Thanksgiving Yummies

This week of dark days and rainy weather here in the Northwest makes it a time for coziness and comfort food so I thought I’d share a few of our recent favorites.

It is also a time for counting our blessings, though I try to do that every day.  Among the many things I am grateful for are all who take the time to read my posts.  As my web site title suggestions, they wander over many topics, but I hope they add some interests, insights, knowledge or smiles to your life, if just for a moment. Thank you for following my wanderings!

with goat cheese

Quinoa Sweet Potato Patties   (30-45 mins. to prepare) incorporate several traditional winter holiday foods into one non-traditional dish. This simple recipe could be a peace maker at a holiday meal, meeting various dietary choices. It’s a good main dish protein source for vegetarians and vegans, yet can also be served along with meat or fish. And most people on a gluten-free diet can tolerate quinoa. These could be made without the quinoa, but they would not be as protein rich. (My photos did not turn out well of these, they actually are quite nice looking with the chopped cranberries in them!)

1/2 cup dry quinoa – cook separately while preparing other ingredients

1 small onion or white part of a medium size leek (my preference) chopped fine by hand or put in food processor

1 LARGE sweet potato
Peel and grate or chop fine in food processor. You could also bake a sweet potato then scoop it out to use. This adds to prep time. Sauté in water all the chopped ingredients (see options below) except nuts (if using them) in a skillet until the sweet potato is a soft, mushy consistency. Be sure not to use too much water or they might not hold together. Add salt and your favorite seasonal spices. Sweet potato is your binder so be sure to use a large one or a few medium size.

Options to add in with sweet potato and onion:

1/2  cup cranberries roughly chopped
4 large crimini mushrooms chopped fine
1/2 cup ground nuts (cashews and pecans work well, I mixed them)

good combinations are cranberries & mushrooms or cranberries & nuts. Be creative and add what you think would be good!

In a large bowl mix the cooked quinoa into the cooked sweet potato mixture and add chopped nuts. Make small, firm patties, lightly cook in a skillet using coconut or olive oil, turning once to brown both sides.

with vegan mushroom gravy

Topping options:
Goat cheese
Yogurt
Mushroom “gravy” made with coconut milk and cashews (vegan)

Served with a green vegetable and cranberry sauce, you have a tasty, balanced, holiday meal, or an everyday easy meal! This recipe makes about 12 patties, they keep well in refrigerator for a day.  Leftovers are good for breakfast or lunch!

(want to know more about quinoa, this ancient protein rich food of the Americas? Here’s a short history: Origin & History of Quinoa)

And for dessert…….

Pumpkin Tapioca Pudding combines two of my favorites, tapioca pudding and pumpkin pudding, into a gluten free, vegan dessert. It is easier and quicker to prepare than pie but gives you the warming, comforting seasonal spices everyone loves. I ONLY use Edward & Sons Trading Company Native Forest organic coconut milk and Lets Do Organic tapioca. Their “classic” coconut milk is rich and creamy, like cooking with cream.

Heat 1 1/2 cups full fat coconut milk
Add 1/4 cup tapioca granules
Cook a few minutes then add
1 1/2 c. puréed pumpkin made from a fresh pie pumpkin or a sweet winter squash.

Cook until it begins to thicken and tapioca is clear. It will thicken more when cooled so don’t worry it not very thick.

Remove from heat. Add maple syrup to taste, 1/2 t. cinnamon, 1/8 t. each of cloves and nutmeg.

Let cool in refrigerator briefly to set up, but it’s best (and a great comfort food!) served a bit warm.

Serve with a coconut/cashew “cream” made by combining 1/2 – 3/4 c. full fat coconut milk and 1/2 cup cashews (roasted unsalted or raw) in food processor or blender. Add a sweetener such as maple syrup and vanilla extract.  Spoon on top. Obviously you could use whipped cream instead!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Other Thanksgiving posts:

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Recipe For Winter

Candlemas & Imbolc – Take a break, celebrate the returning light & have some comfort food!

