Happy New Year!

As usual, the end of my year was hectic and harried, though happy enough!  Last week, M and I went off on our usual winter beach trip and now we are back.  Time to return to routine and catch up on sleep, vegetables, organization, packing…

Yes, packing.  After three years in our apartment, M and I are moving out.  Back into one of our mothers’ homes for a brief stint as we figure if we want to look for a home to buy and find another place to rent.  Still a little unknown because taxes and money and mortgages and realtor vocabulary and adulthood are tough.  So, while part of me is excited for changes and the drive to organize, condense, and pack; another part of me is dreading all of that. Moving back in with roommates/parents wasn’t really on our plans, but it makes the most sense.  Both of our mothers are fairly local and obliging and it saves us the risk of having to pay rent and a mortgage overlapping.  But its a huge, kind of scary, very new change.  There is a lot of unknown is all of this, and I realize that M and I have both adjusted quite well to the comfortable and familiar.   This is a big change.

Also, in the midst of this countdown to moving, I am doing a round of the Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP).  While I haven’t been diagnosed with any AI diseases, I have been reacting to something.  Since September of last year, I’ve had more days per week with…digestion issues…than normal days.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t been quite as easy to figure out the trigger as it was when I was reacting similarly to gluten.  I was eating something gluten-filled at nearly every meal.  These days I do not have a constant like that.  So, I am trying AIP.  AIP starts by cutting out many foods (and NSAIDS) that can cause irritation and inflammation for 30 days, then slowly reintroduces foods while monitoring for reactions.  At best, I hope that I will find that my inflammation was just high, and a 30-day break will be enough to calm and reset my system and, at the end of it all, I will find that I can reintroduce all of the various foods.  More likely, I may be reacting to something–and I hope this will allow me to find out what.

AIP cuts out all grains, all dairy, all nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers (and pepper-based spices like cayenne, paprika, etc), white potatoes…don’t mind my tears), eggs (I’m sobbing), nuts and seeds and seed-based spices (bye cumin, fennel seed, cardamom, etc), pulses and beans (which includes soy, fresh legumes like green beans and peas, more typical beans like chickpeas…but also coffee and chocolate, which are made from beans/seeds).

What AIP does include are: meats, seafood, vegetables (except nightshades and fresh legumes), fruit, coconut, and a focus of nutrient-heavy foods like bone broth, gelatin, avocado, and offal (organ meats).   I think I will survive this protocol by relying a lot on twist of old favorites: Pho-style broth with veggie noodles (or kelp noodles)–certain fish sauces are AIP-approved, along with lime, ginger, and garlic.  Chicken lettuce wraps made with coconut aminos and mixed heavily with mushrooms and water chestnuts (which are not nuts and thus AIP-friendly).  Plantain chips with liver pate.  Bacon wrapped shrimp with chimichurri (minus the pepper flakes).  Horseradish is AIP-approved, so I can work in a little spice to my dishes–plus beef and horseradish are on of.  Turmeric chicken with coconut-milk-creamed spinach.  Steak with parsnip puree.  Sweet potato fries.  Cauliflower Rice Risotto.  Riceless sushi (nori is AIP-approved).  Larb Gai (again favoring the fish sauce and lime–I foresee a lot of Thai this month).  Lots and lots of soups: butternut squash & coconut, my new favorite carrot soup, French onion–minus the wine and the bread topping.  I’m confident that I will make do.

Also, AIP is intended to be a temporary diet.  Whilst the most restrictive phase can vary, depending on which foods trigger responses and how inflamed a body might be, this diet is not meant to be the rest of my (or anyone else’s) life.  So, while all my friends are doing Whole30 or Dry January to ring in the new year, I’m just…committing to a few more omissions for my 30 days.

