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.

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.

Brussels Sprouts Elote-Style


Recently Pete and I crossed a “must-try” restaurant off our list. Pajarito, a St. Paul Mexican eatery, has been open a little more than a year and what a shame it took us that long to get there—the food was phenomenal! Everything we ordered, we’d happily get again, but the Brussels sprouts elote-style were change-your-life good. For reals!

Elote is Mexican street corn, but when Pajarito opened last winter, corn wasn’t in season, so they decided to give the elote treatment to Brussels sprouts. The flavors were amazing and as soon as we got home, I started googling to see if I could find a similar recipe. Lucky me, the restaurant’s actual recipe was written up by two local media outlets (that’s how popular these little nuggets of wonder are!).

Pajarito starts by deep-frying the Brussels sprouts, and because I refuse to venture into the land of deep-frying in my kitchen, I used their suggestion of oven-roasting as an alternative. Also, their recipe uses a homemade aioli. Being a little leery of making things with raw egg yolks and not wanting to buy a dozen pasteurized eggs when only one was needed, I simply added their seasonings to already-on-hand mayonnaise (Earth Balance’s Mindful Mayo).

Tajín is the brand of seasoning the restaurant uses to finish off this dish, along with a sprinkling of cotija cheese. After checking one store and not finding Tajín, I just went ahead and ordered it from Amazon. This mixture of lime, chilies, and salt really elevates the dish, so definitely use it if you can find it locally or have Amazon Prime.

The finished product was absolutely delicious—I thought it was just as good as the restaurant’s deep-fried version, minus the extra fat and calories. And by using vegan mayonnaise, all that’s needed if you want it completely plant-based is to skip the cotija. Enjoy!

Brussels Sprouts Elote-Style

Adapted from a recipe by chefs Stephan Hesse and Tyge Nelson of Pajarito in St. Paul, MN

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/8 cup Elote Aioli (recipe follows)

About a 1/2 tsp. Tajín brand seasoning (can be found in the international section at well-stocked grocery stores and from Amazon)

1 lime, cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place Brussels sprouts in a medium bowl and toss with olive oil and salt & pepper. On a parchment lined baking sheet, place sprouts, cut side down. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.

Transfer cooked sprouts to a bowl and toss with 1/8 cup Elote Aioli. Place sprouts on a serving dish/plate, sprinkle with Tajín seasoning, cotija cheese, then garnish with lime wedges, and serve. Makes about 4 servings.

Elote Aioli

Note: This is basically a flavored mayonnaise. Crema is a more sour crème fraîche and is available in most supermarkets and Mexican specialty food stores. The recipe will make more Elote Aioli than needed for this Brussels sprouts recipe, but the leftovers are good on just about anything, including in place of plain mayonnaise in tuna salad—awesome! Refrigerate remaining aioli in a tightly sealed container for up to a week.

1 cup mayonnaise

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¾ teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon dried oregano

¾ teaspoon hot sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot)

1/4 c. crema (which I didn’t have so used a couple splashes of buttermilk)

½ to 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Salt, to taste

In a medium bowl, whisk together first 8 ingredients (through lime juice). Season to taste with salt. Transfer aioli into an airtight container and refrigerate. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

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.

Garlic Scape Soup


Garlic scapes are one of the most unusual, yet beautiful, items you’ll find at the farmers’ market. Fleeting, too, as they’re only around for a few short weeks in early summer. They can be used in a variety of ways—in stir-fries, pesto, scrambled eggs, and even replace a utensil in this Grilled Mushroom Satay with Garlic Scape Skewers I made a couple years ago.


With a lovely bunch of scapes on hand, today I decided on soup. A pretty puréed soup full of healthy ingredients and mild garlic flavor. Potatoes give it body and some fresh spinach helps keep the vibrant green color, although the addition of the milk dilutes it a bit. Garnished with fresh thyme from my herb garden and a sprinkling of pistachios to maintain the green color scheme, we had a light, but delicious lunch.

Originally thinking this would need to go through a fine mesh sieve after puréeing, it didn’t. I discarded the thicker last few inches of each scape and this resulted in no fibrous pieces remaining after pureeing. Was it smooth as silk? No, but darn close. Enjoy!

