Friday, December 19, 2014

Peelin’ Easy: Orange Fruits and Holiday Traditions

by Wesley Hatch, Produce Clerk

A well-loved tradition in my family, and a time-honored one in many families the world round, is the partaking of citrus during the holidays, specifically in my family those crate-bound, easily peelable miniature oranges. What are they called? Mandarins? Clementine's? Tangerines? Baby oranges? (as a kid, I could not have cared less what they were called: as long as they were juicy and easy to peel, my hands grabbed greedily orange orb after orange orb until my little fingers were sticky and my lips and cheeks stained and my belly full.  A delightful part of my holiday experience.) As I’ve grown older and, I hope, wiser, my palate has grown a bit more refined, leaving me wanting a holiday fruit with a little more complexity.  But first, where do those tasty crate-bound treats come from and how are they related to oranges?
Let’s see if we can’t break this down:
What often comes in crates and is eaten around the holiday are fruit known as Clementine's, members of the citrus family. The citrus family is easily recognizable from their thick outer skin – the rind – their segmented interiors, and their strong fragrance emanating from both the interior juice and the zest on the outside. Grapefruit, oranges, limes, and lemons are among the most popular citrus fruits, along with our old holiday friend the Clementine.
Clementine's are similar to oranges, though smaller, juicier, and easier to peel. The Clementine was first produced through accidental hybridization between the Mandarin and the sweet orange: hybridization in that it is a cross between two distinct fruits – the sweet orange and the Mandarin orange – and accidental in that the hybridization occurred without human intervention. Father Clement Rodier, the Clementine’s namesake, discovered an unknown fruit tree growing among the bushes in his orchard, and by grafting a cutting from the unknown tree onto an existing orange tree, the Clementine came to be.
Although the Clementine is often juicy and easy to peel, I have grown wary of buying the crates due to the seemingly increasing number of duds, or fruit not juicy or soft. What a let down, peeling back the skin and feeling the fruit, which should be soft, and finding it hard and juiceless.
For someone looking for more complexion of flavor in their holiday citrus, tired of disappointment in their Clementine crates, or just looking to try a new fruit, I suggest branching out to another soft, juicy citrus: the Satsuma.

About a month after starting here at the Concord Food Co-op, we in produce received a shipment of Satsuma mandarins – peeling back the skin, exposing the lush orange and white beneath, popping the first easily-separated section into my mouth, the juice burst forth onto my tongue so sweet as my teeth sank in: I was hooked.
Satsuma oranges, also known as Christmas oranges, are actually of the Mandarin variety, making these oranges a kind of step father to the Clementine. Just like the Clementine, Satsuma's are nearly seedless citrus, making it that much easier to eat. Taking their name from the Japanese Providence where the fruit was first exported to the West, Satsuma's are sweet and easy to peel, and are grown all over the world, including Florida, California, and Louisiana, and many parts of Asia. This holiday season, try a Satsuma. You never know, maybe it will be the start of a new, long-lasting tradition.
Thank you, and happy eating.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Baked Brie Two Ways

by Jaimie Jusczyk, Marketing Specialist

At the December Cheesy Wine Down Wednesday tasting class at the Co-op, Heidi suggested that our Executive Pastry Chef Elaine Speer come up with a cheesy treat for us to enjoy and Elaine did not disappoint!

Heidi pouring the Amaretto over the bake brie.
Elaine decided on two different kinds of baked brie that she prepared in advance for us and all we needed to do was bake them! Baked brie is the perfect holiday appetizer to warm your guests and pairs well with so many different flavors and textures. Elaine prepared for us a Henri Hutin Brie Couronne topped with raspberry jam and wrapped in puff pastry and a Blythdale Farm Vermont Brie that she suggested pouring a shot of amaretto over once baked.
These baked brie suggestions are so easy to prepare yourself and wow your audience, I was lucky enough to get the inside scoop from Elaine on how to create the perfectly gooey brie without it turning into a big melted mess. Let me share with you her tips for the brie with raspberry jam.
She first cut the rind off the top of the brie before topping with raspberry jam. Then very carefully she lay the puff pastry over the top trying to centre it as best as possible. Then even more carefully she flipped the brie, so now the raspberry jam top is the bottom with the puff pastry underneath, so she can now wrap the pastry completely around the brie taking care to pinch the dough together completely to seal it in. Once the brie is completely sealed in the dough flip back over so the jam will be back on the top of the brie and you have a nice smooth top. You can use any left over dough to create a decorative topping, like Elaine's grape design.
Elaine created a grape design on the top with the left over dough.

