Sunday, November 30, 2014

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Super Foods

These Brussels Sprouts really satisfy a craving for salty and crunchy. Sautéed with a whole thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, 4 cloves of sliced fresh garlic, a few tablespoons of soy sauce and a sprinkle of brown sugar. They are just what the healthy comfort food doctor ordered. They are high in fiber, antioxidants, folates, vitamin C, A, K and help protect you from cancer. So roast these up and serve yourself a heaping pile of salty, sweet, crunchy brussels. 


Ingredients 


Pound or so of Brussel Sprouts
4 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon of Brown Sugar
4 cloves of garlic
fresh ginger
EVOO


Preparing: 

Remove outer leaves of the brussels sprouts, wash well and trim off bottom stem. Let drain. Cut brussels in half. 



Cooking:

In a large skillet or wok, heat about 2 tablespoons of EVOO. Add brussels to the skillet, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile slice 4 cloves of garlic, and chop up a large, thumb sized piece of peeled fresh ginger. Add them to the skillet. Stirring frequently. Add in the soy sauce and the brown sugar. An optional sprinkle of sesame oil adds a little extra flavor. You can substitute Bragg's for soy sauce. When the brussels have softened, browned slightly and soaked up most of the liquid, transfer to a sheet pan. Roast in the broiler until the outer leaves are brown and crispy. Stirring them frequently. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Part Two: Cranberry, Clementine Crystallized-Ginger Relish

Relishing the season 

Below you will find the recipe for this tart, yet sweet Cranberry Relish. First, of course, I have shared some Thanksgiving memories and thoughts. Also given a few tips on the brining process for the Turkey. 

Family, Food and Travel

Thanksgiving! Does it amaze anyone else that the end of November crept up so quickly? And we all know that from now until January 1st will zip by more quickly than you can bat an eye. This year will be my fourth Thanksgiving spent with family, after many years of absence from the Thanksgiving table, while I was on a quest to experience the world. Thanksgiving has created many memories. 

Growing up in Anson, in the early primary years, our small elementary school classes would have a Thanksgiving feast each year. We each brought in a dish to share, and I think would even dress up like a Pilgrim or an "Indian". In Maine, community Thanksgiving feast, meant moose venison stew and Indian pudding.  I remember the excitement of getting to leave school early for the 5 hour drive to my grandparents house in South Windsor, Connecticut. We would have a very traditional Thanksgiving. I remember how the food would get packed up so quickly, there was no chance for picking or evening grazing. Sometimes on the weekends we would head into Manhattan to visit my other Grandmother. This was even more exciting. The hustle, bustle and stimulation of New York was my favorite thing in the world. I loved visiting 6th and 5th avenue and seeing all the Christmas window scenes with my Jewish Grandma at Macy's and the other stores. New York City was my favorite place on earth. I think that is where my love of different foods began. 
This evening's beautiful sunset

When I got older, and my Dad's parents had passed, my aunt took over Thanksgiving in Vermont. Her husband was an archeologist, which of course, I wanted to be. His artifacts were so fascinating to me. In my teen  years, I kind of stopped participating in Thanksgiving for a couple years. The year of my 17th Birthday, which must have been my senior year, my friend Mary and I took a bus to the city. What a luxury staying at my Grandmother's West Village apartment, alone. We spent the morning working in a Shelter, handing out meals to the homeless. An old Vietnam Vet, who was very charmed by me, or perhaps me by him, still sticks in my mind to this day. The rest of the afternoon was not what you might expect from two 17 year old girls alone in New York City. We didn't spend the evening trying to sneak into bars or buying alcohol, but instead made a box of Stovetop Stuffing, opened a can of Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce and both fell asleep on the couch watching TV. And here we are, fast forward about 15 years and  I'm the one who has found the love in exploring new recipes, and taking on the turkey. 

