Tag Archives: Autumn

Thankful with Sweet Potato Goodness (& so much more)

The words that penetrated my soul the most, “my sons were hungry and the only thing I could give them was water.” This was part of a guest speaker’s story. She was a small Honduran woman, measuring a mere 4 feet and 9 inches, but she made up for it with tremendous heart & conviction. Her name, Danubia Orellana Lopez, and she is apart of the Agros village of Brisas del Volcan.

Danubia was the speaker at the Agros International fundraiser dinner Ben and I attended at the end of October.  It seemed fitting that we attended just days before we plunged into doing this 30 day challenge.  Agros is an amazing organization, who seeks to empower people in Central America & Mexico through micro loans to purchase land.  Many of these people, like Danubia, lived in the slums and had to wake up at 2:30 am to walk 2 hours to get to the farm (to which she & her husband worked for someone else), work an 18 hour day and only get paid $.40 a day.  She recalls the times when payday arrived and the owner of the land wasn’t there to pay her & her husband.  Those were the days when all she could offer her children was water to fill their bellies.  She also recalled a time at the age of 14, when her mother only had 3 eggs to feed the 14 kids….I am truly blessed.

I can’t imagine that world.  To feel absolutely defenseless and unable to give your children a basic necessity.  Agros seeks to extend both physical means to these people who are willing to work REALLY hard to till their land; but, also give them emotional/spiritual means.  They come in to teach the people how to cultivate the land, how to educate themselves, how to make financial deals, etc.  What Agros does, is tell these people like Danubia, that if they are willing to want something more, then they can have it.  More importantly, what Agros does & says to them, “You are worth it!  You have value!”

Danubia spoke of telling her mother that she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up.  Her mother said, “Danubia, people like us don’t dream, because our hearts just get broken.”  After Agros came in to empower Danubia, her family & community, she and other women worked together to make the men realize that they are just as important & valuable as them.  And you know what, after the women worked just as hard, the men realized that these women, their women, had dignity & value.

When I think about what Evangitality means–this is it.  This is the global representation of it.  It’s finding value, dignity & worth in each individual, because they are created in God’s image.  It’s empowering them by giving them a hand up, and not a hand out.  It’s not entitlement, because there are many people who choose to stay in slums so they can keep their TV or refrigerator.  Instead, it’s for the people who want something more, who want to dream.  Life without dreams isn’t a life worth living, and Danubia knew this.

Walking back to the hotel that night, I told Ben, “You know, the poor in America aren’t that poor.  They still get assistance.  They’re not putting their children to bed without food.”  It has made me more thankful than ever.  And that’s why I give thanks before my meals.  I thank God that I have more than enough to fill my family’s bellies.  So when I’ve been cranky during this 3o day challenge, or hear people whining about, “Oh, I ONLY get meat, vegetables, limited fruit & nuts, and eggs,” I’m reminded of Danubia’s words, “my sons were hungry and the only thing I could give them was water.”  Oh how I have nothing to complain about, and everything to give thanks about.

I’m thankful for simple meals too.  So simple it seems almost too good to be true.

A Year Ago: Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Sea Salted Caramel Frosting &   Oatmeal Carmelitas

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Goodness (printable recipe)

This is for one sweet potato, but you could easily increase the amount and play with the ingredients.  If you’re not a cinnamon fan, sub some nutmeg (but go easy on it) or add some smoked paprika.

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato

1 tsp coconut oil

dash sea salt

2 Tb pecans

sprinkle cinnamon

Directions: Bake a sweet potato on 350 for 30 minutes or so (check a source, I’m that person who pops it in and doesn’t worry about it).  Do this the day before if you’re having it for breakfast.  Remove the skin and cut up the sweet potato into chunks.

Heat up coconut oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Add the sweet potato & salt.  Stir around letting it get a bit golden, about 3 minutes.  Add some chopped pecans & a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Cook for an additional 1 minute or so.  Serve and enjoy!

