Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dungeness Crab: Selecting and Reheating

Dinner Plate filled with 1/2 Crab
One Half (1 lb. plus) Crab Per Person

Recipe for New Year's

The very last day of 2011, a time to reflect on the past year and contemplate the New Year ahead. On the central CA coast, New Year’s is also a traditional time to enjoy crab. This year is particularly good, as the Dungeness crab population is booming and crab season opened almost a month early. The Dungeness crab fishery is sustainable, with very little bycatch. Crab pots are designed to catch only legal-size individuals, and have little impact upon the surrounding environment. So crab is an environmentally friendly as well as delicious choice.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Cooking Dried Garbanzo (and other) Beans

Closeup of Cooked Garbanzos
Cooked Garbanzos Ready for Hummus

Recipe from Frugal Living & other sources

Fast away the old year passes! It’s been a busy December, with lots of good cheer, friends, and family. As I take a short pause before New Year’s, here’s a simple end-of-the-year how-to guide for cooking beans when time is short.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Golden Raisin and Carrot Salad with Peanuts

Bowl of Carrot Raisin Salad
Winter Perk-Me-Up

Recipe by Yankee Magazine

I love when an old friend surprises me. As a former New Englander, I’ve enjoyed Yankee Magazine for years, finding it a great source for traditional recipes that use seasonal ingredients. Yankee isn't the first place I’d think to look for a nutty, nontraditional, vegan salad, and yet their  Fruits of Fall magazine supplement, published in 2000, contains just such a recipe.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ginger Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Bowl of Ginger Cranberry Sauce
Classic Ginger Maple Cranberry Sauce

Recipe by Yankee Magazine

Ever notice how the leftover cranberry sauce runs out before the turkey? Here’s a zippy recipe that’s perfect for Christmas leftovers. Quick and easy to prepare, it’s surprisingly zingy and creates a fresh new cranberry sauce experience. Maybe you’ll like this so well that you’ll serve it as your standard cranberry sauce next year.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Low-fat Appetizers

Celery and Multicolor Bell Peppers on Cutting Board
Christmas-Colored Veggies for Dipping

Menu by Robin, Recipes by Weight Watchers and Cooking by Moonlight

“Simple, low-fat appetizers,” Bruce’s cousin Elizabeth responded when I asked if there was anything particular we could bring for Christmas. “If not possible, just let me know,” she continued, but I love a culinary challenge that requires creative thinking. I also love the idea of beginning a lavish meal with light fare, casually served in the living room as holiday revelers arrive. This menu can also be employed on the week after Christmas when kids are on vacation, as a healthy alternative to the sweets we’ve either made or received as gifts. Next year I’m going to also try this idea for holiday parties and potlucks.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Date Nut Bread

Two Pieces of Date Nut Bread with Cream Cheese Ball
Date Nut Bread with Cream Cheese

Adapted from 19th Century Recipe

I love cookbooks compiled by church women’s groups, especially if they are more than two decades old, preferably three or four. These books of family recipes, put together by volunteers as church fundraisers, are excellent sources for old school cooking in modern times. For sure, many recipes use canned soups and other processed foods, or are very high in fat, but the creative cook can make substitutions, like fresh mushrooms for canned, whole wheat noodles for refined elbow macaroni, lean ground turkey for ground beef, real celery in white sauce for cream of celery soup, etc. And there are always a few recipe gems, things that I remember from eras past.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sautéed Chanterelles

Plated Sauteed Chanterelles
Chanterelles: A Colorful Side Dish

Recipe Inspired by New Leaf Market

Happy Solstice, All! Tonight is the longest night of the year here in the northern hemisphere, and the last of the golden sunlight left the tops of the redwoods before 5 pm. It’s cold, dark, and damp in the woods, urging us to spend more time indoors, preferably in front of a fireplace, keeping warmth and light within ourselves as winter begins.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Winter Veggie Frittata