February 1 & 2 fall mid-way between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. The most ancient of cultures would have noticed this as a good time to have celebration and ritual. It is the downhill side of winter survival, a time of hope for the future, yet also a time of weariness of winter hardships. People were ready to celebration, to begin preparing for the coming planting season, to honor those who could assure them a successful harvest, and to rejoice in the returning light. It’s a time to clean out the ‘cob webs’ of winter.

dsc02180In Celtic tradition this mid-winter time is celebrated with the Imbolc Festival on February 1. The first written reference to Imbolc dates to the 10th or 11th Centuries in the writings of Irish monks. How extensively it was celebrated throughout the Celtic world no one knows for sure, but ancient Celtic architecture emphasizing alignment with the sun at this midway time in its cycle indicates celebrations go back much further. The Gaelic word Imbolc means “in milk” or ” in the belly”. Foods and beverages made with milk (especially ewe’s milk, as it is the time of lambing, thus fresh milk was available from the ewes) would be prepared, and milk beverages would be used to bless agriculture implements, such as a plow, and poured on orchard trees for fertility in the coming growing season. Homes would be blessed and candles lit.

IMG_0488.JPGIn Ireland, the day is celebrated as the festival of St. Bridget and blends ancient Celtic traditions with newer Christian traditions. St. Bridget herself seems to bridge the Celtic world, as her predecessor was the Celtic goddess, Brighid. Brighid (whose name has many spellings) represents light in many forms – candles, fire and Sun. Foods symbolic of the sun (see below about foods) would be part of the festivities. There is still debate as to who was real and who was mythical, the saint or the goddess. There are certainly overlaps in what each of them represents in their particular spiritual tradition – who they protect, and what their role is in handing out blessings. You can read delightful stories of both. I’ll go with the idea that both were real, and stories and tales down through the ages made them both mythical. I’m always ready to embrace a belief in a strong, benevolent woman who did good things and hands out blessings! I’m sure it is more than coincidence that Brighid and St Bridget have the same name, and both are seen as the personification of light returning and new life. Most Christian holidays follow in the footsteps of, and use many of the same symbols as, pre-Christian holy-days, it was the best way for people to incorporate the old with the new.

February 2 is Candlemas, celebrating the 40th day after the birth of Jesus, the first day his mother could take him to the temple. At the time of Jesus’ birth women had to wait 40 days after giving birth before entering a temple, a period of time they were considered ‘unclean’. On the fortieth day Mary could enter the temple with her baby and have him blessed, so the day is often called “the Presentation of Christ”, or the “Blessing of Christ”. This celebration is observed in many Christian churches, such as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. During Candlemas the candles that will be used in the church throughout the year are blessed. It is also a time of celebrating light, and of purification.

Looking for a sun symbol for mandala making, this very odd one was appealing! A pumpkin that froze, instead of rotting, creating an oddly textured yellow mass of yellow! One of my stranger mandalas! ;-)

Looking for a sun symbol for mandala making, this very odd one was appealing! A pumpkin that froze, instead of rotting, creating an oddly textured mass of yellow! One of my stranger mandalas! 😉

There are many versions of these celebrations, many traditions and interpretations. In reading about them, what appeals to me is the preparation for spring planting and the new cycle of life, as well as receiving the blessing of returning light.

It might be a challenge to celebrate hope and light, or seem irrelevant to do so at this time of such darkness and decline in the world, especially here in the United States. But perhaps that is even more reason to do so. Create your own ritual for blessing your home, fruit trees if you have them, and perhaps your garden. Lights candles, inside, outside, and do whatever “purification” and cleaning out you feel inclined to do in your physical environment, make it your place of refuge from the darkness. Make some special foods (food ideas below). Allow yourself to feel blessed by Brigid, either in her Celtic form or Christian manifestation. St Brigid is associated not only with spring and fertility, but also healing, poetry and smithcraft. Write a poem, plant some primroses, sow some early seeds. Let your spirit and your mind take a break and celebrate the light. It is here, we just have to let it in.

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And if all else fails to arouse hope in you…there’s always Mr. Groundhog, the ‘ancient’ American seer of weather! There are no “executive orders” for canceling the coming of spring, so embrace it.

See below for foods and recipe.

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traditional-foods

For fabulous, fancier recipes for celebrating Imbolc , I recommend one of my favorite blogs: Gather.

 

 

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Hearts & Cauliflower

February…the down hill-side of winter, signs of spring appearing, day light stretching past 5:00, the month to celebrate love. Mike’s birthday! It is also the month chosen to bring awareness to heart health. Today, February 5th, women’s heart health is specifically targeted with the “go red for women” campaign.  Having found out this week my cholesterol is higher than it has ever been, I’m a little uneasy about this focus on heart attacks and strokes. I want to stick my head in the sand and focus on the love part of February and make Valentines. But being a worrier, and half way through my sixties, I don’t have a peaceful easy feeling, especially when the doctor says I need to eat less grains and more meat (I, a vegetarian since my late 20s except for the occasional fish) to bring the equally high triglycerides down. Eating more meat is in conflict with many cancer prevention diets (yesterday was World Cancer Day, but I don’t need a special day to remind me of cancer, I worry about that every day.)

