Got (almond) milk?

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Almond milk is one of my new favorite things.  I drink – literally – a gallon a week.  By myself.  I actually looked into buying stock in Blue Diamond, as they’ve seemed to gain a corned on the market (alas, it’s not a publicly traded company.  But if they ever IPO…!).

That said, I’ve long wanted to experiment with making my own almond milk at home.  The process couldn’t be easier (soak almonds, blend, strain, done), but I’d just never gotten around to it (or, more like, I’d just never planned ahead).  I was recently asked to write an article for Actively Northwest highlighting nut milk and nut butters, which provided the perfect opportunity (read: kick in the pants) to make it at home.  And wow!  Was I glad I did.  Not only was it as easy as I’d hoped, but the taste was remarkably better than what I buy at the store.  The only catch:  it doesn’t last all that long in the fridge sans preservatives, so only make what you can drink in a few days (for me, this is never a problem.  See above).

But if you’re looking to use up some of that extra milk, there are a myriad of ways to cook, bake with, or otherwise consume almond milk, and I’ve highlighted a few below.  Enjoy!

Almond Milk – Basic Recipe:

Soaking the nuts overnight – or even longer – will ensure a creamier texture. And while almond is the most popular nut, you can also make delicious, creamy milk out of cashews.

Place 1 cup raw nuts in a bowl and cover with an inch of water.  Let stand 12-24 hours, uncovered. Drain and rinse the nuts, which will be plump and soft, then place in a blender with 2 cups filtered water.  Blend at high speed for two minutes then strain in a colander lined with cheesecloth or nut cloth.  Gather the ends of the cloth and squeeze tightly to extract as much milk as possible. Voila!

Almond milk rice pudding

I love rice pudding.  And tapioca pudding.  And pumpkin pudding.  Luckily, all of these are simple to make, and all of them are equally – if not more – delicious when made with almond milk.  Enjoy!

 

Pic courtesy threekitcheneers

Pic courtesy threekitcheneers

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups sushi or arborio rice, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract + ¼ tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 7 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • Toasted sliced almonds, peaches or berries, to serve

 Preparation

In a large saucepan, combine the rice, sugar, salt, cinnamon, extracts and 1 cup of the almond milk. Cook over low heat, stirring, until the almond milk is absorbed, 5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining almond milk, 1 cup at a time, stirring and cooking until the sauce is very thick, 25 minutes (it’s like making a sweet risotto). Let cool, then stir in the remaining 1 cup of almond milk. Serve topped with almonds, berries, cinnamon, or other fruit (sliced fresh peaches are excellent)

 

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Creamed kale with crunchy almond-herb topping

I know, I know, kale has had its day in the sun already, but this dish is actually quite delicious, and a departure from the ho-hum kale salads that seem to grace every menu in Seattle.  While creamed spinach is more traditional, I prefer this recipe made with kale, which has more integrity than spinach.

Serves 6 as a side, or 4 as  a main dish

pic courtesy kitchendaily

Pic courtesy Food & Wine

 

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches kale, washed, de-stemmed and sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram

 Preparation

  • Preheat the oven to 425°.
  • Bring a large saucepan of water to a low simmer. Add the kale by the handful; allow each handful to wilt before adding more. Cook for 4-5 minutes until kale is tender.  Drain and press or squeeze kale to remove as much water as possible.
  • Dry the pot, then return to heat and add butter and shallots; cook over medium heat until soft. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the almond milk and simmer until very thick, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese and kale. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon into a baking dish.
  • In a separate pan, toast the panko and almonds over medium heat. Stir in the herbs and sprinkle over the creamed kale.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden.
  • Serve warm

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine

 

 

 

Spring Ahead!

It’s finally spring, and that means one thing to serious cooks and foodies alike: spring produce!  Arguably, spring is my favorite season for cooking.  I’m not sure if it’s due to the availability of produce other than root vegetables and kale, or my inherent liking of mild, fresh, tender spring vegetables (asparagus, baby lettuces, peas, garlic scapes…yum!), or perhaps I just prefer lighter, fresher cooking methods (grilling, salads, quick sautes), but regardless I’m excited that spring has finally sprung.

To celebrate the earliest signs of spring, here are a few recipe ideas to get you excited about the change of seasons.

Grilled Salmon, Ramps and Asparagus

courtesy lemonbasil

courtesy lemonbasil

Grilling is quite possibly the best cooking method, IMO.  Not only is it super simple and quick, it imparts incredible flavor (did I mention cleanup is a snap?  Heat grill, scrape down, done).  The other great thing about grilling is the possibilities are endless — spring onions, also known as Ramps, are one of the best discoveries on the grill.  Like scallions with larger “bulbs”, grilling brings out a sweetness and light caramelization of the bulbous root end, while the green stalks develop a slight char that is lightly smokey and crisp. Asparagus, another early arrival at Northwest farmers markets, is a perfect partner, balancing the pungency of the onion with a grassy, vegetal flavor.  Both pair well with grilled salmon, halibut or even whole roast chicken.  And if you’re feeling particularly ambitious — or serving this to guests —  a quick mustard tarragon sauce gilds the lily.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound filet (about 1-inch thick) wild Coho, Sockeye or King salmon (Pink and Keta are too lean)
  • 1 bunch ramps (spring onions), thoroughly washed to remove grit
  • 1 large bunch (1 pound) asparagus, rinsed and ends trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs:  chives, tarragon, parsley or a combination
  • 1 lemon

Preparation

Heat grill to medium high.  Brush salmon with 1 teaspoon oil, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Once grill is hot, place salmon skin-side-down on grill racks, cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, toss ramps and asparagus with remaining oil and salt.  Place on grill, cover, and continue to cook 3-4 minutes longer, until just charred but still tender.

