Thanksgiving is a foodie holiday. Let’s face it, it is our high holy day. All of the foodie magazines start to arrive in late October with the covers blazoned with lacquered turkeys and mile high pumpkin pies. My heart skips a beat, I start to drool and my mind begins to turn over and over the limitless possibilities of how to turn classic thanksgiving recipes into paleo.
Somehow during this time pumpkin pie spice makes it into everything. Yup, everything. I spend long hours in the kitchen experimenting with dishes and giving them away. Yes folks, thanksgiving is a revel and romp in the kitchen with unbridled joy over the sheer joy of cooking and eating. Then when all the almond flour settles afterwards, it’s kinda of a letdown.
I mean, Thanksgiving is only ONE MEAL, over in an hour… maybe… if you eat slow. All that excitement, enthusiasm and work over one.meal. Then there is the fact that I invite way too many people every year, I just can’t stand the thought of anyone eating alone. So here is a full house, too many guests and too much food. Sensory overload! (not to speak of waistline overload!)
I found a solution. I’m having a thanksgiving dinner every Sunday until thanksgiving. (Then I might have a few after that) Why not? It makes perfect sense, if we string it out along a few weekends and gather only a few friends or family at a time and then cook a fraction of the food at the meal, voila! Great enjoyment. And that is the reason for thanksgiving, to enjoy life and be grateful for it.
We started with our first one last Sunday and it was fantastic. It was super mellow, great company, light cooking and time to play a game after diner, and I wasn’t exhausted and let down afterwards. I’m sold. So I decided to gather all my lovely thanksgiving-ish recipes today for you to enjoy and maybe have two or three thanksgivings to be grateful for this year. Happy Thanksgivings, I am so grateful to you dear readers. Thanks for being here with me.
I’m thinking about thanksgiving, oh yes I am! My mind is flipping through my recipes that I love this time of year like a rolodex on high speed. Sweet potatoes are always one of those wonderful foods that is highlighted at thanksgiving that is usually mashed filled with butter and brown sugar with little marshmallows floating on top. Thankfully it has evolved over the years but I suggest taking it one step further, make a salad with it.
Here is an historical twist; there were no sweet potatoes at the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Nope, none at all. There isn’t any evidence of this South American native being cultivated in North America till 1648. Another interesting tidbit is the sweet potato and the yam are not the same thing. In fact, they are not even in the same family. The true yam is a GIANT tuber that looks like an elephant’s trunk, grown mostly in Africa. It is still a curiosity in our culinary culture that very few North Americans have ever seen here. So, any sweet potato thingy you see or eat here, is just that, a sweet potato.
Sweet potatoes are one of those veggies are nutritional powerhouses. They are chocked full of antioxidants, beta carotene, Vit. C and fiber, along with being a good source of copper, vitamin B6, potassium and iron. The darker the flesh of the potato the more antioxidants are present. They go well in most any dish, so sweet potato away this thanksgiving!
This recipe has been an added Thanksgiving tradition in our family for the last 6-8 years after being introduced to us by Julie Barker, owner and culinary luminary of “Bread and Ocean” and formally of the “Blue Sky Café.” I have tweaked it a bit, but it is pretty close to the original. I highly suggest using arugula only, but mixed greens are also good. It perfectly complements all the flavors of the Thanksgiving meal.
You may prepare the sweet potatoes, mapled pecans, and maple dressing a few days in advance for ease. Keep the sweet potatoes and maple dressing in the fridge till you use and hide the pecans from yourself. Omit the feta if you want a pure paleo side dish.
Sweet Potato Salad with Maple Dressing
10 cups, give or take, of arugula or mixed baby greens
2 cups of roasted sweet potato cubes
¼ to ½ cup of red onion slices
½ cup of mapled pecans, chopped
½ cup of feta cheese, preferably sheep or goat (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut the peeled sweet potato into about ½ inch cubes and put in a pan with sides. Spray the top of the sweet potatoes with a olive oil cooking spray then sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Toss well and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring a few times till pierced easily with a fork. Set aside these little jewels to cool.
Place your greens in your most special salad bowl and toss in the sweet potatoes, and the onion. If you wish to dress the salad before serving, now is the time. Sprinkle the pecans and feta cheese over the salad. Save a few whole pecans halves for the top of the salad for that extra eye candy. Sometimes I place the dressing, mapled pecans and feta cheese in their own bowls next to the salad so folks can add these to their own taste. This recipe makes 6 servings.
Here is the salad dressing we live on all winter. It is so good on every salad but particularly shines in this one.
