Other People’s Recipes: Cranberry Compote

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Every Thanksgiving when the fresh cranberries arrive in the stores, I make this cranberry compote. It’s based on my mother’s recipe for prune compote. Where did Mom get it? Who knows? Maybe from her mom.

Mom took pitted prunes, apples, pears, and lemon peel, mixed in a goodly amount of sugar or saccharine, and cooked till the fruit turned sort of mushy. Cranberry compote is pretty much the same. Not nearly as sweet. Honestly, it tastes pretty much purse-your-lips-sour no matter how much sugar you add.

  • 2 regular or one large bag of cranberries, picked through and washed
  • 2 large apples, I use honey crisp, Granny Smith, or Fuji
  • 2 pears, usually bosc
  • 1-2 lemons, peel only, cut in strips (optional)
  • Up to 1 cup of sugar or maple syrup or honey or sweetener of your choice
  • 1 TBSP cinnamon

Put everything in a large pot and cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and everything looks like jam. Taste it. If it’s not quite sweet enough, add more sweetener but be careful–if you add too much the compote will start to taste bitter.

One tip I discovered a couple years ago. Use two different kinds of sweetener. Brown and white sugar. Or maple syrup and honey. Or coconut sugar and Erythritol. Combining the  sweeteners tends to cut the sourness.

I have to admit. No one likes this but me. It’s too sour, especially since I add as much lemon peel as I can get away with. But if you like sour with a touch of sweetness, this one’s for you.

 

Other People’s Recipes: Tarte Tatin

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I’d seen a version of Tarte Tatin on Food Network, and when we accepted the invite to my son’s  Thanksgiving dinner, decided THIS was the recipe I’d make.

Except it seemed a bit complicated. Especially when I considered making my own rough puff pastry. I’m a total failure at pastry, tending to overwork it. But never mind. Refrigerated pie dough to the rescue.

Why did I decide to use pie dough instead of puff pastry dough? Both are available, true. But since the tart crust ends up on the bottom, pie crust made sense.

Sadly, I couldn’t find the Food Network recipe online. I got the ‘this page cannot be found’ message. Aagh. Oh well. One recipe has to be like the others. Right?

Wrong. There are more versions of this little recipe than you might think. So I did what I do, and combined recipes to make it easier on me. The ingredients:

  • 6 Golden Delicious apples, cored, peeled and cut lengthwise in quarters, saving one half
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus as much lemon juice as needed to marinate the apples
  • 1/2 stick butter (4 oz.) cut into pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 refrigerated pie crust

Preheat the oven to 425 Fahrenheit. Marinate the apples in the lemon zest, juice, and 1/2 cup of sugar for about 20 minutes. Mix gently–I used my hands–to make sure all the apples are covered in lemon juice and sugar.

Using an oven-proof 10 inch skillet, put the butter in the skillet and sprinkle with sugar. With the heat on medium-low, let the butter and sugar melt, stirring frequently. When the butter and sugar are more-or-less liquid, add the vanilla. Let the mixture cook for 3-5 minutes. CAREFULLY add the apple slices, with the half apple in the middle and the quarters arranged around it, overlapping, round side down. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

When the apples feel semi cooked, take the pan off the heat and lay the pie dough on top. I cut a hole in the center of the pie dough for venting, but you can also prick the dough with a fork.

Place your oven-proof skillet on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 425 Fahrenheit oven for 20-30 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven when the pie crust looks golden brown.

Wait 10-15 minutes–no longer because if the tart is too cool it will stick to the pan– then CAREFULLY turn your tart onto a plate. Most recipes call for vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, but I left home too late and the stores were closed. I served the tart naked.

On a scale of (1) Easy to (10) Way-too-much-trouble, I’d say this was a 9. Coring and peeling the apples took forever. Turning it onto a plate gave me an anxiety attack. And since it wasn’t pumpkin or pecan pie, or even the amazing peach cobbler someone brought, my tart got a little lost among the dessert options.