Note: Better to err on the side of undercooking the salmon, rather than overcooking. You can always put the fish back on the grill, but once a good fillet is overcooked, there’s nothing you can do

Mustard tarragon sauce

mustard_salmon_sauce

Whisk together in a small bowl:

  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Herbalicious

pic courtesy rusticgardenbistro

pic courtesy rusticgardenbistro

Author’s Note: I originally wrote this post for ActivelyNorthwest.com, and am reposting here for my NotesOnDelicious followers.

As we enter into the second half of winter, the days slowly get longer and the temperatures start to tick up.  But unfortunately, the selection of produce at local farmers markets and groceries hasn’t changed much at all.  By now, the winter recipe rotation has been cycled through several times over, and those hearty winter meals that provided comfort during the first cold days can seem a bit, well, boring. Fortunately, there is a simple trick to add new life those same winter dishes:  fresh herbs!

Yet for many, the thought of using herbs during the winter seems counterintuitive.  But there is nothing like a hit of fresh herb, used to flavor a recipe at the end of cooking, to perk up the flavors in the dish.  Fresh herbs add a layer of complexity and freshness, reminding us of the vibrancy of spring on its way.

Cold-tolerant herbs such as rosemary, thyme and parsley are available at many farmers markets during the winter.  Venture to Asian markets, and an abundance of mint, thai basil, dill and cilantro are easy finds.  And of course, most grocery stores stock a variety of herbs in those ubiquitous clamshell containers.

But for many, once that first bit of herb is used the challenge becomes:  what to do with the rest?  Here are a few tricks for using herbs in winter cooking, plus advice on how to best store herbs and preserve them for use throughout the cold months.

Using Fresh Herbs:

Rosemary

Rosemary

An excellent companion to chicken, pork and root vegetables, rosemary can be quite pungent so a little goes a long way.  Mince together with a clove of garlic and the zest of a lemon for a quick rub to season pork tenderloin before grilling, to stuff under the skin of chicken before baking, or to flavor diced squash before roasting.   Rosemary branches also make an excellent skewer for grilled vegetables, turkey meatballs or chicken tenders; simply strip most of the leaves from the stem and skewer the meat or vegetable, then grill or roast in the oven.

Thyme

Thyme

Much like rosemary, thyme is a natural companion to chicken, pork, and root vegetables, but also lends a nice flavor to eggs (try it in your scrambled eggs or frittata).  Strip thyme leaves from the branch and toss with wedges of onions, fennel bulb and a tablespoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then bake in a 350-degree oven for 40 min for a fantastic side dish.  Minced fresh thyme leaves can also be added to your favorite vinaigrette as a great complement to roasted beet or pear salads.

Parsley

Parsley

Parsley is the secret to adding that “fresh” flavor to brighten up rich soups, stews, braises and roasts.  Add at the very end, before serving, as the tender leaves won’t hold up during long cooking.  Parsley also makes for a great “base” to other herb flavors.  Try blitzing in the food processor with some olive oil, garlic, chili flakes and add an herb of choice: fresh marjoram or oregano for an Italian “salsa verde” marinade for steak; cilantro and lime juice for a Mexican sauce for chicken and fish; or add toasted walnuts and lemon juice for a quick parsley pesto for boiled potatoes or white fish.

To store fresh herbs:   Tender herbs like parsley, mint, dill and basil are best stored in the fridge.  Either wrap loosely in paper towel and place in a zip-top bag or, if you’ve got room, they will last even longer if placed upright in a glass of water, covered loosely with a plastic baggie and stored in the refrigerator door.  Rosemary, thyme and sage will keep for several weeks if placed in a glass of water and left in a cool spot (windowsill, etc.).

To freeze herbs:  Tender herbs can also be frozen in ice cube trays.  Simply mince together and submerge in broth, water or olive oil then add to ice cube trays to freeze.  Remove from tray once frozen and store in a zip-top bag for an easy flavor boost to soups, stews and sauces.

Almond & Herb Crusted Chicken

Chicken

Chicken marinade ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups lowfat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 pounds chicken breasts and/or thighs, skin removed (either bone-in or boneless are fine; cooking times will vary, see below)

Crust ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped thyme
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup flour

Preparation

Whisk together buttermilk, mustard, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt and place in large bowl with chicken.  Toss to coat, cover, and marinate at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400-degrees

Whirl together crust ingredients in a food processor until finely ground.  Place on a large, rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5-8 minutes until just golden.  Place crumbs into a large, shallow bowl and add the flour to a second bowl and set aside.

Line the baking sheet with foil and place a cookie cooling rack on top (to create a raised “rack” above the baking sheet).  Spray rack with cooking spray.

Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and set onto a large plate, reserving the buttermilk mixture.  Piece-by-piece, toss chicken lightly in the flour, shaking off any excess, then place back into the buttermilk, turn to coat evenly, then place into the mixture of crumbs and turn to coat all sides.  Place on the prepared baking rack.  Repeat with remaining pieces.

