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.

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.

Vegetarian Swedish Meatballs and Gravy


Recently I came across a recipe for vegetarian Swedish meatballs and my mouth started watering. I’ve never had the real thing, but I imagine they’d be delicious. This recipe, however, didn’t have the traditional allspice and nutmeg included, so I moved past it and searched for other versions.

Ultimately, I ended up adapting a non-vegetarian recipe, one called The Best Swedish Meatballs from the new-to-me blog, The Recipe Critic. I replaced the ground beef with a mixture of wild rice, cremini mushrooms and cauliflower, then added a little ricotta for richness (you could also use Greek yogurt). To save time, I purchased already-cooked wild rice, which you can find in either cans or pouches. Just make sure it’s all wild rice, not a blend including other types of rice.

But the gravy is what makes this dish truly special. Oh, the gravy! Luxurious, I tell you, with unexpected oomph from Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard. Quick and easy to make, whip it up while the meatballs are baking.

You certainly can eat the meatballs and gravy on their own, but served over mashed potatoes or egg noodles makes a complete, comfort food meal—perfect for a cold winter’s day! Enjoy!


Vegetarian Swedish Meatballs and Gravy

Adapted from The Recipe Critic

Meatballs:
2 cups cooked wild rice

1 ½ cups chopped mushrooms, cremini work well—nice and meaty

3 cups cooked cauliflower florets

½ cup ricotta cheese or Greek yogurt

¼ cup finely chopped onion

2 eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup bread crumbs, preferably whole wheat

¾ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, divided

Olive oil spray or olive oil

Gravy:
4 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups vegetable broth (I used Edward & Sons Not-Beef Bouillon Cubes)

½ cup milk or half-n-half

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

1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Pulse 1 ½ cups of the wild rice, the mushrooms, and cauliflower in food processor until blended, but with some texture left. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the remaining half cup of wild rice. Add the ricotta or yogurt, onion, eggs, bread crumbs, garlic powder, salt, allspice, white pepper, nutmeg, and 1/8 cup of the parsley. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Roll 1 ½ – 2 tablespoon portions of mixture into balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. I used a #30 cookie dough scoop, which worked perfectly. Spritz balls with olive oil spray or brush with a little olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating pan at the halfway point.

Meanwhile, make gravy. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add butter and flour. Whisk until it turns light brown. Slowly stir in broth and milk. Add Worcestershire and Dijon mustard and bring to a simmer, whisking until gravy starts to thicken. Season with a little salt and pepper, to taste.

Add cooked meatballs to the skillet and simmer for a couple minutes (you’ll have leftover meatballs). Sprinkle with remaining parsley.

Serve over mashed potatoes or egg noodles. Makes about 4 servings.

Zoodles and Crispy Tofu in Spicy Peanut Sauce


Zucchini noodles (zoodles) were one of the first things I planned to make when I got my spiralizer a couple years ago. And then I proceeded to spiralize potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets many times for a number of recipes, but not zucchini. As much as I wanted to replace my pasta with zucchini noodles, I just couldn’t—it was a cooked zucchini texture thing.

Even with the suggestion of doing half pasta and half zoodles, I still resisted. It wasn’t until I came across a few recipes where you—wait for it—leave the zucchini raw, that I saw the zoodle light. They wouldn’t be mushy, they wouldn’t be soggy. It would be an al dente experience and I was on board!

Making just a few tweaks to this Pinch of Yum recipe, we’ve got a new summer favorite that’s quick enough to pull together on a weeknight and there are always leftovers for brown-bagging the next day. When packing your leftovers, keep the sauce separate and mix it in just before eating, otherwise the zoodles will absorb the sauce and you’ll lose the creamy sauciness that makes for a truly special dish. Enjoy!

Zoodles and Crispy Tofu in Spicy Peanut Sauce


Adapted from this Pinch of Yum recipe

One 15 oz. block of extra-firm tofu (I like Trader Joe’s organic)

1 tablespoon peanut oil

3-4 medium zucchini, ends trimmed (a combination of green and yellow zucchini looks especially nice)

Sliced scallions, for garnish

Sesame seeds, for garnish (I like the look of black sesame seeds, but white are just fine)

Spicy peanut sauce:
½ cup smooth peanut butter, preferably natural (or make your own, recipe here)

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (then add water to measure 1/3 cup)

1/3 cup tamari (wheat free) or soy sauce, reduced sodium if you have it

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons Asian chili paste such as sambal oelek

1 ½ tablespoons sugar

1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 heaping teaspoon of fresh grated ginger root

To remove excess moisture from the tofu, place the tofu block between a couple layers of paper towels and set on a cutting board. Top with another cutting board and weigh it down with a large can of tomatoes or a couple cookbooks. Let sit for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile spiralize your zucchini and set it aside.

To make the spicy peanut sauce, place all sauce ingredients in a jar and shake until well combined.

Cut pressed tofu into bite-sized pieces. Heat peanut oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add tofu to pan and cook one side of tofu pieces until golden, about 3-4 minutes. Turn pieces and cook another 3-4 minutes.

Add ½ cup of the spicy peanut sauce to the tofu and let simmer for a few minutes. Using a spatula, turn tofu pieces, scraping sauce and any brown saucy bits from the bottom of the pan. Repeat the simmer, turning, and scraping a couple more times until tofu is crispy brown.

To serve, place zucchini noodles in individual bowls and top each with a ¼ cup of spicy peanut sauce, stirring to coat the zoodles. Top with some tofu pieces, sliced scallions, and sesame seeds. Makes 4-6 servings.