I’m starting AIP this week, riding the post-vacation “ugh I ate a bunch of junk and all I want is fresh food” wave as far as I can.  With AIP, I have let go of my grocery budget, at least for the first week of two.  This week, with all of the staples that I invested in (coconut aminos, arrowroot flour, coconut flour, avocado oil, etc), my grocery bill was expensive.  Nearly three times as much as last year’s budget…oof.  However, last year’s budget allowed us to reach this financial point, where we can be spending more on food for a few weeks without too much trouble.  So for now, I’ll be meal-planning based on what I want to eat, within AIP standards, rather than sticking to a budget.

I started AIP on Tuesday this week, since we returned from our trip on Sunday and I didn’t have the chance to get to the store until Monday evening.  As mentioned, much of my grocery purchases were stock up items to build my AIP pantry.  And much of this week’s groceries were purchased at Wegman’s, since there were a few special items I needed.  I rounded out with a little more from Trader Joe’s, but forgot to take that photo.  We didn’t have a Hungry Harvest box this week, since we were on vacation.

Here is what I purchased for our AIP kick-off:

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Wegman’s: Avocados, bananas, canned pumpkin, coconut flour, arrowroot flour, mint, celery, ground mace (the AIP sub for nutmeg), coconut milk, parsley, kale, shrimp, broccoli, butternut squash, green onions, clementines, bone broth, ground fresh ginger, ground fresh garlic, gelatin, ground pork, and bacon.

And from Trader Joe’s, I grabbed: frozen riced cauliflower, sweet potatoes, avocado oil, horseradish, sauerkraut, carrot juice, cranberry juice, and plantain chips.

Here’s what we are eating:

Tuesday: Butternut Squash Soup with crumbled Bacon  I riffed off of Panera’s Squash Soup, minus the curry powder, cayenne, and added sugar, with coconut milk swapped for the dairy.  Crisp up a few slices of bacon and crumble on top for some extra crunch.

Wednesday: Beef Kebabs with Cauli-rice Tabbouleh & Coconut Tzatziki I’m mixing some riced cauliflower with lots of cucumbers, parsley, and lemon for a tomato-free tabbouleh, and serving this all with extra cucumbers, quick-pickled red onion, and tzatziki made from coconut cream, ACV, mint, and cucumber.

Thursday: Unbound Wellness’ Chicken and Sweet Potato Poppers & Broccoli Salad served up with either AIP guacamole or AIP Coconut-milk Ranch Dressing for dipping

Friday: Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp with Chimichurri Sauce & Sweet Potato Fries There is little in the world that I love as much as dip-able foods, so I’m playing to that advantage and stacking this week with dippy dinners.  I love this Iowa Girl Eats shrimp and chimichurri dish, a direct inspiration.

Saturday: Leftovers just to make sure everything gets eaten up.  With this much money going towards groceries, avoiding food waste is super important.

Breakfasts will be Sausage+Sweet Potato+Kale Hash or Carrot-Cauliflower-Banana Smoothies with frozen berries and avocado.  Snacks will be plantain chips with or without avocado, fruit, turmeric lattes.


Ginger Carrot Soup

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I had to pop in and share this recipe!  I tossed it all together without much thought yesterday morning, but it turned out so good that I’m sure it will soon become one of our staple soups in my house!  The carrot base is cheap and the crockpot cooking makes it easy (although, I’ve included stove top directions that are very simple, as well).  I used chicken broth, as that is what I had on hand, but since this recipe is already dairy-free, it can be made vegan just by choosing vegetable broth!

This soup is super silky and feels rich.  The lemon juice at the very end adds brightness, while the curry powder and turmeric provide depth below that punch of ginger flavor.  The carrots add their own natural sweetness, making this the perfect soup for those gray, rainy autumn days!  Coming home to this soup after 12 hours of work and class was pure heaven!