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Paleo Week 2: Harvest Salad

I told myself that I would not have any obligation to post everyday during this 30 day challenge, and I’m glad about it.  I went to a conference this past weekend (Friday & Saturday) in Seattle.  I was pleasantly surprised, because my expectations were very low.  I went prepared, while carrying around my little strawberry tote bag everywhere, which was loaded with Paleo supplies (celery sticks, nuts, apple slices, hazelnut butter, etc).  I also discovered that club soda is not nearly as awful when your taste buds have been devoid of sugar.  In fact, the soda water was AMAZING!

It also must be said that I still miss chocolate, red wine, and ice cream doesn’t sound too bad.  However, despite those non-L&G foods, I think I could see making this as part of our lifestyle.  Not necessarily 100%, but in the high percentages.  I will let you know about next week, because I’m told that come third week–your body feels better than good.  The downside to the challenge during this second week is how my performance at the gym has been low.  When running–my legs feel like lead.  When lifting–my arms feel like noodles.  I’m hoping week three will be better than good.

This salad is probably my go to salad.  My friend Jessica fell in love with it that she went out to get the ingredients that day.  And you can easily make it Paleo by nixing the blue cheese (just make sure the cranberries don’t have sugar with them).

A Year Ago: Roasting Pumpkin

Harvest Salad (printable recipe)

Ingredients:

Head of lettuce (romaine, red leaf, green leaf), washed, dried, & torn into bite sized pieces

1 apple (Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp, whatever you want–just not Red Delicious)

1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, chopped

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, Roquefort

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 Tb mustard (regular or dijon)

1 tsp dried basil (crunch it in your hands to release the oils)

Directions:  Pretty straightforward, put the washed/torn lettuce into a big bowl.  Sprinkle the nuts, dried cranberries, & blue cheese on the lettuce.

In a bowl or glass measuring cup, add extra virgin olive oil & balsamic vinegar.  Add the mustard and whisk together.  It should start to combine.  Add the basil.  No need to pour all of it on the salad, but start small and mix to combine.  If you need a bit more, then add it:)


Paleo Day 2: Spinach Salad with sauteed shiitakes & subdued garlic

If only garlic started with an “S” then I’d have won for alliteration.  It’s only day two and at this rate, not sure if posting everyday for the next 28 days is possible; however, let’s give it a shot (not going to try too many firsts here).  Last Wednesday at my little gym, my coach Emilie led the “chalktalk” on this upcoming “Lean & Green Challenge,” where she laid out the ground rules, fears & ideas to rally the troops in to complete the mission.  Challenge: “no grains, dairy, sugars, legumes for 30 days.”  Well, that’s not TOO bad–right?!

But it got me thinking about the various people who have gone Paleo and never looked back.  Their phrases were sung to the melody of “the hills are alive.”  And the thing is, they didn’t have those looks that you can easily call out in a crowd as a bluff.  They really were holding an ace high straight flush and want to lead as many people to the goods who will willingly follow.  So, just in case you’re not following, after the 30 days, they didn’t want to go back.  They didn’t want to go back to gluten-filled goodness, rice cakes (oops how did that get there), cream in their coffee, or a place where the beer flows like wine.  Mostly, people didn’t want to go back to the gluten, because it affected their systems; however, seeing as half of my recipes here consist of that little beauty–I can’t help but get a little sad. To think of Christmas without having Vetekrans, a blustery Autumn weekend having Pumpkin Pecan Scones, or enjoying a getaway with my friends with Homemade Oreos.  Seriously, never again (insert sad face).

As for day two–it’s close to over and I should be reporting to sleep duty.  What I do know is this morning Ben did wake up to “nutty wife syndrome” (didn’t say it wasn’t coming), tonight was easier than last, and maybe, just maybe I won’t miss all of the said above items and long for this simple Spinach Salad (one can dream right).  Sweet dreams friends!

