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Reinvented Broccoli Waldorf

I imagine I can’t be the only one of you who looks back on childhood and recalls massive family potlucks at holidays.  These potlucks were a staple in my tender, formative years.  As a matter of course, they involved a mind-boggling array of foods.  You know how when you’re a kid, the family dog seems to be roughly the size of a woolly mammoth, or how the small strip of sand on the lake where you took your swimming lessons seems to rival the shoreline of Mexico in its vastness?  And then, of course, you grow up.  In doing so, you inevitably grow bigger, and you realize neither the dog nor the beach possess quite the massive proportions you had imagined.

When it comes to my family’s potlucks, such is not the case.

The Unicyclist and I attended one just last Thanksgiving, and my 30-year-old eyeballs boggled at what was still an insane amount of food.

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Dark Days Challenge: Darn Good Hummus, Grilled Focaccia, and a New Broccoli Waldorf

For several years, I was something of an anomaly in the vegetarian world.

I hated hummus.  For those of you unfamiliar with hummus, it’s a staple in Middle Eastern and Greek restaurants, as well as in many vegetarian kitchens.  A savory spread of garbanzo beans puréed with garlic, lemon, garlic, and tahini (a sesame seed paste), it’s a healthy and convenient dip for vegetables or for use as a protein-rich sandwich spread.  I loved the concept of hummus.  I just hadn’t had the opportunity to understand what all the fuss was about.  Frankly, whenever I tried to make hummus, it just wasn’t…well…good.

I tried to make it at home.  I even stepped out of character and followed several recipes to a T in my attempts to make something palatable.

I failed.

Then one day, I discovered cumin, and the world was reborn.

Now, we almost always have some hummus in the fridge.  As I mentioned, it’s great for both sandwiches and high-protein snacks, it keeps well, and it’s full of garlicky goodness.  This week, I decided it was time to share my love of hummus with you, so that you all can enjoy it as well.

Although I’m posting my basic hummus recipe, I actually switched this one up today and used tepary beans instead of garbanzos to keep it local for the Dark Days Challenge.  I served it with herbed, grilled focaccia (which I made using our CSA wheatberries and garden herbs) based on the recipe in Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible and a fantastic, mostly local, reinvented Waldorf salad.  I’ll be posting the Waldorf recipe later this week.  Lunch was very satisfying: both light and hearty, sweet and salty, chewy and creamy and crunchy.  It was also healthy.

I love when that all comes together.


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Dark Days Challenge, Starring Orange Cauliflower

The Unicyclist and I didn’t get much in the way of fresh produce last week from our CSA share with Crooked Sky Farms.  The farm is not to blame, however.  The Unicyclist was on veggie pickup duty, and he managed to barter and swap our citrus and one set of greens for an important storage items for us: wheat berries!  The Unicyclist knows what’s up, which is why we now have three small baggies of wheat berries to make into flour and expand our local cooking possibilities.

I love the Unicyclist.  Not just for his bartering skillz, but those don’t hurt.

In any case, since he managed to barter some of our fresher goods for other people’s wheat berries, we decided we’d better make a stop by Crooked Sky’s booth at the Ahwatukee farmers’ market this morning to ensure we’d have enough produce to see us through until the coming Thursday.  I am awfully glad we went, because that’s where we discovered this beauty.

That, gentle readers, is Orange Cauliflower.

(I thought it merited the caps.  Don’t you?)

Isn’t it stunning?  Apparently, commercial Orange Cauliflower is a hybrid between a non-engineered mutant orange cauliflower and the standard whites.  It’s also a bit sweeter, a lot higher in beta carotene, and much more striking than its pallid (but also delicious) cousin.

I had to have it.

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Dark Days Challenge Recipe: Sunchoke and Mesquite-Candied Squash Salad

Laura over at Urban Hennery decided to make this week a theme week in the ongoing Dark Days of Winter local eating challenge.  Specifically, she told us all to seek out some type of local produce we had either never cooked or never eaten before, figure out what we were going to do with it, cook it up all proper-like, and devour.

I was a little nervous about the challenge.  See, as members of a CSA, farmers’ market fiends, and foragers, the Unicyclist and I have eaten dandelion greens, rapini, turnips and turnip greens, squashes of all shapes and sizes, purple spinach, purple potatoes, golden beets, watermelon radishes, cactus fruit, cactus pads, mesquite pods, daikon, burdock, zucchini flowers, pansies, purple beans, teparies, tat soi, I’itois onions, bok choy, kohlrabi, and a whooooole lot more.  Frankly, although there are probably edible things growing in the Phoenix area that we haven’t yet eaten, finding them might prove to be quite a task.

Fortunately, the fates smiled on us in our CSA share this week, and we got a tiny basket of sunchokes from the farm. While I’ve eaten sunchokes before, the Unicyclist hasn’t.  Best of all, neither of us had cooked them before. Serendipitous much?  I apparently have some good karma stockpiled somewhere.  I just hope I don’t use it all up on produce.

Anywho, I’m sure at least some of you are wondering what the heck a sunchoke is.

Those are sunchokes.

For starters, they’re dirty.

And knobbly.

And just plain weird-looking.