Bake the chicken 45-55 minutes for bone-in chicken, or 25-30 minutes for split boneless chicken breasts.  They will be done when no longer pink inside, and an instant-read thermometer registers 165-degrees.

Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve with additional minced parsley, a squeeze of lemon, or honey mustard on the side.

Serves 4.

Feeding the 12th Man

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It’s football time!  You can’t walk more than two blocks in Seattle without encountering some form of Seahawks pride; even the Space Needle is sporting a Seahawks flag.  But when it comes to game time, the last thing you want to do is cook.  Instead, try these healthy make-ahead recipes to keep the 12th Man full while the Hawks show their stuff.

Here’s a Seahawks game day menu that even a Niner’s fan would dig.  And a special shout out to a particular fan for the inspiration behind several of these dishes (tall, bearded, loves both kale salad and a good cheesesteak — you know who you are!)

  • Smoked Salmon Mousse with cucumber chips
  • Seahawks “Blue” Bites:  Blue cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto
  • “Emerald City” Baked Artichoke & Kale Dip
  • Chipotle-Coffee Pulled Pork Sliders with Washington Apple Slaw & Cider Vinaigrette
  • Chewy Theo Chocolate Cookies

Smoked Salmon Mousse

pic courtesy ourlifeinfood

pic courtesy ourlifeinfood

This smoked salmon spread couldn’t be easier to make, and is much healthier than the widely available mayonnaise and cream cheese-based dips.  Simply whirl together 1 cup Greek yogurt, ½ cup low-fat cream cheese, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, 1 small shallot (or use 2 tablespoons minced red onion), 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs (tarragon, parsley or dill) and a hefty grind of black pepper.  Process until smooth, then add 4-oz smoked salmon, flaked into chunks, and pulse until just combined (I like chunks of salmon to remain).  Serve with sliced cucumbers as “chips.”

Seahawks “Blue” Bites

Prosciutto dates

This healthy spin on the oh-so-delicious bacon-wrapped-blue-cheese-stuffed dates is far better for you and still addictively good.  Combining reduced-fat cream cheese with blue cheese cuts fat and calories without sacrificing on flavor.  And prosciutto not only offers an excellent, low-fat stand in for bacon, it is also fully cooked, so it doesn’t have to bake for long before being ready to serve.  To make, mix together ½ cup reduced fat cream cheese with 2 oz. soft blue cheese until well combined.  Stuff 1 tsp cheese into already-pitted dried Medjool dates, then wrap each with a 1-inch wide strip of prosciutto.  Secure with a toothpick and bake for 5 minutes in a 400-degree oven until prosciutto crisps and cheese starts to melt.

Emerald City Baked Artichoke and Kale Dip

baked spinach dip

This baked dip has all the cheesy goodness of party-favorite spinach artichoke dip, but with far fewer calories and fat. Fresh kale, a readily available vegetable this time of year, adds heartiness and packs in a variety of nutrients.   Cottage cheese, when pureed, adds body and creaminess with far fewer calories than mayonnaise or cream cheese.  And the green color gives a nod to the Emerald City.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 bunch fresh kale (I prefer lacinato, also called “dinosaur” or “black” kale), washed, stripped off stems, and sliced across the leaf into thin ribbons
  • 2 cups thawed and roughly chopped frozen artichoke hearts
  • ½ cup shredded Gruyere
  • 1 cup low fat or nonfat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

In a large, wide skillet, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat until onion is soft and just starting to turn golden, about 3 minutes.  Add kale and sauté another 10 minutes until kale is soft.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, puree cottage cheese until smooth.  Add kale mixture and puree 10-20 seconds until kale is well incorporated.  Add artichoke hearts and pulse a few times until artichokes are chopped into small pieces.  Add gruyere cheese and half of the parmesan cheese, and pulse to combine.  Transfer to a greased baking dish and sprinkle with remaining parmesan, then bake 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven until bubbly.  Serve with baked pita chips.

To make pita chips:

Brush 4 rounds of fresh pita bread with olive oil, then sprinkle with a teaspoon of kosher salt. You can also sprinkle with a teaspoon of paprika, cumin or a mixture of both for additional flavor.  Using kitchen scissors, snip the circles into wedges, then bake in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes.  Flip the chips over and bake another 5 minutes until just crisp.

Chipotle-Coffee Pork Sliders with Washington Apple SLaw & Cider Vinaigrette

pic courtesy blogchef

pic courtesy blogchef

Unlike traditional pulled pork, which is made with (fat-laden) pork butt or shoulder roast, these sliders are made with the lean tenderloin.  But lacking in flavor they are not!  The chipotle coffee rub – a shout-out to Seattle pride – makes for a delicious, assertive spice rub that will please your football crowd.  What’s best, the pork cooks completely unattended – either low and slow in the oven, or even easier in the crockpot — making the house smell oh-so-delicious.  You can even make it in advance and reheat it.  It’s served on small slider buns and stacked on a tray for an easy-to-make, easy-to-eat dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 canned chipotles in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • ½ cup brewed black coffee
  • ½ cup chicken or beef broth
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 pounds pork tenderloin, silver skin removed

Directions:

In a large Dutch oven sauté onion and garlic in oil until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and place in a 250-degree oven.  Cook for 4 hours until pork is well cooked and very tender (you can also do this in a slow cooker).

