I Traditionally Need Help

This week’s Spin Cycle is about “family traditions.”  We were given this subject a couple of years ago at this same time (Jen has apparently been thinking a great deal about her family traditions this week while celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year), and I was tempted to recycle that post, in which I lamented about our family’s lack of tradition.  But instead, I decided I’d talk a little bit about how some of our traditions are changing.

If you go and read the post from 2009 about our family traditions, you’ll see that most of them revolve around food, or holidays where food is very important.  Indeed, in 2008 I did a series of posts about what I cook for Thanksgiving dinner every year titled “Thanksgiving Thursday” (which I neatly summarized here the next year).  It included the usual suspects – turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, plus a couple of other dishes.

Then we changed how we eat in 2010, and how I viewed that holiday meal – something that had morphed a bit since I grew up, but hadn’t fundamentally differed my entire life – suddenly changed.  Did I throw caution (and a 30-pound weight loss) to the wind and make our traditional dinner?  Toss all of those old refined-sugar-and-white-flour-laden dishes out the window and make all new dishes that were in line with our new lifestyle?  In the end, I did a little of both and it was quite the success.

This year, though, things are going to be different.  Jolly and Miss J cannot attend, and unless Oldest Son and Darling Daughter can afford to fly themselves up here, they’ll be absent as well (yes, this bums me out – I like having my family around during the holidays).  So there will just be the three of us, unless I can persuade my Young Diabetic Friend to join us.  And, unless I cave and make rolls for The Young One, there will be no wheat on my table – or dairy, unless I cave and make, again for The Young One, Roasted Garlic White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes.  I simply cannot tolerate either of them, and while there’s milk and cheese in the fridge for Beloved and The Young One, we’ve pretty much become a gluten-free household.

So, the traditions, they are a-changin’.  In a way, it makes me rather sad – I know there are those who make something different every year for their Thanksgiving dinner, but I’m not one of them. There are few traditions in our family, and perhaps because I’m the Mom (and Moms seem to be the keepers of traditions), perhaps I cling a little too tightly to those we do have.  However, never one to be discouraged – especially when it comes to cooking a big holiday meal, whether it’s for 3 people or 30 – I’ve already started to plan just what we’re going to have.

And you’ll get to read aaaaaaall about it, trust me.

In the meantime, I know I have many readers who eat traditional diets, paleo diets, and who have food allergies.  Those of you who do not eat “mainstream” – do you cook your holiday meals?  If you do, what do you cook?  And – although this is not a problem this particular year, it most likely will be in the future – how do you deal with guests who are not “on board?”

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday

Better Than Miracle Whip

Oh, I’m running quite late today – so many things going on, so many things.  I’m still working on my Spin Cycle post for this week, and since it will mesh rather well with Fight Back Friday I guess it’ll go up tomorrow.

At any rate, I’ve had a lot of requests lately, both via email and Facebook, for my homemade mayonnaise recipe (it’s here if you want it).  However, if you read the post that accompanies the recipe, you see I wax rather poetic for a moment about Miracle Whip – mainly because it’s what I grew up on.  Cut me some slack – I’m from the South and my mother disliked mayonnaise, so it’s what was in our house.  (Besides, Beloved is fond of Miracle Whip, too – see?  There are reasons we’re married.)  Truth be told, I haven’t made the mayonnaise recipe as written in months because I’ve been working on a “real food” version of Miracle Whip, and I do believe I’ve hit it.  It’s absolutely wonderful – far, FAR better than the stuff in the jar from Kraft.  Tangy, with just a hint of sweetness – it’s making my mouth water just thinking about it.

Now I’m really missing cow’s dairy – this would make some KILLER pimento cheese.

Better Than Miracle Whip

Better Than Miracle Whip

makes about 2 cups

3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons raw honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 3/4 cups light olive oil

Place the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer and attach the paddle. Beat for 1 or 2 minutes until they are thick and sticky.

Add the vinegar, honey, salt and mustard. Beat for 30 seconds more.

Begin adding the oil a tablespoon or two at a time while the mixer is running. Continue beating for 10 seconds or so after each addition, to be sure the egg yolks are absorbing the oil.

After 1/3 to 1/2 cup of oil has been incorporated, the mayonnaise will thicken to the consistency of heavy cream and it will no longer be in danger of separating or curdling. Beat in the remaining oil in a thin, steady stream – it helps to rest the lip of the measuring cup on the edge of the mixing bowl. If the mayo becomes too thick and stiff, beat in drops of vinegar or lemon juice to thin it out, then continue with the oil.

Season to taste, if necessary.

If not using immediately, scrape it into a clean, dry container with a tight lid and refrigerate. It will keep for 5 to 7 days.

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Butternut Squash Gratin

I’d like to start this post by saying that I just LOVE it when y’all make my recipes and enjoy them.  It makes me so happy!  But to have an entire post dedicated to one of my recipes?  I am beyond flattered – thank you so much, Sprite’s Keeper.  I love you, Jen!  (And you’ll have my spin tomorrow – I just had to think a bit about how I wanted to tackle it.)

Now for the recipe.  Which is, yes, another butternut squash dish.  We got two small ones, maybe a pound-and-a-half each, in our CSA box last week.  One of them was roasted and divided into two perfect 1/2 cup portions for the pancakes (Beloved’s new favorite breakfast when topped with over-easy eggs) and the other became this.

At any rate, I’m running a wee bit late today – Beloved heads out of town again for a week tomorrow (I hate it when he has to travel over the weekend) and we’ve been spending a lot of, er, quality time together. This morning I was looking at the photos of this dish I’d taken, when he came up behind me.

“Get any good pictures?”

“Meh – they’re okay, I guess.”

“Yeah, that was something that tasted a lot better than it looked.”

