Three Sisters Vegetable Medley and Maple Glazed Scallops

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Many Native American tribes planted a crop called “The Three Sisters”.  Consisting of grain corn, beans, and winter squash, all could be stored and eaten later as a nutritious and protein rich meal.

This companion planting was as beneficial to the soil as it was to the body.  The sturdy, upright corn stalks provided a trellis for the bean vines to climb upwards, and the nitrogen producing bacteria on the roots of the bean plants fueled the growth of the corn.  The large leaves of the rambling squash vines provided moisture retention and shade to the soil during the hot summer afternoons.

This recipe uses canned items, but if you wanted to get really authentic you could use hominy, polenta, or grits instead of the sweet corn.  All of those are grain corns.  Dried beans are also more authentic, as they have fully developed their protein structure.

String beans, sweet corn, and summer squash don’t really count as “The Three Sisters”, but they do taste good together.

*Fun Fact – Is corn a vegetable, grain, or a fruit?

It depends on when you eat it.  Corn is a type of grass – a cereal grass.  Meaning that you can eat the seeds (dried corn kernels) as a grain.  When you eat sweet corn, it’s considered a vegetable because the kernels are tender and immature.  Botanically, the kernels are the “fruit” or seeds of the grass.  So there you have it!

Maple Glazed Scallops  (These only take about 5 minutes to cook, so save for last)

6 scallops, pat dry, and season with garlic salt and pepper

2 T butter

2 T water

2 T maple syrup

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium.  Make sure it’s nice and hot.  Mix water and maple syrup together.  Add butter to the pan, and once it’s browned, gently lay your scallops in the pan.  Cook for 2 minutes without moving the scallops around.  Flip, and cook for another minute.  Add the water and maple syrup, and let cook for another minute.  Transfer to plate.  Pour liquid (it will have cooked down very quickly) over scallops.

Three Sisters Medley

1 C Cannellini beans (canned)

1 C sweet corn (canned)

1 C roasted butternut squash, diced

1 C baby spinach, rough chopped

1 C red bell pepper, diced

1 green onion, sliced very thin

1/4 cube vegetable bouillon, crumbled

1 T nutritional yeast

1 T crushed dried sage

1 big pinch red pepper flakes

1/4 C heavy cream

1/4 C marscapone

2 slices thick cut bacon, fried and chopped.  Reserve bacon fat.

salt and pepper to taste

Combine beans, corn, squash, bouillon, yeast, sage, pepper flakes, and cream in a bowl.  Heat skillet to medium low and cook red pepper and green onion in bacon drippings until onion is translucent and peppers are getting soft.  Pour in the vegetable medley, stir, and when cream hits a boil add the chopped spinach.  Once the spinach starts to wilt, stir in marscapone.  When the marscapone is fully melted, reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve the scallops on top of the Three Sisters Medley, and top with bacon and the maple juices from the scallop pan!

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Greek Orange Pie ( Portokalopita )

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‘Tis the season of fresh oranges, and the markets are full of many different varieties.  Each year, I try out my Orange Pie recipe.  I think the picture of this years version looks like a piece of art.  No filter either!  It was right out of the oven, and the honey orange syrup and not yet started to soak in.

Each year I make it, I make it a little bit differently, and each time I make it, I am trying to recreate at some point, the Portokalopita (Orange Pie) I liked most.  I’ve had fluffy, like a cake – custardy, like a pie, and sort of crispy  – like the type of donut called a cruller.  In every case, regardless of the texture, it is made with phyllo dough, and then drenched in a honey orange syrup.

The first time I tried the pie, was on the island of Milos, in Greece.  This island may only be about 60 square miles, but it’s fascinating history and varied terrain begs for hours of exploration.  Each day we would get up early, pack some snacks, and head out on the scooter to discover secluded beaches, ancient ruins, pirate caves, and, of course, food.  Map in hand, with sunhats, sunscreen, and swimsuits, we’d head off the paved road to see what we could see.

This was my favorite version, and it looks like they probably cooked it on a sheet pan.  Those wonderful dark freckles are bits of chocolate.  I’m not much of a chocolate and orange combination fan, but I started to become one after a slice of this sunset on a plate.  It was served warm which means they popped it in the oven and it got a good crisp along the edges. This is the one I call the crispy version.

