Tag Archives: change

Autumn Leaves

It is cool and has been pouring since yesterday evening, with no sign of letting up anytime soon.  The vantage point from my desk is perfect for watching both weather and nature.  The current on the lake is from the north, and with each puff of breeze, leaves are letting go and baptizing the ground.  It is gray, and natural to turn inward; checking in on one’s feelings, hopes and dreams.

My personality is one of deep feeling.  I emote.  As a recovering DQ, you never have to guess where I’m coming from, because I will tell you, without hesitation.  I do better with small groups of like-minded people, who understand my straight forward presence.  I occasionally offend people with a perceived ‘bluntness’; yet this has been a trait that I have fought hard to adopt.  I was raised in a family that children were to be seen and not heard, leaving me with a feeling of invisibility that lasted well into my 30’s.  Harmony trumped truth in any social situation, regardless of my internal screaming.  Change is hard.

Although many people see me as strong and opinionated, I am also open-hearted, cry easily and rail against injustice, both real or perceived.  I accept that I will always be a work in progress, willing to love and be loved.  Cooking for others is my most sincere form of love.  Nourishment comes in many forms; a kind word, a compliment, or the warmth of a hug.  May we rely on each other for small gifts that are shared openly.  During this season of letting go, may I shed what no longer serves me.

STUFFED ACORN SQUASH

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large acorn squash (I like the Carnival variety)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 3 cups loosely packed, chopped greens (kale, Swiss chard or beet greens)
  • 3/4 cup almond slivers, toasted
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped for garnish (optional)

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F., and halve the acorn squashes lengthwise down the middle.  Scoop out the seeds.  Place the squash cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush halves with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and roast for about 45 minutes, or until the squash are fork tender.
  2. Meanwhile, place wild rice and water in heavy medium size pot.  Bring to a boil, then cover and turn down to a simmer.  Cook for 30 minutes to one hour, or until rice splits open and is tender.  This will be determined by the freshness of your rice.  Drain in wire colander and set aside.
  3. In a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and chopped onions.  Saute until onions are translucent.   Add chopped greens of your choice and continue cooking until greens are wilted.  Add almonds and dried cherries or cranberries, along with drained wild rice and combine.
  4. Fill each half of squash with filling, and place baking sheet back in oven for an additional 10 minutes.  Any leftover stuffing can be refrigerated and eaten as is or spooned over a salad.  Serve hot with fresh chopped parsley as garnish.

Serves: 4

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“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”
― Humbert Wolfe

Cabbage Rolls Revisited

I love cabbage rolls.  My mother-in-law Elsa made them for me the first time in the early 80’s.  she mixed beef and pork together with onions and rice, placed them in cabbage leaves and tied them with thread.  She called this peasant-food.  Her son John and I called it heaven.  The first time I tried making cabbage rolls I was surprise just how bad I was at getting the leaves separated from the head in one piece.  I kept saying, “It can’t be that hard!”  I decided to get out of the box and approach it differently.  Why not turn it into a casserole I thought?  It would be less time-consuming and we could enjoy it more often.  While I was getting out of the box, I decided to use ground lamb, different spices and feta for a different take on it completely.

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Assembling the ingredients

Doing the cabbage ‘rolls’ as a casserole allowed me to follow my own whimsy.  I could shake it up a bit with non-traditional spices and be able to enjoy more cabbage in the process.

Lots more cabbage!

Lots more cabbage!

Cabbage and Lamb Casserole:

  • 1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 lbs), core removed, halved and sliced into 1/2 inch sections
  • 1 lb grass-fed ground lamb
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large farm-fresh egg
  • 8 oz (1 cup) crumbled local feta
  • 1/2 cup short-grain rice, such as Arborio
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped (11/2 tsp dried)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (I use our own canned tomatoes)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (I also used homemade)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a 13×9 inch casserole dish with ghee.
  2. Cut cabbage in half, core, then slice in 1/2 inch wedges.  Place the wedges in casserole dish so they overlap each other in two rows.
  3. In a large bowl, use your hand to combine the lamb, onion, egg, rice, parsley, oregano, lemon juice, feta, cumin, fennel, salt and pepper.  Place mixture on top of cabbage, leaving a 1 inch space round the sides of the casserole so that the cabbage shows through.
  4. Combine the tomatoes and chicken broth in a medium bowl, then pour the mixture over the meat.  Cover with foil (shiny side down).
  5. Bake covered for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes.  Let stand 15 minutes.