Garlic Scape Soup

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt

Garlic scapes, cut into 2 inch pieces, to measure 2 cups (cut off the end from the flower bulb on up and if the other ends seem fibrous, cut off a few inches there as well)

½ a large yellow onion, chopped

1 medium to large russet potato, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish

A couple handfuls of fresh spinach leaves

4 cups good quality vegetable broth/stock (homemade is ideal)

1 cup milk of choice (whole, low-fat, cream, almond, evaporated, etc.)

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Chopped pistachios for garnish

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a stockpot or Dutch oven. When oil is hot, add scapes and onion, sprinkling with a little salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until scapes and onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in potato, thyme leaves, and spinach; add another small sprinkle of salt. Cook for an additional minute or two. Add stock/broth, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Cover pan, with lid slightly askew, and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat.

Using an immersion blender, purée soup until very smooth (alternately, purée in a blender in small batches, venting the lid to let steam escape, and return to pot). Place pot over medium heat and stir in milk, cooking until heated through, but not boiling. Add sherry vinegar or lemon juice and stir. Season with freshly ground black pepper and additional salt, if necessary.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with reserved thyme and pistachios. Makes 4-6 servings.

Crispy Tofu with Spicy Sweet Garlic Sauce


I’ve had tofu so bad I wouldn’t serve it to my worst enemy and I’ve had tofu so good I wanted it all to myself and wouldn’t even share with my best friend. This recipe is the “so good you won’t want to share” kind.

The secret ingredient that makes this tofu crispy like deep fried without deep frying it is the arrowroot powder/starch/flour (all the same, just different names). It ever so slightly coats each piece of tofu and enables the pieces to crisp up and taste like you’re eating something much less good for you. The spicy sweet garlicy sauce takes things over the top.

Arrowroot isn’t difficult to find—small bottles can be found with the spices at regular grocery store and larger bags can be found in the natural foods section of well-stocked grocery stores, at natural foods stores, and online. I like Bob’s Red Mill brand. You could use corn starch if you can’t get arrowroot, but corn starch is much more processed and most likely contains genetically modified corn (boo, hiss!).

The recipe is from a cookbook I purchased after seeing the author on one of the local Saturday morning news shows. Vegan chef Tess Challis was in town to present at the Twin Cities Veg Fest, which I wanted to attend, but just couldn’t fit it into my jam-packed weekend.

One of her cookbooks is called Food Love and I looked it up online to potentially order and ended up ordering the e-version, which was only $10; I got it immediately and no trees were harmed in the process. There are a number of recipes I’d like to try and this was the first. Based on how good this was, I’m excited to make more. Enjoy!

Crispy Tofu with Spicy Sweet Garlic Sauce

Slightly adapted from a Food Love by Tess Challis recipe
1 pound extra firm tofu, organic and non-gmo, sprouted if you can find it

2 tablespoons tamari (darker, richer and less salty than soy sauce, and wheat-free)

1 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder

2 tablespoons arrowroot powder/starch/flour (less processed and non-gmo compared to cornstarch)

1-2 tablespoons grapeseed or coconut oil (I used grapeseed for a more neutral flavor)

Sauce:
¼ cup sriracha sauce

¼ cup raw agave (honey [not vegan] or maple syrup would work as well)

2 tablespoons water

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

Sliced green onions, for garnish

Cut block of tofu into quarters, and each quarter into two slices. Lay slices flat on two layers of paper towel. Cover with two more layers of paper towel and lay a cutting board on top. Set something heavy, like a cast iron pan or a big can of tomatoes on top and let sit 30 minutes; this will remove moisture from the tofu.

While tofu is pressing, mix sriracha, agave, water and minced garlic in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cut each tofu slice into quarters and place into a large zip lock bag. Mix tamari and granulated garlic in a small dish. Put arrowroot in another small dish. Pour tamari mixture over tofu, seal bag, and toss to coat. Sprinkle arrowroot starch/flour, in several batches, over tofu, and shake bag after each batch.

Heat a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon grapeseed or coconut oil. When oil is hot, lay about half the tofu pieces in the pan, cook for 3 minutes, turn, and cook 3 minutes more. Remove tofu to a paper towel lined plate.

Add another tablespoon oil, if necessary, to pan and when hot, add remaining tofu and cook the same as the first batch.

Serve with garlic sriracha sauce and green onions as garnish. Makes about 4 servings.