Archives for category: Fall Foods

I am going to admit to one of my strange quirks…. one of many….of course.

I love to watch the cranberries split!  I love it.  This is one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving.   Most people would say they love eating roasted turkey or pumpkin pie.   They may say that they love the football games or eating stuffing.

For me, right behind hanging out with my family would be watching the cranberries split.  What?  You may be thinking “what does she mean?”  Crazy food blogger…..

Well, let me tell you about it.

It is a multi-sensory activity using your sense of smell, taste, visual and auditory all in one easy cooking activity.  What more could a food obsessed individual need for the holidays

I love looking over the edge of the pot and seeing the different reds and purples and pinks of the fresh cranberries mingled with the dark green rosemary and bright yellow of lemon.  Shiny with water and sugar the berries sparkle in the light.  They dance when the water starts to boil.  It is like a cranberry disco on your stove.

Turn up the heat and wait a couple of minutes and the fun really starts.  The berries start to dance around in the pot and the earthy smell of rosemary and bright smell of lemon reach your nose.  Next comes the popping.  Cranberries will expand and split when cooked and release that quintessential of holiday smells, fresh cranberry sauce.

I just love it.

Simmer the berries a bit longer and that is all you have to do.  The sauce is best cooled overnight and it will thicken naturally.  No need to add gelatin.  Gone forever from your table is the metallic tasting can of cranberry flavored gelatin that slides out in one big ribbed lump.  Canned cranberry gelatin is not nearly as fun as dancing cranberries with fresh herbs and citrus.  You can get very creative with cranberry sauce as you can see from my extensive list of variations at the bottom of this post.  Have fun with this traditional side dish and add dried fruit, nuts, spices and herbs.

Master Cranberry Sauce

200 gram sugar (1 cup)

1 cup water

4 cups fresh cranberries

After you cook the cranberries you may add any savory or sweet additions you would like to flavor your sauce.  At the bottom of this post I will list some of my favorite variations.  Makes 2 1/2 cups cranberry sauce.

1 Wash your lovely cranberries.  In a saucepan bring water to a boil and add sugar, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Add cranberries, return to a boil.  Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst.   Lovely!

2 At this point you can add all number of optional ingredients.  The cranberry sauce in the picture has fresh rosemary and lemon wedges.   You can add a cup of dried cranberries or dried cherries.

3 Remove from heat.  Cool at room temperature for 1 hour and chill in the refrigerator overnight.   Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.

Cranberry Sauce Variations

Southwestern Cranberry Sauce

1/2 tsp chipotle powder and topped with minced fresh cilantro and lime juice before serving

Orange and Almond Cranberry Sauce

Substitute fresh orange juice with water and add sliced almonds

Apple and Ginger Cranberry Sauce

1 tbs candied ginger diced fine with 1 cup diced honey crisp apple

Rosemary and Port Wine Cranberry Sauce

1 tsp minced fresh rosemary, 1/4 cup port wine (reduce water to 3/4 cup) and 1 tsp orange zest

Maple Walnut Cranberry Sauce

4 tbs maple syrup, substitute brown sugar for white sugar and 1/3 cup diced toasted walnuts

Apricot and cardamom Cranberry Sauce

1/3 cup diced dried apricots and 1 tsp cardamom

Lemon Thyme Cranberry Sauce

1 tbs fresh thyme and 1 tbs lemon zest

Let me know if you have any creative variations for cranberry sauce on your Thanksgiving menu.

I have been away from my blog for a while.  I hated putting it aside for so long (4 months) but needed to take some time off.  Much refreshed and ready to go I wanted to start back with a post about one of the hardest recipes I have worked with.  Corn bread muffins!

Fickle little devils.  I had to figure out how to make a great corn bread muffin.

I wanted a savory muffin that was light and had a good corn flavor.  The corn muffins I had tasted in the past have been overly sticky and sweet or dry and fell apart.  I was looking for a tender crumb, not too sweet and a good corn flavor.  It did not seem like it would be too hard to accomplish this.  I was wrong.

My first few attempts were complete failures.

After researching corn bread and corn bread muffins I found that the type of corn meal you use is very important.  You have the choice of a de-germinated corn meal or a whole corn meal.  The de-germinated meal made a bland tasting muffin with very little corn flavor and a dry texture.  The whole corn meal made a very dry muffin.  The whole corn meal was too dense for this recipe.

I was not sure how to solve this problem.  When I added real fresh corn the muffins did not fare much better.  I could get a light and moist muffin adding more flour and sour cream but it had very little corn bread flavor.

I thought about my granola bar recipe and how I lightened the whole oats by grinding a portion in my food processor and made oat flour.  Maybe I could lighten the corn meal by making a corn meal flour?  This worked perfectly.  I could use the more flavorful whole corn meal by grinding it in the food processor for about 5 minutes.  I made a light whole grain corn flour.