A Year Ago: Pear, Apple, Cranberry Crisp

Spinach Salad with sautéed Shiitakes & Subdued Garlic (printable recipe)

Ingredients:

A whole bunch of washed, dried spinach (preferably pre-washed)

8 oz shiitake mushrooms, stems cut off and sliced

1-2 Tb almond oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tb olive oil

salt

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

freshly ground pepper

Directions: In a large bowl, put your spinach in it.  In a medium saute pan and on medium heat, heat almond oil.  Add the mushrooms and stir occasionally.  Once they have gotten nice & sautéed, then add a pinch of salt.  Put sautéed mushrooms atop the spinach.

With the same pan, add the olive oil (on medium-low heat) and add your minced garlic.  Stir around and keep all the garlic simmering in the oil.  You DO NOT want it to brown.  Your simply simmering out the garlic to soften both texture & flavor (1 -1 1/2 minutes).  Add a pinch of salt to garlic.  Empty onto the mushroom & spinach.

Spread out the thinly sliced mushrooms atop.  Drizzle a bit more olive oil (not too much) & grind some pepper.


Paleo Day 1: Pistachio Crusted Salmon

Before we had children, I participated in the South Beach diet with Ben.  The premise is removing grains, some fruit carbs, white potatoes & sugars.  You take everything out the first two weeks, then add in some other items the third week.  I’m not really one for going on diets, but I was game for this one for Ben’s sake (not his Lemonade Cleanse though).  The first day was fine.  I had eggs, some veggies, and probably chicken for dinner.  The next day took a turn for the worse.  This is where that little old friend called “drama” sneaks its way into my head and clouds any clarity or logic.

I called up Ben sobbing the second morning saying something along the lines, “I can’t do it.  If I eat eggs I’m going to puke.  Seriously, I can’t do this anymore–what can I eat?  I can’t…”  Drama is my middle name and I will never live this down, as Ben has already said today that he is expecting a call tomorrow with “nutty wife syndrome.”

Today hasn’t been too bad of day one Paleo.  The hardest is when there are multiple child meltdowns, the comfort of an Americano with cream or a latte is not an option, while I keep pressing on towards the goal.  Reminds me of the Apostle Paul, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Granted, Paul was talking about something a bit different from restraining oneself from sugars, grains & dairy; but, I think it’s the connection of seeing the end goal (whatever it might be).  Right now I’m choosing to embrace this challenge (hopefully without so much drama like before) and I think tonight’s dinner proved a gold.

Pistachio Crusted Salmon with sautéed Shallot & Fennel (printable recipe)

Ingredients:

2 lbs Coho Salmon

mustard

2 cups shelled pistachios

sea salt & ground pepper

4 Tb olive oil

2 shallots, thinly sliced

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

Directions:  Preheat oven to 375.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Ground pistachios in food processor until nicely ground.  Put your salmon skin side down.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Put a thin layer of mustard all over the salmon.  Cover with ground pistachios.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Just before the salmon is done, add olive oil to saute pan and turn to medium heat.  Saute shallots, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Add the fennel and keep mixing it up a bit.  It’s okay to have some of it brown & get a bit crispy on some of the pieces.

Put some of the shallot/fennel atop a good portion of pistachio salmon.


Coconut Ginger Butternut Squash Soup

Starting Monday, Ben & I will be joining our gym’s call to partake in the “Lean & Green Challenge.”  Before I divulge into what it entails, let me say that I can already imagine the expression on your face as you continue reading.  And I’m actually looking forward to it (in some respects).  It is a Paleo eating style, which means we will be eating as Paleolithic people.  You got that? Okay, well, it means we only eat lean meats, vegetables, limited fruit, nuts & seeds and good fats (olive oil, coconut oil, nut oils, nut butters, etc).  That means we will not be eating any grains (containing gluten and gluten-free), dairy, sugars, or legumes (yes peanuts are a part of that).