Serves 6

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

New Traditions!

New Traditions!

“A smiling face is half the meal.”  —Latvian quote

Toxic Thoughts

Can we talk?  I mean really talk?  I love liver…always have.  Maybe it’s my German heritage.  I know, I know, some of you have to get past the yuck factor; but when you get past all those toxic thoughts, you’ll learn it is one of the most nutritionally dense foods you can eat.  Yet how do I convince all you skeptics out there?  After all, its been appreciated for thousands of years, and recently advocated by Paleo enthusiasts.  Why, its developed a bit of a cult following.

So let’s start by stating some nutritional information.  Liver actually contains, gram-for-gram, more nutrients  than any other food!

  • Nature’s most-concentrated source of vitamin A and vitamin B12, and rich in all other B vitamins
  • Great source of folate (folic acid is the synthetic stuff found in vitamin pills)
  • Rich in copper and chromium
  • Co-Q10 for heart heath and antioxident benefits
  • High quality protein
  • Contains an “anti-fatigue” factor (making it great for individuals fighting anemia, like me!)

Another misconception is that liver stores the toxins and therefore is not safe to eat.  It is true that liver is a detox organ.  But it is not true that liver is where the toxins are stored.  What it does store is a motherlode of critical vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidents.  These are what help the liver get rid of the toxins in the body–not trap them inside.  One caveat I do strongly suggest is insisting on grass-fed liver from pasture-raised chicken or cows.  The term “you are what you eat” does not only apply to humans.

So there it is…I suspect that if you were inclined to eat liver before, you will continue.  If you have never tried liver, I urge you to give this recipe a shot.  It’s savory, rich and delicious.  Who knows…you might just like it.

Sauteing with fresh rosemary and vermouth

Sauteing with fresh rosemary and vermouth

 

CHICKEN LIVER PATE:

  • 3 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 lb grass-fed chicken livers
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms, cleaned, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2/3 cup white vermouth
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/4 cup ghee, (plus a little additional for melting on top)
  • Sea salt
  1. Melt first 3 Tbsp of ghee in a large skillet, over medium-high heat.  Add the livers, onions, and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the livers are browned.
  2. Add the garlic, vermouth, mustard, lemon juice and rosemary.  Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is gone.  Allow to cool.
  3. Process in a food processor with 1/4 cup of ghee.  Season  with salt to taste.  Place in individual ramekins or mold, pour melted ghee over top to preserve.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours.  Freeze additional ramekins for future use.  Serve with crackers, coarse mustard and pickled red onions.

Serves 8-10 total

And so GOOD for you!

And so GOOD for you!

 

“Laughter is an instant vacation.”  –Milton Berle

Opposites Attract

“I just don’t have the time!”  The lament of so many busy people.  Yet, what are we spending our time on?  The average American spends 4-6 hours per day in front of the television; not to mention, computers, games and phones.  Ok, I do like my techno gadgets, but I love good, wholesome food more.

Cooking has become a spectator sport.  We love to watch, but don’t participate.  But I’m here to tell you, cooking can be fun, entertaining and therapeutic.  Get everyone into the act.  I call my family and friends who want to help in the kitchen: “my sous.”  We laugh, we joke and above all we eat well.  We manage to find time for the things that are important to us.  There are so many meals that simply don’t take a lot of time.  Soups, stews, salads can all be eaten for multiple days, or frozen for future use.  In the time it takes to have a pizza delivered you can have a healthy meal on the table.

In the winter there is sometimes an absence of the type of salads that I enjoyed during the growing season.  I found that if you eat seasonally and try putting some unexpected ingredients together, you are often pleasantly surprised.  In my last post, I used roasted pears as a garnish on my butternut squash soup.  A few days later, I tried the same pairing in a different way in a salad and the results were yumbo-yummy!  Although the dressing is not strictly Paleo, I took creative license for the flavor I was looking for; see what you think…

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Roasted Winter Salad with Lime/Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 4 cups butternut squash, cubed in 3/4 inch dice
  • 3 Bosch pears, cored, seeded and sliced in 6ths
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh kale, torn in bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, torn in bite-sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup dried tart cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh local feta, crumbled
  • 1 recipe Lime/Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.  Position rack in center of oven.  In a large bowl, combine squash and pear slices with olive oil.  Toss well and transfer in a single layer to a jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle with a little Kosher salt.  Roast, flipping with a spatula halfway through and rotating the pan until they are soft and caramelized; approximately 20-25 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Toss the greens with 2 Tbsp of the warm vinaigrette, salt and place on a platter or individual plates. Scatter the squash cubes and pear slices on top, then sprinkle with almonds, tart cherries and feta.  Pass extra dressing.

