Bourbon Cranberry Sauce


Even though it’s been years since turkey has been on my Thanksgiving table, I still love many of the dishes that traditionally go with it. Cranberry sauce is one of them. I used to make an Ocean Spray version that was more of a relish, uncooked and made in the food processor with orange. It was good, but this year I was craving a cooked sauce.

I came across a recipe with bourbon and thought that sounded swell—almost cocktail-like. Works for me! Alas, that recipe called for a pound of sugar, which seems like it would sweeten any tartness right out of those cranberries, taking away their best quality.

After a little more looking, I found this one; much less sugar and still has the bourbon. Plus, it incorporates orange, like that old tried and true relish. I could tell this was a winner while cooking it (I just may have licked the spoon after stirring, and yes, more than once). Where has bourbon in cranberry sauce been all my life?!? Enjoy!



Bourbon Cranberry Sauce

Adapted from this Savory Sweet Life recipe

One 12-oz bag fresh cranberries

¾ cup orange juice

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 ounces bourbon

Zest of half an orange, for garnish

Place all ingredients, except for the orange zest, in a medium-sized saucepan. Cook on medium-high for 15 minutes or until most of the liquid has reduced, stirring occasionally. Cranberries will burst open. I had to turn the heat down after about 5 minutes or it would have boiled over. Just lower it to a heat that keeps it bubbling, but not boiling over.

Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Mixture will thicken as it cools. May be served chilled or at room temperature. Sprinkle with orange zest just before serving. Serves about 6.

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Pumpkin Butter


Similar to jams and jellies, fruit butters (and in this case vegetable butter) are slow-cooked to evaporate moisture and caramelize sugars. When finished, they’re dense and smooth with the spreadable texture of room temperature butter, thus, the name.

The result has a concentrated flavor of the fruit or vegetable that’s deep and luscious in a way that jams and jellies aren’t. I’ve made peach butter a couple times and love it on toasted English muffins, as an ice-cream topping, and even as a sandwich spread to give a sweet edge to a savory lunch. Makes me look forward to peach season!

This time of year, pumpkin is perfect for the butter treatment. Going light on the added sugars lets the natural sweetness of the pumpkin shine through and the apple cider and spices give it that cozy, fall warmth that is so welcome when the temperatures start to drop.

Limited only by your imagination, the uses for this magical elixir are endless: Spread on warm biscuits, swirled into plain yogurt, mixed into cream cheese and slathered on bagels, as a pancake topping, an oatmeal mix-in, or ice-cream topping. And because this doesn’t hit you with first with sweetness, it can be used in savory dishes like maybe mixed into browned butter, sage, shallots, and crushed red pepper for a delicious seasonal pasta sauce. The thought has my mouth watering!

One of my favorite things about using whole pumpkin or squash, as opposed to canned, is the seeds. I almost never discard them. Once cleaned, tossed with a little neutral oil, sprinkled with salt, and roasted until crisp and golden, they are an addictive snack (instructions included at the end of the recipe).

Whatever uses you come up with for this fall treat, you’ll be happy you made it. Enjoy!



Pumpkin Butter

  • Servings: 1 1/2 pints
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Adapted slightly from this Food & Wine Magazine recipe

1 (approximately 3 pound) sugar or pie pumpkin, stemmed, halved lengthwise, and seeded*

1 tablespoon neutral oil (grapeseed, canola, vegetable)

¼ cup apple cider

1/3 cup brown sugar (light or dark)

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon kosher salt (if using a fine salt, reduce to ¼ teaspoon)

¼ teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of ground allspice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush cut sides of pumpkin halves with the oil. Place pumpkin halves, cut side down, on a large, rimmed baking sheet (less mess if you line the sheet with parchment paper, but not essential). Bake until very tender when pierced with a sharp knife, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly, 10-15 minutes.

Scoop flesh from cooled pumpkin halves and transfer to bowl of a food processor. Discard pumpkin shell. To food processor, add apple cider and process until smooth, about one minute, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl when necessary. Add brown sugar, maple syrup, vinegar, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. Process until smooth, about 30 seconds, scrape down sides, and give it one more pulse.

Transfer pumpkin mixture to a deep saucepan, cover, and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low, keep cover on, but vented (it sputters and spatters), and cook, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula so that bottom of saucepan doesn’t scorch. Cook until mixture is reduced by about one-third and turns slightly darker in color, about 40-45 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Transfer to jars and refrigerate. Keeps in the refrigerator 2-3 weeks and can be frozen for several months. Makes about 1 ½ pints.