I, of course, prefaced it with what we can eat, because most people upon hearing what we can’t eat automatically ask, “Well, what CAN you eat?”  The next question, “Kamille, why are you doing this?  What does this mean with baking?” Good question!  Ben and I have been looking at our Family Mission (reading this great book) and our top priority is getting our family healthy.  Ben joined Jogo in March, me in August, my mental health turned for the worse and we want more from life. Friends & co-Jogomates have testified the goodness of doing Paleo.  How aches, pains, intestinal problems, weight around the gut, etc went away after following a Paleo food lifestyle (Robb Wolf), along with regular cardio-exercise.  So really, I would have to ask myself, “Why wouldn’t I join the “L&G Challenge?”

And about baking…well, to be quite honest, I haven’t really wanted to bake much these days.  Maybe it’s a mixture of exercise, lack of time, demands of family?  And maybe I’m just burnt out.  What I am excited about is loving my family in these next 30 days by preparing & cooking food that will be good to their body, help me menu plan (for once anyway) and most likely have a tighter rein on the food budget.  Plus, we have a 1/2 a cow in our deep freezer, so here’s to using it.  One of my recipes is this soup, which puts a twist on an Autumn classic.  The coconut is subtle enough, which is why I didn’t use a whole can (but you certainly could) and plays on the creaminess known to the butternut squash.  The ginger adds bite & spice to make it come a bit alive.  Stay tuned as our family embarks on this adventure, and hopefully share a recipe or two:)

A Year Ago:  Simple MealsJuxtaposition

Coconut Ginger Butternut Squash Soup (printable recipe)

If you want to substitute the water for warm chicken broth, go right ahead, because it would add a greater depth of flavor to it.

Ingredients:

2 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 small onion, roughly cut into large dice

extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt

1/2 cup coconut milk

3-5 cups water

2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp finely grated ginger

Garnish options: olive oil, kosher salt, red pepper chili flakes, cilantro

Directions: Preheat oven to 425.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place butternut squash & onion on parchment paper.  Drizzle with olive oil, mix around with hands, sprinkle a bit of salt on top.  Roast for about 30-35 minutes, check the squash (a fork should pierce right through).

Add the roasted squash & onions in batches to the blender.  Add 1/4 cup coconut milk and about 1/2 cup of water.  Put a towel on top of the lid to avoid getting burnt by the steam.  Blend until completely pureed.  You most likely will need to add more water along the way.  Continue doing this, until all the squash/onion mixture is pureed; as well as, the coconut milk is gone.

Transfer the puree to a large pot and bring up to medium heat.  Add more water, 1/2 cup portion at a time, until you get the consistency you prefer.  Add ground ginger & freshly grated ginger (using a microplane zester).  Add salt to taste.  If you need a bit of acid, then squeeze in the juice of 1/2 a lime–taste and if you think it needs the other 1/2–go ahead and add it.

Ladle into bowl, drizzle a bit of olive oil on top, along with red pepper chili flakes, some cilantro and a pinch of coarse salt.


Sour Cream Apple Crumble Bars

I will continue to love Autumn more than any season, and I don’t think it will ever leave, to which I’m grateful.  The vibrant colors alone rap my heartstrings (doesn’t take much).  And nothing says Fall quite like the wafting aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger & cloves.  Puddle jumping never seemed so invigorating.  Then, there’s the visit to the pumpkin patch or apple orchards, while bundled up in “sweater weather” with the crisp air and crunch of the leaves with each step.  Oh Autumn, can you stay like this well into late November?  Autumn seems to call out, “come inside, bundle up, sip some cider by the fire, and be.”

 

 

How they smile for the picture

 

With the busyness of summer feeling a bit nomadic, Autumn let’s us know that it’s okay to be sedentary, to regroup and develop a game plan (fitting that football is in the Fall) of where you’re going next.  I’m reminded of traditions being rekindled or brand new ones beginning.  I know our family has been like running one 800 meter to the next without a time to catch our breath, much less time to ‘know’ one another.  This season reminds me of how I can make room for the new college student who has moved to town as well; but, it reminds me that if my family is on a constant chase without any reprieve, then it’s pointless.