But never mind. When it was time to leave, I put half on a paper plate for latecomers. The other half I dropped accidentally on my hostess’s newly installed carpet. No leftovers.

Would I make this again? Maybe. I need some time to think about it…

 

 

 

Other People’s Recipes: Paleo Halibut

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Yesterday, Jim celebrated his 81st birthday. We don’t eat out much anymore, but I wanted him to have a special dinner. That meant halibut.

I don’t know what halibut costs where you live, but here, it runs about $30 a pound. Calling for a no-fail recipe. A no-fail Paleo recipe.

I scoured the Internet looking for one that would work for us, and finally did what I do. Put four recipes together, adding and subtracting ingredients, threw in a few of my own touches, and came up with an almond-meal crusted fish that didn’t disappoint.

I added mashed cauliflower as the side. The fish came out moist and tender, and lemony with a touch of crunch from the almond meal. If only I could’ve figured out how to remove the skin before cooking …

  • 2 halibut filets, not too thick
  • 2-3 TBSP almond meal
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp dry parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 TBSP butter (thank goodness butter’s back) plus 1/2 tsp butter for sauce
  • 1/3-1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • juice of 1-2 lemons depending on how much ‘sauce’ you want

Combine the almond meal, lemon zest, parsley, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Pat the halibut filets dry and dredge them in the almond meal mixture. Using a large frying pan, heat the oil and butter together until they bubble, then add the filets, making sure they aren’t touching.

How long you cook them on each side depends on the thickness of your filet. Mine were about an inch thick, and I cooked them 3 minutes per side. When the fish is opaque, remove the filets from the pan and keep warm. I put mine in the microwave–don’t turn it on–which seems to keep things warm without overcooking.

Add the lemon juice to the pan–watch out for splatter–and then the vegetable broth. Cook, stirring pretty much constantly, until reduced by half, then add the remaining tsp of butter. When it melts, plate your fish and veg, with the sauce poured over the plate. The sauce is a bit syrupy rather than thick. 

Enjoy.

 

 

Other People’s Recipes: Should’ve Been Chuck Roast

 

The weather turned a bit cooler–almost fall-like–and we decided it was time to haul out the pressure cooker. I found a toothsome-sounding recipe online that called for rutabagas instead of the forbidden white potatoes. Here are the ingredients:

  • Beef (more on this later)
  • 1 large (all I could find) or 2 medium rutabagas
  • 1 onion
  • 1 shallot (optional)
  • 1 Pink Lady apple
  • 2-3 carrots
  •  2 TBSP olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 TBSP Italian seasoning (we used oregano, marjoram, parsley)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar

The first mistake we made was using brisket instead of chuck roast. We winged it rather than reading the recipe before shopping for ingredients.

The second mistake was to leave decisions about what constituted ‘Italian seasoning’ to the last minute. I know marjoram was wrong, but it’s what I had on hand.

We cut the brisket into four pieces, rubbed it with the mixed seasonings, and cooked it in the pressure cooker for about 80 minutes: our brisket was slightly more than 3.5 pounds. Once we vented the pressure cooker, we rested the meat, then sliced it.

Added the veggies to the pressure cooker, then the meat, and cooked another ten minutes. The meat was chewy, but delicious. The rutabagas added an earthy, potato-like texture, so we didn’t miss the white potatoes we’ve always before added to stews.

The stew was better the next day, with the fat scraped off the broth and the veggies mashed.

What would I do differently? Skip the Pink Lady apple. They turned to mush. Or maybe use Granny Smith. And I’d look for a chuck roast.

 

 

Other People’s Recipes: Paleo Friendly Ginger Carrot Muffins

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I’ve had a yen for ginger muffins since reading a recipe in the paleo book that my alternative medicine practitioner recommended. That recipe had too many eggs and not enough ‘flour’ to be anything close to a real muffin.