Slice of Frittata on Plate
Winter Veggie Frittata

Recipe by Robin

I confess that I have never made a frittata before. The word intrigued me, and when I won a raffle prize of 6 fresh eggs from the office manager’s chickens, I thought “frittata.” Frittatas, it turns out, are quite similar to “veggies and scrambled eggs,” which I used to make every Sunday morning when I was single, paired with whole grain toast and homemade jam. Back in those days I used zucchini, bell peppers, and sometimes tomatoes, in other words summer veggies. To honor where we are in the yearly cycle (and to use veggies on hand), I winterized my old recipe.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Winter Week 3 Veggie List & Menu

Bowl of Red and Green Apples
Christmas Pippins from Dan's tree
I won a raffle prize yesterday at the staff meeting at my day job: ½ dozen eggs fresh from the office manager’s chickens! I could use them for seasonal baking, but decided to feature the delicious fresh taste in some variation of frittata instead. It’s been many years since I’ve had eggs this fresh. It was enlightening to learn that our manager cleans up after the chickens every morning, taking care of ”the sh*ttiest job I’ll have to do all day” before she even gets to work…now how many of us can say that? Thank you, Maureen!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Oven Braised Parsnips and Carrots

Plated Parsnips and Carrots with Parsley Sprinkles and Lemon Wedges
Braised and Garnished Parnsips and Carrots

Recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking

“I love your cooking, Robin,” said my friend Joy at dinner a week before Christmas last year. She was specifically talking about this dish, which Bruce and I served with roast turkey, coleslaw, and cranberry sauce. “You know how to make healthy things taste good.”  Sadly, this was the last meal we shared. A chronic illness put her into sudden decline the next week, and she passed away shortly afterwards. I will always cherish my memory of our last dinner, and how we attended the Christmas carol singalong with Boomeria’s 2500-pipe organ afterwards. Let’s join in celebration with our friends, while we have the opportunity.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Simply Baked Yams

Baked Yams on Plate with Maple Syrup, Butter, and Cinnamon on the Side
Fix Your Own: Butter, Maple Syrup, Cinnamon

Recipe by Robin

In December, food media tends to emphasize complicated recipes for sweet and buttery treats and desserts. I’m all for holiday baking (and will post some recipes that contain seasonal fruits later), but wanted to offer the alternative of a simple baked yam, naturally colorful and sweet. Although my recipe contains sweetener (maple syrup) and butter, the amount compared with the vegetable is low. Since butter and syrup are served as “add your own” condiments, each diner can add the amount they like.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Top 10 Gifts for Seasonal Cooks

Green Cauliflower Tree Decorated with Bird and Ribbon
Romanesco Cauliflower Dressed for the Season
Seasons and available foods change, but some kitchen tools get used in all seasons, year after year. ‘Tis the season to be gifting, and I’ve come up with a list of 10 tools that seasonal cooks will appreciate and use year-round. I’ve received many of these as gifts myself. I invite you to comment and add your own favorites. And yes, if you click on a link and buy something (anything) at Amazon, I get a little referral fee, so I’ll be able to retire a little sooner and blog more. *Grin*

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Winter Week 2 Veggie List & Menu

Basket of Parsnips with Greens
I've never seen parsnip greens before.
Have you?
Today we received our first winter CSA share here in central coastal California. Last week actually began the season, but we were visiting family, like many of us do around this time of year. Returning from Idaho, I feel fortunate to live in a county where food can be grown year-round. Moving on towards the darkest time of year, we’ll be eating plenty of root veggies, onions, and apples, and someday soon I will have to make use of the giant pumpkin from the Live Earth Farm harvest festival in October.

While it’s tempting to post lots of treat recipes this month, I’ll find some nutritious main and side dishes too. For starters, check out my friend Mira’s curried cauliflower, which I’ll be making tomorrow night with the delicate green Romanesco.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Pumpkin Cranberry Bars

Closeup of Pumpkin Cranberry Bar
Pumpkin Cranberry Bar Closeup

Adapted from Weight Watchers Recipe

December, one of my favorite months, is here to conclude 2011. Late fall turns to winter, and the darkest day of the year arrives along with celebrations of family, food, and return of the light to the world--in the northern hemisphere. Our friends in Australia and Africa celebrate quite differently as daylight approaches its yearly maximum. It can be hard for those of us in darkness to imagine the light, nor should we try. Short, dark days have a beauty of their own as we retreat indoors, rest more, and find sustenance in light from within.