bright colors and crispy phyllo.

Try cashew cheese and skip pancetta (or use porcinis for umami), use Earth Balance butter substitute and you're meat-free, dairy-free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another of Kim's recipes that even carnivores have asked for in subsequent meals: the Lentil-Chard Shepherd's Pie.

 

 

 

Sides that Wow

The sage butter sweet potato- white potato casserole (below)  is easy to make dairy-free and if you use gluten-free bread, it can be GF, too. Again, your potato ricer is your friend. Light fluffy potatoes get mixed with browned sage butter and topped off with fresh breadcrumbs. I modify Martha's recipe and make it dairy-free and delicious.

Sage_butter_potato_casserole Another dish that is a real favorite, I've taught it to Kitchen Confidence clients and they adored it. I love it. Red rice pilaf stuffed Delicata squash. The recipe is from Kim O'Donnel's Meatless Celebrations. It's colorful, delicious and substantial enough to use as a vegetarian/vegan main course.

 

Both of these could certainly be main courses for a meat-free meal that won't leave you wanting.