Due to digestive health challenges most the time I watch carefully what I eat. Reducing options leaves me feeling there’s nothing left to eat that is safe, let alone interesting. But forging ahead I’ve come up with some new food ideas, one being an adaptation of an adaptation. My latest low-fat, no-grain, cancer fighting yummy is an versatile sauce that adds interest and flavor to any meal. And you don’t have to have any health issues to appreciate it!

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Cauliflower hummus on stemmed veggies

My body doesn’t like beans so I make a cauliflower hummus that’s deliciously addictive. This creamy sauce/dip has the same flavor as the bean variety because the flavor of hummus comes from garlic, tahini, lemon and olive oil.  Tahini, rich in minerals and a good source of protein, does have a fair amount of fat. Besides the hummus, I often make other sauces with tahini, so to reduce my use of it, I came up with some new sauces, using the same grain-less, low-fat base…cauliflower.

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Cauliflower may not seem like a super star in the world of foods, but if you Google it you will find with the trend of Paleo diets, vegan diets and gluten-free diets, it has suddenly become very popular. It’s white color and mild flavor lends itself to many creative possibilities. The grainy texture, when cut up small, has been used as a substitute for dishes such as fried rice, and its ability to be creamy makes it masquerade as a stand in for mash potatoes. Cauliflower, like most veggies, has an abundance of potassium, and a few other nutrients.  In research done on the cancer fighting properties of cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower is a star. It can be more digestible than broccoli for some people. In my book, cauliflower it is a super-star.

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Garlicky cauliflower cream sauce with goat cheese on quinoa

I’ve made two sauces to add flavor and interest to meals: a garlicky cream sauce and a lemon cream sauce.

As with the hummus, they both start with cooking the florets until they are soft enough to put a fork in. I steam mine in water, but you can also roast them, which adds a different flavor to recipes.

After the cauliflower is cooked, be sure to drain it well, using a slotted spoon, and put it in a blender or food processor. I use a small food processor and am happy with the texture, a blender would make it smoother.

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Cauliflower lemon sauce

For the basic sauce you can add your dietary preferences to enhance the creaminess. Butter and a little milk works, I use low fat coconut milk and no butter to keep the fat content down. In the hummus the tahini and olive oil (about 2 T. each) make it creamier.

If you want a garlic sauce, sauté enough chopped garlic for your taste, I use one large clove per two cups of cauliflower but more would be more garlicky and delicious! For additional flavor I had a pinch of salt, about 3 tablespoons coconut amino acids, and the spicy Vata churna I make. (see recipe on my recipe page.)

For a slightly cheesy sauce I add a mild local goat cheese, if you want it to be cheesier a stronger flavored soft cheese would work best, if it’s a hard cheese be sure it is grated fine.

For the lemon sauce, add to the coconut milk/cauliflower base a pinch of salt and the juice of half a lemon.

The garlic sauce is good on veggies, grains. The lemon sauce is also good on veggies and on fish. The sauces can be kept in the refrigerator and heated slightly when needed. I like to make them fresh but if there is some left over it tastes just as good the next day.

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Having fun felting hearts and adding beads! Our first crocuses emerged today, only to be drenched! Still, a lovely sign of spring!

 

As with all my recipes, these are basic ideas for you to experiment with and make your own.

Now I can get back to making Valentines and watching spring emerge!

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Happy February!

 

 

Fall Foods & Eggs

Eggs, symbols of rebirth and renewal, are usually a topic for springtime, when the biological clocks of most poultry trigger a plethora of these protein rich ovals. Our two Muscovy ducks decided to have a fall fling of broodiness. We do not eat many eggs and most of their production is usually sold to an appreciative friend. However, this recent abundance of large, rich duck eggs with their golden yolks  reminded me to try some of my favorite fall dishes that include eggs. Fall too is a time of new beginnings (perhaps programmed into us by the education system) and certainly a season of transitions. A time for heavier, grounding, meals.