Remove pork from pan and let cool.  Meanwhile, bring sauce to a low simmer on the stovetop and simmer to reduce until it reaches a ketchup-like consistency (if it is already thick, this step is unnecessary).  Shred the pork into chunks using large forks.  Return shredded pork to pan with sauce and heat through.

Washington Apple Slaw with Cider Vinaigrette

Slaw Ingredients:

  • 6 cups shredded cabbage (I like a combination of savoy and red cabbage)
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 medium apples, sliced into thin matchsticks
  • Optional:  ¼ cup minced cilantro, tarragon, or parsley

Cider Vinaigrette:

In a mason jar, combined the following and shake to emulsify:

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh apple cider or apple juice (if you don’t have this, you can substitute an extra tablespoon of honey)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Add to slaw and let marinate for at least one hour.  Serve on Pork Sliders.

Chewy Theo Chocolate Brownies

pic courtesy gourmet

pic courtesy gourmet

Low fat brownies have a bad reputation, and often deservedly so, as it’s easy to turn out dry, crumbly and bland chocolate “cakes”.  Not so for these dense, chewy brownies.  Made with local Theo chocolate they are decadent without being overly rich.  The key is using both cocoa powder and extra dark chocolate, which reduces the overall amount of sugar and butter needed to provide the right texture and flavor.  Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, so you know it’s going to turn out well!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 ounces extra dark (85%) chocolate, chopped fine (you can substitute a semisweet chocolate bar – not chips – chopped fine)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Line an 8-inch metal baking pan with parchment or foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk the flour and baking powder together; set aside.  In a separate bowl, whisk the cocoa, water, vanilla, espresso powder together; set aside. Microwave the butter and chocolate in a medium, microwave safe bowl on 50-percent power until just melted, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Stir to combine.  Whisk in the sugar and salt to chocolate until completely incorporated.  Whisk in the cocoa mixture, then whisk in the egg.  Stir in the flour mixture until just blended (do not over mix).  Pour into baking pan and bake 20-25 minutes until just set (do not overbake.  A toothpick inserted into the middle should come out with a few moist crumbs attached).  Cool completely on a wire rack (at least 1 hour).  Remove by lifting out parchment or foil liner, then slice into squares.

Going Greek

Pic courtesy Bon Appetit

Pic courtesy Bon Appetit

Greek yogurt is all the rage these days, and for good reason. While all yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, zinc, potassium, vitamins B6 and B12, Greek yogurt has far less sugar and twice the protein of regular yogurt.  Greek yogurt is also lower in lactose, making it easier to digest for those with dairy sensitivity, and contains high amount of probiotics, which can help improve gut health.  Nutrition aside, Greek yogurt is also much thicker and, many would contest, creamier-tasting than regular yogurt.   

So how does ordinary yogurt transform into this nutritional superfood? The answer is quite simple:  Greek yogurt is nothing more than regular yogurt that has been strained to remove the watery whey, which contains most of the lactose and sugars, producing a thick, creamy yogurt with roughly the same amount of calories.

Given that it takes far more regular (non-strained) yogurt to produce the thicker “Greek” variety, it’s no surprise that the strained variety is more expensive.  But making Greek yogurt at home is not difficult.  All you need is a heavy-bottomed pan, a instant-read thermometer, and time.  You can also expedite this process by simply straining your own regular yogurt.  Place store-bought plain yogurt in a sieve lined with cheesecloth (a coffee filter will also work in a pinch), and set inside a large bowl to drain for 2-3 hours (the longer it drains, the thicker it will become).  You can drain it overnight to produce “labneh”, a yogurt cheese, which makes an excellent appetizer spread when mixed with fresh herbs, lemon zest and garlic.

Ready to try this yourself?  Here’s the basic, foolproof recipe for homemade yogurt.

A few tips:

Yogurt can be very fickle.  Getting the temperature right is key.  If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, now is the time to invest in one.   Make sure the yogurt is between 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit before adding your “culture” (a scoop of already made yogurt).  If the temp is too hot, it will kill the live cultures, and if it’s too cold, the cultures won’t grow.  In either case, you’ll end up with a pot of luke warm milk!

Second, make sure you have a warm place to keep the yogurt overnight, so the cultures will develop in an undisturbed, warm spot.   I wrap mine in several kitchen towels, then place in the  oven with the oven light turned on, which seems to work well.

Finally, the taste of the yogurt you use as a “starter” will determine the taste of your next batch of yogurt; pick one you like to eat.

Homemade Yogurt

pic courtesy simplebites

pic courtesy simplebites

  • 1 quart (1 l) milk (whole, nonfat or low-fat all work)
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) plain yogurt with live active cultures (Greek yogurt  will work, just read the label to ensure there are live cultures)
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • 1-quart mason jar
  • Heavy bottomed sauce pan 

Heat milk in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly to ensure milk does not scorch the bottom of the pan. After 10-15 minutes, take the temperature of the milk, and continue checking often until the milk reaches 180ºF.  Remove from heat and let cool unti the temperature reaches 115-degrees Farenheit (this will take anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on how warm your kitchen is).

When the temperature drops to 115ºF (and no higher!), stir in the 1/4 cup of yogurt, then pour the mixture into the jar and cover it.  (Note:  If the temperature of your milk has dropped too low, gently reheat until it reaches 115 before stirring in the yogurt).

Put the yogurt jar in a slightly warm place.  Leave it undisturbed for 10 to 12 hours. The longer fermentation will yield a more tart yogurt.

