December – Gifts From the Kitchen

December – Gifts From the Kitchen

This year I am having fun making many of the gifts I am giving during the holidays. As well, it is wonderful to have something ready for hostess gifts when invited to a party. Wrap any of these in a pretty tea towel for a personalized gift.

Here are some ideas, most have been posted on my blog over the past few years.

II didn’t realize I had so many recipes for lemons! Skip past this section if they are not available to you. But, if you are lucky enough to a backyard lemon tree (or don’t know what to do with ALL THOSE LEMONS), here are some options, make:

Meyer Lemon Confit

Confit Meyer Lemons in Olive Oil

Candied Meyer Lemon Slices (would work with regular organic lemons, wash and maybe add more sugar as Meyers are sweet):

Candied Meyer Lemon Slices

Meyer Lemon Indian Spiced Pickle

What about preserved lemons? Use some holiday spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and allspice in the preserving process.

Preserved Lemons 

Preserved lemons

There is Lemon Marmalade

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Just the thing for Christmas tea.

Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Toast and Tea

There is Meyer Lemon Aigre-doux. This is an Italian sweet and sour preserved lemon recipe, wonderful blended with olive oil for a lemony salad or roasted vegetable dressing.

Meyer Lemon Aigre-Doux,
Preserved Lemons

And lastly Lemon-Lime Curd, amazing on any kind of holiday bread or toast. You could also make this all lemon curd or even all lime curd. Panettone anyone?

Lemon Curd

Lemon Lime Curd

What about homemade applesauce? Apples are readily available in many areas. Add a few cranberries to the simmering apples to color them pink or red. Homemade applesauce is so much better than any commercial one you can purchase.

Gala Applesauce

Consider a pretty crock of cheddar beer dip or spread. Use a sharp cheddar and one that is the darkest orange for the best color (I used a white sharp cheddar which wasn’t as pretty).

Cheddar-Beer Dip

Or a jar of homemade mustard, there are two recipes on my blog. Choose the one that fits your schedule. Here is the second for hot and sweet mustard, it’s quick and easy.

Hot and Sweet Mustard

Give it in a pretty container for a special treat.

What about spice mixes? Most of the commercial spices are full of sugar, preservatives and other ingredients you don’t want to put in your food.

A popular mix with my friends is the Fennel Spice from Michael Chiarello. Although it is easy, I find most folks would rather receive a jar than make it themselves. I have given it many times in the past and it is always a much appreciated gift. He also has an excellent toasted chili spice. I use it to coat port tenderloin (or a slow cooked shoulder of pork) before I cook it sous vide. It’s also great on grilled chicken. For a vegetarian or vegan option it is wonderful coating slices or wedges of sweet potatoes.

Fennel Spice Before Being Blended – Can’t you just smell those fennel and coriander?

Pork Tenderloin Coated with Vinegar Then Coated with Toasted Spice Rub

There are other bloggers who have amazing spice mixes, Mollie from the Frugal Housewife has a delicious “smokin’ Chipotle Taco Seasoning‘. Any Mexican food fan would love a jar. She has a number of other spice mixes and blends, all of which don’t contain any preservatives or additives you don’t want to feed your family. Plus, they taste better than commercial blends. The Foodbod is another source of various spice blends, focused on vegetarian cooking. She is also the queen of sourdough. She sells her own starter on her bread website, which is full of tips and instructions.

You’ll also find a number of spice mixes on my Pinterest page.

I am taking these last minute ideas to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #254. Join the party by adding your own link. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives

December – Spiced Chickpea and Chicken Stew with Coconut and Turmeric

December – Spiced Chickpea and Chicken Stew with Coconut and Turmeric

This recipe originally appeared in the NY Times without the chicken. I wanted something heartier for a visiting friend who had driven 3.5 hours to visit us up on the coast. This was the perfect dinner after a long drive on a cold and rainy autumn evening. The coconut sauce is amazing, you really need something to soak it up. Serve it with lavash or other flatbread for dunking if you have some. Not having those in the cupboard, I served it over brown rice. I consider this comfort food as well as (somewhat) health food. It is a soupy stew and could also be considered a thick soup/

Without the chicken, this recipe is vegetarian and vegan. A delicious option if you have a dinner party with mixed eating preferences. Add the chicken to only a portion of the soup, a deli chicken would be easy and perfect. I had some sous vide chicken thighs in the fridge and added them at the end. The recipe also called for adding greens (kale or spinach), which I forgot to purchase at the market. So the picture doesn’t have greens. I am definitely making this again and will add them next time and take a picture. With the addition of a half-can of chickpeas, the leftovers were delicious the next day.