Traditional foods of autumn are those that keep throughout the winter….colorful, diverse winter squashes; root crops such as parsnips, beets, and carrots; and flavorful leeks.

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Here are a two of my favorite fall recipes that combine eggs with fall veggies. They can also be made sans eggs.  If you have a sensitivity to chicken eggs (many sensitivities come from eating too much of  a particular food, and commercial chicken eggs are found in a lot of commercial prepared foods) you might try finding a source for duck eggs or even quail eggs.

Parsnips and poached eggs

This simple dish is a grain-free, meat free, yet protein rich and satisfying meal. Freshly harvested fall parsnips are flavorful and sweet, leeks add even more flavor.

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IMG_7363Cube and steam parsnips with sliced leeks, this recipe works well using the green tops of leeks. Spice with cumin, salt, or whatever appeals to you.

When parsnips are slightly soft, mash them into soft chunks. (They look a little like hash browns, only not brown!)

I poach eggs by stirring boiling water into a mini-whirlpool and pouring the egg (pre-cracked into a little dish) into the center of the whirlpool. Turn heat down to simmer a minute or two, depending on size of egg. When the whites have lost their transparency and look cooked, scoop out with a slotted spoon onto a ‘nest’ of the parsnip/leek mixture. (Don’t over cook or you will have a hard yoke!)   Garnish with chives and more cumin. Serve with fresh made applesauce while still warm, another fall flavor!

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A lighter, summer version: Poached egg on Basmati rice & dal, served with summer veggies – peas, kale, summer squash.

Beet Patties

For those who have my cookbook, this is not a new recipe, but it makes such a colorful, hearty autumn meal, I share it here.

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These can be made without an egg, add a little more rice and oats for holding it together. If you want to make them without the grains, add an extra egg. If you use neither, it will still taste great, but likely fall apart more. I’ve made them every which way….still tasty!

* pre-cook 1 c. white basmati rice
* grind in a blender or spice grinder 1/2 cup oats (you can substitute oat flour, or any other flour, the ground oats adds texture)
* mix rice & oats with one large egg

* grate 1 – 2 medium beets, 1 medium parsnip, 1 large carrot (works just fine without the parsnip)

* add in 1-2 t. each oregano, thyme and 1/2 to 1 t. Celtic or sea salt

* chop fine the white part of 1 leek

 

steam sauté vegetables in a skillet with a little water until they soften slightly and cook down in volume, it will only take a few minutes, careful not too over cook.  Cool.

 

Add to rice/egg mixture, mix well (using your hands helps) and form into patties.

 

Patties can be baked in a 350 degree oven in a glass baking dish, or cooked in a skillet with a little oil, turning to cook both sides.

 

Cook until patties are hot on the inside but not crisp.  Can be served with a garnish of yogurt and chopped chives.

 

Apples & Pears

In Ayurveda, (which if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you know is the ancient science of health and healing from the Vedic tradition) fruits are generally best eaten cooked and warm by people of Vata constitution and/or in the Vata time of year, which is autumn.  My favorite way to enjoy the fall fruits of apples and pears is to bake them. Spicing them with warming spices such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom or nutmeg make them comfort food on a cool fall day.

Pears and figs baked in a Daily Bird clay dish, topped with nuts

Pears and figs baked in a Daily Bird clay dish, topped with nuts

An old apple tree that fell on our wood shed last winter, and needs chopping down, has never produced more than a few hard little apples.  It has never had good sun exposure or much care.  This year it gave us, as it’s swan song, an abundance of crisp apples. The tree, given to us by friends who wanted it out of their yard decades ago, is of an unknown variety, but the slightly tart, with a touch of sweetness, flavor makes for good sauce and we look forward to an apple crisp and some baked apples.

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All-American Fall Favorite:

Having never been much of a pie crust maker, I gave up years ago, choosing to make fruit crisps and cobblers.  This lovely apple pie, made by my friend Ke, was delivered to our door step last week, a gift of love and friendship on a day where such kindness was deeply appreciated. It was so beautiful, just had to share it!  Of course it tasted great…not too sweet, great apple flavor!

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Autumn is a great time for soups, you can find a few on my not-very-updated recipe page. Hope to add more soups this fall.

bon appétit!