The recipe yielded a moist, sweet and tender muffin with the savory components of bacon and cheddar and the slight heat of chipotle powder.

Perfect for your holiday brunch.  Make mini muffins for a savory appetizer.

Bacon, Cheddar and Chipotle Corn Bread Muffins

Makes 12 Muffins or 24 Mini Muffins

10 oz unbleached all-purpose flour (I recommend King Arthur) or 2 cups

5 oz stone-ground cornmeal ground fine in the food processor (I recommend Arrowhead Mills) or 1 cup

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 large organic eggs

4 oz sugar or 3/4 cup

7 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup whole milk at room temperature

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (use a dry cheese like Dubliner Sharp Cheddar for best results)

1/2 cup finely mined bacon cooked crispy

1/4 tsp chipotle powder or cayenne pepper

Make sure your oven rack is in the middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.

Line your muffin tin with paper or foil muffin cups and spray cups lightly with non-stick spray.

Mix dry ingredients together, flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda and whisk to fully combine.

In a separate bowl mix eggs and sugar together until thick and homogenous.

Add melted butter, sour cream and milk and whisk for about 30 seconds to add some air into the wet mixture.

Add cheese and bacon to dry ingredients and toss lightly to coat with flour.  This will help the bacon and cheddar stay suspended in the muffins instead of sinking to the bottom as they bake.

Add wet ingredients to dry and mix just until fully combined.  Do not over mix.

Let muffin batter rest for 5 to 10 minutes after mixing.  This will help develop gluten strands in the muffins and will make them lighter and puff up more in cooking.

Scoop batter into muffin tins and make sure the batter makes a dome.  Do not smooth the dome.  It will seem like you are filling the cups too high but this batter will not expand as much as other muffin batters.  Sprinkle the top of muffins with chipotle powder as needed for taste.

Bake muffins at 400 degrees until they are light golden brown.  About 15-18 minutes.

Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes.

This is one of my husbands favorite dishes.  It is so simple and quick but very tasty.  Healthy and gluten free too.  It seriously takes just a few minutes to wack up some cabbage, red bell pepper, onion and jalepeno peppers.  Cut up a kielbasa and sautee it for a couple minutes to get some browning to add flavor.  Add cabbage and other veg.  Right now if you can find local cabbage or just buy some cabbage that looks good it will become sweet when you cook it.  Top off with a cup of chicken stock and a couple dashes of balsamic vinegar (about 1 tbs) and simmer for about 15 minutes.  You can serve this as is or over rice.  It is even better the next day.

2 lbs Kielbasa cut into rounds about 1/3 inch thick

1 Head Green Cabbage cut either in stips or chunks

1-3 Jalepeno Peppers (depending on how hot you like it)

1 Sweet Red Bell Pepper cut into strips

1 Red Onion cut into strips

2 Tbs Good Olive Oil

1 Tbs Balsamic Vinegar

1 Cup chicken stock or water

Cracked Pepper

Do not salt this dish as the kielbasa with add enough salt.

Sautee sausage in olive oil, Add veggies.  Add stock and simmer for 15 minutes.  Serve over rice or alone.

Season with Cracked Pepper

The market is full of a large selection of fresh pears at great prices.  I bought a case and wanted to add fresh pear to my dessert at Cal-Wood this week.  After considering many desserts I finally decided on a cheesecake.   Erik one of the teachers at Cal-Wood and an all around good guy is allergic to chocolate.  It seems like every dinner he works at the lodge I am serving some sort of chocolate dessert so I was inspired to design a dessert without chocolate and since he mentioned he loved pears this combo was just the ticket.

Erik and Jamie at a Staff Party

This is a picture of Erik and one of our interns Jamie at a staff party we had at the lodge recently.  One of the things that makes working for Cal-Wood enjoyable is the staff.  This diverse group of dedicated individuals never seem to bore me.  I  cook for the staff as well as the guests at Cal-Wood since they eat most of their meals at the lodge when working and I  want to make sure the meals are not too repetitive. and always yummy.  I admire all the hard work the teaching staff at Cal-Wood put in working with the kids that come up for our outdoor education program so I make an effort to cater to them as well as our guests.

