Thursday, December 29, 2011


...because so often pictures are worth more than words.

I hope you got to spend some time in a place you love this holiday season, and were really able to savor your time and the people there. Farewell 2011. Bring on the next year.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

simple granola

Short post this time. Some quick thoughts.

It's Christmastime, first of all. Let us not forget the reason for the season.

There is no not much snow in Minnesota. I happen to be okay with it after last year. I hope that didn't offend you.

I would like to learn to cross-country ski sometime this winter though....

Showing people you love them with food is so great. I've been doing it a lot lately. You know who you are.

Mad libs are really fun--remember those?

Choirs made up of small children are absolutely precious, especially when they're singing Christmas carols. My favorite is always the one little boy in the front row who insists on yelling the songs.

No one is ever upset about a gift you can eat. Nevermind that it isn't going to last.

"Jolly" is such a great word--I think the word alone makes me smile. I wonder why people don't say it at all times of the year... 

When you get to open surprise packages that show up at your door, it's even better than opening the presents from under the tree...because you really weren't expecting to get a gift in the mail, right?

Sister skiing in Colorado this Christmas, I will miss you very much, and will be very sad that we'll not have the chance to adventure in the kitchen together.

I freaking love candy canes. And all things peppermint, really.

That's enough for now. Should you get tired of all the cookies and candy everywhere, here's something else to try. I'm not saying it's not just as addicting, but it might be a little tiny bit healthier for you. Maybe.

Simple & fabulous granola
This is just the basic recipe...a blank canvas for any kind of creative spin you want to put on it. use your favorite spices, nuts, and dried fruit--make it your own, and then use it to make someone else smile.

4 c. old-fashioned oats
1/2 c. raw almonds, chopped
1/3 c. raw pepitas
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 tsp.cinnamon (optional)
1/3 c. flowery honey
4 tbsp. butter or coconut oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. shredded or flaked coconut
dried fruit, etc.

Preheat your oven to 325 and find a large rimmed baking sheet

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and honey together over medium-low. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, almonds, pepitas, salt, and cinnamon. Pour the honey mixture over the dry ingredients and stir very well to make sure everything gets coated with the sweet goodness.

Spread your oat mixture onto the baking sheet and put in the oven. After 10 minutes, remove the pan and stir the granola. Place the pan back in the oven and stir every 5 minutes after, until the oats are fragrant and lightly toasted. It should take between 20 and 30 minutes total. Also, if you're using coconut, add it when you think there's about 10 minutes of baking time left, so it doesn't get too dark.

Remove from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack. Stir in dried fruit and whatever else you want to add. Finally, devour at all times of the day!

pistachios & cherries
macadamia nuts & dried papaya
pecans & dates
hazelnuts & chocolate chips
crystallized ginger & cranberries
dried figs & apricots creative!

Happy Christmas!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

butternut squash muffins with a frosty top

Here we go with the squash again. Oh you're excited, you really are. I have yet to lead you astray in this area. I did include some pictures of the last bit of fall in case you actually are bored by all the talk about orange vegetables...even though I could never imagine such a thing. As a sidenote, I've discovered that colors look really amazing when you start playing with the saturation.

So first of all, I didn't actually bake these muffins--that credit goes to my lovely roommate. I can't say for sure how she happened upon this particular recipe other than the fact that there must just be something about a recipe title including the words "frosty top" that makes it attractive. I can vouch for that, I think. You really can't argue that it's fun to say...and picture.

This is that time of the year when we find ourselves with a cupboard full of different kinds of squash, and we decide we've grown tired of using it in any kind of "traditional" way. So the experiments begin...and just to give you an idea of all the different directions we've gone with this ingredient, here's a list of everything squash-related that I can remember from the last year. We had a lot of squash to use...just be warned.

Squash...pudding, bread, muffins (with a frosty top, so yes, these ones), pasta (with goat cheese and basil), lasagna (ridiculously good), soup (with and without curry), stew (different than soup!), risotto (with bacon and parm, oh goodness), more soup (with chicken and noodles)...and really, I probably forgot a few things. It's been much fun indeed.

So I'll just tell you that I'm providing the original recipe for the "frosty top", but it's not what we used the last time we made these muffins. Did we eat them unfrosted?! Well no...but we may have just used plain yogurt with a little bit of nutmeg instead, because...yogurt goes with everything! And I hope you don't think I'm exaggerating by saying that...because if you do, the reality here is that you just don't know me...heh.

Butternut Squash Muffins with a Frosty Top

So this recipe was adapted from one by Jamie Oliver, and one of the unique things about it is the fact that it doesn't use squash puree, but rather chopped squash, with the skin left on--and this results in muffins with really amazing flavor and texture...hopefully you have a food processor if you decide to try them. Also, I love Jamie's use of the word "whiz" in this recipe, haha.