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Recipe: New Moon Quinoa Coconut Cookies (gluten-free and vegan and diabetic-friendly, oh my!)

I don’t really have a good reason for calling these New Moon cookies, except that I personally think they are both novel and out of this world.  Oh, and they’re round.  Like the moon.  And they’re brimming with quinoa, which is also orbish.  So, they’re round at several levels.  And tasty.  And that’s what matters.

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Dark Days Challenge: Sweet Potato and Brie Omelet with Caramelized Onions

If you’re like me (and a lot of other people), the smell of onions cooking verges on intoxicating.  So many delicious dishes start this way that most of us have accumulated years and years of positive associations with the smell.  Needless to say, a pan full of onions caramelizing over a low heat was a doggone good way to start out this week’s Dark Days Challenge.

See how pretty and sweet and brown they are becoming?  That’s what happens when you are armed with patience, a good pan, and some clarified butter.  It’s only my second time caramelizing onions, but I think I’m becoming addicted.  I have a love affair with a lot of the allium family, in fact.  Garlic, onions, shallots, chives…mmmm…  Some stinky things are just so dadgum tasty!

Things are busy around here, as you may have surmised from the less-frequent postings.  That’s a combination of work deadlines and Christmas rush, though I’m starting some classes next week as well.  It’s hectic, but it’s good.  In any case, that busyness is what led me to choose something quick and easy for this week’s challenge.  It doesn’t get much easier than an omelet.

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And So it Begins…Christmas Sweets in the Making

Audience, meet my Darkest Mint Stars:

And have you yet made the acquaintance of my diabetic-friendly, cinnamon-sprinkled, maple-kissed mixed nuts?

Did I mention yet how delicious December was going to be?  Mmmm…

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Dark Days Challenge: Shepherd’s Pie

Well, let’s be honest up-front here. This was not a 100% local meal.  I honored the spirit of Dark Days, but not the cold, hard rules.

I confess: I used up some things that desperately needed using, since Shepherd’s Pie is such a wonderful haven for wayward mushrooms and forgotten produce that’s been living on the edge for some time.  I could have make it without these things (I did contemplate doing so, in fact), and it would have been equally delicious…but I didn’t.  And I think that’s okay. One of the reasons in favor of eating seasonal, local veggies is the benefit it has on the environment.  Making sure my borderline produce wasn’t wasted definitely fit with that goal.

Who were the non-local food fugitives in question?  A handful of crimini mushrooms, and a half-package of frozen peas that was getting freezerburn.  They were nice, but they didn’t make or break this dish.  It’s like chili, minestrone, stew, or any of that sort of thing: what ya got is what goes in the pot.  And it’ll be tasty.  Really.  Oh, the deliciousness that is a hearty cut of garlic-potato-topped vegetarian pastoral goodness.

There’s not a recipe for this, per se, so I’ll just give you the basic run-down on the process.  Make of it what you will.

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Dark Days Challenge Recipe: Apple and Sweet Potato Bake with Greens

Apparently last week over at Urban Hennery, some murmurings started sneaking in about how many of the Dark Days Challenge recipes people had been submitting seemed…well…complicated.  It seems some of the folks taking the challenge for the first time were taken aback by the ambitiousness of multi-course dinners and fancy sauces created by those who have been local fooding and cooking from scratch for a good long while.

I’m sure you all know my stance on that.

I dig fancy-pants meals sometimes.  I really do.  But simple is also good.  Very good.  And tasty.

I can do simple.

So, this week, I decided to keep my Dark Days meal extra-simple and use some ingredients that more folks would be able to find without, you know, having to move to the desert.  With the exception of the orange, I think I done good. Basically, I am excited that so many people did sign up at Urban Hennery for the challenge, and I hope they keep it going.  You know, sometimes you have scrambled eggs for dinner  or squash and a salad.  That counts, too!  And so does this week’s project: sweet potato apple bake with a side of wilted winter greens.

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Dark Days Challenge Recipe: Simple Ratatouille Over Spaghetti Squash

Last week, there was a moment.

The moment came some time after the third batch of homemade cream of mushroom soup, some time after I had a nice dusting of flour on my face and four pies sat cooling on the counter, just a minute or two before my second green bean casserole completely from scratch was popped in the oven.  The moment came after Thanksgiving trailed so closely on the heels of our early family Christmas, leaving no space to breathe.

It was the moment—just one moment—when I questioned the wisdom of investing so much time and effort into fancy holiday dishes that would almost certainly be devoured in a single sitting.  What was the point?

However, when your guests ask permission to lick out the green bean casserole dish and the insane amount of garlic potatoes you made are devoured almost the second you turn your back, when the table is surrounded by fat and happy tummies and family faces smiling contentedly…when all this is going on and you know you fed your guests real, healthy food, responsibly grown…well, things are pretty doggone good.

But I have to say, the Unicyclist and I are looking forward to keeping things simple around here for a while.  Today, for our second Dark Days Challenge recipe, we decided to hit the nearby Sunday farmers’ market and see what we could come up with that wouldn’t be overly fussy or fatty, seeing as how we recently consumed half our body weight in pie.  Here’s our haul:

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