I have had carrot soup on the brain since receiving two giant carrots in my Hungry Harvest Produce Delivery Box.  Seriously, they were each as tall as a wine bottle!  Hungry Harvest is a service that delivers recovered produce (fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go uneaten/be sent to the trash) to my door on a weekly basis.  The variety in the boxes forces me to get creative in my cooking and meal-planning, and I feel great knowing that I am helping to reduce food waste!  Those incredible carrots were rejected at the grocery store for being too big, and, without Hungry Harvest, would have ended up in a compost pile–or worse–a landfill.  The vegetables that I receive aren’t rotten–they could be too big, small, or “ugly”, or even have just been packaged or transported differently than the grocery stores requested.  I am absolutely a “happy customer” of Hungry Harvest, and I’m also a Hungry Harvest Ambassador.  If you would like to join me as a #hungryharvesthero and try your first HH box, you can follow this link: http://hgryhv.st/2hoYVUj and use the code “HERO5” for $5 off the box (that’s over 30% off!).  Full disclosure: If you choose to try a box through my link, I will get a discount on my next HH box as well!

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Ginger Carrot Soup

Prep time: 15 min | Cook time: 40+ min | Serves: 4

  • 6-8 carrots
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 inch fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 inch turmeric root*
  • 3 c. broth (chicken or veggie)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger, heaped
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, leveled
  • 1/2 tsp. curry powder, leveled
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1 lemon

*You can use 1 tsp. ground turmeric if you don’t have actual turmeric root (mine is stashed in my freezer from months ago when Hungry Harvest sent fresh turmeric in one of my produce boxes)

Place the top oven rack at the middle of the oven and set the oven to high broil.  Spread parchment paper over a pan.  Peel the carrots, onion, ginger, garlic, and turmeric (be careful, the turmeric will stain!  With this little root, I usually use a paring knife to peel it over the sink, so I’m not staining a cutting board.  If you need a surface, a small ceramic plate will usually hold it’s seal and won’t stain.) 

Spread all the peeled vegetables and aromatics in the pan and place in the oven.  Broil for about 10 minutes, or until the onions, garlic, and ginger are beginning to brown.  The carrots will soften, but won’t brown.

Tip all of the broiled vegetables into a crockpot.  Add the dry spices and the broth.  Set to cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.  Alternately, tip the vegetables into a sauce pot and add the spices and broth to the pot.  Bring to a boil, then cover and bring down to the barest simmer for 30 minutes, until a fork easily pierces the carrots.

Once finished, whether by crockpot or stovetop, add in about 1 cup of the coconut milk.  Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth right inside the cooking vessel, or carefully ladle into a blender.  If using a blender, only fill halfway to avoid the scalding liquid from escaping!  Puree in batches until smooth.  Strain the soup through a sieve, to pull out the thread-like ginger that will never get smooth.  Squeeze the juice from one whole lemon into the soup and stir to combine.  Serve hot, a little fresh cilantro is nice, too.


Coconut-Creamed Spinach

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It doesn’t look like much, but it is totally delicious!

How is your week going?  It seems like everyone either has massive winter storms or unusually spring-like weather.  We are in the latter, with our afternoons reaching almost 70 degrees!  It has been a lovely respite, in a certain sense, but a little unsettling.  It is still February, after all.  Will we even have a winter season this year?

I’ve been starting to think about my garden plans for this year, because the extended forecast is still staying pretty mild!  I think I will be aiming to put a few hearty green seedlings into the ground within the next couple of weeks: swiss chard, kale, etc.  Whatever I can get my hands on, knowing that this isn’t actually planting season.  Normally Home Depot fills my seedling needs, but I may need to venture to an actual garden center to find seedlings.  I also need to check the almanac for the last predicted frost, but I’m feeling pretty confident about planting seeds soon, as well.  I’ve always felt like I start my seeds too late, so this mild winter may be the reason that I finally get them out on time!  I’m still planning to use square foot gardening, but I am expecting to tweak a little from last year’s garden plan.  It was not as successful as my first year, unfortunately. I didn’t really get any onions or carrots last year, and I bought tomato plants that were too big for my box.  This year, though, I’ll learn from those mistakes!

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I am also dreaming of a patio makeover.  And I am determined to make those dreams a reality!  Our patio is the one part of our apartment that I’ve also felt was a little neglected, so I’ve been saving up a few dollars here and there for a cheap update!  Some actual decor, perhaps a few pillows, maybe some new (cheap) chairs, and a new grill!  I will keep you posted on our progress!