Chill the yogurt thoroughly, at least three hours. The yogurt will thicken up once cool.

To make greek yogurt:

Place the cooled yogurt in a sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth, and let drain for 1-3 hours.  The longer you strain it, the thicker it will become.  You can also use a sieve lined with a coffee filter for equally good results.  Remember to reserve ¼ cup for your next batch!

Once you’ve mastered the basic technique, you’ll be making your own yogurt every week!  Wondering how you’ll use it up?  While it’s always delicious for breakfast, perhaps drizzled with a bit of honey and topped with fresh berries, granola or toasted nuts, there are infinite uses for yogurt.

granola

A few more recipe ideas:

Make “Labneh” yogurt cheese:

Simply strain yogurt for an additional 2-3 hours until it is very thick.   Mix in lemon zest, fresh herbs (parsley, tarragon, basil or dill work well), a small clove of minced garlic, and a sprinkle of sea salt for a quick and healthy alternative to fat-laden cream cheese or mayonnaise-based dips and spreads.

Make an Indian-inspired marinade for chicken or fish:

Wisk together 2 cups yogurt, the juice of 1 lemon, a tablespoon freshly ground Garam Masala (or substitute equal parts ground cumin and coriander), 2 cloves minced garlic.  Set aside 1/2 cup marinade as a sauce to serve.  Combine remaining yogurt mixture with boneless skinless chicken breasts  and marinate for 2 hours (or overnight, if you have time).  Remove from marinade, brush off extra yogurt, and grill over high heat until cooked through.  Serve along with cinnamon basmati rice, cilantro and lime. You can also use this on halibut, just reduce the marinade time to 1 hour.

Make your own protein-packed hummus

In a food processor, combine 1 can rinsed, drained garbanzo beans (chick peas), ½ cup Greek yogurt, ¼ cup tahini (sesame paste), 2 tablespoons water, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 2 cloves minced garlic, ½ teaspoon ground cumin and ½ teaspoon kocher salt.  Process until smooth.  You can also make with white beans (cannellini), just substitute olive oil for tahini, and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary for the cumin.

Finally, here’s a fantastic Lemon Tart, adapted from a recipe by Good things Grow.

Lemon Tart with Rosemary Crust

lemon_tart1

For the crust:

  • 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely minced
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1-2 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Zest of two (organic) lemons (about 2 tablespoons zest)

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Lightly butter a 9-inch tart pan and set aside.

Place the flour, sugar, rosemary, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the butter and pulse until little pea sized bits start to form. Add in the ice water, starting with just 1 tablespoon. Pulse a few more times, then check the dough to see if it holds together when pressed between your fingers. If not, add the 2nd tablespoon. The dough may still seem crumbly, but as long as it holds together when pressed it will be perfect.

Dump the dough out into the prepared tart pan. Starting from the center, work your way out to the sides by pressing the dough firmly into the pan. Make sure you press it up along the sides evenly. Pierce the bottom with a fork a few times and place in the oven to bake for about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes before filling.

Meanwhile prepare the filling. Place the yogurt and sugar in a bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then add the lemon juice and zest. Whisk until smooth and everything is evenly combined.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the center is set and only slightly jiggles when shaken lightly.

Allow to cool completely then place in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Tart can be made the day before and kept covered and chilled in the fridge.

Holiday Baking

Happy holiday endings

Tis the season for sweets!  Christmas cookies, candy canes, chocolates and holiday dessert spreads are as ubiquitous as Bing Crosby this time of year.  Sadly, many of those desserts are not as exciting — or as flavorful — as one might hope.  Why make plain sugar cookies when you can just as easily whip up sea salt caramels, dark chocolate truffles, or cherry almond biscotti?

Here are a few more “creative” recipes for your next holiday party or dessert course.  Note that these recipes were created specifically for my Actively Northwest post on healthy holiday desserts, but despite their healthful claim, all of these are proven to be even more delightful and delicious than your standard sugar cookie.

Cherry Almond Biscotti

My Mom and I make biscotti every year, and we take a certain amount of creative liberty in our additions.  Cornmeal-cherry-pecan, and lavender-orange-almond were made in years’ past.  But sometimes simple is better, as is the case for these cherry-almond biscotti.  We’ve also played with butter vs. no butter; whole eggs vs. egg whites; flour vs. almond meal.  In the end, we’ve settled on this recipe, which is crunchy without being too hard, and tender yet sturdy enough to dunk in tea.

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  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 cup almond meal (if unavailable, use all regular flour. You can also make your own almond meal by grinding raw almonds in a food processor until finely ground)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in extracts. Turn to low, and mix in flour until just combined.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in almonds and cherries.

Divide dough in half and transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Form each half into a 2 1/2-inch-wide, 3/4-inch-tall log. Bake until dough is firm but gives slightly when pressed, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Let cool on sheet on a wire rack, 20 minutes.

With a serrated knife, cut logs into 1/4-inch slices on the diagonal and arrange, cut side down, on two parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets. Bake until biscotti are crisp and golden, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets and flipping biscotti halfway through. Let cool on sheets on wire racks

Ricotta Cake

This has been my go-to birthday cake for as long as I can remember.  Much lighter than a traditional cream cheese & sour cream cheese cake, this cake highlights the sweetness of fresh ricotta, one of my favorite cheeses.  Find good quality, fresh ricotta, and feel free to experiment with different flavor additions (we added orange flower water & orange zest one year, lavender another time…).  For chocolate lovers, you can drizzle with a dark chocolate sauce and top with toasted almonds or hazelnuts for a more decadent dessert.

