California Eatin'

Thanksgiving Day Cranberry. Easy Cranberry Sauce: Served Three Ways.

Fall | November 21, 2015 | By

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. 

cranberry close up

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.

cranberry

Ingredients: 

Whole, fresh, brilliantly red, plump cranberries

Juice and Peel from one Orange

Granulated sugar

and Yes it really is that simple!

Easy Cranberry Sauce
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Ingredients
  1. 2-12oz bags fresh cranberries
  2. 1 cup granulated sugar (more or less to taste)
  3. 1 orange zested and then juiced
Mandarin Option
  1. 1 mandarin
Orange Nut Option
  1. 1 Orange
  2. 1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and chopped
Instructions
  1. 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.
For the Mandarin variation
  1. Peel and course chop the mandarin and fold into one of the jars of prepared cranberry sauce.
For the Orange Pecan variation
  1. Peel and chop the orange and fold along with the pecans into one jar of the prepared cranberry sauce.
Notes
  1. 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.
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Tips for Healthier Fall Soups

Fall, Savory | November 10, 2015 | By

 

Posole garbonzos

 

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.

Gremolata

Fall Gremolata
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Ingredients
  1. 3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, minced
  2. 1 teaspoon sage, minced
  3. 1 teaspoon orange zest, minced
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients and use as topping for savory soups, hearty stews and braised meats.
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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!

Ov

Oven-Roasted Spicy Garbonzo Beans
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Ingredients
  1. 1-15oz can low sodium garbonzo beans
  2. 2 teaspoons olive oil
  3. 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  4. 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  5. 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  6. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  7. 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Instructions
  1. 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.
Notes
  1. These are great for topping soups or a high fiber high protein snack. Careful- like all things toasty and delicious these are addicting.
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Matcha Mexican Hot Chocolate

Beverage, Chocolate, Fall, Mexican, Winter | November 2, 2015 | By

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 ..?”Ibara wedge

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.

Mex Hot Chocolate

Matcha Mexican Hot Chocolate
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup milk or milk alternative of your choosing
  2. ¼ of Mexican chocolate (Ibarra…)
  3. ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  4. ½ teaspoon Matcha green tea powder
Instructions
  1. 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.
Notes
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
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Day of the Dead-Dia de los Muertos

Travel | November 1, 2015 | By

Nov 2nd-The Day of the dead is a celebration of love and food.

The holiday is rooted in Mexican tradition and practiced heavily in the states. The intention is to celebrate and honor loved ones who have passed.  As a part of the celebration people create altars or ofrendas in their homes and of course there is food.

Persimmon 1

On this day I was able to join my good friend in creating her altar and gain some insights into the traditions. A good altar might include the following:

  1. Candles
  2. Photos of departed loved ones.
  3. Liquor bottles or shots of the deceased favorite drinks.
  4. The color purple-holy in its own right but also representing resurrection.
  5. Symbolic and Favorite foods: Including fresh bananas, persimmon, lemons, Mexican sweet breads-Pan Dulce or my favorite the Conchas-Shell shaped. (Not to be confused with innards! These breads are delicious and come in all different shapes and can be filled or sugar dusted). Bread of the dead or Pan de Muerto-a sweet roll and sugar skulls.   Some people go as far as to produce real foods like a bowl of mole or tamales-we are not those people.
  6. Flowers-traditionally the marigold but orange and fall flowers permeate the altars.

Concha 2

 

I have put an altar up for many years and the beauty, ritual, respect and remembrance never fails to lift my own spirits.  Don’t forget to pick up some extra pan dulce, you know for later, with tea!

Tequilla 1