Giving Thanks

There are days when I feel heavy and weighted with all the tasks and responsibilities that I must carry out. It can seem so overwhelming, and some of them can seem and can be downright defeating. Sometimes it feels like I am just treading water, in this whirlpool of things swirling around me. It could be easy to get caught in that trap, of self pity, resentment, self doubt. But when I let myself slow down, and really look at what I have in my life, and the fact that I keep afloat, with a positive attitude and keep pushing forward, I remember how much I have to be thankful for.  I know each of our own experience is relative, but when I listen to the news, hear personal stories from friends and colleagues, or family situations of the children I work with, there is no room to let those heavy things pull me down.

So take some time to slow down, amidst the rush of the holiday season. The travel, shopping, cooking, preparing the house for guests. Stop for a minute, reflect on those memories you have of your Nana who passed on the trinket you are dusting. Wake up early and go to your favorite spot to watch a sunrise. Enjoy the soft pastel hues that awaken the earth, or the vibrant pinks and reds that tell you the weather is changing. Inhale the earthy smell of the decomposing leaves, that will feed mother earth, the same way she fed them. Tell someone how much you appreciate them and why. Thank yourself, for providing a loving, safe home for your children; putting in that extra time and work at your job; studying hard to get that grade that might have seemed out of reach; the work you do in your community; making someone laugh or smile. Create your own list of thanks. Its really something we should do on a weekly if not daily basis, slow down, breath deeply and give gratitude. 

Update on the Turkey and Brine Recipes 

I've made some tweaks to the Turkey blog. I've added some more tasty ingredients to the brine. I was off to such a good start today. Picked up the whopping 17.75 pounder at Rosemont, got the last of my herbs and sundries at Whole Foods, and had this beautiful fragrant brine. I poured into the bag, no problem there. But then the OCD me, tried to clean out some of the spilled liquid from the cooler, and holding the brine bag, brine, turkey and all, KASPLOOSH! I now had a very fragrant kitchen, as the liquid surrounded my feet, and seeped beneath every nook and cranny of the kitchen, throw rugs and all. So needless to say, I mopped the floor, ran out to restock the ingredients, and came home and started again. Life just never quits with throwing those learning experiences at you. 

Cranberry Clementine Crystallized Ginger Relish

INGREDIENTS

12 ounces of cranberries
2 clementine oranges (washed and unpeeled)
3/4 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped crystallized ginger (I supposed you could use the sugarless kind)
1/4 cup of marmalade

Step 1: 
Wash the cranberries and carefully pick out any rotten ones. Strain in a colander. 
Wash the clementines.

Step 2: 
In a food processor, coarsely chop the cranberries using the pulse button. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl.

Step 3: 
In the food processor, coarsely chop the clementines using the pulse button. Transfer to the mixing bowl. 

Step 4: 
With a sharp knife, chop the crystallized ginger, 1/2 cup worth, and add to the mixing bowl. 

Step 5: 
Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Cover and refrigerate. This can be made up to a week in advance. 


Happy cooking, basting, roasting and baking and have a very happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Thanksgiving Part One: Purchasing, Brining, Roasting the Turkey and Making the Gravy

Making your Masterpiece

I think the most difficult part of this post, is giving you all the steps before the big day. I don't know about you guys but, I definitely only brine and roast a turkey once a year. In fact it has been two years since this beautiful bird. I will include the recipes I used, and any useful information that I remember. I am sure there were little tweaks I made here and there, and I will not be able to update them, of course until Thanksgiving Day. 
This will be a two part blog. Part One, will be about the turkey. Part two will include the expected story and narration, as well as my favorite and best in the world Cranberry Ginger-Tangerine Relish. It has been pleasing crowds for the past 12 years. 

Purchasing Your Bird

In my family we have 4-5 adults and 1 child who eat the turkey. Some of those adults are more modest eaters, and others, well they enjoy the Thanksgiving stuffing and nap on the couch afterwards. I also like to have plenty of leftovers for sandwiches and Turkey Pot Pie. This being said I buy a bird between 12-15 pounds, aiming for the 15. I purchase my turkey through Rosemont Market and Bakery . It isn't cheap, but it is so worth it. I believe the price is $4.99/lb. But again it is worth it. This bird is from Serendipity Acres in North Yarmouth, Maine. It is pasture raised, and basically a happy bird. Rosemont offers a cheaper option, from Maine-ly Poultry at .50 less per pound. Last year I bought a bird from Trader Joes and it just wasn't the same. No flavor, and much drier. I swear by the local happy bird. 