*Don’t toss out those seeds! Roasted, they make a delicious and nutritious snack. Simply clean the pumpkin flesh out of the seeds, toss them with a little neutral oil (a couple teaspoons to a tablespoon, depending on the amount of seeds), and sprinkle with salt. Cook at 400 degrees F. in a single layer on a baking sheet for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice for even browning. If you don’t eat them all right away, store in a zip-lock bag or other air-tight container.

Red Flannel Hash


We grew beets in our garden this summer for the first time in several years. Then the green beans and zucchini overtook the beets and we kind of forgot about them—out of sight, out of mind. Last weekend we decided to wade through the overgrowth and see if there were actually beets underneath. There were! Nice, medium sized beets. The greens had seen better days and were unusable, but the beets were beautiful.

Wanting to make something a little different, I started digging around online and red flannel hash came up. I’ve heard of it, but never had it. Turns out the traditional version, which originated in New England, has beets, red potatoes, and corned beef, but the few vegetarian recipes I found didn’t really change much other than to leave out the corned beef. I pulled aspects of a number of different recipes to come up with this delightful dish.

We topped our crispy red flannel hash with poached eggs and had toast on the side. It was delicious! A very pretty change from typical breakfast potatoes and the beets, Worcestershire, and horseradish gave it oomph and a unique quality that we loved. Enjoy!


Red Flannel Hash

A little advanced prep is needed to cook the beets and potatoes, but if you do that a day or two before, the hash comes together very quickly.

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 ½ cups cubed cooked and peeled beets

2 cups cubed, cooked, skin on, red potatoes

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (the Annie’s brand is vegetarian)

2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat butter and olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When hot, add onions and a sprinkling of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the beets and potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste, and stir to combine. When warmed through, add the Worcestershire and horseradish. Stir and then press the mixture down in the pan with a large spatula, which will help it brown on the bottom. Let it cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes, then turn it by sections and press down again, and cook another 4 or 5 minutes to crisp the other side.

For breakfast/brunch, serve with poached or fried eggs. Or serve as a side dish with lunch or dinner. Makes about 4 servings.

 

Lobster Mushroom Pasta


Last weekend at the Stillwater Farmers’ Market, I picked up a couple varieties of mushrooms I hadn’t had before, lobster and chicken of the woods. A local forager harvested them from area forests and sold them at his stand, along with chanterelles. Joking around, I asked if he had lots of experience and knew what he was doing so we wouldn’t be poisoned. He laughed and said when people ask, he usually points to the lobster mushrooms and tells them that’s what they should buy if they want to off their husbands. Okay, that didn’t really make me feel any better.

Lobster, chanterelle, and chicken of the woods (l-r).

The amusing mushroom man explained that the lobster mushrooms had a seafood-like flavor and the chicken of the woods variety, covered with barbeque sauce and grilled, would taste just like chicken. Interesting. They were expensive too, about $20/pound, but I figured that was a lot cheaper than lobster.

Not really sure how to prepare my new-found treasures, I decided to just do a simple pasta dish with the lobster mushrooms. There were lots of lobster pasta recipes out there, so why not just sub lobster mushrooms? You can’t go wrong with shallots, garlic, butter and thyme, right? And white wine, half & half, and parmesan aren’t likely to mess up a dish either. It all came together wonderfully, with the promised seafood flavor a happy surprise.


If you happen upon these somewhat freaky-looking, neon reddish-orange beauties, either while foraging or at your local farmers’ market, try this recipe; I think you’ll really like it. Enjoy!

Lobster Mushroom Pasta

2 tablespoons butter, divided

1 medium shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 ounces lobster mushrooms, cleaned and cut into ½ inch chunks

1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves

A couple splashes dry white wine

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

A handful of baby greens (I used a bagged mixture of baby power greens from Trader Joe’s)

½ cup freshly grated parmesan or parmigiano reggiano

¼ cup half & half, cream, or whole milk

8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti, linguini or any long, thin pasta

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, generously salt the water, then cook pasta according to package directions. When done, reserve about ½ cup of the pasta water and then drain pasta and return it to pot. Cover and keep warm.

While the pasta is cooking, in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until the shallots have softened, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium high and add the wine. Stir, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine has mostly cooked off.

Return heat on the pan to medium and add the second tablespoon of butter. Once it’s melted, add the greens. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are wilted, but still bright green.

Add the mushroom mixture, cheese, and half & half to the warm pasta. Toss until combined. Add enough of the reserved pasta to make a sauce. Serve pasta in bowls. Makes 3-4 servings.