Elaine suggested preparing this a few hours in advance and freezing before baking. This will help the cheese melt slower so the pastry has more time to bake to a golden crust and the cheese will be less likely to leak through.
Once frozen and about 25 minutes before you are ready to serve, place your pastry wrapped brie on an oven safe tray and paint with an egg wash. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown at 400 F. Once baked you can carefully place on a serving dish to sit for five minutes before presenting your masterpiece to your guests. Don't forget to place a cheese knife on the platter to help your guests break into your treat. Serve with some crusty French bread or crackers, sweetened almonds and a glass of Predator Old Vine Zinfandel. Elaine tells me this is a nice hearty wine that goes well with the creamy brie.
If you were present and need a refresher for the rest of the cheeses we tried on the platter here is the list:
  • Brillat Savarin Cranberry (this is the one that we thought tasted like a cheesecake, yum!)
  • Mimolette (the bright orange cheese)
  • Petite Basque (he light colored, firm cheese)
  • Fresh goat cheese from Vermont Creamery covered in herbs or cranberry

And let me also give a shout out to Derek who came in especially to sample the Co-op Wines of the Month from Charles Smith Wines. I think everyone left the tasting class with a new favorite wine too, I know I left happily with a bottle of Boom Boom! Syrah in my bag. If you are looking for the list of Co-op Wines of the Month: 
  • Eve Chardonnay
  • The Velvet Devil Merlot
  • Boom Boom! Syrah
  • Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon
  • King Fu Girl Riesling
Derek educating us on the Charles Smith wines while we enjoy samples.
And of course if you ever have any questions or suggestions, either leave a message in the comments or come in store to chat. Elaine and her team of bakers love to help you out, especially with holiday baking!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Homemade Chocolate Treats to Savor & Share

by Maria Noel Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

'Tis the season for a little indulgence, especially if it's in the name of gift-giving! Here are a few of my favorite chocolate treats to bring to parties and give as treats, all of which just happen to be gluten-free...

Herbs that Combine Well with Chocolate

Peppermint & Other Mints, Vanilla, Lavender, Ginger, Orange Zest, Rose Petals, Tarragon (esp w/white chocolate), Chiles, Coffee, Bay, Star Anise, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Basil, Holy Basil/Tulsi... Let your imagination go wild!

Infusing Herbs in Chocolate:

Heat your chocolate recipe, remove from heat and add some flavorful herbs. Let sit 30 minutes or more, (reheat if necessary to liquefy) then strain and proceed with recipe. Be very careful not to overheat the chocolate or it will separate.

Simple Chocolate Recipes:

* These recipes use this infusion technique or could be adapted with it.
  • Lavender Chocolate: Grind one teaspoon of dry lavender flowers to a coarse powder. Melt 3 oz of dark chocolate in a double boiler or carefully in the microwave. Stir in lavender, and spread onto wax paper to make a new bar, let harden.
  • Peppermint Brownies: Add one to two tablespoons of dried peppermint leaves to your favorite brownie recipe or mix and prepare as usual. Cut into small brownie pieces (~20 pieces for a box mix makes it around 100 calories per brownie).
  • Chocolate Sauce*: Whisk together equal parts real maple syrup and pure cocoa powder, add vanilla extract to taste. Use about 1 tablespoon per serving to drizzle over fruit. 
  • Coconut Chocolate Fudge*: Melt and mix together equal parts dark chocolate and unrefined coconut oil in a double-boiler. Pour onto a rimmed sheet covered in wax paper, cool in the fridge to harden. You can also sprinkle this with nuts, a dusting of nutmeg or cinnamon, etc. (It will melt if you let it get too warm.) 
  • Decadent Gorp: Chocolate chips, almonds, and dried cranberries (one small handful is a serving!)
  • Herbal Cocoa: Make 6 oz of tea using a chocolate-friendly herb like rose petals, holy basil, peppermint, cinnamon, or star anise. Strain the herbs and then add an all-natural hot cocoa mix to the tea. 
 