Brining the Bird

This was a daunting task the first time I brined a bird 3 years ago. I have kind of figured it out now, and don't worry so much about something going wrong, as I did the first year I brined. I think it definitely makes for a more flavorful and moist bird and those who have eaten the turkey since I, the ex-vegetarian (yup, for 15 years) took over, strongly agree.  I have to give credit to Martha Stewart for the roasting recipe. 


Getting Started
What you will need for the brine


An oven roasting bag 
You can get these in your local supermarket, 2 to a box and they only cost a couple bucks
(double them up so they won't break, this happened to me and I had to start over)

5 gallon container
I use my cooler, scrubbed out clean. The turkey fits perfectly and is easy to maneuver 
especially since I travel 2 hours by car with the brining bird

Ingredients

7 quarts (28 cups) water
1 1/2 cups coarse salt
6 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon yellow or brown mustard seeds

3 anise pods (this is a strong flavor, but a couple more could be good) 
1 tsp. celery seeds
1 fresh whole turkey (12 to 20 pounds), patted dry
(set aside neck and giblets for the roasting recipe below, which you can then use the drippings for your gravy)
1 bottle Sauvignon Blanc
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 bunch fresh thyme
5-7 stems of fresh rosemary 
1 bunch fresh sage
1 lemon
(zested, then peeled and sliced)
1 orange 
(zested, then peeled and sliced)
zest of the lemon and orange
What's Next?
 Making the Brine 
A day before roasting bird, bring 1 quart water, the salt, bay leaves, and spices (garlic, onion,  sage, lemon and orange zest and slices do not get added here) to a simmer, stirring until salt has dissolved. 
Let cool for 5 minutes. 
You can Brine the bird for up to 36 hours before roasting. 

The Long Soak
Line a 5-gallon container (or your cooler) with a large brining/ oven-roasting bag. 

Put the turkey in the bag. 

Add cooled salt and spice mixture, along with remaining ingredients and 6 quarts water. 

Tie the bag closed.  If turkey is not submerged, weight it with a plate. 

Refrigerate for 24-32 hours, flipping turkey once.

If there isn't room in your refrigerator, place the bagged bird inside a cooler, and surround it with ice, replenishing as necessary to keep it at 40 degrees.

Ready to Roast
Remove turkey from brine 1 hour before you're ready to roast it. Pat dry inside and out. 

Let stand for up to 1 hour before roasting, it is perfect time to prepare for roasting it. 

Preparing and Roasting the Brined Bird  


While your turkey is standing for an hour, follow these instructions for making this fabulous turkey.

Brown Sugar Glazed Roast Turkey 


Ingredients

  • 1 whole turkey (about 12-15 pounds), thawed if frozen, rinsed, and patted dry 
  • (neck and giblets chopped into 2-inch pieces; liver discarded)
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • Non stick cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Salt and ground pepper
  • 2/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest, plus 2 tablespoons orange juice
Kitchen twine 
  • (the guys in the butcher department at my grocery store are always happy to just give me some) 
  • Meat Thermometer

Roasting 

Step 1:  Your brined turkey should already be relaxing for an hour. In the mean time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees, placing the oven racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven. Place neck, giblets, carrots, celery, and onion in a heavy-bottomed metal roasting pan. I have used a disposable pan, but it almost always has torn or sprung a leak. Place a roasting rack over the veggies and coat the rack with cooking spray. If you don't have a roasting rack, I have rigged up a cookie cooling wire rack to use. 

Step 2:  Tuck wing tips underneath body of turkey. Tie legs together with kitchen twine. Rub turkey all over with 2 tablespoons butter; season with salt and pepper. Place turkey on rack in pan; roast on bottom oven rack until golden brown, 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Add 2 cups water to pan; roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of a thigh reads 125 degrees, about 1 hour. 

Step 3:  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring vinegar, brown sugar, and orange juice to a boil over high, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is syrupy, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 tablespoons butter and orange zest. 