14 ounces (1 3/4 cups) butternut squash, skin on, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
2 heaping teaspoons baking powder
Handful of walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the Frosted Cream Topping:
1 clementine, zested
1 lemon, zested
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup sour cream
2 heaping tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line your muffin tins with paper cups. 

Whiz (ha!) the squash in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the sugar, and crack in the eggs. Add a pinch of salt, the flour, baking powder, walnuts, cinnamon and olive oil and whiz (again!) together until well beaten. You may need to pause the machine at some point to scrape the mix down the sides with a rubber spatula. Try not to overdo it with the mixing - you want to just combine everything and no more. 

Fill the paper cups with the muffin mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Check to see whether they are cooked properly by sticking a wooden skewer or a knife right into one of the muffins - if it comes out clean, they're done. If it's a bit sticky, pop them back into the oven for a little longer. Remove from the oven and leave the muffins to cool on a wire rack. 

As soon as the muffins are in the oven, make your runny frosted topping. Place most of the clementine zest, all the lemon zest and the lemon juice in a bowl. Add the sour cream, powdered sugar and vanilla seeds and mix well. Taste and have a think about it - adjust the amount of lemon juice or icing sugar to balance the sweet and sour. Put into the fridge until your muffins have cooled down, then spoon the topping onto the muffins. Or eat them covered in yogurt! Either way, they're good!

thanks roomie!



Sunday, November 6, 2011

delicata squash with rainbow chard and apples

I love fall, I'm sure you get that by now. Everything about it. Everything. Even the days it gets cold and windy. Fall has a has distinct smells, unique sights, and, of course, fall has it's own set of flavors. Spicy, earthy, warming...the kinds of flavors that go along with jeans and sweaters. I'm finding that as I get older, my tastes are starting to change with the seasons, so I'm all of a sudden wanting roots and dark greens and's kind of cool.

So I'm sure you know all about squash--you've heard of it. It's an odd name for a vegetable, isn't it? Squash. I don't think I like it. Not squash itself, just the name.

 Squash itself, especially the assortment of winter squash varieties, is great. And there are so many different types--all kinds of shapes, sizes, and before this fall, I think I was only fully aware of butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and pumpkins, but there are so many more...

So to expand my squash horizons, the first new variety I have decided to try is called delicata--chosen partly because I liked how it sounded (delicata = fun to say), partly because it was little and striped, but mostly because I read a description of the flavor, and I thought it sounded fabulous. And oh yes, these things are fabulous. Subtly sweet, and kind of buttery, with this unmistakable flavor of roasted sweet corn--sound crazy? It's true. I found out for myself, you should too.

So in an effort to combine some of the best flavors of the season, this is what happened:  apples, onions, bacon, and chard met in my pan. There might have been some maple syrup involved...and a little spice. The important thing is simply this--these things are, apparently, wonderful together. So good. And the colors are gorgeous.

Half of a roasted delicata squash seemed like the perfect vessel for this melange, and it worked perfectly. Even approved by the lovely Alyssa, am I right?

I may never have been so proud of something I've created by chance.

Chard and Apples with Bacon

2 slices good, thick-cut bacon, chopped
half an onion
2 apples, cored and chopped (don't peel them)
big pinch of red pepper flakes
1 big bunch of chard, ends trimmed (and ribs removed if you want), chopped
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon good maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
salt & pepper to taste

Heat a big skillet over medium-high heat and throw in the bacon. Cook it for a bit, stirring it every once in awhile, till the bacon is reasonably cooked and a good amount of the bacon fat has been rendered. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon, and set it aside for later.

In the remaining bacon fat, toss in the chopped onion. Saute for a few minutes, til the onions have softened a bit, and then add the apples and the red pepper flakes. Saute a few minutes more, and add the chard. After it cooks for a minute or so and wilts a little, add the remaining ingredients and stir around to make sure everything is evenly distributed. Make sure you have enough salt and pepper, and enjoy! Goes especially well with squash, but I bet it would be good on rice or some other grain as well...there are so many possibilities.

Roasted Delicata Squash

delicata squash

Preheat the oven to 350

Use a sharp knife to cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds.

Rub the cut sides with softened butter, and sprinkle with salt if you like.

Place on a roasting pan and roast for 45 minutes-an hour, cut side up, until the flesh is soft and tender.

Consume as is, or covered with some other delicious creation.

"creativity is discontent translated into art"     --Eric Hoffer

I like it.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

pumpkin time

I roasted a real pumpkin. For the first time in my life.

And then, then I made pie.

It was awesome.