Zucchini Fritters


Okay folks, it’s that time of year, when zucchini begin their annual attempt to take over the world, or at least our gardens. Co-workers will bring bags of it to work and beg you to take some. Zucchini bread will show up on the break room table multiple times.  You can buy a shopping bag full dirt cheap at the farmers’ market. It’s everywhere, it’s everywhere!

What to do with this abundance? Here’s a recipe that will use up a pound of the stuff and have you wanting more so badly you’ll put it in your regular rotation until zucchini season is over, and then you’ll be sad.

After finding this recipe last year, I bought zucchini each week at the farmers’ market, something I’ve never done before. Great as an appetizer for a summer dinner party, but just as good as a weeknight supper. Accompanied by a salad, you’ve got your quota of veggies and then some. Leftovers with a poached egg for breakfast are incredibly good!

The key to making these little cakes of deliciousness as crispy as a fritter should be is getting as much water out of your shreds as possible. The salt you mix the shredded zucchini with draws out the water and you’ll be able to wring out more than you ever thought possible. Last night I made a double batch and must have squeezed out over two cups.

Before draining

Before draining

After water squeezed out

After squeezing out water



The topping recipe included, along with the crisp fitters, creates a combination that will make you want to keep a full batch of these babies to yourself and eat them all (which is what I set out to do last night when I made that double batch for just Pete and me—although I did have a few left over).

I should point out this recipe is the reason we are now growing zucchini in our garden. More fritters for us! Enjoy!

Zucchini Fritters

  • Servings: makes about ten 2 1/2 inch fritters
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Recipe from the Smitten Kitchen

1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini or a combo of zucchini and yellow squash

1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste (decrease to ½ teaspoon if you only have fine salt)

2 scallions, split lengthwise and sliced thin

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I used half all-purpose and half whole wheat pastry flour)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Olive or another oil of your choice, for frying (I like grapeseed or avocado oil)

To serve (optional, but really not, in my opinion—go for it!)
1 cup sour cream or plain, full-fat yogurt (Greek yogurt is perfect!)

1 to 2 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

Pinches of salt

1 small minced or crushed clove of garlic

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Place a baking sheet on the middle rack.

Trim ends off zucchini and grate them either on the large holes of a box grater or, if you have one, using the coarser shredding blade of a food processor (that is, if you have more than one shredding blade; mine has two).

In a large bowl, toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Wring out the zucchini in one of the following ways: pressing it against the holes of a colander with a wooden spoon to extract the water, squeezing out small handfuls at a time, or wrapping it up in a clean dishtowel or piece of cheese cloth and wringing away (the dish towel is my preferred method). You’ll be shocked by the amount of liquid you’ll lose, but this is a good thing as it will save the fritters from sogginess.

Return deflated mass of zucchini shreds to bowl. Taste and if you think it could benefit from more salt (most is lost in the water), add a little bit more; we found 1/4 teaspoon more just right. Stir in scallions, egg and some freshly ground black pepper. In a small dish, stir together flour and baking powder, then stir the mixture into the zucchini batter.

In a large heavy skillet—cast iron is ideal—heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop small bunches of the zucchini mixture onto the skillet (I used a #30 cookie dough scoop) a few at a time so they don’t become crowded (I did four at a time in a 10” skillet) and lightly nudge them flatter with the back of your spatula.

Cook the fritters until the edges underneath are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. If you find this happening too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Flip the fritters and fry them on the other side until browned underneath again, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Drain briefly on paper towels then transfer to baking sheet in the warm oven until needed. Repeat process with remaining batter, keeping the pan well-oiled. It’s best for the fritters to have at least 10 minutes in the oven to finish setting and getting extra crisp.

For the topping, if using, stir together the sour cream or yogurt, lemon juice, zest, salt and garlic and adjust the flavors to your taste. Dollop on each fritter before serving. These fritters are also delicious with a poached or fried egg on top.

Do ahead: These fritters keep well, either chilled in the fridge for the better part of a week or frozen in a well-sealed package for months. When you’re ready to use them, simply spread them out on a tray in a 325 degree F. oven until they’re hot and crisp again.

Chive Mint Pesto


There’s a patch of chives in front of our cabin that grows like crazy; not sure why it’s so prolific—could be it’s just as happy to be there as we are. I try and remember to cut some to bring home every time we’re there, but it seems like half the time I forget.

This time I remembered, and I brought home a lot! It’s especially nice if the chives are flowering their light purple blooms, so pretty and edible too—a mild onion flavor that works beautifully as a garnish on whatever you’ve used the chives in.