Indeed it did.  Not that it was gross-looking or anything, but hey – it was sliced squash covered with cheese.  Not a helluva lot of ways you can “pretty” that up.

I is, however, a lovely, mellow, slightly sweet dish – warm and comforting, it’s a great substitute for scalloped potatoes.  It’s a also a very basic dish; there are many ways you could jazz it up a little – it would benefit from some minced fresh sage or basil, I think, or definitely some red pepper flakes for a nice kick.  I used my mandolin to slice it very, very thinly but you could slice it a bit more thickly; just remember to adjust the cooking time.  Also, if you’re using coconut milk, you might want to thin it down a little with water until it’s the same consistency as heavy cream.

For the cheese I topped it with a very nice goat milk Gouda, but Parmesan would be great, too.  For a bolder flavor, try a sharp cheddar or even some bleu cheese.

Butternut Squash Gratin

Butternut Squash Gratin

serves 6

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup coconut milk or heavy cream
1/4 cup grated mild cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Layer half the squash slices in a shallow baking dish and sprinkle with half the salt and pepper. Pour half the coconut milk or heavy cream over the squash; repeat with remaining squash, salt, pepper and coconut milk.  Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the squash, cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is very tender.

Brown the top of the gratin by heating it under a hot broiler for 1 or 2 minutes, if desired. Serve immediately.

Nutrition (per serving): 108 calories, 9.3g total fat, 3.7mg cholesterol, 457.6mg sodium, 213.7mg potassium, 5.4g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, <1g sugar, 2.7g  protein.

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Savory Almond Flour Muffins

I’m not sure, but the discovery that I can bake delicious savory and sweet things with almond flour may not be the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Oh, well – I suppose it could be worse.  In fact, I know it could be worse.

Over the last year, I’ve lamented that I could no longer have spoon bread, or even cornbread, with my Texas-style chili.  I made up for that somewhat with the Chipotle Butternut Squash Souffle I developed last winter, but it’s still not the same as good ol’ cornbread.  And to be perfectly honest, neither is this – but it’s tons better than a squash souffle.  These muffins are a bit more dense than a traditional cornbread muffin, but that makes just one perfectly filling.  It also means these stand up to dishes like soup, stew or chili really well; they won’t get soggy and turn to mush quickly.  Which is a good thing – the next time I roast a chicken, I believe I’ll try to make a version of my grandmother’s Cornbread Dressing with them – if it comes out as well as I anticipate, it will become part of the Thanksgiving menu this year.

The recipe calls for unblanched almond flour, but if you only have blanched that’s fine.  It will lack the rustic look of the muffins in the photo, but probably look more like traditional cornbread.  Also, these were a wee bit on the salty side; you might want to cut back the salt to 3/4 or 1/2 a teaspoon.

Savory Almond Flour Muffins

Savory Almond Flour Muffins

serves 9

1 1/2 cups unblanched almond flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup olive oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon raw honey

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Generously grease 9 cups of a one-dozen muffin tin.

In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, salt and baking soda. In a separate, medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, eggs and honey. Stir the wet ingredients into the almond flour mixture, beating lightly by hand with a wooden spoon, until thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter equally between the 9 greased muffin cups. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition (per serving): 188 calories, 15.8g total fat, 62mg cholesterol, 2524mg sodium, 140.9mg potassium, 5.8g carbohydrates, 2.2g fiber, 2.6g sugar, 2.3g protein.

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German-Style Meatballs

According to the proprietress of Primal Kitchen: A Family Grokumentary (she is SUCH a nice person and her series about what her pre-schooler eats for lunch each day alone is worth the visit), Oktoberfest is in full swing in Munich this week, ending October 3rd.  Why they’d want to have Oktoberfest in September is beyond me but I checked, and sure enough – that’s when they’re celebrating.

Silly Germans.

I had no idea that any of this was taking place (for some reason, I thought Oktoberfest took place in October, but that’s just me) when I made sweet and sour cabbage Friday night and served it with these German-Style Meatballs.  Oh. My. Goodness.  The were absolutely delicious – four of us annihilated the entire pan.  And it was easy – in fact, the hardest thing about it was deciding what to do with the rest of the sweet white wine (I don’t care for white wines, especially sweet ones).  (I drank it anyway.  Wouldn’t want to waste it.)

While the recipe calls for ground pork, ground beef would be a perfectly suitable substitute, as would ground turkey if you insist on a non-red meat.  I’ve also specified either sour cream or plain yogurt, simply because I used plain, full-fat goat milk yogurt.  It was even tangier than cow milk yogurt, hence the addition of the optional tablespoon of honey.  If you use sour cream, I doubt you’ll need it – the wine should keep it sweet enough.

German-Style Meatballs

German-Style Meatballs

serves 6, or my household and a guest

2 pounds ground pork
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried dill
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce (without HFCS or MSG)
2 tablespoons lard or other cooking fat
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Riesling or other sweet white wine
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 tablespoon raw honey (optional)

Using your hands, gently combine the ground pork, parsley, salt, pepper, dill, mustard and Worchestershire sauce in a large mixing bowl; shape the mixture into approximately thirty-two 1 ½-inch meatballs.

Melt the lard or cooking fat in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the meatballs and cook, turning gently, until browned and almost cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the skillet with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

Drain all but two tablespoons of the fat from the skillet; add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or until lightly browned. Add the wine; bring to a boil over medium heat and cook 1 minute. Reduce the heat and stir in the sour cream or yogurt, salt, pepper and honey. Return the meatballs to the skillet and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through.

Nutrition (per serving): 519 calories, 40.2g total fat, 122.9mg cholesterol, 600.1mg sodium, 488.1mg potassium, 5.8g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 3.7g sugar, 26.2g protein.

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