I really don't have much more to say about the whole thing. Other than it's November, so if you haven't gotten yourself some pumpkin pie yet, now is the time. Oh yes.

 Also, I make mine with coconut milk. And lots of ginger, of course. It's fabulous.

And please don't forget to eat it with some real whipped cream on top. Or some plain's so good, really, it is! Plus, it's obvious that eating anything with yogurt makes it breakfast-worthy...this was definitely taken advantage of.

Fall is still here in Minnesota. The leaves are still gorgeous. And I'm going to keep roasting pumpkins...the pie is almost gone.

Pumpkin Pie

1 pie crust of your choice--can be regular pastry or maybe some kind of gingersnap/graham cracker type
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups roasted* (or canned, I suppose) pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, plus the yolk of a third
1/8 cup good maple syrup
1 cup canned coconut milk

Preheat the oven to 375

Roll out your pie crust to your desired size, place it in the pan, and crimp the edges.

Whisk together the brown sugar, spices, and salt. Stir in the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, and vanilla. Now stir in the eggs and coconut milk until smooth.

Before filling the pie crust, use a fork to prick the pie dough a few times to prevent air bubbles. Fill the pie crust with the filling and bake for somwhere around and hour or so - the center of the pie should just barely jiggle when you move the pie, and the edges should be set.You might have to tent the crust with foil toward the end of the baking time if the crust is getting too dark.

Let the pie cool a bit, this makes slicing less messy. It's even better the next day. And don't forget the whipped cream...or yogurt, if you're awesome. Enjoy!

Makes one 9 or 10-inch pie.

*Roasted Pumpkin

1 3 lb. sugar pie pumpkin--not just any old pumpkin, this is important!
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 400

Carefully cut the pumpkin into four big wedges - get rid of the stem (try not to hurt yourself doing this). Scoop out the seeds and pulp (you can toast the seeds if you like, but be careful, they burn easily), rub the pumpkin wedges with butter, sprinkle generously with salt, and then bake on a baking sheet (middle rack) until tender throughout - about an hour. Scoop flesh out of the skins and puree with a food processor or mash well by hand. Use for all sorts of culinary experiments!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

my favorite apple cake

Chilly, blustery fall has replaced warm, sweet fall around here, at least for the time being. And it's so funny how tastes can change with the weather, isn't it? A month ago, the idea of a spicy curry or hot tea, or ooh, warm macaroni and cheese, would have sounded completely unappetizing, but now, now these things are all I think about--all I want.

 I want warm, spicy, creamy and savory. I want cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Apples, winter squash, pumpkin, cranberries. Oatmeal. Chili. It's like as soon as the temperature drops, the things I've been eating for the last six months just don't cut it anymore. Smoothie? No. Cucumbers? Meh. Salad? Nope. It's comfort season.

We hear the word comfort used in many different contexts, regarding any number of different things. And they are different for everyone, think about it. Two of my favorites are food and family--and if you know me at all, you're not a bit surprised that I'm writing this. I am fortunate enough to live pretty close to my family at this point in my life--and when I'm able to go back home and spend time, and we're all together, I'm always reminded that the deep love that I find there is one of the best things there is. Home is something that will always be the same. And no matter how our lives change, or where our paths lead us on this earth, we know we'll always come back, to be with one another, to share, to remember...for good hugs and good laughs, and good food. Comfort at its absolute best, as far as I can tell.

When I was back last time, I got to spend a lazy afternoon with my sisters, baking, and making our whole house smell like brown sugar and cinnamon...mmmm. The day was perfect for it, cool and windy, the kind of day you want to spend being cozy and coming to terms with the fact that winter really is on the way again. And really, there was no place in the world I would rather have been than that kitchen.

Our apple trees gave us a great crop this year, and they were spilling out of every fridge space in our house, so they were the obvious choice for baking inspiration. So we made cake. My favorite apple cake in the world. The kind of cake that is so good by itself that it doesn't need anything else--no ice cream, no frosting, no nothing. Just maybe a glass of milk.

It's fall and love and comfort in your face. It's really just that fabulous--big chunks of apple, lots of warming spices, soft and sweet...ooh, everything that makes an apple cake worth eating. And just what we need to make the cold okay again.

My Favorite Apple Cake

adapted from the lovely Smitten Kitchen

6 apples (we used Haralsons)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
3 tablespoons sugar

2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks--made sure to keep the chunks pretty big. Toss with spices and sugar and set aside.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to make sure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan for a bit, and then remove it to cool completely. Oh, and guess what? It's even better the next day!

 "Swinging on delicate hinges
the autumn leaf
almost off the stem"
-Jack Kerouac

And I want you to come over for tea.