Winter weather is setting in here in northern California and warm cozy desserts to share with friends are on the menu. My latest creation was a pear, apple cranberry crisp that was simple to make and my friends were just plain crazy about.
A crisp is not a difficult dessert to create-and that is why I love them. The truth is I had a bunch of Bartlett pears getting really ripe so I took advantage of them along with a big bowl of apples from the farmers market. Combined with a little leftover thanksgiving hankering for cranberry and some dried cranberries from the pantry we had a dish.
For many the ingredients for a crisp are at hand. Seasonal fruits can be used for the filling and toppings usually include butter, flour and sugar combined with oats, nuts and spices. I like to lead with the oats and include some wheat flour because nobody misses the white flour. I also like to add in more nuts (there’s those a-monds again) and spices.
The house will smell amazing and your friends will swoon. Top with healthful plain or vanilla Greek yogurt or a scoop of REAL vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!
- 3 large Bartlett Pears
- 3 Granny Smith Apples
- 1 cup Dried Cranberries
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 orange, zested and juiced
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 cups oatmeal
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup wheat flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup almonds, toasted and sliced (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 stick unsalted butter (cold)
- Preheat Oven to 375 deg F
- Peel, core and slice apples and pears and place in a large bowl. To the bowl add the cranberries, orange juice and zest, lemon juice and zest, flour and spices. Stir gently to combine.
- In a medium bowl combine oatmeal topping ingredients except the butter. Stir to combine.
- Cut cold butter into slices and work with a pastry blender to mix into dry ingredients. The goal is to have little pieces of butter distributed throughout the mixture. Pour fruit mixture into 13"x9"x2" glass baking dish top liberally with oatmeal topping.
- Bake for 45 minutes over a baking sheet (to catch any bubble overs). Check and rotate and bake up to 15 minutes longer until browned on top and bubbling.
- Note: You can substitute honey or maple syrup for the sugars and feel free to use even less sweetener. I have even used tablespoons of maple syrup on a crisp when I was covering super sweet summer stone fruits.
- Some may substitute coconut oil for butter and that works well also.
Oh the pomegranate! So much work so little pleasure…WHAT! No-Not really. What I mean is I can commit to freeing half of the arils from their shell then I get a little bored and I would never get enough to juice them. Looking for opportunities to easily include pomegranates I discovered a beautiful local cooking sauce; SkyLake Ranch Pomegranite Balsamic Grill Sauce. It has exactly the sweet and tart taste that I love about pomegranates only elevated. It is the perfect glaze for my holiday meatballs.
I love when savory meat dishes join together with bright flavors like herbs and tangy fruit and that is what this hearty appetizer gives you. It does not get heartier or more versatile than the meat ball and this is a must have dish for your Christmas party. Add in a pop of greens (of course!), lemon zest, herbs and pomegranate and you have the perfect starter or main. The pomegranate balsamic glaze can be made from reduced pomegranate juice with balsamic or purchased from a pom sauce purveyor. This is definitely an antioxidant boost upgrade from the vintage grape jelly meatball recipe and is great option for your throwback vintage Christmas cocktail party.
These meatballs start off on the stove top for perfect browning but finish in the slow cooker making for super easy party prep. Cheers!
PS: Sorry we ate these too fast to take pictures!
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs, Italian
- 2 tbs parsley leaves
- 1 tsp dried sage
- 1 pinch chili flakes (optional)
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups pomegranate balsamic grilling sauce
- 1/4 cup feta
- 1/4 cup parsley
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- Make meatballs by combining turkey, salt, pepper, garlic, breadcrumbs, herbs, and egg in a large bowl. Gently combine all ingredients using your hands or a spatula. Pinch off small hunks and roll in the palm of your hands to form into 1" balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Continue with all of the meatball mixture until meatballs are formed.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot add in 1/2 the meatballs but do not crowd the pan. Flip when just browned on one side, brown on other side and remove to paper towel lined tray. Continue with the remainder of the meatballs. Place meatballs in the bottom of your slow cooker. cover with pomegarnite sauce and set on low for 2-3 hours.