I rarely make dessert specifically to be eaten after dinner, but sometimes having dessert planned with dinner when you’re not having guests over can be…well, special.  And I think making a dessert for my family, unannounced communicates that I think they’re pretty darn special.  These Sour Cream Apple Crumble Bars are perfect for that.  Plus, they taste better the next day.  So, you don’t have to be in the kitchen making dinner & dessert all for the same meal.  They’re wonderful, and these little gems are sure to procure you praise for at least a couple of days (reason enough to make them).  I would love to hear what you do to usher in Autumn!

A Year Ago: Rarely for the Planned

Sour Cream Apple Crumble Bars (printable recipe)

This recipe is adapted from The Good Cookie cookbook.  It reminds me of an apple pie baked from Dutch Mothers in Lynden, WA, but without having to deal with the rolling & chilling that comes from making a pie crust.  The key is to let it cool to get the best overall taste.


Crust:

1 1/3 cups unbleached flour
1/3 cup unrefined evaporated cane juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp cold water
3/4 tsp vanilla extract

Apple Filling:

1 pound Jonamac apples; peeled, cored, & sliced into 1/2 inch slices
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tb apple juice or cider
2 tsp cornstarch
2 Tb brandy
4 Tb unsalted butter
1/2 cup rapadura sugar

Topping:

1 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup unrefined sugar (evaporated cane juice)
1/3 cup rapadura sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Sour Cream Mixture:

1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

Make the crust: In a food processor, add the flour, sugar, & salt, combine 30 seconds.  Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, pulse 6-8 times.  In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, cold water & vanilla.  Then, with the food processor running, add the liquid and combine for 15-20 seconds.  Dump the dough into a 9-inch square pan and pat it down evenly with your hands.  Bake in preheated oven of 350 for 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Make Apple Filling: In a medium bowl, combine the peeled/cored/sliced apples, lemon juice, cornstarch, brandy, & apple juice.  Toss it around and set aside.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Once the butter is melted, add the sugar to cook.  Stirring constantly until there are no more lumps.  Add the apple mixture and bring to a boil.  Cook for 5 minutes, or till the apples are soft on the outside but still slightly crunchy inside.  Empty contents into a bowl and allow to cool completely.

Make the topping
: In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, cinnamon & salt.  Add the melted butter and mix with a fork, stirring until the dry ingredients are all moistened.  Set aside.

Make the Sour Cream Mixture:
In a small bowl, whisk the egg until well blended.  Add the sour cream, cinnamon & salt to the whisked egg and whisk till combined.

Assembling the bars:
Take the sour cream mixture and combine it with the apple filling.  Stir well and spread evenly on the baked crust.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the sour cream apple mixture.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown around the edges and set.  Cool the bars completely before serving.  You can dive right in if you’d like; however, they taste so much better when they’re completely cooled.


The Family Meal (Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup)

There is so much research showing how important it is to eat together for meals.  I understand that eating every meal together is not completely feasible, so maybe it’s making a goal for one meal a day.  Granted, I don’t have teenagers or any after school sports during this stage of life.  However, I think I hold it so dear, because growing up we didn’t have regular “check-in” time during a meal (meaning every member of the family sat together).   I love how Ben regularly asks the girls, “Girls, I forgot to ask (insert enthusiasm), what was your favorite part of the day?”  Tayers will routinely announce, “OH..HUCK! (as in a character from Strawberry Shortcake).”  But you know, it’s not about dinner being intricate or fanciful; rather, it’s simply about being present to feed both the body & soul.

I wish you could come into our home to share a meal with us, because contrary to mislead beliefs, we rarely have exquisite platings.  Typically, it’s fairly humble and sometimes a flop (with a very humble husband still eating it).  If there’s something I want to impart to you in the kitchen is take risks, expand upon what you know, but do it with little steps.  And if there’s another thing I want to impart is take advantage of what the farmers are growing, because it most likely tastes REALLY good.