This Spring weather also has us see-sawing back and forth between comforting winter meals and lighter Spring ones.  Which is why I keep finding my meal plans full of slow-cooked, heavily spiced Indian dishes and soups…or sushi.  Haha!  On Sunday, I let myself play in creating a big vegetarian, Indian meal.  I had wanted to make Paneer cheese again (I’d give myself about an 85% success rate with this batch…insufficient draining, I think) and we had potatoes and cauliflower to make Aloo Gobi, so I rounded things out with a batch of Coconut-Creamed Spinach, which is totally my go-to side dish for any Indian food!  I’ve talked before about how I am working to appreciate cooked greens more and this is one of the few cooked greens dishes that I will always enjoy!  It is so delicious over a bit of rice, creamy and comforting and full of flavor!  Light Indian spices and coconut milk instead of cream give this dish an unexpected twist, without being too overpowering.  A healthy dose of garlic and salt, with a little heat, are still required, just like in regular creamed spinach.

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Coconut-Creamed Spinach

  • 2 packages frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 can (15 oz) coconut milk
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. chili flakes
  • 2 tsp. coconut oil
  • salt & pepper

Press the thawed, frozen spinach into a mesh sieve to squeeze as much water as you can from it.  Leave to drain as you cook the onion.  In a sauté pan over medium heat, as the coconut oil and the diced onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened and is mostly translucent.  Add the minced garlic and the spices (garam masala, ginger, cumin, and chili flakes) and stir the whole mixture for about 2 minutes, until the garlic and spices are fragrant.  Add the drained spinach to the pan and stir to combine with the onion.  Pour in about half of the can of coconut milk, stirring until the spinach mixture loosens up and the coconut milk in incorporated into the mix.  Add the remaining coconut milk and simmer the mixture until the desired thickness–the milk should hold together everything: the liquid shouldn’t pool from the greens.  It should only take a few minutes, at most!  Add a hefty pinch of salt and pepper, taste, and add more salt if needed!


Turmeric Lattes (Golden Milk Lattes): 3 Ways

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Alright, confession time.  I pronounce (some) words strangely.  These days, its only really noticeable in my emphasis on “tt” when it shows up in the middle of words.  Kitten.  Mitten.  Button…  But I also said “pint” with a short ‘i’ sound for a little while and went through a phase with too much emphasis on the ‘w’s in words like sword and dwarf.  My family will still tease me about it, occasionally.  I was a kid who read A LOT (like, a chapter book a day… rereading Harry Potter books 1-3 over 30 times during the year before Goblet of Fire was published…yeah…)  So I had a fairly large collection of words that I was most familiar with seeing.  So, I tended to pronounce things as the y looked.  I mean, obviously there are two T’s for a reason, am I right?

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Anyways, I’ve noticed now that I am an adult, I’ve picked up a bad habit of dropping or even changing letters.  I think it, again, comes from reading the words so often (on blogs, etc), except that I am a little too lazy and just presume a word instead of actually paying attention.  So here’s the actual confession:  Even though I have heard it said and I know that the “R” is there…I say too-meric.  I also say xanthUM gum, and in my earlier recipes, have often written in with an M instead of an N.  That one was more surprising when I realized my mistake.  I’ve been aware of my turmeric error forever, but I just can’t seem to shake my bad pronunciation.

Have you tried turmeric lattes (also known as “golden milk” lattes) yet?

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They sounded super comforting when I first heard about them and (no surprise to my spice-loving self) I love them!  This is perhaps why I now have a little under a pound of fresh turmeric root in my freezer.  That’s another story.  But the short version is that it came in my produce box.  And my sister also got some and asked me what I did with it.  So, I came up with a few different versions of a turmeric latte to share with you today!  Plus, it gave me an excuse to make designs with spices on my marble cutting board.  Hello, beautiful!

