November 27, 2013

Persimmon cranberry sauce

It seems like almost every year I come up with a new way to make cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. Whether it's using clementines and ginger or oranges, the cranberries that come to our table are different almost each year. This year I decided to incorporate persimmon, specifically the fuyu persimmon. Persimmons are an underutilized fruit, in my opinion. They are in season this time of year and can be found in many grocery stores. There are some varieties that are native to North America and they grown here as well. Persimmons are a lovely burnt orange color when ripe and are very sweet and delicious. Since they are so sweet, they provide a nice counter-balance in flavor to the tart cranberries. 

This recipe is a cinch to throw together, as are most fresh cranberry sauces. I hope that you will consider making a fresh cranberry sauce this year if you don't already. This would also make a great addition to upcoming holiday dinners and would pair nicely with many roasted meats.  

November 25, 2013

Creamy jalapeno spaghetti squash and chicken bake

Welcome to Week 4 of 12 Weeks of Winter Squash! If you have a winter squash recipe on your blog this week, feel free to post it using the linky below. I love to see all the new and creative winter squash recipes each week.

This week I created a recipe that combines spaghetti squash and chicken with a creamy and spicy jalapeno sauce. Now that the snow has arrived, I've been craving casseroles, soups, stews, and all those stick-to-your-ribs type of meals. Plus, I have been looking for ways to make more frugal dishes, and that includes finding ways to stretch meat in our meals. It also helps that the spaghetti squash and peppers I used in this recipe were from my father-in-law's garden. I have been making a big effort lately to create meals around what we have at home. While there are still some things that I want to make that involve a big shopping trip, I'm trying to limit those and be creative with what we have on hand. This dish allowed me to stretch one large organic free-range chicken breast into four servings. We ate this along with a green salad tossed with oil and vinegar for a full meal. Don't be afraid of using the jalapenos (even some seeds), pepper jack, and potentially some cayenne - the spaghetti squash, chicken, and milk are bland on their own and need these bold flavors!

November 21, 2013

Pumpkin gingerbread cookies

I spent some time recently with my nine year old cousin. While I was watching her, I thought she might enjoy helping make some cookies. I was partially right... she wasn't very excited about the idea at first, but once she got on an apron and starting helping me measure and stir, she become more excited. The cookies turned out pretty good, though were larger than I had planned -- it's okay though - it worked and they were delicious. These cookies have a hint of pumpkin flavor in them along with the flavors and cakey texture of a good gingerbread. So once the cookies were finished, we both enjoyed a warm one from the oven. After they cooled, I packed up some of them for her to take home and share. I always hope that cooking with kids inspires them to want to cook throughout their lives and help bring them a little bit closer connection to their food.

This recipe ended up making about 2 dozen cookies. You can make them smaller and probably get about 3 dozen out of them (decrease the cooking time). These cookies are a nice transition from fall to winter in their flavors.

November 18, 2013

Chorizo and black bean stuffed delicata squash boats

This is the third week of 12 Weeks of Winter Squash and I'm happy to be now be sharing the linky tool in my posts for those of you who also want to participate. I'm glad to be part of this great group of bloggers, spearheaded by Heather from girlichef and Joanne from Eats Well With Others, who celebrate one of my most favorite foods -- winter squash! Join us by linking up your winter squash recipe at the bottom of this post.

So delicata squash has to be one of my most favorite food discoveries over the past few years. I never ate one of these little beauties until a few years ago. If you haven't tried these squash yet, please add them to your grocery list right now! They have a dense, sweet flesh that tastes like a cross between butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and corn to me. They are small and you can eat the skin once it is cooked, plus the layer of flesh is relatively thin, making them perfect for stuffing and relatively quick-cooking. The flavor of delicatas often makes me lean in the direction of southwest flavors and these boats are no exception. The sweetness of the squash paired really nicely with the spiced-up smoky filling. Plus, you don't have to scoop out the filling and squash, just cut it across with a knife and east everything! I allow one squash (two halves per person) and this filling should fill 3-4 squash.