    Favorite Fancy Chocolate Dessert Recipes

    Brigham's Hot Fudge Sauce*

    This recipe makes a QUART of hot fudge, so plan to bring it to a party, give some away, or freeze it in smaller containers. It keeps for about a month in the fridge. When cold or room temp, it will be very thick, almost fudge-y, so you'll want to warm it to pour over ice cream or brownies. ( like to just eat it in this semi-solid state by the spoonful, though. Why ruin it with ice cream? You can adapt this recipe by changing the vanilla extract for mint, orange, etc, but I love the original so much I've never done this. Buy the best quality chocolate you can find or afford, your fudge will be much better for it. I've doubled the chocolate and halved the sugar on the original recipe - my adaptation is below. One heaping teaspoon (1/2 oz) has about 50 calories.

    ·       8 oz of quality baking chocolate or equivalent of powdered baking cocoa
    ·       1/2 lb of confectioner’s sugar
    ·       1 stick of butter (no substitutions!)
    ·       1 can (13 1/2 oz) evaporated milk
    ·       1 teaspoon vanilla

    Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan. Alternately add milk and sugar. Stirring, bring to a slow boil (bubbles just around the edge of the pan). Remove from heat, add vanilla, stir. Pour into 1 quart jar or into smaller jars. Keep refrigerated or freeze. (It is NOT shelf stable.)

    Chocolate Truffles*

    This recipe is adapted from the one at on www.herbcompanion.com. You can find similar recipes by Susan Belsinger in Not Just Desserts and Jerry Traunfeld in The HerbFarm Cookbook.
    • 14 ounces high-quality semisweet chocolate chips or finely chopped block chocolate
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • Herbs to Infuse: 1 cup loosely packed fresh herbs (ie: peppermint leaves or dried spices), coarsely chopped, or 2-4 tablespoons dried herbs
    • 8 ounces premium white or semisweet chocolate, tempered** or melted
    • Optional to roll around truffle: About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar or tinted sanding sugar, garnish
    Make Ganache/Truffle Filling: Place chocolate chips or chopped chocolate in a large bowl and set aside.
    Combine cream and coarsely chopped herb leaves (or spice of choice) in a nonreactive saucepan. Bring mixture to scalding point, turn off heat and steep the herb(s) in warm cream about 30 minutes. Strain cream into another nonreactive saucepan to remove herbs. Squeeze herbs over pan to recover any retained cream; discard herbs.
    Gently reheat cream to scalding point. Strain hot cream through a fine-meshed sieve directly onto chocolate chips or chopped chocolate. Let mixture sit 1 to 2 minutes before stirring to allow cream to melt chocolate; gently whisk until chocolate and cream have come together and the filling is perfectly smooth. If chocolate does not melt completely, place bowl over barely simmering water, stirring as needed to achieve desired consistency. Pour filling into a small bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight, until mixture is very firm.
    To Finish: Using a 11⁄4-inch melon baller, scoop truffle mixture into small (1⁄2-ounce) spheres. Roll spheres between palms to smooth out any lumps or divots. Place a single sphere on a fork and submerge in tempered or melted white or semisweet chocolate. Shake off excess and set truffle on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining spheres. (You can stick a shelf-stable indicator – such as a dried rose petal or piece of crystallized ginger – to the top of the truffle while the chocolate is still warm.) As soon as cookie sheet is filled, set it in refrigerator to allow dipping chocolate to solidify completely. Transfer truffles to an airtight container and store in refrigerator until ready to eat.
    Just before serving, remove truffles from refrigerator, trim off any chocolate “feet” with scissors and roll truffles in confectioners’ or sanding sugar, as desired.
    **Google “how to temper chocolate easy” for techniques. It’s not necessary, but it will make for a shiny rather than dull finished product.