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The Quick Way (Turmeric Latte)-Or when you just have dried, powdered turmeric

  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • hefty pinch ground black pepper
  • 1-2 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp./a splash of vanilla extract(optional)
  • 1 c. milk*

*dairy or non-dairy–I love almond milk in these lattes

Heat the milk in the microwave.  In ours, it takes about 2 minutes to get piping hot, but not scalded.  While the milk is heating, add all spices, honey, and vanilla extract, if using, to your coffee mug.  Mix well to form a paste.  Add a splash of hot milk and stir until the paste is incorporated into the liquid.  Add remaining milk, give it all a stir, and enjoy!

The Slow Way (Turmeric Tea Concentrate)Or when you have fresh/frozen turmeric root

  • 4 Tbsp. turmeric root, grated
  • 1/2 inch slice of ginger root, split into a few pieces
  • 3 c. water
  • hefty pinch ground black pepper
  • 1-2 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp./a splash of vanilla extract (optional)
  • milk of choice

Add grated turmeric root and ginger slices to a small pot with the water.  Bring to a boil, turn off heat and allow to steep until water cools (at least 1 hour).  If possible, I usually transfer it all to a jar, cover, and let it steep overnight.  Strain the water from the roots and keep the concentrate in the fridge for up to two weeks.  When ready to serve, heat equal parts turmeric tea and milk of choice.  In coffee mug, mix honey, vanilla extract, if using, and ground pepper.  Add the milk mixture, stir thoroughly, and enjoy!

The Twist (Turmeric Chai Tea Concentrate)–Or when you don’t want a ton of turmeric

  • 2-3 Tbsp turmeric root, grated*
  • 3/4 inch of ginger root, sliced
  • 5 whole cardamom pods
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 3 whole allspice
  • hefty pinch of freshly ground nutmeg (or 1/4 tsp. ground)
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper (or a few whole peppercorns)
  • 4 black tea bags (regular or decaf, depending on when you favor your lattes)
  • 3 c. water
  • 1-2 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp./a splash of vanilla extract (optional)
  • milk of choice

*or 1-2 tsp ground, dried turmeric

Add grated turmeric root, ginger slices, and all spices (whole or ground) to a small pot with the water.  Bring to a boil, turn off heat and allow to steep until water cools (at least 1 hour).  If possible, I usually transfer it all to a jar, cover, and let it steep overnight.  Strain the water from the spices and keep the concentrate in the fridge for up to two weeks.  When ready to serve, heat equal parts turmeric tea and milk of choice (usually 1/2 cup of each).  In coffee mug, mix honey and vanilla extract, if using.  Add the milk mixture, stir thoroughly, and enjoy!


Crockpot Coconut Braised Pork

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How was everyone’s weekend?  We ran all over, catching up with several different friends and with M’s mum, now that she has returned from her vacation.  On Friday, we started with seeing several of my friends from high school, gathering to watch the new documentary on the making of Hamilton (yep, still obsessed!)  I thought the documentary was very well put together and it was awesome to see a few more clips from the show.  I’m sure it will still be many years before M and I get to see it–ticket prices are absurd and the first national tour doesn’t look to be any more accessible.  Even so, I thought the documentary was very good and it was even better to catch up with my friends.  I don’t see them nearly as often as I should.  On Saturday after work, we visited M’s mum to hear about her latest vacation.  She and her sister RV’ed around the Southwestern U.S. and had a grand old time!  We pulled together a meal out of our fridges–I made a sort-of onion panade from the leftovers of French Onion Soup and some homemade bread.  It’s all the right flavors, at least.  And M’s mum had lamb chops, green beans, and polenta stashed in her freezer.  Everything came together in a not-too-disjointed-and-definitely-delicious way.

