Girls and Their Toys

I’m uber busy today – still playing catch-up after being out of the office for two weeks – but I thought I’d share some of my new toys with you.

‘Cause Christmas?  It was good to me this year.

I’ll skip the truly geeky stuff (the official BBC licensed, hand-painted glass Dalek and TARDIS Christmas ornaments) and the unbelievably adorable (the Winnie the Pooh sitting in a wreath with a honey pot Christmas ornament) (can you tell I love Christmas ornaments?) and get right down to brass tacks.

Spiral Slicer

Spiral Slicer

I’ve been seeing spiral slicers everywhere lately, and I finally said, “You know, I think I’d like one of those…”  My Better Half listens, and lo and behold – there was one under the Christmas tree.  I haven’t used it yet, but trust me – you’ll know when I do.  I’m finding the idea of butternut squash noodles and apple chips intriguing.

 Sous Vide Supreme

Sous Vide Supreme

Yup.

For the longest time, I couldn’t decide whether I lusted more for one of these or a Vitamix, so Beloved made up my mind for me.  I’m glad, because I. LOVE. THIS. THING.  It’s so damn easy to use – fill it with water and set the temperature at which you wish to cook your food, vacuum seal said food with some seasonings (and, in my case, fat – butter has been my choice every time so far), drop the package in the sous vide and walk away until you’re ready to eat.  I’ve used it four times so far – once with venison backstrap, once with a pork tenderloin, once with a beef tenderloin and once with a cold-smoked ham steak – and each and every time it produced incredibly flavorful and tender dishes.

Does anyone want to see recipes for it?  I know they’re not a common item in most kitches, and they’re just so ridiculously easy to use – what I wrote in the previous paragraph is pretty much it.  But I’ll be more than happy to post the venison recipe, which I’ve photographed, as well as more in the future if you like.

And finally, the gift that made me laugh the most.

Best. Apron. Ever.

Best. Apron. EVER.

Oldest Son really knows how to rock his mom’s apron collection.

And what did Santa bring you this year?

Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving is just over two weeks away; we have about a dozen guests coming, and my oven is broken.

AGAIN.

It’s bad enough my gas range is less than 10 years old and the ignition switch for the oven has died three times already (a better description would be “melted”), but when I called G.E. to schedule repairs I was informed they no longer service my zip code.

To say I’m angry is a bit of an understatement.  If their “goal is to ensure [my] satisfaction, while offering the highest levels of professional service,” they are FAILING MISERABLY.  Both my washer/dryer and refrigerator are going to need to be replaced within the next couple of years, and it will be a COLD day in hell before I purchase another G.E. appliance.

At any rate, I hope this explains why I have no recipe for you today.  Well, that and the fact we had both The G Man and The Young One this past weekend, and creative cooking wasn’t a real high priority.  Video games and Christmas shopping, yes, but not cooking.

However, it occurred to me that since Thanksgiving is just a couple of weeks away, many of us are busy planning our menus for The Big Meal.  Even these last few years when we’ve cut all of the processed crap from our diet, I tend to throw caution to the wind and keep several of our “traditional” dishes – my grandmother’s cornbread dressing and pumpkin pie, for instance – but I know a great many of you are interested in keeping your Thanksgiving menu as “clean” as possible.

Fortunately, I’ve got you covered – there are tons of holiday-worthy, paleo/gluten-free/real food recipes on this site.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

Starters

Chorizo-stuffed mushrooms

Shrimp Cocktail

Bacon-Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes This is one from the “old days” – it’s delicious and is perfectly fine for a “real food/paleo” Thanksgiving table as long as your bacon is “clean” and you make your own mayonnaise.

Crab Deviled Eggs

Savory Pumpkin Pie

Cauliflower Bisque

Main Course

The Turkey From Hell This has been my “go to” recipe for the last 15 years – it’s even better with a pastured, heritage turkey (we’ve begun brining it – to DIE for).  You can sub the AP flour with tapioca or arrowroot flour.

Perfect Prime Rib Because not everyone likes turkey.