I consider this a pantry meal, most of the ingredients are already in my pantry and available for a quick meal. If you have greens and mint in your garden you are already perfectly positioned. No chicken, no problem. The original recipe didn’t include chicken. But check your freezer for a lone chicken breast that might be hanging around. Defrost it in the microwave, cut into cubes, and add it once the coconut milk and stock come to the simmer. If you have any salad greens in your fridge, use them as greens. Maybe some baby spinach? Arugula would be fine as well, shredded romaine…why not. If it is a cold and wet night, who wants to go to the store?

Spiced Chickpea Stew with Coconut and Turmeric

Spiced Chickpea Chicken Stew with Coconut and Turmeric

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric, plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15-ounce) full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 bunch of Swiss chard, kale, or spinach – stems removed, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup mint leaves, chopped for serving
  • Lime slice for serving
  • Optional whole fat plain yogurt for serving
  • Steamed rice, toasted pita, lavash or other flatbread for serving

Method:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and ginger. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent and starts to brown a bit. That will take about 3-5 minutes. Be careful the garlic doesn’t brown.
  2. Add turmeric, red pepper flakes and chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper again. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chickpeas start to sizzle and brown and fry a bit in the spices and oil. I had to add a tiny bit more oil at this point. They will start to soften and break down, becoming brown and crisp. It will take about 5 to 8 minutes.
  3.  Remove about a cup of chickpeas and set aside.
  4. Add the coconut milk and stock to the remaining chickpeas in the pot. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any crusty bits that have formed at the bottom of the pot.
  5. Add your chicken if using.
  6. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the stew has thickened slightly and the flavors have come together., about 30-35 minutes. Taste and see if you need to add salt and pepper.
  7. Add greens and stir, making sure they are submerged in the liquid. Cook long enough for them to soften, which will depend on the type of greens you are using, about 3-7 minutes. Spinach and chard will soften much faster than kale.
  8. Divide among bowls and add the reserved chickpeas and mint, a wedge of lime, and a sprinkle of red-pepper flakes if desired. A dollop of whole fat yogurt with a dusting of turmeric would be nice as well.

 

Sous vide boneless chicken thighs

Spiced Chickpea Stew with Coconut and Turmeric

The recipe was adapted from the NY Times article, A Creamy Stew That’s Hearty and Virtuous.

I am bringing it to Fiesta Friday #253 to share with Angie and the gang. Click on the link to see all the wonderful ideas for holiday food, crafts and decorating. I am excited to be a co-host for the virtual party this week with Mila @ Milkandbun

I think the folks at Souper Sunday at Kahakai Kitchen will enjoy it as well. Follow the link for other soup, salad or sandwich ideas. Perfect for a casual Sunday dinner.  .Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post.

November – Dried Porcini, Fresh Mushroom and Whole Tomato Ragout

November – Dried Porcini, Fresh Mushroom and Whole Tomato Ragout

Dried Porcini, Fresh Mushroom, and Whole Tomato Ragout

Doesn’t that look delicious? Dried porcini mushrooms (or any other variety you have in your pantry), fresh mushrooms, roma-type tomatoes (canned are fine), with fresh herbs. Serve this as a main course for a vegan or vegetarian meal with crusty bread, sweet butter, and a chunk of flavorful cheese. Toma is my personal favorite right now. Or, as the recipe suggests, on top of cheesy polenta. Or as a low carb/low calorie side dish to some thinly sliced grilled steak (steak and mushrooms are a combination made in heaven). Be sure to include a few slices of crusty rustic bread to soak up the juices. It’s the perfect antidote to all the rich foods of last week.