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In this video, you can get an idea of what it is like to hop on a scooter and go motoring along the island. We saw a beach, way down below us, and decided to find out if it was possible to reach it.  Although the video is shaky, you can see the Mediterranean, and the winding road that zig zags back and forth and up and down the hills.  There is no way to get from one hill to the other without spiraling down, and then back up again.  For such a small island, the sheer diversity of it’s natural beauty and ancient history could take weeks to discover.

Some say that it was on this island that Paul was shipwrecked and shook the asp off his hand and into the fire. Other islands claim the same thing, but it is here that the oldest Christian catacombs were discovered, and it is here that the only known Greek Island asp from ancient times still resides.  These catacombs were originally created at the end of the first century to be used as a cemetery.  Later they were used as a safe hiding place when the Romans were persecuting Christians.  FYI – most of the graffiti in this picture is fairly recent.

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The recipe today is for a custard version of the portokalopita.  I used 3 different kinds of oranges: Cara Cara, Mandarin, and Blood.  Why?  Because I was lucky enough to find so many different types! Otherwise I just use what I can get. I did not boil the oranges for this recipe, but instead used the juice and zest.  It still had a wonderful orange flavor which complimented the custard texture nicely.

Orange Pie (Portokalopita)

Makes an 8 X 8 pan

About 1/2 package phyllo dough, dried and torn into strips

3 eggs

3/4 C Yogurt

1/4 C honey

1 1/2 t olive oil

1/4 t cinnamon

1/4 t vanilla extract

1/3 C fresh squeezed orange juice

pinch of salt

zest of medium sized orange

Thin slices of orange (make sure they are sliced very thin so they cook and the rind is edible.)

For the Syrup topping:

1/2 C honey

1/4 C water

1/4 C fresh squeezed orange juice

Orange halves (use the ones that you juiced)

wee little pinch of salt

optional: Cinnamon stick and vanilla bean pod (beans removed)

Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly coat an 8X8 baking pan with olive oil or butter, and place 1/2 of the dried strips of phyllo dough in the pan.

In a mixing bowl, beat or whisk all ingredients except phyllo dough until fully incorporated.  Pour 1/2 the mixture over the layer of phyllo strips.  Place remaining phyllo on top, and pour remaining custard mixture over the top.  Let sit while you make the syrup.

Put all syrup ingredients in a pan, and heat to boiling.  Boil for 6-8 minutes, then allow to cool down while you cook the pie.

Put pie in oven and cook for about 30 minutes.  It should pull away from the edges.  Pour about 1/4 C (or less!) of the syrup over the top right when you pull it out of the oven  Save the rest of the orange syrup for adding to drinks or pouring over french toast or waffles.

Let sit for at least 2 hours so it soaks up as much as the syrup as possible!  This tastes really good the next day, and can be served at room temperature, cold, or warmed up in the oven.  Also good with ice cream!

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Gram’s Crepes

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I loved to wake up in the morning and discover that my Grandma had been making crepes.  They were, and still are my favorite breakfast.  Nothing fancy, just warm crepes spread with a choice of different jellies and jams.  For me, orange marmalade is the absolute perfect filling for such a delectable pancake.

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My Grandmother just passed away 2 days ago – 2 short weeks before her 95th birthday.  I have a bunch of recipes that she shared with my Mother and I.  All carefully typed out, with handwritten messages in the margins.

Many of the recipes have tips for making them with limited ingredients – the kinds of ingredients you would find on a military base at the “commissary”.  Today there is quite a wide variety of items, but that wasn’t always the case long ago, so sometimes you had to get creative.

She had been a Drill Sergeant in the Marines during WWII while my Grandfather was flying in the Pacific for the Army Air Corps – which later became the Airforce.  She wasn’t a cuddly Grandma, in case you’re wondering what kind of Grandma a Drill Sergeant is.