Lime/Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil (non-Paleo)
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lime zest
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots and a little salt and saute, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned.  Remove from heat.  Let cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small heatproof bowl, whisk the vinegar, maple syrup, lime juice and zest, mustard, and a few grinds of fresh pepper.  Whisk the warm oil into the vinegar mixture until emulsified.  Season to taste with more juice, salt or pepper.

Serve 2 as a main, 4 as a side

Proof that salads can be fresh and roasted.  Opposites attract!

Proof that salads can be fresh and roasted. Opposites attract!

“Remember….even small changes can make a difference!”

Not The Same Old……..

Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

It’s always a little disconcerting, but change is hard.  I did things a certain way for so long that when the need arose to upend my culinary avenues, I experienced a certain sense of loss.  When this feeling would raise its ugly little head, I would repeat the following mantra, “Don’t cling to the past, embrace the new!”   I needed to set my “Curious George” free.  So I did.  Similar to learning a new instrument, a new sport, a new hobby; cooking within certain parameters didn’t have to be boring.

I also recognized that my personality and sensibilities also needed to be acknowledged.  For example, my addiction to snacking (particularly crunchy, salty) would have to be addressed.  I found that the “out of sight, out of mind” approach worked well after I got through the first 2 weeks.  I also had healthy choices on hand, like apples with almond butter, when I needed a snack.  I have always chaffed under restrictions, so I didn’t want to follow some plan like a religion.  This requires that I honestly evaluate how I feel after each meal.  Even the new can lead to healthy habits over time.  I would need to befriend: patience and persistence.

The past week here in southwest Michigan, has been bitter cold.  With wind chills as low as -25 degrees, our wood-burner has been working overtime. Soups and stews were definitely on the docket. We stocked up on winter squash in late fall at the farmer’s market: butternut, spaghetti and acorn.  I’m particularly fond of butternut.  Its so versatile.  When it comes to soup, butternut is my go to squash.  Typically made with Granny Smith apple to accentuate its inherent sweetness; I always lean toward the savory.  I also prefer to roast the butternut, rather than boil it.  It takes a little longer, but the depth it creates is worth it.  I nestle in some Bosch pear slices while I’m at it as an unexpected garnish; and the oven helps keep our kitchen warm.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 butternut squash, halved with seeds removed
  • 3 cups homemade chicken stock (or gluten-free in a carton)
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp Maldon salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp Braggs apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 lb bacon, chopped, fried until crisp, drained on paper towels
  • 1 Bosch pear, cored and cut into sixths,
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh chives
Roasted Bosch pears

Roasted Bosch pears

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

  1.  Cut two butternut squash in half from top to bottom, remove seeds, rub cut sides with olive oil and place cut side down on a jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until soft when pierce with fork.  Let cool.  Scoop out flesh from each half and puree in blender or food processor in batches with chicken broth. Set aside.
  2. Roast Bosch pear on parchment paper for 20-25 minutes until soft and caramelized.  Set aside.
  3. Heat small dry skillet on medium-high.  Add cumin seeds and toast until fragrant and slightly browned, about 1-2 minutes.  Grind in mortar and pestle.  Set aside.  If mortar and pestle is not available, use ground cumin.
  4. In large pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil on medium heat.  Add shallots and saute until soft about 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic, cumin, ginger, salt, cinnamon and Aleppo pepper and saute an additional 2 minutes, being careful not to brown.
  5. Add pureed squash, chicken broth and apple cider vinegar to pot.  Simmer on medium-low until heated through.
  6. Serve in individual bowls.  Garnish each bowl with a slice of roasted pear, sprinkle with bacon and chives.

Serves 4-6

Savory and warming butternut squash soup

Savory and warming butternut squash soup

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.  It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”     —–Albert Einstein