Step 4:  When thermometer reads 125 degrees, brush turkey with glaze. Rotate pan and roast, brushing turkey with remaining glaze every 15 minutes, until thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh reads 165 degrees, 30 to 45 minutes. It may be slightly longer if using a larger bird. (tent turkey with foil if browning too quickly). Transfer turkey to a platter. Loosely tent with foil and let rest 30 minutes before carving. Letting the bird rest, really allows the juices to distribute and the bones relax, making a juicier more cooperative turkey. Reserve pan with drippings for gravy



Making the Gravy

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons of flour for every 1 cup of water
pan drippings from roasted turkey

Step 1: Separate the carrots, celery, and onions from the liquid. (Those veggies are really tasty). Pour the liquid into a glass measuring cup. Allow the liquid to sit for a few moments so that you may skim off any excess fat.  Separate the neck meat from the bone, and include it with the drippings liquid. 

Step 2: In a jar, mix together flour and water. Shake well and try to eliminate any lumps. 

Step 3: Poor the drippings into a heavy sauce pan. Slowly add the flour water mixture and whisk constantly to avoid lumps. When the mixture is the desired consistency, remove from heat and sieve if desired. 



The Grin of Satisfaction

You will be so pleased with this perfectly browned turkey. The skin will be crispy and flavorful, and the meat, juicy and savory. To really jazz up your bird, have some fruit and herbs to garnish it with. I found some tangerines with the leaves still attached, used a pomegranate and some rosemary and sage. 


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes

Spicing up the Season with Pumpkin Pancakes


Early mornings on the weekend mean I can make Zsuleikah and I a special breakfast and have left over batter for the beginning of the week. Pumpkin is full of Vitamin A and fiber and has a significant source of iron. I make all my pancakes with mostly whole wheat flour and usually add wheat germ or ground flax seed. Zsuleikah loves these pancakes and was very excited that she woke up early this morning to help me make them. She loves leveling off the measuring spoons and measuring out the baking soda and other ingredients. This is a great fall recipe, sweet, satisfying and hearty. Perfect to perk you up a bit in the quickly cooling days of November. 

Its amazing the shifts that happen so quickly. In my body, nature, and the moods of people around me. As I sit here now, looking out my foggy windows, a blizzard of golden leaves dance their way to a soft quiet blanket of their predecessors. The sun is low in the sky and illuminates the contrast between inky black branches, twisting outwards and upwards, and the ever fewer light loving lemony leaves that cling to them. My muscles feel twisted and stiff like the branches of those trees, even sometimes creaking as I stretch and move, just as they do as the wind rocks them to and fro. But in the month of thanks and appreciation, I am gracious. Slowing down means I have time to focus more on my daughter and being more thoughtful about activities that will keep her engaged and growing. We can't just go spend a day at the beach. This past week that has meant, going on a neighborhood walk and collecting Gingko leaves and pressing them in books, swimming at the Y and making handmade birthday cards with our leaf collection. The change of seasons makes me thankful for the natural beauty of the state of Maine, and how each day it is a little different. First the emerald greens of summer, followed by swaths of oranges, and reds, then by yellows in the trees. The delicate crystals of frost which frame each leaf on the ground, topped off by the glistening coating of white that made the world so still yesterday, creating a fairytale of a world as I drove to work over the rolling farmlands of Gray and New Gloucester. 

Enjoy the weekend, indulge yourself with this sweet breakfast, a cup of dark roast coffee, and a few hours of nurturing, whatever that means for you and give thanks in what ever small or large way you can. 

Also please check back early this coming week for some great Thanksgiving recipes. How to brine a turkey, roast a turkey and the best Cranberry Ginger-tangerine Relish ever. 





Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1/4 cup wheat germ or ground flax seed
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs
1 can of pumpkin puree
1 2/3 cup milk 
4 tablespoons of melted butter or oil 



Step 1:
In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and spices and set aside. 

Step 2: 
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, pumpkin, butter, and milk. Beat well. 

Step 3: 
Slowly mix wet ingredients into the dry an mix till they have all been combined well. 