- When ready to serve plate meatballs top with feta, chopped parsley, and lemon zest. Plate on a beautiful serving dish with toothpicks.
- This recipe yields about 20 meatballs and I figured two per person on a buffet with other foods. Adjust as necessary to meet your party needs.
I love those big Greek salads that aren’t mixed yet. Where all the ingredients are separate but then each bite combines to yield an amazing dish. That was the inspiration behind my thanksgiving roasted veggie platter.
If you are not into roasted veggies yet, it is time to start. Roasting vegetables yields sweeter tasting and a crispier textures. These are the most common complaints about vegetables- usually from the two year olds I hang out with. Its bitter! Its mushy! Not when you roast them. We all know a few adults who could do better in the cruciferous and orange vegetable categories as well. The best thing about roasting vegetables is that it is so easy.
This recipe includes only the superstar favorites of fall; carrots, cauliflower, broccoli (or romanesco), butternut squash, beets and red onion. One oven and two trays of roasted veggies, shake up your vinaigrette, top with herbs and cheese and you have your holiday vegetable dish.
Time is everything during holiday food preparations and the good news is all of this can be completely made ahead and definitely prepped out ahead of time and stored until the big day.
- 4 carrots
- 1/2 head cauliflower
- 1/2 head broccoli or romanesco
- Butternut squash 1/2 small (1 1/2 cups of cubes)
- 3 ea Beets
- 1/2 Red Onion
- 1 sprig Rosemary, fresh
- 1/2 cup Blue Cheese, crumbled
- 1 orange, juiced
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/2 cup champagne vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Wash vegetables. Slice carrots into long pieces about 3" strips and cut cauliflower and broccoli into 1" florets. Carefully chop up butternut squash into 1" cubes. You can remove the skin or leave it-it is edible. On a plastic cutting board trim the tops and bottoms from the beets and use a peeler to remove the skin-this is pink and messy. Chop into 1/2" chunks. Quarter red onion and separate into pieces with a few layers. If preparing ahead of time place veggies in plastic bags and store in the refrigerator. Be sure and keep the beets in their own bag-they stain everything.
- Preheat oven to 375F. Add olive oil to the bags just to coat the veggies, sprinkle in salt and pepper, seal and toss to coat. You are going to get the beets started first so add some of them to each tray well separated. Place on cookie sheets in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Add the remainder of the olive oil coated and seasoned veggies to the tray. Give them plenty of space for browning. Place back in the oven for 15-20 more minutes and occasionally shake tray during the cooking process to move veggies around.
- While cooking add all ingredients for the dressing to a jar and shake and set aside.
- When veggies are fork tender, remove from the oven let cool enough to handle. Arrange by veggie or mixed up on a platter and top with dressing. Mound cheese in the middle of the platter. Sprinkle with fresh chopped rosemary.
- Veggies can be prepared the day ahead and brought to room temperature or re-warmed for serving then dressed.
If your still looking for something to contribute to Thanksgiving dinner or fretting over cranberries… fret no longer! Every holiday season I volunteer to bring the cranberry sauce. I do this first because I don’t want any perfectly smooth and overly sweet canned cranberry sauce and secondly because fresh sauce is super easy to make. Although in the past, I have experimented with adding spices like cinnamon and star anise, today I keep mine simple.
This recipe makes 3-1/2 pint jars and can be made a week ahead of time and kept refrigerated.
I made three variations to the prepared recipe below. The first jar I left plain, to the next I added a peeled and chopped mandarin, and to the last jar I added chopped toasted pecans and chopped orange segments. I plan to serve the plain and the orange cranberry sauces at the thanksgiving dinner table and the pecan orange sauce is going over a warmed brie cheese wheel as an appetizer.
Whole, fresh, brilliantly red, plump cranberries
Juice and Peel from one Orange
and Yes it really is that simple!
