Posted on Dec 6, 2013
My birthday was last month and I received some really lovely gifts. One of my favorites was from my sister, Leigh. She lives in Boise on a huge parcel of land. She’s been involved with agriculture her entire life, including earning an Agriculture Business degree. It’s her profession and her passion.
So when I opened my birthday present from her, I was delighted to find the best homemade grape jam I have ever tasted, along with savory dried herbs and produce from her garden. I’m thawing out homemade stock right now so I can make Butternut Squash Soup.
Here’s a look at some of her bounty this past fall. I squealed when she texted me this photo. There’s at least 10 butternut squash in there, along with acorn squash, red kuri hubbard squash, eggplant, bell peppers…absolutely gorgeous. She and her husband are now sellers at the organic farmer’s market. I can’t believe we didn’t end up in the same town!
It got me thinking what a lovely surprise the gift of food is. Growing up, we grew artichokes, cucumbers, onions, herbs and tomatoes in a yard rimmed by fruit trees and berry vines. Sharing this bounty with our friends and neighbors was a true joy.
I remember coming home from church with a box full of homegrown cucumbers from a family friend. We canned with our mom, all afternoon, turning them into bread and butter pickles we could eat in winter.
As the Christmas season approaches, consider the gift of food. It doesn’t have to be something you’ve grown yourself, but something thoughtful and decadent like truffle salt (Trader Joe’s has a small seasonal container for around $6) or a block of great parmesan-reggiano. Happy Giving!
Posted on Dec 3, 2013
I love soup and stew season. One pot dishes make life a bit easier. This is a beautiful soup that can be made with cream for a richer product, or without for a cleaner, earthier flavor. Usually, I roast butternut squash for soups, but for this quicker version, I simmered it. You can do either.
For added depth, I tossed in one of my new favorite spice blends — Chinese Five Spice. Appealing to all five flavor senses, it adds a lovely flavor balance.
This is great served with a crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time:50–60 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
Special equipment: immersion blender
1 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 1/2 lbs. butternut squash peeled and sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 15 oz can canned pumpkin
1 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 c. half and half or cream optional
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream thinned with lime juice and lime twists as a garnish optional
- Saute onion in olive oil on medium heat until translucent, about 8 minutes.
- Add butternut squash, pumpkin, salt, pepper and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer 20–25 minutes until butternut squash comes apart when pierced with a fork.
- With immersion blender, puree soup to desired consistency. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
- Thin a few tablespoons of sour cream with lime juice so that it was be poured and drizzled over soup. Garnish with lime twist.
Posted on Nov 22, 2013
The Chocolate Mousse recipe below is not a traditional Thanksgiving dessert, but since the kids in our family request it each year, it’s found a permanent place on the menu. I finally got smart and used old fashioned, shallow dessert cups.
Make these a day ahead of time (steps 1–5) and cover tightly with saran, then whip the cream Thanksgiving morning and serve with huge dollops.
My kids also request this recipe for Christmas dinner. And Valentines Day. You get the picture. Silky and sublime, it might sneak its way onto your Thanksgiving menu too.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 4 1/2 hours (including refrigeration time)
Yield: 8 servings
Special equipment: stand mixer or hand mixer; individual ramekins or dessert dishes
3 large egg yolks (save whites for another use)
pinch of salt
2/3 c. whole milk
12 ounces good quality semi-sweet chocolate (cut from a block or from chips in a pinch)
1 1/2 c. chilled whipping cream, divided
1 T sugar
- Whisk yolks and salt in medium bowl.
- Bring milk to simmer in sauce pan.
- Gradually whisk hot milk into yolk mixture, then return to the same pan. Stir over low heat until custard thickens, about 1–2 minutes. Do not let it boil. (If you think you’ve overcooked it and the yolks have curdled, strain your mixture through a fine mesh sieve).
- Remove from heat and add chocolate, whisking until smooth. Cool 40 minutes.
- Beat 3/4 c. cream in bowl until peaks form. Fold cream into mousse base. Spoon into servings dishes and cover and chill at least 3 hours.
- When ready to serve, beat remaining 3/4 c. cream in bowl along with sugar until peaks form. Drop a dollop onto each serving dish. Garnish with shaved chocolate.
Posted on Nov 20, 2013
The meal after the meal, if we’re being honest. I can’t think of another occasion when desserts are so heavily featured. We love to eat half portions of everything, so we can taste every possible sampling. That’s just common sense. Here are a few gluten-free items that won’t leave you feeling deprived. The best thing — you can do them all at least a day in advance.
Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart
Pumpkin Bon Bons
Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Make more desserts that you think you’ll need. If your family is anything like mine, dessert is a perfect leftover.