¼ cup of home made mayo
¼ cup of pure maple syrup
¼ cup of apple cider vinegar
¼ cup of oil, preferably a nut oil, like walnut
1 large shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
Put all the ingredients into the blender and let her rip! Process for about 1 minute till well blended.
These mapled pecans are so delicious you will want to make extra or you will eat all of them before you get them to the salad.
1 cup of pecan halves
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the pecans in a small bowl and drizzle the maple syrup over them and mix well till the syrup is hugging all the pecans in a sweet embrace. Put the pecans in a jelly roll pan that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and bake about 10 minutes, stirring once, till the maple syrup begins to bubble. Remove from the oven and stir once before they are cool, or they will stick to the pan like you can’t believe.
Happy Thanksgiving! I am so grateful for you, dear readers, and I hope you have a luscious and appreciative holiday.
There are many amazing things about this beautiful place that we live in. The majestic trees, clean water, vibrant wildlife, (including the elk that eat my garden) and the mighty pacific ocean roaring in the background make up just a few of the truly amazing features. But of all our natural resources, the one that foodies lust after is the delicious wild mushrooms that abound on our forest floor.
Even though wild mushrooms grow all year long, it is in the fall that they are in their true glory. During this time, mushroom hunters flood into the woods searching for these delicacies, such as the lovely and tasty chanterelle, which can be sold for up to $20 a pound. Yup, crazy huh? But ya see, these mushrooms are called “wild” because they are. They cannot be grown in captivity.
Due to this fact, and how highly they are prized in the culinary world, we literally have gold growing in our woods. This causes an interesting phenomenon where everyone from the humble home cook to slick professional outfits are combing our woods for the wild mushroom. Recently, caveman hubby, out hunting deer, ran into a “team” of mushroom gathers with specialized backpacks that had been sent into the woods with GPS devices to gather the bounty after a team of “hunters” had come through and GPS mapped the crops of mushrooms.
It is no wonder, there is all this woo haa over these little jewels as they are incredibly tasty and chocked full of nutritional benefits. There is no better food for us than wild foods. Wild foods are packed with phytonutrients, which are essential to good health for more reasons than I have room to write about. Our well behaved and domesticated produce doesn’t hold a 10th of these nutrients that wild foods do.
There are over 20 types of wild mushrooms growing around us. The most favorite of these are the king bolete AKA porcini mushrooms, morels and the above mentioned chanterelles. But there are also the lobster, chicken of the woods, fairy rings, and the prince, to mention a few. It is a veritable smorgasbord of mushrooms out there to try!
But please don’t run out there and start tasting mushrooms. If you are interested in mushroom hunting, first take a class or at the very least go out with someone who knows what they are doing, armed with a good book on mushroom identification. As we all know, there are also poisonous mushrooms out there that will drop you in your tracks. It is a blast (and way cheaper) to go hunting for them, just make sure and do it right.
I recommend buying them to start with. Look for mushrooms that are dense and fragrant. Do not buy specimens that are slimy or with decay spots on them. Also light feeling ones have been picked for a while and are dehydrated. Store your treasures in the fridge in a dry paper bag and use within one week.
Make sure and clean them well, right before using. The chanterelles sometimes require breaking them apart to clean all the grooves and folds where pine needles hide. Do not soak them and dry them well with a clean kitchen towel after cleaning because if they soak up too much water the flavor is compromised.
The best way to get the flavor of a wild mushroom is to slice them and sauté them in butter and garlic. Plain, simple honest. Mushrooms in general, love butter and you will love them in butter. Spoon this on anything from winter squash to steaks or eat out of the pan. I personally love mushroom soup. Love. Here is my long standing favorite mushroom soup from the venerable “Moosewood cookbook” by my hero Mollie Katzen. Take advantage of this particularly bumper crop mushroom season to cook this up.
Hungarian wild mushroom soup
This tasty soup can be a meatless main course good for two people or a starter for 4. Takes about an hour to prepare. I used chanterelles and highly recommend them here. This is excellent poured over chicken breasts and baked or as a gravy. It can be made Paleo by subbing coconut milk for the milk and foregoing the sour cream. I almost like it this way better.
2 tablespoons of butter (yup!)
2 cups of chopped sweet onions
1.5 to 2 pounds of wild mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon of kosher or flaked salt
2-3 teaspoons of dried dill
Or 2-3 tablespoons of fresh dill, minced
1-2 teaspoons of sweet paprika
1 tablespoon of fresh squeeze lemon juice
3 tablespoons of arrowroot powder for gluten free
2 cups of a mild stock or water
1 cup coconut milk
OR 1 cup of milk
Black pepper to taste and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper (red pepper optional)
1/2 cup of sour cream (optional)
Finely minced fresh parsley for the top
Click up your heels! You are about to make history! Melt the butter in a large dutch oven or soup pot. Add the onions and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes till fragrant and seductive. Reverently add the mushrooms, salt, dill and paprika. Sauté for a minute, the cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring now and then. Then stir in the lemon juice.
