Thursday, November 20, 2014

Another Mushroom Gravy

I wanted a slightly lighter, more liquidy, more traditional gravy this year.  Bonus: use oil instead of butter and you've got a nice vegan gravy!

7 tablespoons Spring Hill butter or oil
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced or 1&1/2 ounces dried, reconstituted in hot water for 30 minutes
3 large shallots (about a cup), minced from Schaner Farm
1/4 cup flour
3 cups vegetable broth or water from reconstituting dried mushrooms
1 tablespoon soy sauce (both for taste and color)
freshly ground black pepper

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and brown, then set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the pan and lightly caramelize the shallots on medium-low heat.  Add the remaining butter and melt.  Add the flour and cook for 3-4 minutes, whisking frequently. Whisk in the broth, so as not to have any lumps.  Add in the mushrooms and simmer 6-8 minutes until thick. Season with soy sauce and pepper to taste.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Winter Squash Stuffing

This year I plan to substitute the bread cubes with roasted winter squash cubes, to decrease the breads and increase the veggies and nutrient density on the table (and it just so happens this is gluten-free and dairy-free)...

about 1/4 cup olive oil
12 cups butternut/tahitian/acorn/your favorite winter squash, peeled and seeded, cut into ¾” cubes, from Suzie's, JR Organics, the Schaner's or Sage Mountain Farm
1 yellow onion, diced, from Schaner Farms
1 cup celery, diced
6 large garlic cloves, minced from the Schaner's
1 cup pecans, chopped from a friend of a friend's farm
1 cup fresh cranberries (or ½ cup dried)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 large green apple, diced, from Smit Farms
fresh chopped herbs (from Suzie's, the Schaner, or JR Organics):
1/4 cup parsley
2 tablespoons sage
1 tablespoon rosemary
2 tablespoons thyme
1 cup apple juice from Smit Farms
sea salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
If you want to prep ahead of time, this much can be done the day before serving:
  • On a baking pan, drizzle the cubed squash lightly with olive oil, season with sea salt, and toss to coat. Roast at 400° until they start to soften (not totally mushy)  and are golden, stirring occasionally, for about 30-45 minutes.  Set aside.
  • In a large skillet, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, sage, thyme, rosemary and a sprinkle of sea salt and cook until the onions begin to soften. Add garlic and celery and cook a couple more minutes.
  • Combine all ingredients - except juice – and place the mixture in a large baking dish rubbed with olive oil. 
On the day to be served:
  • Moisten by adding haf of the juice. 
  • Cover and bake at 350° for about 30-45 minutes, periodically adding the rest of the juice to keep it moist.
Serves 12

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Re-Planning Thanksgiving

I love cooking this meal that affords us the opportunity to spend time together in gratitude with family and dear friends. But I find that sometimes I miss out on some of that time because I'm very busy in the kitchen, while others might be playing games or enjoying conversations. Each year I vow to make next years' meal more simple, so I can have more time to relax with loved ones. And each year, I can't help myself but to cook all the elaborate favorites that keep me in the kitchen.

Last year I spent the weekend before Thanksgiving with my siblings in a cabin in the woods, celebrating a little early so we could be together (because as we grow older, our family expands, and Thanksgiving is spent at the homes of our respective in-laws). On Thanksgiving day I had a revelation as I watched my spouse's brother, a professional chef, leisurely put together a meal that he mostly prepped and cooked the day before.

Duh! Why haven't I thought of this? Why have I been so rigid in my plans to do almost everything the day of?

So now I'm re-thinking my recipes and re-planning my cooking schedule for the next time this (or any other elaborate meal I make for many others) gets cooked, which will allow me to actually enjoy the present moment, and be more relaxed and engaged with my family. Isn’t that the whole point?

If you have friends and family that enjoy working in the kitchen, make use of them! If someone asks, “Can I help?” say “Yes!” and find a task so they can share with the loving preparations for the meal. Or why not have a Thanksgiving potluck? Encourage folks to come whenever they like, bring an appetizer or their favorite holiday dish if they offer to bring something.

Another way to cut back on prep time? Make half the amount of food that you think you need. But what if we don't have enough? There will be enough. And if folks eat smaller portions, it is so much the healthier for them and the planet. Still, I'm terribly guilty of this, even after years of menu planning, so I always buy half of what I think I need and I continue to end up with plenty leftovers (which we love and eat the rest of the week).