The recipe came from the cookbook In My Kitchen by Deborah Madison.

In My Kitchen by Deborah Madison

Deborah calls for a tablespoon of fresh herbs in addition to parsley. Use whatever you have on hand, the season my dictate it. In my case it was some fresh marjoram but adding additional fresh parsley at the end would work as well. If you have access to wild mushrooms, use them as the fresh ones. But plain old grocery store varieties work just fine. Porcini mushrooms can be pricy, but you can substitute another variety. I have seen large bags of dried shiitake mushrooms at Asian grocery stores, at good prices. Recipes are only a starting point to your imagination. Make the substitution and let me know how you like it.

I was lucky to have stumbled upon a large bag of dried porcini while in Italy this past September. It was a tiny store on a back alley. I now wish I had brought back 2 bags. But that’s a long way to go for a bag of dried porcini.

Dried Porcini Mushrooms

It’s mushroom season up here on the coast but tomato season is over. I used good quality Italian canned roma tomatoes. One 28-oz can was just the right size. If you make this in summer, use fresh tomatoes. Slip them into boiling water for 30 seconds and they are easy to peel.

 

Dried Porcini and Tomato Ragout

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried porcini (or other) mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white or red wine
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound of fresh mushrooms, gills still closed if possible, cleaned and thickly sliced at odd angles
  • 8-12 peeled whole roma-type tomatoes
  • optional: 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs, any seasonal will do
  • For finishing – optional: Parmigiano-Reggisno cheese, grated and more fresh chopped herbs

Method:

  1. Cover the dried mushrooms with 1 1/2 cups of hot water and set aside while you assemble the rest of the ingredients, for at least 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid. If there is any soil or small grit in the water, pour it through a fine mesh strainer.
  2. Heat a wide skillet over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When warm, add the onion and the drained porcini. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is golden (about 5 minutes). Then add half the parsley, all the other fresh herbs and the garlic. Work in the  tomato paste. Pour in the wine and cook until it is reduced to a syrupy consistency. Season with a pinch of salt and fresh pepper. Remove to a bowl.
  3. Return the skillet to the heat and add the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil, when it is hot, add the fresh mushrooms. Increase the heat to high and saute until they start to color, add a few pinches of salt and cook until they release and reabsorb their juices (about 6-8 minutes).
  4. Add the contents of the bowl to the skillet and pour in the mushroom soaking liquid. Nestle the tomatoes among the mushrooms. Reduce the heat and simmer until the mushrooms are cooked and the tomatoes are hot, at least 15 minutes.
  5. Add the remaining herbs and optional butter for more richness.
  6. Serve with a grating of Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh herbs.

Simmering Mushrooms and TomatoesI am taking this recipe to Fiesta Friday #252 to share with Angie and the gang. This weeks co-hosts are Alex @ Turks Who Eat and Zeba @ Food For The Soul

Be sure to click on the link to read all the interesting posts for holiday food, gifts and crafts. And, add your own link to the party. If you want to be considered for “post of the week” be sure to credit Fiesta Friday, Alex, Zeba and Angie in your post.

I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

November – Veggie Sausage Dressing with Raisins

November – Veggie Sausage Dressing with Raisins

This will be the first Thanksgiving that I am only making a vegetarian version of my regular dressing or stuffing recipe. You can see last year’s meat lovers sausage and raisin version here, definitely not vegetarian. In past years I have made two dressings, one with and one without the sausage. But this year the vegetarians at dinner will well outnumber the carnivores. It’s also the year I discovered LIghtlife Gimme Lean veggie sausage. It’s a good substitute for pork or turkey sausage, not perfect but acceptable. It’s lean and not as flavorful as regular bulk sausage. To counter that I’ll add extra seasonings and butter (this is not vegan) to make up the difference.

I am amazed at how far vegetarian food has come.

And how was it?