Reduce the heat to medium low and cook and stir for another 5 minutes or so. Add the water/stock with the arrowroot powder dissolved in it and cook for 10 more minutes while stirring and drooling. (Try not to get it in the pot) Stir in the milk, (or coconut milk) black pepper and crushed red pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings. When it is perfect, work in the sour cream and heat gently, no boiling at this point, till it gets hot but not boiling. Serve topped with the freshly mince parsley. Enjoy this golden delicious NW wonder!
My day started out with glorious intentions and a diligent “to do” list. The list was so deep that it would have to take me the better part of a week to get done, and that is without working. Guess it is going to take me two weeks, particularly at the rate I’m going.
I did get to the bank and a few other mundane chores but the lure of all the harvested food in the fridge was just too much. The elegant and amazing smoked salmon that caveman hubby caught and smoked just beckoned to me to make my smoked salmon quiche with a winter squash crust. (The winter squash this year are taking over the yard! I have to start making a dent with them.) The quiche is in the oven right now.
Then all those fat pears on the counter that were all knocked down in a strangely fierce and wet storm for this time of year, so out came the crock pot and a pear butter is in the makings as I write. The house is filled with the fragrance of vanilla, pear and cinnamon. But I wasn’t done, the produce box (CSA) that had arrived on Saturday needed tending to, so I made a salad and put away the last of the straggling summer produce.
And nestled down in that box was a poor battered zucchini. It needed my help. It needed to be made into zucchini bread. Forget the “to do” list. This was way way more important. (Let’s not even talk about those gorgeous chanterelle mushrooms that are summoning to me in the fridge! A gift from a neighbor) So zucchini bread it is and that is in the oven too. Boy does this house smell good!
I’ve been getting really good at making paleo zucchini bread this summer. I’ve tried about 5 different recipes and have morphed them into the perfect recipe that I can’t stop making. (Even though I think this might be my last for this season given the looks of that zucchini) It is the right amount of sweet and the right amount of spice. It is wonderful. And what is more wonderful is that it is paleo. Enjoy the bounty of harvest time.
Cavewoman Zucchini Bread
I added some substitutions that I did to the different zucchini breads. If you really want some decadence, add ¼ cup of cocoa powder and chocolate chips and skip the spices. (Except the vanilla) Maaauh!
1.5 cups of shredded zucchini
3 tablespoons of coconut flour
½ teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon of baking soda
1.5 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
(Or 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and .5 teaspoon of nutmeg)
¼ teaspoon of ground cardamom (optional but adds a depth)
Pinch of salt
2 eggs, whisked
1/3 cup of honey
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
½ cup of almond butter
¼ cup of coconut milk
(Or you can just add ¾ cup almond butter instead of the coconut milk)
½ cup of sliced almonds or nuts of your choice
Heat up the oven to 375 degrees and shred the zucchini on a good old fashion grater. (I find this so much easier than getting out all the parts and pieces of my food processor) Place the grated zucchini in a bowl and sprinkle with the coconut flour, toss to mix, then do the same with the baking powder, soda and spices. Toss all with the zucchini till well tossed, for lack of a better description.
In a mediumish bowl mix or whisk together the eggs, almond butter, honey, vanilla and coconut milk till well mixed. While mixing, add the zucchini mixture to the wet mixture till just blended. Fold in your nuts. Pour into a well-oiled glass bread pan or a 9×9 baking pan if you want it faster. (I lined the bread pan once with parchment paper to prevent sticking. It worked pretty well.) Sprinkle some nuts on top it you wish, and bake for 25-35 minutes till done and a tooth pick comes out clean. (If using the bread dish) If the bread begins to brown too fast tent with foil and lower the heat by 25 degrees. Bake for 20-30 minute if using a 9×9. Let it cool for a bit till eating. Try not to eat it all in one sitting, okay?
I had the most delicious experience last week. My vegetarian daughter was in town and we checked off an item on our bucket list and dinned at the very veggie centered restaurant, “Natural Selection” in Portland. This restaurant has been on our list for a while since it received many awards shortly after its opening in March of 2011. Now many of you might know that drawing attention in the abundant Portland (Oregon) culinary scene is impressive, but to get this highest praise and be a vegetarian restaurant…. Astounding.