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Ingredients

  • 2 15-ounce containers ricotta cheese (Whole or part-skim; do not use nonfat)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice

 Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan, and dust it lightly with flour.
  2. Place the ricotta, eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla and almond extracts, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a good processor and whip everything together until smooth. (You can also beat the mixture with an electric mixer or by hand, in a large bowl.)
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it into place.
  4. Bake in the middle of the oven for 50 minutes, or until it feels solid when pressed lightly in the center. Cool completely before serving, then cover tightly with plastic wrap, and chill until cold.
  5. Serve with berries, a fruit compote, or drizzle with chocolate sauce and sprinkle with toasted almonds or hazelnuts

Serves 10-12

Cranberry Cornmeal Upside Down Cake with Honey Orange Cream

A lightened version of the traditional pineapple upside down cake, cornmeal adds a layer of flavor, cranberries give it a holiday flair and a “cheat” crema made with greek yogurt, honey and orange gilds the lily.

Pic courtesy land o lakes

Pic courtesy land o lakes

 Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 6 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1 + 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup fine cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • Juice and zest from one orange

Preparation

 Preheat oven to 350°.

Spray a 9-inch round cake pan very thoroughly with cooking spray. Heat brown sugar and 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook 2 minutes or until butter melts and sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Pour sugar mixture into prepared cake pan, tilting pan to coat bottom evenly. Arrange cranberries evenly over sugar mixture.

Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt; stir with a whisk.  Beat together butter, oil, applesauce and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until well incorporated.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Spoon the batter over the cranberries, spreading evenly. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes on a wire rack. Loosen cake from sides of pan using a narrow metal spatula. Place a serving plate upside down on top of cake, and invert the cake pan onto the plate. Let stand 5 minutes, and remove the pan.

Wisk together yogurt, honey and orange juice and zest.  Serve cake warm, wtih a dollop of honey orange crema.

Serves 8-10

Decadent chocolate “Cappuccino” Puddings

This recipe couldn’t be easier or more delicious.  A chocolate-y, mocha pudding to satisfy every chocoholic’s cravings, it can easily be made ahead and refrigerated.  To make the pudding into “cappuccinos,” serve in individual demitasse cups, dolloped with homemade whipped cream (the “foam” on the espresso) and a few shaves of chocolate.

pic courtesy thelittleloaf.com

pic courtesy thelittleloaf.com

 

Ingredients 

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder (or Starbucks Via “instant coffee” packet)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups 2%  milk
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 Preparation

Wisk together the cornstarch, sugar, espresso powder and salt in a medium saucepan, then slowly whisk in a bit of milk, being careful to wisk thoroughly so the cornstarch doesn’t clump, then add the remaining milk, while continuing to wisk, until thoroughly incorporated. Turn heat to medium-low and stir with a heat-proof spatula every few minutes, being sure to scrape the bottom and sides.  After 10-15 minutes the mixture should start to thicken, enough that it will coat the back of a spoon. Add the chocolate and vanilla, and continue stirring for another 2-3 minutes, until chocolate is fully incorporated and mixture is quite thick.

Distribute among individual cups or one large serving bowl and chill  2 to 3 hours.

Serve with freshly whipped cream and shaves of dark chocolate (made by using a vegetable peeler to shave strips from a chocolate bar).

Pumpkin Flan

For those who love custards, puddings and pumpkin pie, this will be your new favorite dessert.  Flan is a traditional Latin dish, very similar to the french creme caramel.  An egg and milk custard is baked on a pool of caramelized sugar, which is inverted before serving to produce a golden veil of caramel sauce over a silky custard ring.  The addition of pumpkin transforms this dessert into a delightfully silky cousin of pumpkin pie in which caramel sauce stands in for the traditional pastry crust.  A sure crowd pleaser.

pic courtesy S. Parga

pic courtesy S. Parga

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided in half
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest (use an organic orange for this)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (you can substitute 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, but the real vanilla bean imparts incredible flavor)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups milk (low-fat or whole)
  • 5 large eggs, beaten

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees

Put 1/2 cup sugar in a 9-inch cake pan or pie plate, set on the center rack in the oven, and bake until the sugar is caramel colored, 8 to 12 minutes. Swirl to cover the bottom of the pie plate with the caramel.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, cinnamon sticks, orange zest and vanilla bean slowly over medium heat, until it comes to a low simmer, stirring often.  Turn to low, and continue to simmer until milk is reduced by half (about 20 minutes), continuing to stir often to prevent milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Remove from heat, and strain into a large bowl, removing cinnamon and vanilla beans. Wisk in pumpkin puree, remaining half cup sugar and salt until thoroughly combined.  In a separate bowl, wisk together eggs.  Add a ladle full (approx 1/2 cup) of the warm milk mixture to the bowl of eggs and stir together to warm the eggs (adding cold eggs to the hot milk can scramble the eggs).  Slowly wisk in the egg mixture back into the bowl of pumpkin-milk.

Set the pie plate in a large roasting pan (with sides at least 2-inches high) and pour the custard into the pie plate over the caramel. Carefully pour enough hot tap water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the pie plate.

Bake 1 hour 20 minutes, until the custard is set. Cool and chill in the refrigerator.