So here's my game plan - 

A Week or More Ahead of Time:
  • create a menu, assemble recipes and make a food shopping list
  • gather or borrow any needed kitchen equipment, silverware, plates, and glasses
  • purchase all non-perishables
  • make cranberry sauce or compote (you could also freeze or can it)
The Weekend Before:
  • buy perishable ingredients
  • prepare the serving pieces, plates, flatware, glasses, etc
  • iron cloth napkins and tablecloths, if you're into that sort of thing
2 Days Before:
The Day Before:
Thanksgiving Day:

9am   Start the rolls.

11am  Prep fresh salad ingredients.

12pm  Form the rolls.

1pm  Bake the stuffing; make the salad.

2pm  As room in your stove top and oven permits: cook the mashed potatoes (for something extra special - yes, let's guild the lily - stir in grated cheese and 1 beaten egg per cup of potatoes, whip briefly and bake into a souffle until golden brown on top); roast or steam up pre-prepped vegetables; heat sauces and gravy; bake pre-prepped sweet potatoes. Finish and garnish all dishes except the rolls

3pm   Serve dinner and put the rolls in oven to be served hot. Give thanks & enjoy the bounty!

5pm  Make coffee and serve dessert. Make music & have fun!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Dia de los Muertos Lunch

After building an ofrenda for loved ones who have passed on, my family and I enjoyed a lunch honoring my great-great grandma Narcissa, grandpa, uncles and other family members who continue on in other forms and in us.

Tamales with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Black Beans

Romaine Salad with Creamy Cilantro Dressing, tomatoes, and toasted pepitas

Pomegranate Lemonade with Chia Seeds
I have pomegranates and lemons from friends.  Stir in 1-3 teaspoons or so of chia per cup of liquid and allow seeds to hydrate for at least ten minutes (but I prefer to let them fully hydrate overnight).

Cinnamon Apple Cake with Goat Cheese Frosting
I recently made goat cheese from fresh goat milk from another friend of mine.

This recipe makes about 50 tamales so get together with friends or family and have a tamalada! We used my large canning pot with the canning rack flipped upside down at the bottom as a steamer.

corn husks (next summer I'm saving my corn husks cuz I can't find these organic):
Soak the corn husks in hot water for a couple hours.  Make sure they are completely submerged.

For the batter:
7 cups masa harina (you can find organic masa in the bulk section at OB People's)
4 1/2 cups hot filtered water
1 pound and 4 oz Spring Hill salted butter, softened
4 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 cups vegetable broth

Stir together the masa and hot water and allow to hydrate and cool.  Set aside.

I had to make this to two batches, half of the ingredients in each batch, in my stand up mixer but if you have an electric beater, you can do it all at once. On medium high speed, beat the salt and baking powder into the butter until well combined.  Beat in the masa for about 1 minute until light and fluffy.  On medium low speed, add 2 cups of the broth until well combined.  Test 1/2 a teaspoon of masa to see if it will float in cold water.  If not, beat until it does.  Then beat in the final cup of broth.

For the filling, whatever you like or have on hand (roasted anaheim chiles and cheddar, mushroom and goat cheese...):
4 large summer squash, quartered and sliced thin
4 large red bell peppers, sliced thin
2 medium red onion, sliced thin
olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Saute the veggies a couple cups at a time in a tablespoon or two of olive oil until they start to soften.  Salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

For each tamale, spread about 1/4 cup masa in a 4-inch square on a corn husk (or two overlapping if they're small), leaving about an inch and half uncovered on the top and bottom, and 3/4 inch on each side. In the center, spoon a couple tablespoons of filling down the middle of the masa.  Pull each side together, joining the masa with the filling in the center. 

There are many ways to tie tamales.  If I'm making a few different kinds of tamales, I'll fold each one a different way. Here's a few examples:

  1. Fold the bottom and top corn husk towards the center, forming a small rectangular package.
  2. Fold bottom up and leave the top open.
  3. Tie each end.
Use strips of corn husk or string to bind your tamales so they don't come undone.  Add 2 inches of water to your pot, boil and reduce to a simmer. Line the bottom and sides of your steaming pot with extra corn husks and fill with your tamales standing upright. Steam for about an hour and a half.