- 2-12oz bags fresh cranberries
- 1 cup granulated sugar (more or less to taste)
- 1 orange zested and then juiced
- 1 mandarin
- 1 Orange
- 1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and chopped
- Combine cranberries, sugar, orange juice and zest. Cook over medium-low heat stirring frequently. Cranberries will start to pop and sugar will dissolve. Lower heat and maintain at a low simmer. The cranberry sauce will become thick and spit a little so be careful. When the sauce is thick and falls in clumps it is done or around 10-15 minutes.
- Peel and course chop the mandarin and fold into one of the jars of prepared cranberry sauce.
- Peel and chop the orange and fold along with the pecans into one jar of the prepared cranberry sauce.
- I go with the less sugar to yield a sweet and tart flavor. Feel free to check on the sweetness of your sauce half way through the cooking process. Remove some sauce and allow it to cool and taste it. If it is not sweet enough for you add some more sugar and finish cooking.
I have to admit that the Fuyu persimmon is a fall favorite of mine. Just when I start to miss all berries of summer they show up in their bright shinny orange with a muted green cowlick like leaf on top. They are subtly sweet and juicy with an unnamable yet wonderful spiced aftertaste. They are the main ingredient in my current go to snack; I add a chopped fuyu persimmon on top of plain Greek yogurt and top it with cinnamon and a drizzle of honey.
The Fuyu is the flatish persimmon and eaten when firm. The other persimmon around now is the Hachiya which is pointed on the bottom and eaten only when mushy. I use the pulp of the hachiya for baking. Don’t confuse these and eat a Hachiya when it is firm or horrible tannic puckering things will happen to your tongue and mouth!
I am happy to announce that this month marks the start of the food holidays! I cant wait and I have already been planning and taste testing. First thing to come out of the kitchen in my preparations for Thanksgiving is a Persimmon Crostini. A simple crostini with formage blanc, fuyu persimmon and a pistachio topping. The crostini is layered with chili infused honey and drizzled with balsamic glaze. The combinations are amazing and go perfectly with my preferred starter beverage for any holiday event; Champagne.
Fuyu Persimmons. Choose bright orange firm fruits without discolorations or scars. In season now or Sept-Nov.
Baguette. Use your favorite baguette-seeds, no seeds, French, rustic, sour or not. Today I had a traditional French baguette…but I am leaning towards seeds for the main event.
Formage Blanc: Local cheese from Orland Farmstead Creamery-Orland, CA. This is a hand made cow milk cheese that is not only award winning but light and fluffy and easily spreadable with a ricotta like texture.
Pistachios. Roasted Salted or Raw they provide richness and that bright green color.
Blasamic Glaze. I get it in a bottle. A big thank you to Trader Joes for allowing me to remove the process of reducing balsamic vinegar to a glaze from my kitchen-it’s stinky!
Chili Infused Honey. I buy local Chico area honey at the farmers market. I use a medium amber color alfalfa honey for fall cooking and canning. For Chili Infused Honey I combine this with my magic chili flakes for a mildly spicy honey. Lucky for me, I have a chili friend who braves drying and blending (now with a mask on) her own cowhorn and cayenne chili mix. Chili flakes should be bright red in color and fragrant not dull or dry if so, buy some new stuff. You can also crumble up dried chilis from your garden and use them for infusing the honey -See Recipe. Chili infused honey is an amazing topping for many things including pizza, blue cheese apple crostini, and just chunks of pecorino with a glass of wine-try it you will be hooked. I make it in minutes but you can also purchase a jar.
Champagne: I chose a California sparkling wine from Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut (Costco). It is delicious, goes well with the fruit, it is balanced and not overly sweet and easy on the pocket book. Try other sparkling wines from Shramsberg, Roederer, Korbel or Mumm and keep it California grown this season!
- 1/2 fresh crusty baguette
- Olive oil
- Chili Infused Honey-Recipe follows
- 2 Fuyu Persimmons
- 8 oz container formage blanc
- 1/4 cup roasted salted pistachios, chopped
- Balsmic Glaze
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Slice baguette into 1/4-3/8" slices and place on cookie sheet. Brush sides with olive oil applying a thin layer to each slice. Bake in oven until slightly toasted and light brown.
- Remove skin from persimmons. Slice across into circles about 1/4" thick and remove any seeds. Slice circles in half again and set aside.