To serve, run a knife around the outside edge of the flan and place a rimmed serving plate on top.  Holding the serving plate securely on top of the pie plate, quickly flip over to invert the flan onto the serving plate. Cut into wedges to serve.

Turkey Lurkey Time!

It’s time to pull out those stretchy pants — Thanksgiving is almost here!  But that plate piled high with gravy-laden turkey, buttery stuffing, creamy casseroles and decadent dessert can quickly add up.  It’s estimated that the average American consumes over 4000 calories on Thanksgiving Day!  But no one wants to eat “healthy” food on Thanksgiving.  The good news is, many of the foods traditionally associated with Thanksgiving are actually quite nutritious.  Most of the dishes I make on Thanksgiving are both incredibly good, and surprisingly good for you.  Don’t believe me?  Keep reading, and by the time you get to “bacon” in the recipe list, I’m sure you’ll be swayed…

Bon Appetit!

Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Orange, Sherry and Pecans

Photo: Mary Britton Senseney/Wonderful Machine

Photo: Mary Britton Senseney/Wonderful Machine

Forget those marshmallows.  Fresh orange juice, sherry wine and toasted pecans are far better complements for those delicious orange tubers. This recipe has been passed down for generations in my family, and is always a big hit.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 pounds sweet potatoes (“yams” in the U.S.)
  • 2 oranges (organic is preferred, as you will be using the zest)
  • 3 tablespoons Sherry wine (Dry Sherry, not Cream.  And definitely not cooking wine!)
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (or Turkey stock)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup pecans

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400-degrees.  Wash and scrub yams, pierce in several places, and roast on a baking sheet for 40-60 minutes, until fully tender when pierced. Remove from oven and let cool.

Toast pecans on a baking sheet in oven for five minutes.  Remove and coarsely chop.

Peel yams (the skins should easily slip off after being roasted).  Add to large mixing bowl (if you are using a hand mixer) or the bowl in your stand mixer.  Beat on medium until creamy.  Zest one orange into the bowl.  Juice both oranges using a reamer or juicer, and add the juice to mixing bowl.  Add broth, Sherry wine and salt.  Beat on low to incorporate.  Adjust for seasoning (some broth is saltier than others.  Add more sherry if you like that flavor).

Place in casserole dish, top with toasted pecans.  Heat in oven if the potatoes have cooled off too much (you can also make this a day ahead  — just keep the pecans separate, and reheat the next day in microwave or oven.  Stir to ensure it’s evenly heated, then add toasted pecans before serving).

Best ever bread stuffing and variations thereof…

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Pic courtesy food network

The best bread stuffing requires using REAL bread.  Not those overly salty, fake “herb”-ey crouton cubes that you find bagged or boxed stuffing (sorry to dis on Pepperidge Farm and Stovetop, but comparing those to real stuffing is like equating turkey cold cuts to a homemade Thanksgiving turkey).

Stuffing couldn’t be easier to make, all it requires is a bit of chopping.  And the variations are endless.  Here are three different takes on the traditional bread stuffing to get you started.

Version 1:  Rustic bread stuffing with Sausage, Apples and Sage

Pic courtesy foodnetwork

Pic courtesy food network

This is the simplest version of bread stuffing, made with a crusty como or french loaf of bread, torn into big pieces then toasted in the oven until dry and just starting to turn golden.  Mix in apples, sage and sausage, and you’re on your way to a delicious stuffing suitable for any bird.  Want to kick it up a notch?  Try adding chestnuts or hazelnuts, perhaps some dried cranberries, or a bit of minced rosemary.

I use chicken breakfast sausage because I honestly don’t think you need all the additional fat of pork sausage, but if you like that pork taste, by all means use the classic pork breakfast links.  Just be sure to remove the sausage from the casings so it crumbles easily.  I also don’t use eggs in my stuffing – I see no need, as it holds together just fine when thoroughly moistened with a good chicken (or, preferably, some homemade turkey) stock.

Ingredients

  • 1 large loaf crusty Italian bread (e.g. Como loaf), roughly torn into 1-inch pieces (you’ll have about 10-12 cups of bread)
  • 2-4 Tablespoons butter (depending on how buttery & rich you like your stuffing)
  • 1 pound chicken breakfast sausage links, casings removed
  • 1 large onion (any kind is fine), diced
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped into pieces
  • 3 apples, chopped
  • 3-4 cups good quality chicken or turkey stock (homemade is best; if store-bought, look for low-sodium, which has the best flavor)
  • ½ cup white wine (optional; you can use stock in place of wine)
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves, or 1 Tablespoon dried (if using dried, make sure you buy a new bottle; it can taste funky if it’s old.  Fresh is best – buy some, you won’t regret it)
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon salt (to taste – depending on how salty your broth/stock is)
  • Black pepper (to taste)

Optional additions:

  • 1 cup dried cranberries (shown in picture)
  • 1 cup chopped roasted chestnuts (sold in a jar)
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts or pecans

 Preparation

Heat oven to 300-degrees.  Tear up bread. Spread on large cookie sheet or baking pan and dry in oven for 30-40 minutes, until just starting to turn golden brown.  Place in very large mixing bowl. You can do this the day before, and just leave it out in the bowl uncovered – the more stale the better.