Sides

Cranberry-Orange Chutney

Winter Squash Casserole

Honey-Roasted Butternut Squash

Maple Butternut Squash Soufflé

Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Cauliflower-Celery Root Puree

Roasted Parsnips and Carrots

Balsamic-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

Lemon Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Golden Beets and Greens

Pan-Roasted Cauliflower

Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto Yes, it has rice, but hey – it’s Thanksgiving.  Walk on the wild side for a day; it’s till gluten-free.

Savory Almond Flour Muffins Because…bread.

Dessert

Apple Crisp

Lemon Chess Dessert

Chevre Cheesecake

Chocolate Pots de Crème

Dairy-Free Egg Nog

Leftovers

Turkey, Sweet Potato and Kale Casserole

Turkey and Sweet Potato Hash

Turkey Pot Pie ( the same as my Grain-free Chicken Pot Pie – just sub leftover turkey)

Creamy Turkey and Kale Soup

And there you have it: some of the many holiday-worthy paleo/gluten-free/real food recipes I’ve made in the past – and will continue to make in the future.

Are you cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year?  If so, what’s on your menu?

 

 

Menus, Milestones and Mayans

Well.

I just hit the ground running this morning and have not had a moment to breathe up until now, so I’m a tad late posting.  (We’ll ignore the fact that I might just have been slightly at a loss as to what to blog about.  That works for me, how about you?)  At any rate, since I’ve used up my self-imposed quota of recipes for the week, I thought I’d bore regale you with some end-of-the-year minutia.

As I’d mentioned a time or three, we are hosting our annual company holiday party this Saturday in our home.  You may think we’re bonkers for doing so – okay, we are, but that’s not the point.  The point is, our house would never truly get cleaned if we didn’t.  Why do we never truly look at our homes until we realize that others will be looking at it too?  I mean, it’s not as if we’re living hip deep in trash and clutter or anything, but we may have eventually been slowly suffocated under a blanket of ever-increasing dust and Scooter hair.  To say nothing of what we’d be walking on if we didn’t have our cream-colored carpets shampooed every year.

At any rate, every year I find myself stressing over what to serve at our party, and this year is no different.  We don’t serve a meal, but rather a bunch of nibbles and tidbits that our guests can pile on a plate and walk around with, while the dog sits on their feet and stares at them pitifully.  The last few years this has been even more difficult because of the wildly divergent diets we all eat – one of us is very low carb (out of necessity), a couple of us eat no grains or dairy, the spouse of one of our employees eats very little meat, and there’s a few that wonder where all the cookies and Chex Mix are.  It takes some planning, but I’ve managed to come up with something that I think will suit everyone.

Mixed Nuts

Shrimp Cocktail Platter

Meat and Cheese Platter.  I order this from the Honey Baked Ham people and buy small rolls/sandwich buns for the bread-eaters to make sandwiches out of.  I’ll put out an assortment of pickles I’ve canned myself – bread and butter, garlic dill, pickled beets and watermelon pickles – as well as condiments (mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup)

Crudité Platter with Dairy Free Ranch Dressing for dipping

Fruit Platter with Creamy Poppyseed Dressing for dipping

Cocktail Meatballs – these are just my Barbecue Glazed Meatballs, only smaller

Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms.  If these are any good, I’ll post the recipe next week.

Strawberry Cheese Ring.  This is a hold over from “the old days” but is always wildly popular.  As a concession – mostly to myself – I will serve these with gluten-free crackers.

Bacon-Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes.  These are good.  So good there are never any left at the end of the party.  I’m going to make two batches – one with cheese, and one without for us non-dairy folk.  If I tweak them a lot, I’ll repost the recipe.

Apple Pie.  I cannot have the party and not make this.  Our head programmer adores apple pie – MY apple pie.  So I make it every year, and he takes whatever is left home and eats it for breakfast every day, then returns my pie plate.  It’s become one of those holiday tradition things.

Chocolate Cupcakes.  Yes, the grain-free ones.  I may go buy one of those mini-muffin pans and make  them bite-sized, and add some peppermint extract to the buttercream.  Again, if I tweak the recipe much, I’ll repost the recipe.

And that’s what I’m serving.  If it seems like a lot of food for a dozen people, well…it is.  But, like Thanksgiving, means I won’t have to cook the next day, because I’m not above eating leftover cocktail nibbles for dinner if that’s what it takes to get rid of them.