Step 4: 
Heat griddle. I use about a 1/3 cup of batter to make silver dollar size cakes. When small bubbles begin to form, flip. 

Serve with yogurt and Maine Maple Syrup. 







Sunday, November 2, 2014

And the Darkness Creeps In


Mourning the Light; Savoring the Warmth

Slowly it happens. Each morning, as I begin to stir, slowly stretching out my legs, and peering out through one barely open eye, I notice that the light is changing. It is quite drastically different from that of even the past months. Heavier, with warmer autumn tones, and it just hangs in the canopy of leaves which shade my bedroom windows. And then, I look out one morning and the leaves have begun to fall, the light no longer teases me each morning, as my alarm nags me to extend a leg into the coldness that is beyond my down comfort. I go through a number of emotions, denial, anger, rebellion, but they all lead me to the same conclusion, winter is knocking at the door, creeping in through the unsealed windows, beneath the doorjamb and into my still bronzed skin and my chilled  bones.  Every morning it reminds me, as I stand there, dumbfounded as to how this is my fifth winter in Maine and still I somehow have nothing to put on to combat this cold, these fifty degree mornings, which inevitably will drop another forty, if not fifty or even sixty degrees before its over. My skin crawls, the stubbles of hair on my legs stand on edge, as if they have experienced a ghost, and they have, the ghost of winter past. 


Today we turned back the clocks, now not only will darkness enwrap us in the morning when we rise, but it will meld with the charcoal smear of pavement,  the road that leads us home at the end of each day. And what better way for mother nature to greet that manmade time shift, but a snowstorm. Yes there is beauty in those flakes, white frozen crystals falling from the sky, contrasted by the fiery yellow maple leaves dancing behind them, but it seems incredulous, taunting us with what's to come. 

The end of October and beginning of November is a time of death, dormancy, reflection and remembrance. A time when the harvest has been reaped, when the Earth begins to slow down. It is a time when Catholics, Romans, Celts, and Aztec cultures celebrate the link between this world and that which lies beyond the living. Celebrated in many different ways, it is always a time of honoring deceased loved ones and ancestors. I can't help but feel that these practices tied so closely with the Earth's cycles and with the otherworldly have been present in my week, adding a veil of mystery, darkness and uncertainty to each day. 

So what better way to warm up and find comfort than with baking and eating comfort foods
from my childhood, all rooted in New England cuisine. The Anadama bread is a delicious, slightly sweet light cornmeal and molasses bread. I used the recipe I got years ago, from my dear friend Mary's mom, Shirley. I've got nothing on her, when it came to my final product today, I have some practice to do. There is nothing like walking into Shirley's farmhouse kitchen and smelling her candy , pies, and breads cooking and permeating the air heated by the antique cookstove in November and December. The Christmas season is usually spent, gorging on her homemade candies and other goodies. The Anadama rolls she makes are just out of this world. That accompanied with a good old bowl of Corn Chowder, warmed my soul and my chilled bones today. 

In trying to keep this post simple, as my dedication has diminished since returning to work in September, and focused as much on the writing as the recipe, I am just posting a photo of the Anadama Bread recipe. Mine, as you can tell from the pictures, turned out very dense and a little gooey. My failure was, not letting the cornmeal, molasses, butter and water mixture fully cool. I think this killed the yeast and didn't allow the bread to rise. I also substituted 2 cups of whole wheat flour, using 2 cups whole wheat and 2 cups white in total.  So enjoy the warmth and comfort of this recipe and please share your stories of the season and any alterations you make to the recipe. 


Ingredients:                                                                     

The coffee is not needed for the bread, just nice to sip in the process
1/2 Cup Cornmeal
1 Tsp. Salt
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup Molasses (use blackstrap for higher iron)
2 Packages of Yeast
2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
2 Cups White Flour
1 3/4 Cups water

Follow recipe on the card below. 
Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.




Step 1: 
Cornmeal, molasses, butter, salt, water mixture cooked. 






















Dough getting ready to rise. 
Final loaf. Again, if you do the yeast correctly, which I forgot about, you will have a much lighter, fluffier loaf of bread or great rolls.