 

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She was a woman who’s body had been strengthened and made flexible by years of dance training in her youth and young adult years.  In the larger picture below, she is dancing at about the age of 12 or so while the famous composer Liberace is playing piano.  Both grew up in West Allis Wisconsin – a small working class suburb of the larger working class city of Milwaukee.  In the smaller picture, she is stretching while stationed at Camp LeJeune.

As long as I knew her, she spent every night stretching to keep her body in health.  Every night.  Usually after swimming her 50 laps in the pool.  Oftentimes naked, which is why I never joined her.  I wasn’t about to go swimming with my naked Grandma, so I swam during the day.

 

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And because she only slept for about 4-5 hours every evening, she would go to bed at midnight, and be up by 4:30 or 5 to make crepes . That way they would be ready by the time us kids woke up in the morning.

Ha!  No, not really!  She didn’t actually get up that early just to make crepes.  She just didn’t sleep very much.  But I’ll tell you, I was always so excited when I would walk out and see all the assorted jams on that table, each neatly spooned into small dishes on a lazy suzan. It meant we were having crepes!

I love you Grandma, and I’ll be sharing more of yours and Grandpa’s recipes in the future.  And I apologize – you never wanted to be called “Grandma” because you decided that was only for “old people”.  So almost everything you signed was “Grams”.

This post is in honor of you Grams.

Much love,

Christina

Gram’s Crepes (makes about 12 small crepes)

3 large eggs

1 C whole milk

1 Cup All Purpose flour (I’ve made great gluten free crepes with alternative flours)

3 T melted butter + more butter for the pan

Combine eggs, milk and flour in a mixing bowl using a handheld mixer or blender.  Or…do it the old fashioned way – with muscles and a whisk.  Add melted butter.  Refrigerate overnight ideally, or for at least an hour or more.  Enough time to let the flour absorb the liquid.  This makes it easy to cook the crepes without tearing them, and they actually cook a bit more quickly.

I no longer have a crepe pan, but actually prefer my “crepe assembly line method”.  Small nonstick pan on one burner.  Larger nonstick pan on a different burner.  Wooden board for a quick cool down, and a serving plate kept warm in the oven at 200 F.

Preheat small pan to med low, and large pan to a bit under that.  Add a small amount of butter to the small pan, and pour in approximately 1/4 C of batter, quickly swirling to make an even, thin pancake.  Cook for about 1-2 minutes until set.  Gently loosen the edges – it should pop right out if the flour absorbed enough of the liquid.  Flip onto the larger pan, and cook for just a bit – usually less than a minute. Repeat process with smaller pan.

Remove crepe from larger pan and set on wooden cutting board.  This helps when you are making a pile of them to serve all at once.  It brings down the moisture content just a bit so they don’t stick together.

Flip 1/2 done crepe onto larger pan, and put the finished crepe from the board on your serving dish in the warm oven.

Repeat process, adding butter if needed to the smaller pan.  Small pan, big pan, wooden board, oven.  Small pan, big pan, wooden board, oven.  This ends up going very quickly once you do it assembly line style!

Serve with different jellies, jams, or fresh fruit, and watch your family smile!

 

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Butterbean Gratin with Spinach and Pancetta

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Pantry Raid Recipe #1.

There is a television show in America called “Chopped”.  In the show, a group of competing chefs receive a basket of mystery ingredients.  Then they have to create a meal out of the items they were given.

If my house were a basket, then my basket of mystery ingredients would be overflowing.  There are odds and ends of dried goods, things in the freezer, things in the refrigerator about to go bad, a can or two of this or that…I’m sure you get the idea.

So this recipe was made with my “basket” ingredients.  A tiny amount of almost forgotten chopped pancetta, a handful of spinach, a lonely can of butterbeans.  A strip of Kombu (which is a type of seaweed known to counteract the the less social consequences of eating beans), and some remaining shredded cheese.

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And WOW! It was good!  Really really good in fact! So let’s fearlessly explore the back of the cupboard and dive into the deepest recesses of the refrigerator to find what culinary treasures are waiting. (a lot of the amounts are approximate – using up what I have!)