Internet to the rescue. I found two recipes that I thought might make a decent muffin, both based on almond flour. Blending the recipes, I came up with this list of ingredients:

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 2 TBSP coconut flour
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 TBSP melted butter (replacing the coconut oil both recipes called for)
  • 2 TBSP unsulfured molasses
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries (replacing the raisins optional in both recipes)

The method is what you’d except. Mix the wet ingredients (starting at eggs) with the dry ingredients. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

I used parchment paper tin liners and, unlike the sticky blueberry muffins, these came clean out of the papers.  They tasted—a lot—like the zucchini muffins I used to buy at Whole Foods. Maybe a tad too sweet. When I make them again, I’ll reduce the maple syrup by half.

As for nutritional–or at least calorie–information, I tried using the calculator at Spark, but it was clunky at best. None of the recipes provided nutritional information. Again, Internet to the rescue. I did find calorie counts for a couple of similar Paleo muffin recipes–225 per muffin.

I froze half the tin for a day when I need a treat.

Other People’s Recipes: Blueberry Muffins

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I wanted a Paleo-friendly recipe for blueberry muffins. Something different for breakfast. What I didn’t want was some banana-y or eggy batter interspersed with blueberries. I was bound to be disappointed.

The recipe I ended up with called for:

  • 6 eggs
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • ¼ cup tapioca flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Like most muffins, mix wet with wet and dry with dry, then put the two together, mix till just incorporated, then fill your muffin tin. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.

Easy to make, despite the frantic search for parchment paper muffin tin liners. And the muffins were edible. Barely. They had a decidedly eggy taste. Cavepeople must’ve been very hungry to enjoy them. And, despite the special tin liners, they had to be scraped out.

After that experience, I went back to the Internet and looked at other blueberry muffin recipes that didn’t call for bananas. All of them had a high egg content—and I have to question where the cavepeople got all those eggs—but most started with 2 cups of almond flour.

Oh. Well yes. That would help.

I’m looking for a cinnamon-spice muffin next. I wonder if cavepeople ate raisins.

A Recipe of My Own: Shrimp Fried Rice

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Ever wake up with a yen for a particular food? That’s what happened to me about ten days into the plant-based Paleo plan. I wanted shrimp fried rice and nothing less would do.

I searched the recipes in the doctor-recommended book, and found a list of ingredients for fried rice that included bacon, sausage, and a box grater for cauliflower. Since I’m clumsy-fingered, the box grater was out. And the bacon and sausage offended my ‘low-fat is healthy’ sensibilities.

A trip to the grocery store for shrimp and veggies solved my box grater problems. There’s such a thing as frozen riced cauliflower. Armed with my fresh and frozen foods, I pulled out the copper wok and assembled my ingredients.

  • TBSP olive oil
  • Tsp sesame oil
  • 1 slice bacon, chopped
  • Half a red onion, chopped
  • TBSP minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
  • 1 baby bok choy
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into disks
  • 1 bag frozen riced cauliflower
  • 8 large easy-peel frozen shrimp
  • Quarter cup soy sauce
  • Quarter cup brown rice vinegar
  • TBSP raw honey
  • Green onions (scallions) for garnish

Right. I should’ve used coconut amines instead of soy sauce, but when I looked at my dusty bottle of amines and saw the expiration date five years in the past, I decided I was on safer ground to use the soy sauce. And I wasn’t sure whether the vinegar was Paleo approved. I could’ve looked that up but didn’t.

Also, you can add just about any vegetable you think would work: mushrooms, bell pepper, cabbages, broccoli … the sky’s the limit.

Cook the oils and the chopped bacon in the wok until the bacon starts to crisp. Add the onion and cook until transparent. Add the shrimp and cook on both sides. This takes only a couple of minutes, till the shrimp turn light pink. Add the other vegetables, including the garlic, and cook until the carrots are done, about five minutes. If you want, take the shrimp out so they don’t overcook.

While the vegetables cook, mix the soy sauce or amines, vinegar, and honey. If you don’t use vinegar, you’ll need to use lemon or lime juice; something to give the recipe some acidity.

Next, add the bag of riced cauliflower. I didn’t bother thawing it before adding, and had to break up clumps of frozen cauliflower. Once the ingredients are completely thawed, pour in the soy mixture.