    Peppermint Fudgy Black Bean Brownie Bites (Gluten-Free!)

    (with a Raspberry Brownie variation in the description)

    Hoping to make something a little more virtuous yet still indulgent? These brownies are a riff off the dairy-free, gluten-free recipe found here; however, I've made a lot of adaptations. It's particularly amazing baked as mini cupcakes and topped with ganache. This recipe is easily adapted to other flavors. For example, you can skip the peppermint and top the ganache with a raspberry.
    •  One 15-ounce can (or 2 cups homemade, slightly overcooked) black beans, drained and rinsed very well
    • 4 large eggs
    • 3 tablespoons melted butter (or canola oil)
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (or maple syrup)
    • 1/2+ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (to taste - I use about 1 cup+)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract or 1 tablespoon dry peppermint leaves, optional
    • Pinch salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided (optional – I like better without)
    Preheat the oven. Prepare pan or cupcake tin and set aside.
    Place the black beans in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, butter/oil, sugar/syurp, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, peppermint extract/leaves, baking powder, and salt and process until smooth. If using chips, add 1/4 cup of the chips and pulse a few times until the chips are incorporated.
    Pour the batter into the prepared pan (for brownies, smooth the top with a rubber spatula) and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips, if using.
    Bake until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before slicing into squares (if serving as regular brownies) or frosting with ganache.
    Traditional Brownies: Bake at 350°F in a lightly oiled 8x8-inch baking pan for 30-35 minutes. Makes 16 brownies (cut into 2-inch squares). Chocolate chips work better in this recipe b/c they have more time to melt.
    Mini-Cupcake Brownie Bites: Bake at 350°F in a mini cupcake tin with cupcake papers (or w/o, if it’s well-oiled or nonstick) for approximately 15 minutes. Makes 24 mini cupcakes. Chocolate chips work better in this recipe b/c they have more time to melt, but this is amazing when topped with a bit of ganache.
    Ganache: I make ganache by melting down equal parts heavy cream and dark chocolate. Once it cools I scoop it into a ziplock bag, snip an end, and use that as a pastry bag. If you have leftovers, you can just put that bag into another ziplock and store it in the freezer til you need it next.
    Freeze It! To really wow guests with fresh-baked desserts, freeze the raw dough in the cupcake tin (using wrappers). Once solid, put them in a freezer bag. When you want to cook them, pop the desired number of frozen cupcakes into your tin.

    Chocolate Tea Blends

    Chocolate Mint Tea 

    Delicious like an Andes candy with no sugar at all!
    • 2 tsp peppermint
    • 1 tsp cocoa nibs
    • 1/8 – 1/4 vanilla bean, snipped into small pieces (or a squirt of vanilla extract)
    Steep approximately 20-30 minutes or to taste. It can be weak if under-steeped or bitter (from cocoa nibs) if over-brewed.

    Cocoa Coconut Tea 

    Deliciously rich and reminiscent of a candy bar or cookie - no cream or sugar needed.
    • 2 tsp toasted shredded coconut (unsweetened)
    • 1 tsp cocoa nibs
    • 1/8 – 1/4 vanilla bean, snipped into small pieces (or a squirt of vanilla extract)
    Steep approximately 20-30 minutes or to taste. It can be weak if under-steeped, so give it time.


    And, it's lovely weather for a...

    Holiday Cocoa Tea

    This blend features evergreen needles, mint, and chocolate in a delightful blend that makes it feel like Christmas!
    • 2 tsp peppermint
    • 1 tsp cocoa nibs
    • 1 tsp hemlock* needles
    • 1 tsp lemon balm
    • 1 tsp rose petals
    • 1/4 vanilla bean, snipped into small pieces
    Cover with 16 ounces of near-boiling water and let steep for 10 minutes. Enjoy!
    * Hemlock TREE (a common evergreen in these parts) is totally NOT poisonous and unrelated to the deathly poisonous hemlock wildflowers. Click here to learn more about hemlock needles and how to identify and harvest your own.