Pear Cheesecake with Maple Glaze

·         For Crust

    • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus       room-temperature butter for pan
    • 8 oz vanilla wafers or animal crackers
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

·         For Filling

    • 2 1/2 pounds bar cream cheese, room temperature
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1 teaspoon Maple Syrup
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 cup sour cream

·         Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make cracker/cookie crust: Butter a 9-by-3-inch spring form pan. In a food processor, pulse crackers until fine crumbs form; add melted butter, sugar, and salt, and pulse to combine. Press crumb mixture into bottom of pan. Bake until set, 12 to 15 minutes; let cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Fill small pot on stove with 4 cups water to boil. Make filling: Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium until fluffy periodically scraping down side of bowl. Add sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in maple syrup and sea salt. Beat in eggs scraping down side of bowl after each addition and add sour cream.
  3. Wrap bottom half of pan in foil. Pour in filling; place in a casserole pan with at least 1 inch sides. Place Pear slices on top of cheesecake mixture laying them in a tile pattern around the top.  Dust with nutmeg or cinnamon.  Pour in boiling water to come halfway up side of spring form. Bake until just set in center, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove pan from water; let cool 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around edge; let cool completely. Cover; chill overnight before serving.  Drizzle with real maple syrup just before serving.

I love cranberry muffins.  But the one thing that I noticed when making cranberry muffins is the the cranberries were too big.  They would sink to the bottom of the muffin or you would encounter a huge cranberry blast in one bite and nothing in the next.  Often the muffin was over whelming.  Too much or too little.  I am a fan of Cooks Illustrated and saw they tested Cranberry Muffins.  I jumped right on it and made a batch with Walnuts instead of Pecans because I did not have any Pecans.  Ohhh.. My.

These muffins are out of this world.  At Cal-Wood the staff calls them the “in your face cranberry muffin.”  I call it the CRAM-berry Muffin.  You have to try this recipe.

You pulse the berries in a food processor so that the cranberry flavor is distributed evenly.  Great tip.  I will be trying this with Pecans next and will post an update on how that version worked out.

Cranberry Nut Muffins

Ingredients

Streusel Topping

  • 3 tablespoons AP Flour
  • 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/2-inch pieces, softened
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves or walnuts

Muffins

  • 1 1/3cups (6 2/3 ounces) AP flour
  • 1 1/2teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4cups pecan halves or walnuts , toasted and cooled
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (7 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Process flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, butter, and salt in food processor until mixture resembles coarse sand, 4 to 5 pulses. Add pecans and process until pecans are coarsely chopped, about 4 pulses. Transfer to small bowl; set aside. 

Spray 12-cup muffin tin with baking spray with flour. Whisk flour, baking powder, ¾ teaspoon salt together in bowl; set aside.

Process toasted pecans and granulated sugar until mixture resembles coarse sand, 10 to 15 seconds. Transfer to large bowl and whisk in eggs, butter, and milk until combined. Whisk flour mixture into egg mixture until just moistened and no streaks of flour remain. Set batter aside 30 minutes to thicken.

Pulse cranberries, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and confectioners’ sugar in food processor until very coarsely chopped, 4 to 5 pulses. Using rubber spatula, fold cranberries into batter. Use ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups, slightly mounding in middle. Evenly sprinkle streusel topping over muffins, gently pressing into batter to adhere. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 18 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin on wire rack, 10 minutes. Remove muffins from tin and cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Last week my sister in law Romagne emails me asking about Buttercup squash.  Had I cooked with it and was it yummy.  In a hurry I shot back an email saying butternut?  Of course I have cooked a butternut and they are yum yummy!

Then I realize she actually means Buttercup and I had not been paying attention to what I was reading so I send another email asking if she means the light orange or green squash?  It was not good for me to rush and not slow down and take time to actually read her email.  Here my sis is asking about a certain winter squash and I rush an email back not responding about a different squash.  The names of these two squash are so similar but the actual squash quite different.

Then I starting thinking…When was the last time I cooked a Buttercup and was it yummy?  Blank.  I went on a quest.

Whole Foods on Saturday.  Yikes I think all of the city of Boulder was there.  Nope, I am sure everyone in Boulder was in the store.  I braved the crowds and found the squash. It was strangely beautiful and ugly at the same time.  Kind of like heirloom tomatoes.  I bought the squash along with about $50.00 dollars worth of other stuff but that was keeping myself under control…I have a Whole Foods problem.  I stayed wisely away from the charcuterie and cheese madness.

I decided to slow roast and mash-up the lovely little darlings.  I really need to stop rushing things so slow roasting squash sounded like just the ticket.

Roasted Buttercup Squash with Lime and Nutmeg

This recipe is very simple.  Take 1 Buttercup squash and cut it in half or quarters depending on the size and scoop out the seeds.

Drizzle some olive oil over the top and season with sea salt and black pepper.  Roast at 425 degrees for about 30-45 minutes.

Scoop out the tasty insides and discard the skin, season with a bit more salt and pepper to taste.

Add a squeeze of lime and a couple grates of whole nutmeg.  Using whole nutmeg and grating it as needed is much better tasting than the already grated kind.  Try it if you have not.

Mash it all together and enjoy!

Now I can tell Romagne that the Buttercup Squash was delicious and very yummy.

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