I let this sit for a while to meld the flavors. It tasted like fried rice without being greasy. Jim actually thought the cauliflower rice was real rice, so yay frozen foods.

 

 

 

Other People’s Recipes: Zucchini Pancakes

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I recently sought an alternative healthcare solution for intractable high blood pressure that wasn’t responding to mainstream medical intervention. At least, it hadn’t yet. Since March.

And as I’d rather do just about anything than lie in an emergency room bed with an IV in my arm, why not give alternative a try?

I came away from my first visit to the ‘integrative medicine’ professional with an armload of supplements and a specific recommendation to follow a ‘plant-based Paleo’ eating plan.

Now I haven’t been asleep for the past 50 years, so yes, I’ve heard of Paleo and even plant-based Paleo. In fact, about four years ago, I gave a popular doctor’s version a go and ended up sicker than I’d ever felt before. I have some concerns about the Paleo eating plan logic, mostly having to do with what cave-people might really have been eating. Maybe not coconut oil. Or coconut flour. Or coconut sugar. All of which seem to be okay Paleo foods.

Anyway. I was given a specific book recommendation and obediently downloaded it to my Kindle.

Paleo breakfasts frustrate me. Bacon or sausage and eggs? Really? I mean, I know the ban on fat has been lifted. But that particular breakfast just seems a bit–well–fat saturated. As I flipped through the pages of the recommended book (no, I’m not saying which book) the first recipe that caught my eye was one for breakfast. Zucchini pancakes. Huh. I like pancakes.

It called for:

  • 2 cups zucchini, grated and water squeezed out in cheesecloth
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 TBSP coconut flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Basically, a latke (potato pancake) made with zucchini. The kicker was to fry it (yes, FRY) in an inch of coconut oil. But okay, I’m game.

OMG. So nasty. Greasy, oily, uncooked eggs, crunchy zucchini. Yes, of course, I didn’t cook them long enough, but any longer in the pan and the outside would’ve burned to a crisp. So hmm… What would I do differently?

Based on my latke cooking experience, which granted is minimal, I’d substitute 1 cup of zucchini for 1 cup of sweet potato–still Paleo approved–use only 1 egg and increase to 3 TBSP coconut flour. Although I wonder if einkorn flour is okay Paleo–I’ll have to do some research–and fry it in a small amount of olive oil and butter mixed together.

Or better yet, I’ll find some Paleo friendly toast.

Oh and yes, I’m just as sick on this plant-based Paleo as I was last time.

But not to worry–look in next Saturday for more adventures with other people’s recipes.

 

Two-Ingredient Bagels

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I don’t often talk about cooking or baking. I can follow a recipe and that’s about it. But I love watching cooking shows, and every so often, I get inspired. Like seeing someone make a breakfast sandwich in 45 minutes, including scratch, two ingredient- bagels.

Two-ingredient bagels? Really?

Having grown-up on the east coast, I was used to eating ‘real’ bagels. Then I moved to Omaha, NE, ending up in Louisburg, KS. I don’t know how they make bagels out here, or whether they’ve ever tasted real one. The best tasting are huge, fluffy donut-shaped bread things. But they’re not bagels.

Real bagels are made with yeast. I tried to make a real bagel once. Lots of steps. Proofing, boiling, baking. Mine came out rubbery.

But the two-ingredient bagel? It’s simple. According to Weight Watchers, mix 1 cup of
fat-free Greek yogurt with 1 cup of self-rising flour. The recipe I ended up using called for 1 ¾ self-rising flour and 1 cup of full fat Greek yogurt.

Mix the two ingredients until a dough forms, then knead briefly. Divide into four equal pieces. Roll each piece into a log-like shape, then squeeze the two ends together. I brushed the resulting four bagels with beaten egg and baked for 25 minutes in a
350 Fahrenheit oven.

I know. Mine don’t look much like bagels. In fact, they’re messy and not at all consistent. I’m no baker. But believe it or not, these had the same chewy consistency as a real, NY bagel. Go figure… Better yet, go try to make one.