Sometimes, those thrown together meals are the best ones.  It isn’t so hard to “eat from the pantry”.  Have you tried?  I try to stick with a $50 weekly grocery budget for M and myself (including my weekly $15 veggie box).  I have varying success, so whenever I find my mid-week grocery trips/my grocery grocery spending starting to climb, I will have us eat from the pantry for a week.  It saves money and it makes me remember how much food we already have!  I’ve done it to clear out some freezer space and this week, we are eating from the pantry because I had to spend a little too much on car repairs this month.  I did keep my weekly Hungry Harvest box, which allowed us some fresh fruits and vegetables.  Those are the hardest to ‘give up’ for these eat from the pantry weeks.  And, since our freezer and pantry were already full with a few cuts of meat and many different grains, we are eating well.   I made us a loaf of bread from the flours I had on hand, and we have been all set.  Already this week, we’ve had Eggs Benedict and crab cakes with salad and roasted potatoes.  Upcoming on my dinner plans are Roasted Tomato+Pesto Pasta, Crockpot Chicken Pho, and BBQ Meatballs with Yellow Squash Cornbread.  The leftovers will get us through the other nights and be used for my lunches and we have eggs, oatmeal, and yogurt for breakfast.  All this without spending anything at the grocery store this week.  (To give you some context, our harvest box had the yellow squash, tomatoes, romaine, and potatoes that I am using in our dinners.  It also had some fruit that I will have with breakfast and lunch.)

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As work ramps up and I move towards the end of the semester with my classes, I am trying to be better about using my crockpot at least once per week.  Not only is it suited perfectly for Fall dishes, it saves me time for homework and/or working late shifts.  Two weeks ago, I perfected this Crockpot Coconut Braised Pork which can be turned into ultra delicious sandwiches!  We had this at the Saxapahaw General Store (and continue to get it every time we visit) and fell totally in love with this juicy pork paired with vinegary pickled vegetables.  I like to save up a few dollar here and there from my shopping trips until I can buy a big boneless pork butt/shoulder every few months.  Buying a 5-10 lb cut will likely have the meat priced cheaply.  When I get home, I portion it into 2-3 lb pieces and stick them in the freezer.  This is the perfect cut for making shredded pork dishes in the crock pot, like this Coconut Braised Pork for sandwiches, Sweet Pork Barbacoa for tacos, or Citrus Pork for chilaquiles.  Pork butt/shoulder is a great stock-up item!

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Crockpot Coconut Braised Pork

Serves: 4-6 | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 8 hours on low (crockpot)

  • 2.5 lbs pork shoulder/butt
  • 1 can (15-16 oz) coconut milk
  • 1/3 yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. curry powder (I used hot madras curry)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. sriracha sauce
  • 1/4 c. fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp dried cilantro
  • salt & pepper

For Sandwiches:

  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1/2 c. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 c. water
  • spicy mayo/yum-yum sauce
  • gluten-free buns

Prep the Pork & Vegetables

Heavy a heavy-bottomed pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Slice the yellow onion and peel and crush the garlic cloves.  Add to the crockpot with the coconut milk, curry powder, sriracha, fish sauce, and cilantro. Stir to combine the ingredients.  Coat the hot pan with a dollop of oil and place the pork in the pan to sear.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then allow to sear for 2 minutes on every side.  Add the pork to the crockpot (it should be mostly covered, but not entirely covered by the coconut milk mixture).  Cover with the crockpot lid and cook for 8 hours on low heat.

Slice the red onion thinly and pack into a half-pint jar.  Thinly slice the cucumber into coins and pack into a second half-pint jar.  Mix the rice vinegar, water, sugar, and salt until the sugar and salt completely dissolve.  Pour this mixture over the packed vegetables.  Close jars and place in fridge to marinate while the pork cooks.

Make the sandwiches

After eight hours, the pork should have a lovely crust where it was not covered by the coconut milk.  Remove the pork from the crockpot to a plate with tongs–it should already pull apart quite easily.  Gently pull the pork into smaller, bite sized pieces.  Spoon a little of the coconut mixture from the crockpot over the shredded pork.

On a toasted bun, add the spicy mayo, shredded pork, then a liberal amount of pickled cucumbers and a few slices of pickled onions.  Some fresh herbs like cilantro or basil might also be delicious here.  Enjoy!  (Pork should keep in the fridge for 3-4 days–add some more of the coconut mixture to keep it from drying out!)