With this volume of chives, the first thing that came to mind was making pesto. I’ve made a
rustic chive pesto in the past, but this time I decided to do the more conventional pesto method, in the food processor. And with my mint and basil plants needing a trim, I opted to include a good amount of mint and a little basil.

Following the basic pesto recipe I’ve used for years, but subbing in chives and mint in place of basil and throwing in a shallot for good measure, the result was wonderful! On pasta, as a marinade for grilled vegetables, on pizza, in mashed potatoes, eggs, sandwiches, the uses are endless.

As in other pesto recipes I’ve shared in the past, there’s no cheese, which is not typical for pesto, but with the olive oil, it seems rich enough in my mind already, so I do without. Feel free to include some parmesan if you’d like.

This recipe makes a big batch that would be hard to use between Pete and me in the week or so it lasts in the fridge, so I froze half. Pesto freezes well and it’s nice to have on hand for whipping up yummy recipes at a moment’s notice (a quick defrost in the microwave and your frozen pesto is ready to use).

The bonus is I have enough chives left over to make a couple loaves of buttermilk chive bread—I can’t wait!

Chive Mint Pesto

  • Servings: makes 3 cups
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2 cups firmly packed fresh chives

1 cup fresh mint leaves, or a combination of mint and basil, firmly packed

1 cup chopped walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or a combination, toasted

¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 shallot, chopped

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients, except olive oil, in bowl of a food processor. Process until combined. Scrape down sides of food processor bowl.

With food processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until mixture is completely blended. Scrape down sides again and give it a final pulse or two. Taste, and add more salt or lemon juice if necessary.

Keeps in the fridge for a week or so, in the freezer for a couple months. Makes about 3 cups.

Cauliflower Taco Meat


The humble cauliflower. That funny looking vegetable I hated as a child, continues to surprise me. First there was cauliflower pizza crust, then Buffalo cauliflower, cauliflower steaks, and now, wait for it…cauliflower taco meat!

Replacing the spicy ground beef in traditional tacos, this mixture of cauliflower, mushrooms, walnuts and bold seasonings amps up the deliciousness and it’s a healthy mix of superfoods to boot! What’s not to love? And I swear, even if you think you don’t like cauliflower, mushrooms, or walnuts, if you like tacos, you will like this.

I stumbled upon the recipe at Pinch of Yum, one of my favorite food blogs (and their photography is amazing!). Intrigued, I knew what I was going to make with that head of cauliflower in the fridge. The only thing that made me hesitate was the two cups of walnuts the recipe called for. I know walnuts are super healthy, full of good fats, omega 3s, and loaded with antioxidants, but they also pack a wallop of calories, which I certainly don’t need. Since mushrooms are so meaty, especially cremini mushrooms, I decided to replace half the walnuts with them. The result wowed us!

And don’t limit this yummy mixture to tacos; it would make a great filling for burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, frittatas, taco salad and on and on. My mind is now working on a way to make this, with different seasonings, into a mixture for Italian recipes, lasagna, spaghetti sauce, meatballs, and stuffed peppers. And sloppy joes! I bet that would be wonderful!

The taco “meat” ingredients involve just a quick series of pulses in the food processor and then a half hour of baking, followed by a couple minute broil, then a sprinkling of fresh lime juice. While it’s in the oven, you can prep your taco accompaniments, so this is very doable on a weeknight after work. Plus, it reheats really well, and leftovers will not go to waste. Enjoy!

Cauliflower Taco Meat

Adapted from this Pinch of Yum recipe

3 cups cauliflower florets

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup chopped cremini mushrooms

2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1/4 cup tomato sauce

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Fresh squeezed lime juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

Place all ingredients except lime juice in the bowl of a food processor and pulse on and off until the texture of cooked ground beef. I found it easier to get the right texture by doing this in two batches, half of each ingredient in each batch. The first time I made it I did it all at once and half of it was almost like a paste—still tasted great, but just not the right texture. Transfer mixture to the baking sheet and spread it out in an even layer.

Bake for 30 minutes, stirring once at the half-way point. After the 30 minutes, turn oven to broil and broil 8-12 inches from broiler for a minute or two. Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn. Drizzle with a tablespoon or two of lime juice and toss to distribute it.

That’s it. The “meat” is ready to use in tacos, burritos, taco salads, enchiladas, quesadillas, or whatever your heart desires. Reheats well and keeps several days in the fridge. Makes about 4 servings.