Monday, December 31, 2012

Baked Winter Squash with Greens & Bacon

Individual plate of Baked Kabocha Squash with Greens
Contrast in Color, Flavor, and Texture

Kabocha Squash and Collard Greens, Recipe by Robin

Let’s wrap up 2012 with a favorite winter recipe that relies on contrasts. Pairing sweet, dense, and soft kabocha squash with strong, chewy, and sour collard greens, this is perfect food for saying goodbye to 2012, filled as it was with both ease and challenge. The recipe was inspired by a potluck dish I had years ago. The cook would only disclose that she used red kabocha squash, known in some countries as Japanese pumpkin. It’s drier than most winter squash, so benefits from cooking in sauce or stews. Green kabocha is also available, but you’ll have to peel it to get the color contrast. Though this is a vegetarian dish, my recent foray into the bacon world has inspired me to add a with-bacon option.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pumpkin Pie vs. Squash Pie

Butternut Squash and Pumpkin on Counter
The Contenders

Pumpkin or Squash Pie Filling Recipe by Mom & Robin

The votes are in on the Christmas pies, despite a bit of a recipe fail. On all counts, the best pumpkin pie seems to be made with butternut squash. In fact, many bakeries that make pumpkin pie actually use butternut. It resembles pumpkin in flavor, but is sweeter. It has a lower water content than pumpkin, which means that you can eliminate draining it in cheesecloth after cooking and mashing if you’re in a hurry. Pumpkin does have a distinct if subtle flavor that is somewhat earthier than butternut. Because of this subtle flavor difference Elizabeth, our Christmas hostess, stated that next we need to test fresh butternut vs. canned pumpkin puree. Since butternut is currently so inexpensive and can be used in so many ways, that test might not happen soon.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Pie Fail

Pies with burned crusts
I Don't Know from Pumpkin Pie

Recipes in Process

Merry Christmas, All! You might imagine that a food blogger’s Christmas fare would be unfailingly delicious and cooked to perfection. That is true…in our dreams and on a good year. This year, not so much. My lofty idea of having a captive audience rate pumpkin vs. squash pie suffered from beginner’s no-luck. Bruce has gently hinted numerous times before numerous events that cooking something for the first time doesn’t lead to predictable results.  “You’ve made this recipe before?” he asks optimistically. No answer. Unfortunately reason plays a very small role in the creative process.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Peppermint Frosted Brownies

Closeup of Peppermint Frosted Brownies
These Might Help

Recipe by Robin

The joy of the holiday season and the pain of loss are not comfortable companions. And yet, we as individuals have little control over the timing of events. Sometimes loved ones pass away during the holiday season, and sometimes larger groups are decimated by war or other tragedies. Such losses during this time can cause extreme pain in survivors and trigger a host of mixed emotions, almost none of which feel good. And yet, although we have no control over others’ lives, we do have control of our own actions and emotions, no matter how difficult it can seem to start to heal. It helps to remain open to all types of nurturing. Walking in nature, talking with friends, playing music, or performing routine tasks that we enjoy can help. And there’s also chocolate.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Warm Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon

Serving of Warm Brussels Sprout Salad
It's About the Bacon...and the Sprouts

Recipe by James

Bacon. I don’t understand the appeal. Of course, I’m in the minority, as bacon mania continues to sweep the globe. It’s not just for breakfast, lunch, and dinner anymore. There’s baconaisse and bacon jam, bacon lip balm, bacon scented candles and car fresheners, and even bacon toothpaste. And of course the ultimate lingerie item, the bacon bra. Mr. Baconpants tells us why: not only does everyone like it, even those who don’t eat it, it's also "a symbol of freedom in the fight to eat what we want” (rather than what’s healthy). Moreover it “makes everything better.” While I’m not sure I agree that bacon improves absolutely everything (dental floss, for example), I must admit that the addition of bacon to pan fried Brussels sprouts adds a distinctive yumminess. Particularly when paired with the balsamic reduction sauce.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Maple Glazed Sweet Dumpling Squash