Many paleo/primal folks roll their eyes at the vegetarians and positively snort at the vegans. Most of the time, their diets are grains based and I think that is what gets the paleo crowd all riled up. But “Natural Selection” is different. Their dishes are all vegetable based, which is different than vegetarian, but kinda the same.
Let me explain… the dishes are comprised solely of veggies, not tofu, tempeh, grains or any manner of vegetarian “protein”. They are made completely of local veggies in colorful and delicious combinations. You can tell the chef Aaron Woo has fun developing these playful dishes and it is paying off, the place is wildly popular.
This is an indication of an undercurrent that has been surging forward in the culinary scene for a while. Chefs are getting into playing with veggies and not just treating them as a “side” dish but presenting them in the same glory and love as a hunk of prime rib.
Some of the veggie centered dishes I have had the pleasure of enjoying lately are eggplant fritters with zucchini “noodles” in an orange heirloom tomato sauce and grilled cauliflower steaks with olive and tomato relish. This time of year it is easy to get creative with all the abundance of veggies dancing around us.
This has been a fine year for tomatoes (finally!) and boy oh boy have I been having fun with all the delicious heirloom tomatoes that are glutting the farmer’s market. They have been a part of almost every meal served in our house for the last two weeks. Ah, why oh why is it such a short season?? Every time I eat one of these colorful and tasty delights, I morn just a bit at how it won’t be much longer.
Then I read an article in “Fine Cooking” on how to save the season with slow roasting tomatoes in a bit of olive oil and garlic. I decided to give it a try and was more than pleasantly surprised! The tomatoes are deep and richly flavored with an intense “tomatoey” taste that might rival a fresh tomato. They are easy to chop and add to anything that you want to add a flavor kick to like salads, eggs, casseroles, steaks and on veggies.
Making these flavor nuggets is easy but takes about 4 hours of slow roasting, so take that into account, but they are worth it! This Friday is the last farmer’s market, so get down there, stock up on sun filled tomatoes and make some tomato conversa to play with and save some summer in the freezer.
These rock. You can use them up on anything you like. I like them chopped and added to salads or on steamed veggies.
4 pounds of juicy red tomatoes like beefsteak
2 medium garlic cloves, sliced into thin pieces
1/3 cup of high quality olive oil
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
First off, buy your organic tomatoes at the farmer’s market and revel in their beauty. When you are ready, position the racks in the oven to the top of the oven. Turn on the oven and heat it up to 350 degrees. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 inch thick rounds and place in a single layer on two rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle the oil over the red ripe beauties so they are all oiled, place a slice of garlic on some of the tomatoes then sprinkle with salt and pepper and pop in the oven.
Lower the heat to 225 degrees and slowly roast 4-5 hours, only peeking in on them a few times to rotate the pans. The tomatoes will start to look wrinkly and like juicy sun dried tomatoes. Watch them closely towards the end as they can burn easily at that point. Let them cool for 10 minutes before using. Eat slowly and with relish. Will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week and frozen for up to a couple months. Longer if vacuum sealed.
Heirloom tomatoes with tomato conserva salad dressing
The dressing is amazing and can be used on any salad. I really like to use the marinated fresh mozzarella bite sized balls in this salad. You can get them most anywhere. Fine cooking suggested burrata, which is a fresh mozzarella with soft creamy insides, but I haven’t found that in my small town anywhere.
1/4 cup of tomato conserva, chopped
1/4 cup of Extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper
1-2 pounds of heirloom tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
8 oz of fresh mozzarella or burrata (optional)
10 or so basil leaves, chiffonade
Flaky sea salt such as Maldon’s for serving
Put all the ingredients for the dressing in a small jar with a tight lid and shake it up. Shake it good!
Layer the tomato slices on four salad plates and then add 2 oz of the cheese to each plate, sprinkle with the basil and sea salt, drizzle with the dressing and serve. Voila! Fun with veggies.
My CSA (community supported agriculture) box is brimming with eggplants this year. When I unpack it, there are all shapes and colors of eggplant that dance out onto the counter, like a cartoon, and taunt me. You see, I don’t know how to cook eggplant. I know, I know, it seems strange coming from a food crazed person such as myself, but honestly I have two recipes for them, baba ganoush and …well….baba ganoush. I guess I have one. Sigh. That won’t do at all for the bounty of eggplants dancing on my counter. I’ve got to get more creative.