Tomatoes.  They’re still abounding here in western WA and you don’t want to pass them up.  My girls love tomatoes, as do I, and we all love a good tomato soup.  Growing up I hated tomato soup, because you only found in a white & red can labeled Campbell’s (Could it get any worse?).  So in my infinite 8 year old wisdom, I deduced that all tomato soup was evil (as were those sad little Circus Peanut Candies).  Then, I grew up and tried a different tomato soup, come to realize I had it partially wrong.  Not all tomato soups are created equal (I was right about the Campbell’s brand).  This tomato soup is fairly straightforward & easy.  You won’t see if featured on 30 minute meals, due to the roasting time alone, but well worth it.  You can choose to serve it a la rustic (less smooth & without pressing it through a sieve) or a bit more refined (pressing it through a sieve), but it’s entirely up to you.  Whatever you do, I hope you sit down, give thanks for even the simplest of meals, breathe in deep for this moment you’re given, and do with those people you love most:)

One Year Ago: Day One & Two of Culinary Intensive Course

Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup (printable recipe)

Please don’t be afraid of salt here.  Salt is like the focus button on a camera, it is there to enhance the flavor.  A tomato in season is going to be great; however, when you add a bit of salt to it…it’s WOW factor increases exponentially.  Use however, much water you think you need to create the consistency, which suits your fancy.

3 lbs heirloom tomatoes
Handful of sungold tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
sprinkle of unrefined granulated sugar
sprinkle of kosher salt

2 tsp unrefined sugar, evaporated cane juice
1 tsp kosher salt
1-1 1/2 cups water
freshly grated parmesan cheese
crack of fresh ground pepper
light drizzle of olive oil

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400.  Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Cut heirlooms into quarter slices, while leaving the sungolds as is and put on tray.  Quarter the red bell pepper & place on sheet as well.  Drizzle the olive oil over the nightshades (tomato & peppers fall in the nightshade family), then sprinkle with salt & sugar.  Roast for an hour.

Transfer everything, even the oil, to a food processor.  Process until smooth (45 seconds to 1 minute).  Taking a fine meshed sieve or food mill, pour some of the pureed mixture through to strain the seeds & skin pulp.  Take the strained soup mixture and add 1/3 cup at a time to create the right consistency for you.  I used 1 cup of water.  Then, added a little bit more sugar & salt to make the tomato flavor pop.  Heat on the stove top.  Garnish with freshly grated parmesan, cracked pepper, & light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.


Celeriac Risotto with Basil Pesto

Tomorrow morning I drop off my girls with my father-in-law, so I can head back up to Bellingham to bake many, many cupcakes for my sister-in-law’s wedding reception.  Ben is at a conference down in Seattle until tomorrow, which makes for baking those many, many cupcakes a bit stressful with two little monkeys running around.  Before I head off into butter, sugar, eggs & flour land, I find it my duty to introduce you to celeriac–that is if you’ve never met.

Celeriac has a bit of celery coming out, but that part you want to save for making stock.  However, it’s the bulbous, root, where the inner beauty lies.  You would be fooled by passing it by at the farm stand, market or grocery store.  It’s just like it’s name implies, the taste of celery, but a bit more subtle.  You can turn it into a puree, roast it or puree to make a soup.  Here is a wonderful recipe to make use of it’s subtlety in a semi-elegant way, while really not trying as hard as people think you actually did.

A Year Ago:  It’s Called Comfort

Celeriac Risotto with Basil Pesto (printable recipe)

Ingredients:

3-4 Tb olive oil
1 celeriac, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 tsp kosher salt
1 leek, small dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth, keep warm in a small pot on simmer
3/4-1 cup grated parmesan

Basil Pesto (hopefully you have some on hand that you made from summer’s bounty)

Directions:

In a heavy-duty bottom pot or large saucepan, put oil in pan and turn to medium heat.  Add celeriac & leeks, stirring often, until celeriac is tender but not browned.  Add rice to pan and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Add the wine and mix, allowing the alcohol to burn off a bit and soak into the rice (about 30 seconds).