Maple Glazed Sweet Dumpling Squash in ornate bowl
My Sweet Dumpling

Recipe by Robin

A few years back I prepared some sweet dumpling squash, and they came out terrible. What did I know? They looked so cute in the market, and I thought “why not prepare them like butternut?” But, whereas butternut is solid and substantial in flavor and texture and plenty thick, sweet dumplings are subtle and delicate. And there’s just a thin layer of squash once the sweet dumpling’s seeds are removed. So it’s easy to overcook if baked upside down in a water bath (a method that works beautifully for butternut). Plus, the water leaches out some of its subtle flavor. So I came upon the idea of turning the squash right-side-up in the water bath. And I used my Mom’s idea for acorn squash: fill the cavity with sweet and salty stuff.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Top 12 Seasonal Eating Posts on 12/12/12

Plate of Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
Most Popular in Person but not on Blog

Readers' Favorites

On this auspicious day, we experience the last repeating-number month/day/year of our lifetime. It’s true that 11/11/11 was a bit more consistent and dramatic than 12/12/12.  But, as a former colleague told me years ago, it’s important to acknowledge completion (he was talking about appreciating the last bite of a cookie, but I'm applying his concept to the end of an era). On this occasion I’d like to share the 12 Seasonal Eating posts that have been most popular with readers. Since I only have stats for the top 10, I’ll throw in a couple of how-to posts that have been popular this December. Have fun on 12/12/12, and a special happy birthday to longtime friend Susi and anyone else who’s celebrating their natal day today.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

December Veggies and Recipes

Bright sunset behind conifers
Wintery Sunset

Darkest Days then Returning Light

Every year at this time I am amazed by the shortness of the days and the position of the sun in the sky. As I write, the sun is so low that I see its disk reflected in my laptop screen from the window behind me. Shortly it will be behind the trees, and then behind the hill to the west. In the deep velvety darkness of December’s nights, it seems natural to look for the light. Sharing festive dinners with friends and family, complimenting neighbors on their cheery lights and decorations, taking the time to connect with a loved one who you don’t often see, giving food and toys to those in need, attending community gatherings: these are the most precious holiday gifts, the ones that sustain our inner light. Let’s remember to take the time to enjoy and appreciate one another during this busy month, and share a little seasonal food and drink with each other.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Green Tomato Chutney

Plate with Chutney in front of turkey slices and green cauliflower
Green Tomato Chutney with Turkey and Cauliflower

Recipe Adapted from “A Midwest Gardener’s Cookbook

This post is a contender for most unusual recipe blogged yet on Seasonal Eating. Move over Candied Tomatoes, DIY Chen Pi, and Blue Violet Tea! Green tomatoes, the recipe’s main ingredient, are not something that we can buy. But they’re something we end up with when we garden, and in large amounts if the frost comes early. Sometimes we can pamper late season tomatoes into ripening by covering them at night and making sure they get full sun during the day, provided that no cold rains fall. But at some point, we’ll want to pick all of our green tomatoes and be done with it. I finally threw in the pampering towel a couple of weeks ago, but the green tomatoes languished in my refrigerator until last Monday.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Plate Piled High with Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins
Seasonal Deliciousness

Recipe by Robin

Can you think of two more iconic late fall seasonal harvests than pumpkins and cranberries? At first I thought it was an odd idea to combine them, even though I wanted to. Then I experimented with Pumpkin-Cranberry Bars last year and the flavors blended harmoniously, enhanced by a few spices. This year I’m going for the muffins. The recipe is based upon my Raisin Date Persimmon Muffins or Cake, another fall/winter-friendly seasonal recipe. Pumpkin seeds add an unexpected flavor, irresistible crunch, and make this recipe appropriate for groups in which someone might have nut allergies.