2015 Thanksgiving Recipe Round-Up

 

The big day is just a week away!  While many bloggers are posting a recipe a day, with every dish you need for your Thanksgiving meal, I’ve got to be honest with you:  I have a huge fundraising event on Sunday, a final paper due on December 1st, and our shows’ going up on December 12.  We currently have half of a set that is 3/4 painted, and are only just beginning to make progress on props and costumes.  I am up to my ears in cardboard, feathers, and comparative assessments.  If it were left up to me, there would be no Thanksgiving at all this year. I’ve turned most of the responsibility over to M’s mum (which she did suggest before I said anything at all!)  She has been gracious enough to host most of my family as well, angel that she is.  So I’ll make a batch of cornbread tomorrow to allow it plenty of time to go stale (for my Knockoff Pepperidge Farm’s Stuffing–a must) and I will set aside my paper for long enough on Wednesday to whip up a couple of pies, but that will be the extent of my Thanksgiving contributions.

Luckily, I do have a handful of recipes from seasons past that just might be the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving table.  Check out below for ideas on stuffings, breads, desserts, and even breakfast for the big day!

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My Knockoff Pepperidge Farms Cornbread Stuffing will absolutely be gracing our table.  It is the closest it could be to the real deal!  And, it is totally chill with tasty, extra additions like precooked sausage, cranberries, and chestnuts!  Just gently stir right before the stuffing goes into the oven!

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How about some French Bread?  Perfect as a base to cube for traditional stuffing, or to slice as is for the table.

popovers

Popovers are always first in line on our table at any occasion.

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This Quinoa and Wild Rice Stuffing is chock full of apples, squash, sausage and herbs, and a nice change from traditional bread stuffings.

Peach-berry Pie

I am all about my pies at Thanksgiving.  This year, I’ll be making Bourbon-Toasted Pecan and an adaptation of Deb Perelman’s Nutmeg-Maple Cream Pie.  And I’ll be using the Best Gluten-Free Pie Crust for both!

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Or how about some Coconut-Pumpkin Custard for a dairy-free dessert option?

pots de creme side

Chocolate-Coffee Pots De Creme are surprisingly simple, but make for an elegant (and MAKE-AHEAD) end to the evening.

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Pumpkin-Swirl Brownies have all the flavors of Thanksgiving paired with the comfort of chocolatey brownies.  The recipe is a cinch to whip up well ahead of the big Turkey day!

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These Pumpkin Scones makes the perfect breakfast on a busy Thanksgiving morning.  Make ahead and freeze, then thaw for a delicious start to a hectic day!


Pumpkin-Coconut Custard

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Hello, hello!  Long time, no see.  I know, that’s all my fault of course. I have been distracted by a couple of projects this month, not the least of which is preparing for yet another showcase weekend swiftly approaching in mid-December.   I am 99% certain that all of the set is sketched out.  Since we are using foam board to create replaceable-facing style of set, it is possible that I missed one of the 48 piece of foam board that I am using to create the set.  I will find out soon enough–I’ve started piecing it all together and hope to get to painting next week.  I’m also on sound duty, though two of the shows are a little too intensive for me to go at creating them alone.  I’ll have to take advantage of M’s expertise there.  I’m thinking every small-company, multiple-hat-wearing theater administrator should have an audio engineer for a boyfriend.  They are exceedingly useful!

This week has been a little bit of an extra battle.  Every showcase for, at least, the last year-and-a-half of my two-ish years of stage managing our showcases, inevitably, I break on in hives on my face.  Typically, I get them in the last week or two and I am left with an itchy face all weekend.  This season, they’ve come early, at four weeks out from performance.  Worse, the temperature dropped at the same time, hovering in the thirties.  I’ve worn no make-up all week.  I picked up some hydrocortisone cream, but that actually made it worse.  I woke up red and stinging.  So, I’ve been reduced to dabbing tea tree oil and aloe vera, as that seems to be all that my skin can withstand while it is so cold and dry outside.  I’d nearly gotten rid of the hive, just to have them flair up again.  I am hoping some rest during the holiday break will be enough stress-relief to clear them all up.