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Butterbean Gratin with Spinach and Pancetta

1 can butterbeans, rinsed and drained

1 oz chopped pancetta (approximate)

1 small strip kombu, about 2 x 5 inches)

handful spinach (kale would work also)

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 T minced onion (approximate)

1 roasted pepper from jar, diced

lots of dried herbs, like oregano, thyme and basil

1/2 C broth (I used chicken broth from open container)

1/2 C breadcrumbs

3/4 C shredded cheese (approximate)

olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 F

Brown pancetta in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the strip of kombu when the pancetta is almost browned.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.  Turn heat down to medium low and toss in the handful of spinach, roasted pepper, garlic, and onion.  Saute until onions are soft, and remove kombu.  Stir in butterbeans, broth, and as much herbs as you want.  Chop kombu and return to skillet.

In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, herbs, some salt and pepper, and enough olive oil to make a crumb texture.  The crumbs I used are gluten free, so they didn’t get very brown.

When the broth hits a bowl, turn down the heat and simmer for just a few minutes.  Not too long or your beans might get tough.

Transfer bean mixture to a mixing bowl and stir in

Stir in about 1/2 C of cheese.  The mixture will seem quite liquid, but will tighten up after cooking.

Return the bean mixture to the skillet, top with rest of cheese, and then spoon the bread crumbs on top.

Cook on middle rack for 15 – 20 minutes, or until it begins to bubble up around the edges and the top is browned and crispy.

 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Grapes and Pine Nuts

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Antioxidants, fiber (or should I spell it “fibre” just to shake things up a bit), vitamins and minerals galore, toasty, crunchy, and pops of sweet.

Top with crumbled bacon if you would like, or better yet, serve with sausage.  It’s especially good with Italian style sausage, and if you’ve never had sausages and grapes for supper, then you’re missing out.

The only thing this picture is missing is the sprouts and the pine nuts!

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Brussels Sprouts are a variety of cabbage that grows on a stalk, and the sprout itself is actually a “bud”, like a flower bud.  They’re not “baby cabbages” like I once thought, but an actual type that originally came from the Mediterranean region and then moved north through Europe.

One cup of these sprouts has 120% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C.  And you know what my favorite dessert is to have after this meal?

A couple of mandarin oranges.  More Vitamin C.  And the other part of a good dessert?  The almost forgotten and lesser known Vitamin C – Conversation.  

This entire meal can be on the table in about 30 minutes, leaving plenty of time to enjoy each others company.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Grapes and Pine Nuts

1/2 pound Brussels Sprouts, sliced in 1/2 lengthwise through the core

olive oil

salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes

1/2 C red grapes, sliced in 1/2

2 t pine nuts

Iron skillet

Preheat oven to 400F.  In a small mixing bowl, drizzle some olive oil over the sprouts and add in the seasonings.  I don’t measure.  Mix to make sure everything is coated and then put into your skillet.  Don’t crowd them too much or they’ll steam instead of roast.  Set timer for 15 minutes.

Take out pan and flip the sprouts.  Add the grapes and nuts to the pan.  Return to oven for 5 minutes.

Transfer to plate immediately so those little nuts don’t get too brown!  Top with bacon, or some additional salt and pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil.

 

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Macaroni and Cheese with Hidden Pumpkin

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“When I saw you buying that pumpkin, I was wondering what you were going to do with it”.  Said my son as he basically inhaled almost half a pan of my newest experiment.

There has to be a thousand ways to make macaroni and cheese.  Correction.  Thousands.

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This version is baked in the oven, but you could easily take it off the stovetop, put it in some crocks, omit the crackers and top with cheese. A few minutes under the broiler, and you would have an ooey gooey mass of a little bit healthier than normal mac and cheese that everyone will love!

I really do believe that the secret to something tasting good is the love that goes into it, and the love extends to using the best ingredients you can find.  Never be afraid to get creative, and never be afraid to fail in the kitchen.  Personally, I prefer butternut squash puree, rather than pumpkin, but the nice thing about using a can of pureed pumpkin, is that you can make a quick dessert with the remaining portion.

Surely there will be more Macaroni and Cheese recipes gracing the pages of this blog in the future.  Maybe not thousands, but at least a few for you to try.

Macaroni and Cheese with Hidden Pumpkin

3 C dried macaroni noodles, cooked according to package instructions (a little less than al dente if putting in the oven), reserve some pasta water.