- When crostini's are cool drizzle with a teaspoon of chili infused honey. Add a slice of persimmon. Top with a heaping teaspoon size dollop of formage blanc. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and finish with chopped pistachios.
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4-1 teaspoon dried chili flake (my chili is part powder, skin and seeds-if yours has more skin and less powder increase the amount-think of it like ground coffee-finer=stronger)
- Combine honey and chili flakes in a heavy bottomed pot over the lowest heat. Stir constantly with a spatula and make sure honey is not sitting on the bottom of the pan-it scorches easily. The honey will thin quickly and will be warm and fragrant in 2-3 minutes. Pour warm honey through a mesh strainer to remove chili pieces and into a jar.
- This recipe easily doubles/triples/quadruples to serve more, and there should be enough chili honey left over for several other recipes.
Lower the Salt. Make your own broth or at least choose low sodium varieties. Use fresh or dried herbs, pesto’s, gremolatas and spices to add flavor instead of extra salt.
Start soup without fat from lots of butter or bacon. Ok so sometimes fat has its place, but if you are trying to loose or maintain your weight these foods add extra calories fast. Instead get out the measuring spoon for your fats and use them sparingly. Fat is a flavor blast. Add that dimension and deepen the flavor of your soup by layering flavors; slowly sauté lots of vegetables and deglaze with broth instead.
Modify those cream soups. When a soup calls for cups and cups of high fat dairy this means high flavor, but with a high price in calories as well. Opt to meet in the middle by subbing out some or all of the fat with low fat dairy or yogurt. Tip: Use immersion blending techniques half puree a soup to add body without adding fat.
Choose Low fat dairy ingredients. Cheese can add both fat and sodium to your homemade soups. So ‘a little goes a long way’ approach is best. Replace large volumes of cheese with low or non-fat varieties. A small topping of parmesan is blissful on a vegie and legume rich minestrone and can lower the overall salt you use in the recipe (because cheese is salty). We all love warm gooey cheese in soup but if a recipe calls for a chunk of brie, jack and cheddar added to your broccoli soup this recipe may need modifying.
Don’t add on fried toppings. If you are making healthy changes and baking everything else than keep up the good work and don’t top your soup with fried shallots, croutons or anything else. You can still add that crunch by baking these instead! You can also explore roasted nuts, seeds or beans as toppings. One of my favorites: Roasted spicy garbanzo beans (see recipe).
Pair well. Some simple ingredient soups may be a pleasure but may not have much to offer in terms of color and nutrition. These soups and most others would benefit from being paired with fresh salads or vegetable dishes with lots of color in place of buttery bread or biscuits.
You have some explaining to do…
Gremolata: Usually a mixture of fresh herbs, citrus zest and garlic. It is the perfect bright acidic compliment-not to mention nutritional boost to heavy rich tasting foods. Use to finish savory soups or meat dishes.
- 3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, minced
- 1 teaspoon sage, minced
- 1 teaspoon orange zest, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Combine all ingredients and use as topping for savory soups, hearty stews and braised meats.
Layering flavors in soup: Layering flavors means adding and cooking different ingredients into a dish to create a beautiful complex flavor. Start with a small amount of oil and take your time to slowly sauté onion, followed by carrot, celery, and once there is a coating on the bottom of the pan add the garlic and herbs. Sauté for a minute then add a splash of wine, broth or water and grab your favorite wooden spoon and get to deglazing. Deglazing is essentially pulling all those tasty bits off the bottom of the pan and dissolving them in the broth. Continue with your recipe and finally finish the soup off with a squeeze of lemon and a gremolata. These final layers add acidity and brightness.
Immersion blender technique: Great for cream soups, corn chowders, potato soups or bean and sweet potato soups. Instead of adding in cream as a thickener, part of the soup is removed and pureed. Then added back to the soup. Blending can be accomplished with either an immersion blender or in a regular blender-careful it’s hot!
Oven Roasted Garbanzo beans: These are amazing. Turn your oven on to 375F and get ready for a toasty warm topping for soup. Any leftovers make a great high protein snack!