Punc is also really disliking the cold, so at least I have company in my misery.  As a notorious seat-stealer, but anti-cuddler, Punc has thrown all of her rules out the window for the winter.  She sneaks up onto our bed in the early morning and wriggles up into the warm spot in between the two of us.  Whenever either of us sits down, she is quick to climb up beside us, making enough contact to start stealing body heat.  I’ve been thinking about getting her another coat, since she is looking pitiful so much more often these days.  The only one we have right now is a big, bulky coat that makes her look like a cosmonaut.  It works wonderfully for walks, but is a little inhibiting to wear around the house.  All in all, I don’t think I will have a puppy who is fully happy again until Spring.

M and I have finally figured out Thanksgiving.  We knew we would be sticking close to home, due to his work schedule, but we will be having dinner with his mum and whomever else we can get to join us.  I’ll be bringing my Knock-off Pepperidge Farms Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing.  I will be following that recipe, plus adding 3/4 c. each of whole cranberries and roughly-chopped, peeled chestnuts.  I tried this combo last Thanksgiving and it was fantastic!  Tart cranberries and soft, cozy chestnuts contrast perfectly against the herby cornbread backdrop.  I’ll also be using my Favorite Gluten-Free Pie Crust to make an apple pie and a pumpkin pie (unless I decide to make pumpkin cheesecake, or even this custard!).  M requested I make Popovers, which I think are the perfect roll for Thanksgiving: light and airy.  Who wants to fill up on rolls with the decadence of an entire Thanskgiving feast on the table?  Popovers are a nice compliment, without feeling so heavy.  It’ll be nice to have a low-key Thanksgiving Day.  I don’t even know if I will be going out for Black Friday shopping.  I may find something that I just have to purchase, but at the moment, I can’t think of anything.  This is also my very first paid holiday, which is pretty exciting!  I even managed to pay off one of my student loans in this first month on full-time salary!  Hurray!  I’m still working on creating my first true budget, now that I can plan with a steady income, but I’m getting there.  Baby steps, right?

Anyways, amidst all these projects, I decided to try eating semi-paleo (no grains, no dairy, no legumes) for a week.  This is a pretty huge challenge, though I tried not to think about it.  I pretty much subsist on yogurt and cheese.  So, as you might expect…I lasted 3 days.  I know that it wasn’t long enough to truly reset, but I didn’t notice any difference either way.  Eating a big bowl of cheesy pasta when I finally broke had no adverse effects.  Sure, it wasn’t a true test, but I was mostly seeing if I could actually manage to eat grain-free and dairy-free.  Obviously not.  I also found myself consuming a lot more sweeteners, which probably is not acceptable on paleo.  I am also sure that the only way that I survived was making this Coconut-Pumpkin Custard on day #1.  It soon became dessert and breakfast, and is a dish I will certainly make again.

This dish is pretty plain to look at, but the smooth coconut paired with the sweet flavor of lightly-spiced pumpkin is a match made in heaven!

Pumpkin-Coconut Custard

  • 2 c. pureed pumpkin*
  • 1 14 oz can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

*Canned is fine, but I used scratch-made pumpkin puree (1 sugar/pie pumpkin split in half and roasted at 425 degrees F for 40 minutes. Scoop out the seeds and discard.  Cool pumpkin, then scoop the flesh out of the pumpkin skin and puree until smooth in a food processor) because I had a sugar pumpkin on hand.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch (for a thinner custard) or a 9 x 9 inch (for a thicker custard) casserole dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, maple syrup, and sugar.  Stir in coconut milk until thoroughly combine.  Then add pumpkin puree, all spices, and vanilla extract.  Mix well.  Pour in greased dish and bake for 35-45 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the custard jiggles slightly, but is not liquid at the center of the dish.

Serve warm or cold, by itself or with whipped coconut cream, or with ice cream.

Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.