Veggie Sausage

Well, it was delicious! No one could tell the difference. This recipe is well worth the trouble of including in your vegetarian feast as a side. You could even stuff and bake a few halves of acorn squash as the Thanksgiving main course. Or, what about large portobello mushrooms? I think they would be good as well.

If you are making stuffing (inside your bird), stick with the regular meat version. Although as a thought, if you avoid pork and can’t find turkey sausage, this will work equally well as a stuffing.

This recipe is not vegan. I used parmesan broth (definitely not vegan) as a substitute for turkey or chicken stock. Parmesan broth is a very tasty broth made from the leftover rinds of parmesan cheese. Don’t throw them away! Store them in the freezer until you have enough to make this wonderful broth from them. A parmesan rind is a flavorful addition to a pot of minestrone soup, and then there is this wonderful vegetarian broth which tastes amazingly like chicken. One of our local delis even sells a package of them, left over from their own gratings. Check with your own gourmet deli and they may even give them away to you at no charge.

Some other options homemade vegetarian stock are instant vegetarian stock or magic mineral broth. If you use the instant vegetarian stock make sure you taste for salt before adding additional, it is quite salty.

Parmesan Rinds

If you don’t have any rinds or homemade vegetarian stock on hand, use a good quality commercial stock. Try to find one without an overwhelming carrot or celery flavor. Commercial vegetarian stocks vary greatly in quality. Some of them are awful. I found this Organic Imagine Vegetarian No Chicken Broth to be more than acceptable:

Vegetarian Stock

Raisin Cornbread Veggie Sausage Dressing:

  • 10 tablespoons of butter, divided plus more as needed
  • 1 pound of bulk vegetarian sausage
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 large stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning. See note 1.
  • Pinch or red pepper flakes
  • 4 fresh brioche rolls, hamburger or other soft bread (preferably a little stale), torn into large (3/4 inch) pieces. See note 2.
  • 8 oz. of cornbread, crumbled into large pieces, about 3/4 inch (you will want chunks rather than crumbs for texture and flavor)
  • 2 generous handfuls of golden or regular raisins
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper as needed
  • 1 cup or more of vegetarian stock, I used parmesan broth

Method:

  1. Melt the 5 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet.
  2. Add the onion and celery and sauté until beginning to soften, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the sausage, crumbling it into small pieces as it browns.
  4. Add the Herbs de Provence, poultry seasoning and red pepper flakes to the pan.
  5. Add the second 5 tablespoons of butter and remove from the heat, allowing it to melt.
  6. Meanwhile tear the cornbread and brioche bread into 3/4 inch pieces in a large bowl, you don’t want them too small.
  7. Add the raisins and mix.
  8. While still warm, add the contents of the skillet to the large bowl and mix well. Taste for salt, you want it well seasoned.
  9. If the contents look dry (it depends on how much fat is in your sausage), add another 2 (or more) tablespoons of butter to the skillet to melt. Then add it to the bowl. Ma Barnes would add as much as a full stick of butter at this point.
  10. If baking immediately, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  11. Spread the dressing in a casserole. Add the stock, you want the bread to be moist but not swimming. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes, then uncover and increase the heat to 400 degrees F. Bake for an additional 20 minutes to brown the top and crisp the edges (those charred bits are my favorite). Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn.
  12. If making ahead, set aside to cool. In my household that needs to be far away from the edge of the counter and out of reach of the dogs. Once cool you can refrigerate it for a day. Keep your last minute stress level down and prepare it the day before the holiday.
  13. When ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the dressing into a shallow casserole dish and add the stock. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until hot, about 45-50 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to 400 degrees F and bake for another 20 minutes to crisp the top. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn although those charred crispy bits are my favorite.

Note 1: Check that any commercial poultry seasoning in the your pantry is fresh. Ground spices lose their potency quickly. My own was old and the grocery store was out of that particular mix. You can make your own poultry seasoning, here is the recipe:

  • 2 teaspoons ground sage
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Note 2: Don’t use all cornbread. You need the regular bread to absorb the liquid. The cornbread should not be predominant.

