Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce

  • cranberries1 bag fresh cranberries
  • Juice of two oranges
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Zest of one orange
  • 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1 cup sugar (or use stevia or honey for paleo)
  • Fresh grated cinnamon to taste.
  1. Place berries in a non-reactive saucepan.
  2. Add orange juice, water, sugar, ginger, and orange zest.
  3. Boil until cranberries begin to pop.
  4. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until cranberries release their pectin and sauce is desired consistency.
  5. Add cinnamon to taste.
  6. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

Perfect Hash Browns

hbMy family loves potatoes. In fact, frozen hash browns were one of the first foods my now-teenaged son cooked for himself when he was about 7. The problem with the frozen and pre-packaged hash browns, however, is that they often contain preservatives, chemicals, and lots of salt. They also don’t taste all that great. The good news is that making them from scratch is ridiculously easy. They taste better and are less likely to contain ingredients you don’t want in your diet. Here’s how I make perfect homemade hash browns.

  1. Peel a few potatoes. I really like russets or Yukon golds for this purpose, but you can use any type.
  2. Using a box grater (or a food processor), grate the potatoes and set them aside.
  3. Halve an onion (I like sweet onions for this) and remove the skin.
  4. Grate 1/2 an onion per two potatoes used, and mix the onion in thoroughly with the potato.
  5. Next, you need to squeeze all of the excess moisture out of the potatoes and onions. This is critical for browning. I like to use a potato ricer to do this, but you could also place them in a colander and press with a spoon until no more moisture comes out, or wring them wrapped in a towel. Try to remove as much moisture as you can.
  6. Place potatoes and onions on a clean paper towel and blot away any excess moisture.
  7. Heat a few tablespoons of unsalted butter or olive oil for dairy-free on the stovetop over medium high heat in a non-stick pan.
  8. Spread the potatoes and onions in a thin layer on the preheated pan. Allow potatoes to sit in contact with the pan until brown – about 4-5 mints (or longer, depending on the temperature of the stove).
  9. Turn potatoes and repeat.
  10. Season to taste with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.
  11. Serve immediately.

Guacamole

guacEver since I was a kid, I have loved avocados. My favorite way to eat them is naked in all their glory, sliced. They are creamy, sweet, and a little grassy with a soft, smooth texture. This past weekend, I mixed up a batch of my second favorite way to eat avocados for a Super Bowl party.

Learning to make great guacamole is not difficult. Many people have turned to premade seasoning packets, but to quote my son, “Those are no good.”

While it seems like opening a spice packet and mixing it in to a bunch of smooshed avocados is, indeed, easier than making it homemade, it really isn’t so much less time consuming that it makes up for the vast difference in flavor between what Tanner calls, “the homemade stuff and the fake stuff.”

Before I give you my guacamole recipe, here are some tips:

  • Hass avocados make the best guacamole. Those are the ones with the dark green, pebbly skin.
  • Avocados should be heavy, but when you place a gentle pressure with the thumb, the flesh underneath should yield but not sink.
  • The skin should be dark green – almost black, but not wrinkled or shrunken. This chart shows you the differences between unripe, perfect, and overripe.
  • I include jalapenos or Anaheim peppers in my guacamole. Anaheim are slightly milder than jalapeno, and both can be made milder by carefully removing the inner ribs and seeds.
  • I like to roast my peppers before putting them in the guacamole, which makes them milder and adds complexity. Roasting is easy. Brush the outside of the peppers with a little olive oil and place under a broiler. As skin browns, turn the peppers a quarter turn and then another and another until the entire pepper is browned. Cool, and then peel the skin and remove seeds and ribs.
  • For a smokier guacamole, replace your peppers with minced chipotle chile.
  • Carefully clean and dry the cilantro. Wet cilantro can make your finished product watery. Remove as many of the stems as possible before chopping.
  • Mix up the guacamole a few hours ahead and let rest in the refrigerator to allow flavors to blend. To keep the guacamole bright green, place plastic wrap directly on its surface, and then cover the entire bowl with plastic.
  • I like to leave my guacamole a little chunky. It makes it far more interesting with chunks of veggies and avocado. I semi-mash about half to 3/4 of the avocados, leaving a few lumps, and then I cube the rest and toss them in at the end.
  • Many people like tomatoes in their guacamole. I don’t add them. I think it makes the guacamole too watery, and I only like tomatoes when they are in season. If you want to add them, go for it, but remove the inner juice and seeds before adding to avoid watering down your finished product.

Here’s the recipe.

Guacamole

  • 2 Hass avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 1/4 of a red onion, finely minced
  • 1/2 of a bunch of cilantro, washed with stems removed, and finely chopped
  • 1-2 peppers (jalapeno or Anaheim), seeds removed and finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Sea salt to taste
  1. Place avocados, onion, cilantro, peppers and garlic in a bowl and mix to combine, lightly mashing with a fork to the desired consistency.
  2. Squeeze lime juice over the top and mix in thoroughly.
  3. Add a little salt and taste for seasoning. Continue to add salt a little at a time, tasting after each addition until you reach the desired level.