November 14, 2013

Chana masala

The weather here really changed quickly. It went from a relatively warm fall to windy, cold, and our first snow of the season a couple days ago. No matter how old I get, there's always something magical about the first snow of the year. I'm not sure I'd ever be able to live somewhere without well-defined seasons because I enjoy the changes in the weather and the changes in the natural world so much. The snow is melted now, but it is still cold an windy. The last of the leaves are getting blown off the trees and I can hear them rustling along the street. 

Days like this make you want a warm and comforting meal and my version of Chana masala is perfect for a cold evening. This dish is simple and is another one that is pretty frugal while not skimping on flavor and quality. As with most Indian dishes, it does require a lot of spices, so if you don't already have these spices on hand, they can be expensive to buy all at once. But, a well-stocked spice rack is a good investment for cooks who want to try different cuisines. This dish is made with dried chickpeas, but you could skip that part and use canned if you want. I am finding that dried are tastier and cheaper, so I've been trying to use them more often. This dish will serve about four people.

November 11, 2013

Pumpkin swirl brownies

Autumn is my favorite time of year, as I have said many times before. I feel like everyone is rushing to Christmas the past few years as soon as Halloween is over. On my drive home from work on Halloween, I saw that the local mall had hung up all their outside Christmas decor and even a couple radio stations began playing nothing but carols the day after Halloween! That is unacceptable to me. It is still fall and there's still another holiday before we get to Christmas. I enjoy Christmas, but it's still harvest time, there are still leaves on the trees, it is still pumpkin and winter squash time. I'm taking back fall! I have no desire to rush away the autumn breezes and crispy leaves. Last weekend we had our nephew overnight and one of the things we had during his stay were these pretty wonderful brownies that combine pumpkin and chocolate together in one dense and chewy treat. These tasty brownies are adapted from Martha Stewart and were a big hit. I adjusted the spices because the original recipe calls for cayenne pepper and I didn't think a 5 year old would like that (I do use it in  these Mexican brownies though) and I lowered the sugar and changed the oil. I also changed the pan size which resulted in thinner brownies (but I thought they were a nice size).

November 7, 2013

Chinese five-spice pork over spaghetti squash

So I have this bottle of Chinese five-spice that has been lurking around my spice rack since I bought it to make this super delicious recipe. Recently, I started using it in oatmeal with apples and love it. I've been trying to come up with more ways to use this delicious spice blend. I decided to try it out with another pork recipe. We have a ton of spaghetti squash to use, so I thought the pork and spaghetti squash would be an interesting pairing along with the spices of cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger, and clove - plus very seasonal. The flavor profile of this dish turned out great. My only complaint was the texture -- the pork came out too much like the spaghetti squash. The next time, I think I would cube the pork and then stir fry it like in the recipe I referenced earlier. This way it would be chunky and have some crispness to it. Either way, it was delicious and is another dish that is making me enjoy spaghetti squash a bit more... This recipe will serve about four people.

November 4, 2013

Green tomato and apple chutney

I have one last canning project to share with you for the season. This was one of my last canning projects and it is one you can still do if you have some green tomatoes lingering on your plants and some tart apples lingering in the refrigerator. It was driving me crazy that we had so many green tomatoes on our plant. I pickled a few jars, but wanted to try something different with them as well. In the past, I've made this plain green tomato chutney and froze it, but I wanted one that was canning safe (no freezer room plus I want to gift them) and I really wanted to incorporate apples because we had so many. Chutney is something that is easy to make. You really just chop and measure the ingredients and then cook it down in a pot for a while, giving it an occasional stir. These jars of chutney will make lovely holiday gifts as they are perfectly spiced to enjoy during the winter. I am aiming for a simple holiday season this year and part of that is homemade gifts. This chutney pairs beautifully with roasted meats, especially pork, turkey, and chicken, and I think it would be excellent with duck. It's perfect for a cheese plate or on a grilled panini with your favorite meat and cheese. I used this recipe from SB Canning. I am putting the whole recipe below with some minor modifications (I also made a half batch, which yielded 3 pints). As always, you should follow directions carefully when canning and use trusted recipes.