Recipe For Winter

For readers who may not live in the coastal Pacific Northwest…it’s raining out. Not just raining, November raining. The rain that spawns temperate rainforests of water-loving Sitka spruce, Western hemlock, Western red cedar, and Bigleaf maples, whose branches are covered with thick moss, holding the rain like sponges. It’s the type of rain that brings those gentle giants down by saturating the soil where their roots try to hold on while water pours into the earth, loosening even the hardest of clay soils, and moving in rivulets the rich peaty soils of the forest floor.

In our small, old, house with 2×4 framing, thin-glassed old windows, and low ceilings, November rain is a pounding force to be reckoned with, an omnipresent noise, day and night. The barrier between the sheets of falling water and us seems a bit weak-willed. I review in my mind…how old is our roof? Did we leave any unfinished projects at any buildings that might have left even a crack where water could get in? How will the old chicken coop hold up?

Everyone – us, chickens, ducks, are warm and dry…and for the most part staying indoors.

And then it stops. Just when you think it will never stop, when it has rained for at least 48-72 hours, when the weather forecast says 90-100% rain every day in the foreseeable future, the faucet suddenly turns off, the darken sky lightens, and the world opens up.

Going outside after the first good multiple-day November storm is always an awe-inspiring experience. Deciduous trees have lost nearly every last leaf (except our strange peach tree, which has never produced more than a few peaches, yet holds on to bright green leaves until Christmas). There is sky where there has not been sky since early the previous spring. The road noise, drowned out by the rain, is audible again, yet there is a silence when compared to the deafening water that has pounded, like the surf on a beach, and poured for hours. The rainstorm, washing away autumn,  has given birth to winter.  It is not the same stillness of the first snowfall, yet there is a tangible winter calm to the quiet that follows a robust rainstorm.

Remarkably, with the winter solstice still a month away, darkness increasing daily, and the days continuing to get shorter, there are signs of spring. New buds have formed on the Indian Plum, and on the Flowering Current, which I guiltily pruned today, cutting off many tender buds. It is difficult in the northwest to find a ‘dormant’ time to hack away at plants. With the wet weather and mild winters, the dying back and the budding forth appear seamless in many perennial bushes and trees.  Even some early perennial flowers have put forth new leaves, but it is a premature effort, for the first snow or a prolonged freeze will cause them to die back.

It is the lull before the next storm, according to the weather pundits, a much-appreciated lull before feeling buffeted around again by stormy weather. As this week of Thanksgiving, infamous for challenging weather patterns, begins, I am grateful to go out and work in the wet garden, breathing in the clean air as I prune back dead flowers, pull down soggy bean plants, cover the whitened, decaying squash plants with fallen Maple leaves, preparing the hills for next summer’s planting. An appreciated lull to put the garden to bed for the winter.

Northwest weather is made for soup.  I make a lot of soups.  Here is one of my latest. Warming food for stormy weather! A nice pre or post-Thanksgiving meal, easy, not too heavy, but filling.

Acorn Squash Soup

Quarter and bake in a 350 degree oven one acorn squash (any winter squash will do just fine) until a knife goes in easy and there is a little browning on top. After it has cooled, scrap out the meat, cut into chunks, and put in a soup pan. (You can also quarter and steam in a pan on the stove top, this saves time, but if you have the time, baking/roasting the squash in the oven brings out the flavor and sweetness more.)

Add a quart of water (actually I never measure so I’m just guessing on this, might need a little more)

Chop and add:

1/3 cup onion

2 medium to large carrots – not the bitter supermarket kind, but local, farmers market ones, this adds flavor and sweetness. (Nash’s Organic Produce or Dharma Ridge Farm are favorites of ours.)

Dharma Ridge Carrots at the Chimacum Market. The Port Townsend Market is still open on Saturdays with lots of winter veggies from local farmers.

1 small apple, a tart one is good

Also add:

¼ cup basmati rice

1 bay leaf

1 t. grated fresh ginger

1 to 1 ½ t. homemade curry powder

Cook until rice is done.  Put into a blender in batches to blend smooth.  It will have little pieces of apple skin, for a smoother soup peel apple first.

Options: I added homemade almond milk I had on hand, coconut milk is also nice, about 1/3 cup.

Garnish with a dollop of tahini and fresh grated ginger, the tahini adds protein, and a distinctive, richer flavor, but the soup is delicious, and a little lighter, without it.

Ah, it is raining again.  Think I’ll go make some soup! 

Happy Thanksgiving all! 

I am grateful you do me the honor of reading my musings!  It helps keep my creativity alive!