Tips for Perfect Mashed Potatoes

mashedHere are my tips for the perfect potatoes.

1. Select flavorful potatoes to start. I really like Yukon Gold potatoes. I also like russets, which make delicious mashed potatoes.

2. Boil the potatoes in their skins. This keeps the part of the potato you will be using from becoming water logged. Once the potatoes are boiled, remove the skins.

3. Whatever you do, don’t beat the potatoes. Using any kind of a mechanical beater will remove lumps, but it also binds the starches in potatoes and makes them gluier. Instead, I use a potato ricer. Put manageable chunks of the peeled hot potatoes through the ricer into a bowl.

4. Don’t use milk or cream. It creates gloppy potatoes. Instead, melt some unsalted butter (using unsalted allows you to control the amount of salt in your dish) and pour it over riced potatoes. Give the potatoes a quick mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. This keeps the taters fluffy because the fat from the butter coats the starches, keeping it light.

5. Before you serve, taste the potatoes for seasoning and add sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper a little at a time until you get the right seasoning. You need some salt, because salt enhances flavors, but you probably don’t need nearly as much as you think. That’s why I suggest adding a little at a time, tasting, and adjusting as you go.

Ginger Maple Applesauce

Homemade ApplesauceYesterday was the perfect fall morning at the Olympia farmers’ market. There was a crisp chill in the air, which significantly reduced crowd size. Still, given the offerings available this time of year at the market, the chill was worth it. Along with a dizzying array of organic apples from Washington’s bumper apple crops, there were large ears of corn, juicy plums, chanterelles, squash, pole beans, red and white raspberries, concord grapes, and many others. One of my favorite types of produce from fall in Washington State is pluots. A cross between a plum and an apricot, the pluot is like a juicy, sweet plum. If you come across these tasty stone fruit, give them a try. I think you’ll love them.

As far as I am concerned, however, the star of the show for fall is apples. I love apple season with a passion approaching my love for writing. In fact, as soon as the days grow shorter and the leaves start to change color, I begin cooking with apples. The dogs love it. They gather at my feet as I peel and chop, accepting tiny slices of apple they chew with great gusto. (Tip – never give your pets apple seeds, which contain traces of cyanide.) At the market yesterday, the variety was amazing. Braeburn, Fuji, Jazz, Lady Alice, Gravenstein, Pink Lady, Rose, Honeycrisp…it’s an apple lovers paradise.

I enjoy baking apple pies, crisps, cakes, and turnovers. I also like making a simple applesauce, which I will be making today from the organic Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and Jazz apples I bought yesterday.

When cooking with apples, I take a minimalist approach. I like to let the flavors of the fruit shine through. This doesn’t mean lots of sugar or heavy spices. Instead I use just enough to enhance the natural flavors of the apples instead of overpowering them.  Some of my favorite spices to use include fresh grated nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and fresh grated ginger. I also usually use just a touch of lemon zest and lemon juice to prevent the apples from turning brown and bring out the tart notes.

Another trick for baking with apples is using a few different varieties in one dish. For instance, in my pies I often mix Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples. In fact, Pink Lady apples are my favorite eating and baking apples, followed closely by Honeycrisp.

Today, I will be making a simple applesauce. Recipe below.

Ginger Maple Applesauce

  • 4 Pink Lady apples – Peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 4 Honeycrisp apples,  peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 4 Jazz apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 T. fresh ginger root, grated
  1. Place apples and water in a large pot and simmer on the stove top, covered until apples begin to break down, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and stir, mashing apples together.
  3. Stir in ginger root and maple syrup.
  4. If you prefer a smooth applesauce instead of a rustic one, cool and process in a food processor or food mill.

Cipollini Onions

cipolliniI scored a true bonanza in this week’s CSA box: cipollini onions. These small, flat onions have an amazing sweetness with less bite than typical onions, and they roast up to a creamy, toasted sweetness. I enjoy roasting them with potatoes or tossing them with a balsamic glaze. If you’ve never tried cipollini onions before, look for them and give them a try. You’ll see exactly why they are my very favorite onion.

Roasted Red Potatoes and Cipollini

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. baby red potatoes
  • 1 lb. peeled cipollini onions
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss onions and potatoes in olive oil and spread on a baking sheet.
  3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and rosemary.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes, until potatoes are soft.

Balsamic Glazed Cipollini (Cipollini Agrodolce)

Ingredients

  • 2 lb. cipollini onions, peeled
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter (or olive oil for dairy free)
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 c. quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • Dash salt

Method

  1. In a 12″ saute pan, melt the butter until it bubbles and foams.
  2. Add the onions, browning on them on all sides, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add sugar, vinegar, and water.
  4. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, until onions are el dente.
  5. Remove lid and simmer until liquid reduces to syrup.
  6. Sprinkle with rosemary and salt to taste.