Eggplants got their name from the early eggplants which were small white, egg shaped globes. (easy enough) Botanists give Mother India credit for being the birthplace of this noble veggie but Asia also has dibs on the dubious distinction with their long skinny eggplant that is prevalent in many dishes. The Middle Eastern people embraced the eggplant like no other culture and it was considered important for all brides to know how to cook an eggplant 100 ways before getting married. (No wonder the only eggplant dish I know is Middle Eastern!)
Unlike the Middle Eastern people, eggplant didn’t make quite the splash in Europe where it was well understood that if you eat it, you will go insane. When the eggplant did make it to American, brought here by the adventuresome botanist, Thomas Jefferson, it was used as a lovely table ornament until 50 years later when someone truly adventuresome actually cooked it.
An eggplant is in its glory in late summer, August and September. This is the best time to experiment with this interesting veggie as it is less prone to be bitter like the eggplants you will find in the grocery section in winter and spring. The larger the eggplant the more bitter it can taste from the seeds. Choose smaller eggplants, fresh and plump, for your cooking.
If you do have a larger eggplant, cut it up like the recipe requires, then salt it, let it drain in a colander for around an hour, rinse it and pat it dry. This process will draw all the bitter out of even a giant eggplant. (Can I salt my brother-in-law?) Another interesting tidbit, do not store your eggplants in the fridge. It makes them bitter too. Keep them on the counter with your tomatoes for delicious sweet flavor.
There are many different types of eggplant, like the ones dancing on my counter. The large purple ones that we are all familiar with are called “American” or “Globe” eggplants. “Italian” eggplants look like the globe eggplants but smaller. Then the long skinny ones are called either “Chinese” or “Japanese” eggplant. These are super easy to use and are hardly ever bitter due to their small girth. White eggplants are just called “white”. (Wow someone was super creative on that one.) I have also gotten this lovely large eggplant in my box that was deep purple and looked like a velvet purse with deep gathers in it, called “Violet Beauty.” That one was fun to make lasagna with using it in the place of noodles.
Some great recipes ideas for eggplant that I got while researching this article are;
-Make mini pizzas by slicing eggplant into rounds, brush with olive oil, then roast for 25 minutes then topping with pizza toppings and cheese, bake till cheese is melted.
-Slice into lengthwise slices, about a 1/2 inch thick, brush both side with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper then grill on medium high heat for 3-5 minutes on each side. You can also make the pizzas this way or sprinkle with feta cheese chopped tomatoes and slivered basil
-Cube and add to your soups, stews, or tomatoes sauces for extra depth
-Slice eggplant in half, bake skin side up for 1/2 hour, scoop out some of the meat and mix with some tomato sauce and veggies, stuff the eggplant, top with cheese, or not, and bake till bubbly and golden.
I had my way with those dancing eggplants on my counter and made this magnificent dish. It is so versatile and delicious. I tossed in some other things I had in the fridge like mushrooms, Italian sausage and zucchini. It was amazing and great for the family or for company. I am sorry to report that there are no pictures of it as we ate it all….. that night. I will be making some more as more eggplants just poured in. Despite myself, I think I have learned more than one way to cook eggplant. (But not a hundred!)
Eggplant and caramelized onion gratin
This dish is a great meatless main dish or you can layer in ground meat of your choice to make it meatier. You can also substitute other summer veggies in this like zucchini, just don’t roast them first.
3 pounds of eggplant
3/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 large onions, sliced
4 farm fresh eggs
1 cup of milk or half and half or coconut milk
1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon of good balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons of herbs, like rosemary or basil minced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil a 2 quart glass baking dish, (Or there abouts) Cut the eggplants into rounds about a 1/2 inch thick. Salt them if you think they need it, and set them aside while the moisture and bitterness draw out, about 1/2 hour or so.
While the eggplants are doing their thing heat up one to two tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions. Cook nice and slow, while stirring occasionally, till soft and gold, about 12-15 minutes. Scrape the onions into a bowl to await their moment. When the onions are cooking, beat the eggs in a nice fat bowl with the milk, stir in the cheese, vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt and fresh ground pepper.
Back to the eggplant; if you salted them, wash them off with water then wick off the water with a paper towel. Brush the eggplant with the olive oil, then flip then over and brush the other side till coated in a thin film of oil. (I cheated and used olive oil spray) Tuck them in the over on a top rack to roast for 25 minutes till golden. Take out of the oven and lower the heat to 350 degrees. Layer the eggplant into your glass baking dish. Next, layer in the onions and basil and pour the egg custard over the top of it all. Bake until firm, golden and slightly puffed, about 30 – 40 minutes. Allow this masterpiece to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Cut up some cherry tomatoes and toss in balsamic vinegar and chopped herbs to serve on top for a smashing garnish. Bon appetite eggplant!