Add 1 cup of chicken broth to the rice & mix well.  Allow the liquid to bubble, turn heat to a simmer and continue adding warm broth in 1/2 cup increments, while stirring often to ensure your rice isn’t dry at the bottom of the pot and getting burnt.  It should take about 20-25 minutes, or till the rice is creamy, but a little al dente is good.  Add the grated parmesan and mix it in.  Serve immediately and put a teaspoon of basil pesto on top.


Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake

I just love food magazines, but what I love even more is having an excuse to buy one. We went to Vegas for my sister-in-law’s wedding and if traveling with two children under the age of four isn’t excuse enough–I have no clue what is. We spent the night in Seattle to make it easier to catch our morning flight; however, when you have a little girl who comes in at 4:45 to see if it’s time to go on the airplane…you know you’re in for a rough morning. There was one point of the boarding process where both girls were crying (rather loudly), while I made it a point to not look at the faces on the other passengers & simply survive. I was waiting for those precious words from the pilot, “we’re now at 10,000 feet, so you can turn on any electronic devices…cell phones, music, LAPTOPS (I think only Ben & I heard it this loud).” That laptop was never pulled out so quickly or a My Little Pony DVD popped it so rapidly. I think we made record time.

The day before I had the girls with me on an errand to Target to get the coveted ‘headphone splitter,’ which was about the best investment for $4.99 one could make with an upcoming airplane ride (& two little kids). I’m definitely not above videos at a time like this, so if you’re that mom who has a special bag full of toys, crayons, paper & other distraction keepers…well, bless you! Once the headphones were on, two girls comfortably (and rather quietly) sitting next to each other watching Ponies–Ben and I gave a nod of approval (wondering if parents were approved to get complimentary liquor). That’s when I pulled out the Fine Cooking Magazine and read each article, because I could. I fell in love with this cake and dreamed of when I could make it. And since I still have pumpkin puree in my freezer from the late Autumn of last year–I knew it was destiny. It should be yours too, and that’s why I’m sharing it, because I care about your destiny when it comes to Autumn desserts and not wanting to look bad when you bring a store-bought pumpkin pie. Your friends & family will rave, as mine did with, “mmmm…..YEAH. that was killer. awesome,” or “It was dangerously delicious!”

A Year Ago: My Roots (Machaca)

Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake (printable recipe)

This is adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine. The original recipe calls for adding candied ginger to the nuts (1 1/2 Tb chopped) after the nuts have been thoroughly coated, but I didn’t have any, so I sprinkled in ground ginger instead. This cake probably takes about 2-3 hours to make from start to finish and should be made the day of or cover in a cake dome for up to 2 days. The nuts will not be as crispy the second day. When you are browning butter, it is even more essential that you use your olfactory senses (smell) than your eyes. It will go from a popcorn smell to a nutty (walnut, hazelnut) smell.

Ingredients:

For the cake:

6 oz (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, more for pans

9 oz (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, more for pans

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

3/4 tsp ground nutmeg

3/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 1/2 cups Sucanat sugar

2/3 cup Rapadura sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree, (how to roast & puree pumpkin)

For the Topping:

1 1/2 Tb unsalted butter

2/3 cup pecans

1/2 cup unsalted, raw pumpkin seeds

2 Tb Sucanut sugar or light brown sugar firmly packed

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground ginger

For the Frosting:

4 oz (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

5 oz (1 1/4 cups) powdered sugar

Make the Cake: Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the bottom & sides of two 9-inch round cake pans. Melt the butter in a 1 quart heavy bottomed pan, stirring occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown (around 4-6 minutes) and when it smells nutty. Pour the butter into a small bowl and allow to cool, but not set for about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, add all of your dry ingredients and whisk them together (flour, spices, salt, & baking soda). In a large bowl, combine all of your wet ingredients, except the butter (note: sugar is almost always considered a “wet” ingredient) and thoroughly mix (Pumpkin puree, eggs, both sugars, buttermilk). With a rubber spatula, stir in the dry ingredients from the medium bowl until just combined. Now, whisk the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter equally between the two pans.