As for the milestones, there will be two this year:  Saturday I turn 50, and Sunday marks the 5th anniversary of the day I quit smoking.  My mother, a lifelong heavy smoker and committed yo-yo dieter who loved junk food and carried all of her extra weight in her upper body, developed an aeortal aneurysm at 46 that went undiagnosed.  It burst and she had emergency surgery to repair it before she died of internal bleeding.  Five years later she died of a massive heart attack, just 2 months after her 51st birthday.

For the last 16 years, every doctor I’ve told that to has had an apoplectic fit.  And really, by the time I was 45 I could see myself heading down that same path.  It scared the bejesus out of me, and it should have.  So I quit smoking.  Two years later, I changed our diet.  Am I still overweight?  Yeah, I am.  But there have been no aeortal aneurysms, and I’m feeling fairly confident that I will live to see 52.  And hopefull 62, 72 and 82, and that I’ll remain in reasonably good health, unmedicated and with my wits intact, to the end of it all.

Which may very well be tomorrow, if you believe the nutjobs and fruitcakes picketing in downtown Podunk today, waving their signs declaring things like “The End Is Nigh” and “Prepare to Meet Your Maker.”

Oh, Mayans, you’ve given us so much amusement this year.

But, just in case I’m wrong and the end IS nigh, this is for everyone who hasn’t seen it yet:

The Chandelier Tree

The tree in our dining room.

That hangs from the ceiling.

Lemon Chess Dessert

The new theme appears to be working quite well; I’ve gotten most of the bugs worked out – the only one left is a minor issue with my recipe plugin, and I’m just waiting to hear back from the developers on how to solve it.

In the meantime, it’s back to business as usual.

Today’s recipe was one of the indulgences we enjoyed as part of our Thanksgiving dinner – and boy, was it good.   Well, of course it was, since it is merely a reworking of my Lemon Chess Pie recipe.  The original recipe is baked in a crust and is made with refined sugar, milk and butter; this version is baked in individual bruleé dishes and is made with evaporated cane juice, ghee and coconut milk.  Yes, evaporated cane juice is sugar, but it’s not been refined and bleached so it retains what dubious nutritional value sugar cane possesses.  Besides, it is made from sugar cane, not sugar beets, one of the most widely genetically modified crops grown in this country.

A tablespoon of corn meal is also an ingredient, and one that I decided not to omit or change simply because it plays an integral part in the texture of the dessert.  Since I had a small bag of certified organic, gluten-free corn meal (corn meal is often produced in the same facilities as wheat flour, so it may not be gluten-free, even though corn itself is not a gluten-bearing grain), I decided to go ahead and include it.  It was, after all, a treat.  (You might be able to use almond flour instead, but I can’t vouch for how the dish will turn out.)

A treat we enjoyed for days – this is really, really rich and serves 10; each dish contains two servings, so it’s best to share.

Traditional lemon chess pie has a lovely lemon-yellow hue, but because I used evaporated cane juice the dessert was a rich caramel color, and since evaporated cane juice is more reminiscent of brown sugar in flavor, the flavor of this lemon chess dessert is much more complex than the traditional pie.  It is absolutely delicious and decadent, and perfect for the holidays.

If you wish to go truly dairy-free, sub the ghee with coconut oil – I’ve used coconut oil in lemon curd before instead of butter, and it was quite good.  You could also cut down on the amount of sugar and carbs in the dessert by using coconut sugar; it will also be a little less sweet, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, either.

Lemon Chess Dessert

Lemon Chess Dessert

Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • 2 cups evaporated cane juice
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca flour
  • 1 tablespoon corn meal
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup ghee, melted
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest, grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 4 large eggs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter or grease 5 individual brulee dishes.
  2. Whisk together the sugar, flour, cornmeal and salt. Add the melted ghee, zest, lemon juice, water and coconut milk; mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Divide the mixture evenly between the brulee dishes and bake until the desserts are set, about 30 to 35 minutes.
  4. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 218 calories, 7.2g total fat, 86.6mg cholesterol, 89mg sodium, 54.7mg potassium, 36g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 34g sugar, 2.7g protein