- 1-15oz can low sodium garbonzo beans
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Drain and rinse garbanzo beans and place on towel lined tray and pat dry for crispier roasting. Once dry, add olive oil and toss. Sprinkle with cayenne, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet and bake in 375F oven for 20-30 minutes or until crispy and a darker tan color.
- These are great for topping soups or a high fiber high protein snack. Careful- like all things toasty and delicious these are addicting.
A farmers market inspired fall salad.
In the bag:
Kale: I picked over the dinosaur, and purple kales-choosing instead a big bunch of curly green kale for this salad (far left). I wanted the softer leafy texture and the opportunity for my salad ingredients to get caught in the curl of the leaves.
Pomegranate: I love to peel these under the water in a fine mesh strainer, set in a larger bowl. The white and the arils float but they don’t escape the strainer. So I can remove the white parts and scoop up the arils with the strainer, faster and with less staining.
Almonds: Here in the North state we know our a-monds or is it au-monds-I have heard it both ways and according to the oxford dictionary the “L” is silent. And around these parts we say we shake the “L” out of them during harvest. Lucky for me I am literally surrounded by orchards and tree nuts are plentiful at my year round farmers market.
Favorite ingredient: Orland Farmstead Creamery Queso Fresco
This queso is firm and easy to crumble the texture reminds me a little of a good pecorino. I am in love with this aged jack cheese taste-it is lovely and really added richness to this salad. additionally it is a great melter-like that melty cheese you love in Mexican dishes.
- 6-8 stems curly kale (yield ~4 cups)
- 1 cup cooked brown rice, cooled (or your favorite whole grain)
- 1 small bell pepper, red/yellow, diced
- 1 small green apple, diced
- 1/2 cup almonds, roasted and sliced thin
- 1/4 cup queso fresco or pecorino cheese, crumbled
- 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (we like Sierra Nevada Porter Spicy Brown)
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Pepper
- 1 pinch sugar
- 1/4 cup good olive oil
- Wash and remove stems from kale leaves. Rough chop kale leaves into bite sized pieces and place in large serving bowl. Add in cooled brown rice and stir. Using the in the water technique remove the arils from the pomegranate and add to salad. Add dressing and toss to coat. Top with almonds and cheese and let chill before serving.
- Whole grains are chewy and add texture and a nutty flavor to your dishes. They contain the germ, endosperm and bran. They are a good source fiber. They also contain b-vitamins, the minerals; magnesium, potassium and some good fats. Studies show people who consume them in place of refined carbs have health benefits, but it is important to also pay attention to serving size and aim for 1/2 cup. Other whole grain options: wild rice, wheat berries, quinoa, oats, Farro, and Kamut.
The weather is changing and it is time for a spicy warm antioxidant power house treat!
Admittedly, I may be suffering from a little, “and what else is better with Matcha ..?”
It is true- that’s how I got here-with a little experimentation, but the results are fabulous! When there is a chill in the air foamy warm Mexican hot chocolate with its deep chocolate flavor and subtle spice is a favorite of mine.
This version adds in just a touch of green tea earthy goodness. Try it with your favorite milk or unsweetened non-milk beverage and work up that foam.
A cup of this may give you an extra nutrition boost from the matcha and cinnamon, but it is still a warm cup of liquid sugar. So keep it small, indulge irregularly, hold it close and savor every sip.
- 1 cup milk or milk alternative of your choosing
- ¼ of Mexican chocolate (Ibarra…)
- ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon Matcha green tea powder
- Combine milk, chocolate and cinnamon in a small heavy bottom pot over low heat. Stir frequently with whisk or molinillo (Mexican Hot Chocolate) until well combined and foamy. Do not boil. Add in Matcha and mix thoroughly. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy.
- Tip: Add the Matcha into a small amount of the hot chocolate first and then add the remaining hot chocolate. This is an easier way to dissolve the Matcha and smooth out any lumps that might form.
- The measurements can be expanded to make larger batches perfectly. Additionally, the molinillo is best for use in larger or deep batches of this recipe-, it makes amazing foam.