Bake the cakes for 28 minutes (again make use of those olfactory sensors during baking as I baked my cakes for 27 minutes, because the cake smelled done), or when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool 10 minutes in the pan. Using a butter knife, run it around the outside of the cake to loosen and then turn it onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Make the Topping: Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans & pumpkin seeds and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pumpkin seeds begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Add the brown sugar/Sucanat & salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. Stir in ginger. Remove from heat and cool nuts in pan.

Make the Frosting: Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1 quart pan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally (just like before for the batter) until it turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4-6 minutes. Pour browned butter into a bowl and allow it to sit on the counter for 5 minutes to let the solids settle. Carefully transfer bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from the bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids. Using an electric mixer, combine the butter, cream cheese & brown sugar on medium-high speed until light & pale and brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and add the powdered sugar until it is nice & fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Assemblage: Get a large cake plate and place one cooled cake top side down. Spread about 1/2 -2/3 cup of frosting on the cake. Take your other cake and place it top side down. Frost the top and sides with remaining frosting. Top the cake with glazed nut/seed topping. Serve immediately. **If you’d like, you could take 1/2 cup of the nut mixture and sprinkle it over the first layer of frosting to sandwich it between the two layers. Then, use the remainder for the top.


On Roasting a Pumpkin

It should be said, that rarely does anyone photograph or capture the essence of mishaps for their blog. My friend said the other day, in reference to the comparison syndrome (you know, feeling like you just don’t seem to measure up), “that’s why I don’t read other mom’s blogs too often, because they only post the wonderful things they do with their kids and it makes you feel like you’re (and I paraphrase) a Loser!” It’s very true, whether it’s a mom blog, a crafty blog, a food blog, etc, you rarely see or read the disasters.

And to let it be known, I for one am definitely not above disaster. It’s a humbling experience all the same, but it’s what I do with the flop and try to get better. That’s what I love about roasting & pureeing my own pumpkin. It falls under the “from scratch” (even more if I had a yard to grow the squash/pumpkin) category and ultimately makes the recipe taste a little better. I wanted to encourage those of you who think buying canned pumpkin is the only option to step into this safe world of roasting your own.
First things first…pick a sugar pie pumpkin or other squash variety, which suits your culinary needs.  I have for years baked sweet meat squash for my “pumpkin” baking needs and never had any complaints.  My friend Kelli gave me two of her pumpkins from her yard 🙂 Preheat your oven to 450.IMG_4034

Honestly, the most difficult step is roasting your pumpkin would be cutting the pumpkin.  You really should have a sharp chef’s knife for the job.  You want to cut it down in the middle, with one hand on the handle and the other hand pressing down (gently but with a bit of pressure)  on the blade.  Squash can be a bit sticky, leaving a residue on your hands, which acts a suction device for you knife.  So again, be careful in cutting.

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Scoop out all of the seeds and stingage.  Place in a bowl to roast the seeds for later.  Be sure you DO NOT put the insides into your garbage disposal, as it will get caught and the plumber will have to come.  I speak from experience.

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Place your pumpkin cut side down on a parchment lined roasting pan or jelly roll pan.  Pour in some water onto the pan to aid with steam in the oven, because you really don’t want to brown the cut edges.  Put in the oven and bake for 60-90 minutes, depending on the size of your pumpkin.  It will be done when you can pierce through the pumpkin with a knife.

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Now how it goes from solid to puree is up for discussion, but this is how I do it.  Scrape the pumpkin meat out and plop it in a food processor.  Don’t overload your processor, but process in batches.  Process till smooth and put into containers.  From here you can use the canning method or freezing method.  I freeze mine, because, well…that’s just what I do.  I used to use freezer ziploc bags until I found these handy plastic containers at Cash & Carry.  I use the 12 ounce ones and I believe they were $2.75 for 50 of them (lids sold separately).  32

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Hope you take advantage of pureeing your own pumpkin and squash!  It’s therapeutic.