Penne in Herbed Yogurt Sauce

Penne in Herbed Yogurt Sauce
With us having prime growing weather lately, my patio herbs are going nuts and needed a good trim, so dinner featuring fresh herbs was a no-brainer. Tangy Greek yogurt and whole wheat pasta seemed like good vehicles for an herby dish and what’s not made better by buttery garlic and onions?

This meal comes together quickly so is perfect for a week night. Add a glass of chilled rosé and any stress from your work day will melt away while you recharge with a fresh and light supper, ideally al fresco. Enjoy!
Basil and Mint

Lemon Thyme

Fresh Herbs

Penne in Herbed Yogurt Sauce

Inspired by this Food.com recipe

10 oz. penne pasta, preferably whole wheat (I love Trader Joe’s organic)

2 tablespoons butter or non-hydrogenated margarine, divided

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, cut in small dice

¼ teaspoon salt (plus more salt for the pasta water)

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

¾ cup Greek yogurt at room temperature (I used 2%)

½ cup chopped fresh herbs, such as mint, basil and lemon thyme (parsley and regular thyme would work too)

Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large pot of generously salted water to boiling. Cook pasta in boiling water according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon butter or margarine and the olive oil in a cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, add onion and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions begin to brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3-4 additional minutes. Remove from heat and add remaining tablespoon of butter or margarine and stir into onion-garlic mixture until it melts.

Toss drained pasta with yogurt. Add onion-garlic mixture and pepper to taste. Mix well. Stir in fresh herbs. Transfer to a serving platter. Makes about 4 servings.

 

Buffalo Cauliflower with Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce

Buffalo Cauliflower with Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce
Even though Buffalo wings had become bar food standards before I turned vegetarian, I’ve never had them. The smells of blue cheese dressing (I can’t stand blue cheese) and Buffalo sauce combined turned me off completely, as did chicken wings in general.

Then 25 years or so after I’d written off Buffalo anything entirely, a recipe for veggie balls in Buffalo sauce, served with ranch dressing instead of the dreaded blue cheese, popped up in my newsfeed. The recipe’s Buffalo sauce had a high butter to hot sauce ratio and I ended up not liking the butter overload and upset stomach that resulted.

Resolved to avoid Buffalo sauce for the rest of my life, I reluctantly decided to try it again after reading rave reviews of the Buffalo “wings” at a newly opened vegan restaurant in St. Paul. Having a few days left of our recent vacation, Pete and I enjoyed a weekday lunch date at J. Selby’s, which as far as I know, is the only vegan St. Paul restaurant. Based on those reviews, we started with the Buffalo “wings,” which were made from cauliflower. So delicious, and we both had to exercise restraint in order to not finish the entire order before our entrées arrived. With vegan meaning no “real” butter, there was neither a butter overload nor an upset stomach—yay!!

"Cheddar" Cauliflower

Battered Cauliflower

At home in my fridge’s crisper was a head of orange, also called cheddar, cauliflower and thoughts of making my own version began to percolate (the color doesn’t change the taste–it’s the same as white cauliflower). After looking at several recipes, I adapted one from the Frank’s RedHot Sauce website, mainly because their hot sauce was supposedly the secret ingredient in the first ever Buffalo Wings to come out of Buffalo, New York.

Baked Cauliflower

This recipe called for less butter than the ill-fated one referred to earlier, and to make it vegan like J. Selby’s, I replaced that butter with a combo of vegan margarine and non-hydrogenated shortening.

White or brown rice flour could be substituted in place of the wheat flour for a gluten-free option. I include a recipe for ranch dipping sauce, but if you want traditional blue cheese, go for it (while I stifle a gag).

Of course, these crispy, spicy, cauliflowery nuggets will make an awesome appetizer at your next party, but they also will stand in just fine in place of dinner while you absent mindedly eat the entire batch you made to test the recipe on a Tuesday night after work. Don’t ask me how I know. Enjoy!

Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower

 

Buffalo Cauliflower with Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce

Adapted from this Frank’s RedHot Sauce recipe

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (substitute brown rice flour for gluten-free)

½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (substitute rice flour for gluten—free)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup water

1 medium head white or orange (also called cheddar) cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets

½ cup Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce

2 tablespoons vegan butter, such as Earth Balance, melted

1 tablespoon non-hydrogenated shortening, such as Spectrum Organic, melted

Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly oil a large baking sheet or line it with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Whisk in water and continuing whisking until very smooth. Dump in your cauliflower florets and stir until evenly coated.

Using tongs, move cauliflower pieces to prepared baking sheet, shaking off excess batter into the bowl as you do so (I had some batter left over). Make sure florets are evenly spread out on baking sheet, in a single layer. Bake for 20 minutes, until coating is golden, rotating baking sheet at about the 10-minute mark for even browning.

Meanwhile, mix Frank’s RedHot Sauce together with the melted butter and shortening.

Remove florets from the oven and drizzle with sauce mixture and toss with a spatula to evenly coat. Return to the oven for about 10 more minutes, until cauliflower begins to crisp.

Remove cauliflower to a platter and serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing. Makes about 6 appetizer servings.

Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt, regular or vegan

1/3 cup mayonnaise (I use vegan Earth Balance Mindful Mayo)

¼ cup milk of choice (skim, almond, soy, etc.)

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (I used a combination of chives, garlic chives, and parsley)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Whisk yogurt, mayo, milk, lemon juice, and mustard together in a small bowl. Stir in herbs, salt, and pepper. Chill until ready to serve.