Finished baked Dressing

I have not received any remuneration from the commercial products mentioned in this post. The recommendations come only from my own experience.

October – Black Bean Chili in the Electric Pressure Cooker

October – Black Bean Chili in the Electric Pressure Cooker

I could have called this Instant Pot Black Bean Chili, that brand of electric pressure cooker has taken the internet and Pinterest by storm. But my electric pressure cooker is not an Instant Pot, although it works exactly like one. I got it before the craze hit, and it sat in the garage for several years, sadly unused. I was still terrified by the memories of my mothers old pressure cooker sizzling on top of the stove. I was afraid it was going to blow up at any moment, as children she gave us so many warnings to stay away from it. That fear has dissipated, modern electric pots are much safer. But I pull it out mainly for soups and stews, cold weather foods. During the summer it goes back into storage. I just can’t get behind all the Instant Pot recipes on Pinterest that don’t actually save you any time. I’d rather cook things on the stove, grill, or in the oven. There are additional flavors added with those methods. Why go through the trouble of pulling it out of the cupboard and having it take up space on your countertop? Just my rant.

But, beans are a different story and this recipe is a definite time saver. Why? Because you cook the dried black beans from scratch along with the chili. That’s right, no soaking. The whole thing, start to finish, takes an hour. You end up with both perfectly cooked black beans and a delicious chili. Now that is time saving! Even better, it is vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and delicious. All good, eh?

Personally I think this is a perfect meal for Halloween night.

I combined and modified two recipes into one for this dish. The first comes from A Pinch of Yum for instant pot pumpkin walnut chili and the second from Well Plated for Instant Pot Black Beans.

This recipe makes a lot, well over two quarts, so you will have plenty to share or stick in your freezer for nights you don’t want to cook. I love having that kind of meal insurance.

The Pinch of Yum recipe calls for adding 2 or 3 14-ounce cans of black beans at the end. 1 can of black beans is about 2 1/2 cups; 1 pound of dried black beans makes about 5 – 6 1/2 cups of cooked black beans. So I used 1 pound of black beans from the start, adjusting the liquid measurements. Well Plated called for 3 cups of water or broth to a pound of black beans. Using that recipe I found the beans were cooked perfectly, but a little dry to my taste. I wanted something more soupy. Adding a little extra liquid to the Pinch of Yum chili recipe adjusted for that.

There were some other modifications, I left out the bulgur wheat and the pumpkin in the Pinch of Yum recipe; mainly because I wanted something gluten free and didn’t have a can of pumpkin in the pantry (I may try that next time). Feel free to add a 14-ounce can of pumpkin puree at the end, please let me know how and if you like it. Everything is coming up pumpkin in October and November.

I did add the chopped walnuts for texture, they add a meatiness as well as extra protein to the chili. You only need to a salad for this to be a complete meal. Do use some of the recommended finishing options though.

So here goes!

Black Bean Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 28-ounce can of chopped fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 poblamo peppers chopped
  • 1 red pepper chopped
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped
  • 2 cups of walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder, mild (or hot if that’s how you like it)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound of dried black beans
  • 8 cups of water

Method: 

  1. Rinse and pick over the black beans to make sure there are no small stones, drain.
  2. Dump everything in your pressure cooker and give it a stir.
  3. Set it to cook for 35 minutes once you get to high pressure.
  4. Let it release naturally for 25 minutes.
  5. Then release the rest of the steam.

Thin it out with extra water if it seems too thick. Check for salt.

Be sure to dress up the chili and finish it with shredded cheese, avocado, lime wedges, sour cream or plain yogurt, chopped cilantro, crumbled tortilla chips. Let your imagination go wild.

That’s all!

 

Black Bean Chili

Black Bean Chili

Black Bean Chili

This week I am co-hosting Fiesta Friday on Angie’s website. My partner co-host is Deb at Pantry Portfolio. 

Come join in the fun by checking out the posts by a group of talented cooks, gardeners and crafters. And please add your own, read the instructions for posting in order to be considered for the picks of the week.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone and thank you for reading.