4 oz shredded sharp cheddar

4 oz gouda, diced

2 oz american cheese, diced

1 t ghee

12 oz can evaporated milk

1/2 C pumpkin puree

1 T dry mustard

1 t dried turmeric

2 T nutritional yeast

1/2 cube vegetable bouillon

1/2 C heavy whipping cream

salt and pepper to taste

optional couple of drops of worcestershire sauce

crushed cheese crackers for topping

Preheat oven to 350 F and dutch oven (you’ll see a lot of recipes with the dutch oven because it’s one of my favorite tools) to med low.  Add ghee to pan and then whisk in the evaporated milk, pumpkin puree, mustard and turmeric.  Once it is hot, add the nutritional yeast and vegetable bouillon.  Bring just to a boil and pour in the whipping cream.  Once that comes back up to a boil, lower the heat (or turn off depending on stovetop) and add in the cheeses, letting each one be incorporated fully. Start with the american, then the gouda, then the cheddar.  Stir in the pasta, adding just a little bit of the pasta water.

Pour the mixture into an oiled caserole dish (approx dimensions 8 by 8) and bake in a 350 F oven for about 30 minutes or until it begins to get bubbly around the edges.  Top with crushed crackers and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so.

I think this one tasted really good with a side of spinach. I quickly cooked up a piece of bacon, and used just a small amount of the fat to quickly wilt the leaves.  Then I added a bit of water (heats up very quickly), and stirred in some miso after taking it off the heat.  Surprisingly enough, my son could taste the miso right away – he’s a big fan of it.

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African Peanut Chicken Soup

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I like fancy food – a lot, but I also like comfort food – a lot.  This recipe definitely falls into the comfort food category.  It also falls into the really good and healthy for you category.

It would take pages to write down all of the benefits that you can get from curry powder alone, and this recipe has almost a 1/4 cup of it.  Surprisingly it doesn’t taste like an overwhelming curry, but your body sure recognizes how good it is and starts to use it right away.

If there was one benefit that really stands out, it would be anti-inflammatory.  But even that is not enough.  These ingredients are strongly anti-cancer and even guard against cognitive malfunctions such as alzheimers.  Your liver will thank you too, because it’s great for clearing out congestion, which is pretty common in the cold winter months.

Convert it easily to a meatless (and vegan) version by substituting chickpeas and roasted cauliflower for the chicken.  A good quality vegetable broth made with carrots or squash will also provide a similar richness as the chicken broth.  Go even further, and get even more nutrition by adding some miso to the finished version.  You wont have to cook it as long, so just adjust your time.

I feel really good after eating this dish, and I know you will too!

 

African Peanut Chicken Soup

1-2 T coconut oil

2 chicken thighs (bone in, with skin)

1 yam, diced

1/2 C onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1  jalapeño pepper, diced, no seeds (can use a different kind of pepper if you would like)

1 T grated ginger

1 smoked kipper, minced (or you can use a smoked fish that you just put in the pot while cooking and then pull out)

3 T curry powder (no salt)

pinch sugar

pinch hot pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

1 quart low sodium chicken broth (I add additional bone broth concentrate for flavor and nutrition)

1 C creamy peanut butter

1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes, drained

1 C coconut cream

salt and pepper

Heat up your dutch oven to medium low, and add the coconut oil.  Salt and pepper your chicken thighs and brown on each side.  Stir in the yams, garlic, onion, pepper and curry powder with a pinch of salt. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes or so.

Stir in the chicken broth, peanut butter and tomatoes.  Add the bay leaf and sugar, cover, and simmer for about an hour.  Pull out the chicken thighs and once they are cool enough to handle, shred the meat and finely mince the skin. Return them to the pot and stir in the coconut cream.  Add a good amount of black pepper, and then taste to see if it needs more salt.

Let cook for another 20 minutes to half hour, but don’t let it boil.  It should be hot, but not boiling.

Serve with crushed peanuts on top and raw pumpkin seeds or cilantro.

*options: you can make this a stew by reducing the amount of broth or by adding additional chicken thighs which can be served whole over a bed of rice*

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