In large skillet, add crumbled sausage.  Cook over medium-high heat until browned.  Remove from pan.  Discard all but a tablespoon of drippings (chicken sausage won’t have much, but pork will).  Melt butter in pan, sauté celery and onion with herbs until onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add wine and apples, simmer 3-4 minutes to evaporate any alcohol flavor.   Remove from heat.    Add contents of pan to bread, along with cooked sausage.  Add 3 cups of stock, then stir well (I use my hands).  Test bread for moistness – you want it to be thoroughly wet, but not soggy.  Add more stock as needed, depending on how dry your bread is.  Use half to loosely stuff the turkey (remember to add stuffing right before you put the bird in the oven – you don’t want it sitting around in the bird. Also remember not to overstuff, as it will impede even roasting of the turkey).  Place the remaining stuffing in a baking dish, dot with additional butter, cover with foil and bake 30 minutes in 350-degree oven.  Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes until top is crispy.

Version 2:  Sourdough Stuffing with Fennel, Pears and Hazelnuts

Pear stuffing

Pic courtesy zenbellycatering

I like sausage in my stuffing, but it’s fine to leave it out (or substitute bacon, which is also delicious).

Ingredients

  • 1 large loaf crusty Sourdough bread, roughly torn into 1-inch pieces (you’ll have about 10-12 cups of bread)
  • 2-4 Tablespoons butter (depending on how buttery & rich you like your stuffing)
  • 1 large onion (any kind is fine), diced
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped into pieces
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, core removed and diced
  • 3 firm pears, chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • 3-4 cups good quality chicken or turkey stock (homemade is best; if store-bought, look for low-sodium, which has the best flavor)
  • ½ cup white wine (optional; you can use stock in place of wine)
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried (if using dried, make sure you buy a new bottle; it can taste funky if it’s old.  Fresh is best – buy some, you won’t regret it)
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1.5 cups toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt (to taste – depending on saltiness of broth/stock)
  • Black pepper (to taste)

Optional additions:

  • 1 pound chicken breakfast sausage links, casings removed
  • 1 cup dried fruit (golden raisins, plums, or figs are all excellent)
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced rosemary

Preparation

Same as Version 1 above, if using sausage.  If not, follow directions above, sautéing onion, celery and fennel together in melted butter.  Use pears in place of apples.  Add in hazelnuts when combining sautéed ingredients with bread.

Version 3:  Cornbread stuffing with Bacon, Pecans and Cherries

Pic courtesy Bon Appetit

Pic courtesy Bon Appetit

I love stuffing made with cornbread, but it can easily disintegrate into a homogenous mush, rather than retaining the nicely cubed, crusty pieces of cornbread.  I’ve found two ways to prevent this:  First, if you live in Seattle, use Tall Grass Bakery’s hominy bread for your stuffing.  It’s basically a hybrid of cornbread crossed with a crusty Italian como loaf, and it’s perfect for this stuffing.  If you can’t get Tall Grass bread, no fear!  Simply use half cornbread (cubed and dried out thoroughly in the oven), and half crusty Italian bread.  If the cornbread starts to disintegrate at all, it merely binds to the Italian bread, which retains its shape, and the result is your own version of Tall Grass Bakery’s hominy loaf!

Ingredients

  • 2 loaves Tall Grass Bakery Hominy Bread OR 1 loaf crusty Italian bread plus one 8×8 pan of homemade cornbread (any recipe or boxed mix will do, although I prefer less-sweet cornbread for stuffing)
  • 1 package bacon (about 8 pieces center-cut)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion (any kind is fine), diced
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped into pieces
  • 3-4 cups good quality chicken or turkey stock (homemade is best; if store-bought, look for low-sodium, which has the best flavor)
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried (if using dried, make sure you buy a new bottle; it can taste funky if it’s old.  Fresh is best – buy some, you won’t regret it)
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1.5 cups toasted pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1.5 cups dried cherries (you can substitute dried cranberries or dried apricots)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (to taste – depending on saltiness of broth/stock)
  • Black pepper (to taste)

Preparation

Same as Version 1 above, making sure to thoroughly dry your cornbread in a 300-degree oven, which often takes a bit longer – up to an hour – to thoroughly dry out.  This is important, as a moist cornbread will quickly disintegrate into the stuffing.

Instead of browning sausage, cook bacon over medium-high heat until VERY crisp.  Remove from pan and crumble.  Use a tablespoon or two of bacon drippings to sauté onion and celery (discard any additional drippings).  Follow remaining instructions, adding cherries and pecans to bread when combining with sautéed ingredients.

*  *  *

Cranberry Sauce with Rosemary, Pears & Port

Pic courtesy the kitchn

Pic courtesy the kitchn

A grown-up version of cranberry sauce that adds a “wow” factor to any Thanksgiving spread.  Port wine, which many people disregard for being overly sweet, adds a depth of flavor to the sauce.  I like my cranberry sauce tart, and use the lesser amount of sugar (which is half the amount most recipes call for).  You can add more depending on how sweet you like your sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 12-oz bag fresh cranberries
  • ½ to 3/4  cup granulated sugar
  • 1 firm pear (not overly ripe), diced
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary (do not use dried)
  • ½ cup Ruby Port (not Tawny Port, and definitely not “cooking wine”)
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Optional:  Grind of black pepper

Preparation

Combine all ingredients in heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Turn heat to medium, and bring to a low simmer.  Cook 20 minutes, or until all the cranberries have burst.  Remove from heat and let cool; it will continue to thicken as it cools.  This can be made up to a week ahead – it tastes even better the longer it sits.