    Maria runs Wintergreen Botanicals in Allenstown, offering on-site and online classes and herbal health consultations. For more herb-inspired recipes and information about herbs, visit www.WintergreenBotanicals.com. Her first herbal book is due out from Storey Publishing by spring 2016.

    Monday, November 24, 2014

    Nutrition & the Holidays

    by Dr. Amanda Hegnauer, ND, Naturopathic Doctor & Co-op Wellness Educator

    How did it get to be November already? Summer has come and gone. Autumn feels like it’s practically over. And, somehow, the holidays are just around the corner. I propose that now is time to grasp the inevitable and plan for the future so we can enjoy the holiday season in a healthy way!

    I am a firm believer in a good plan. By planning ahead we are setting ourselves up for success.

    Step 1: Schedule wisely.

    Review your social calendar and be consciously aware of what your functions will include. Make time in your schedule to prepare and enjoy your gatherings. Remember, it’s okay to allow yourself a bit of indulgence this holiday season. We all know that we cannot hide from that tin of fudge at the office party.

    https://www.eventbrite.com/e/nutrition-the-holidays-tickets-9772877941Step 2: Know your limits.

    Try bringing a healthy (but still tasty!) dish to your next gathering. If you have worked hard to lose those five pounds prior to the holidays and know that you will instantly gain them back just from looking at a piece of decadent chocolate cream pie, than perhaps the best plan is to bring something healthy. Do some research, there are many different options for low-calorie, low-sugar desserts that won’t destroy your hard work! Scour your healthy cookbooks or www.eatingwell.com for inspiration.
    A few words on sugar. Sugars have a more detrimental effect on weight and cholesterol levels than fats do. The average American consumes 22.2 teaspoons of sugar each day. That’s 335 calories with zero nutritional value. One 12-ounce soft drink has 8 teaspoons of sugar, according to the American Heart Association. This triggers inflammation in your body, which in turn contributes to increased health risks including diabetes and heart disease. Think back on this when you go to have that punch, fun cocktail, or second serving of dessert.

    Step 3: Don’t forget good foods.

    As we are well aware, food is one of the foundations of the holiday season. This leads us to step three; when considering what your menu will be, please don’t forget good foods. Include good oils, whole grains, nuts, fruit, and vegetables in your dishes. As you are preparing your meal, consider food sensitivities and be considerate of others. Bringing a gluten-free, dairy-free dish – that is still delicious – will be sure to score you an invite to the next social engagement.

    Step 4: Balance nutrition & exercise.

    The energy that we utilize during exercise is derived from the good sugars and fats that we acquire through good foods. If the balance between these foods are off (perhaps due to too many extra indulgences...), those five pounds that you worked so hard to lose will reappear faster than you can say “Happy New Year.” Find ways to fit in a brisk walk or hike, a run at the gym, or a night dancing with your spouse.

    With the holidays rapidly approaching, there are parties to plan, meals to cook, and many blessings to share. By keeping up with your exercise regimen, healthy foods, and naturopathic care, you can let go of the guilt during this most joyous season and enjoy!

    Dr. Hegnauer practices Naturopathic medicine at Whole Health Concord. Her specialties include autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, endocrinology, gastroenterology
    and women’s health. Learn more at www.naturalmedicinenh.com.

    Friday, November 21, 2014

    Sweet & Savory Winter Squash

    by Shawn Menard, Produce Manager

    With all of the winter squash varieties to choose from at the Co-op it can be challenging to decide which type to pick.  And once you pick, it can be even more challenging to find a new and exciting recipe you haven’t tried yet. Below are some of the squash you will find at the Co-op and my favorite way to use each one. Hopefully this will make it easier for you to decide what will be for dinner.


    Acorn
    This mild sweet squash is easy to handle and absorbs flavor well. Acorn squash is excellent stuffed with your favorite meat stuffing or bean and vegetable mixture.  Cut in half from top to bottom and remove seeds.  Score the flesh in ¼ inch increments and place each half in a baking dish cut side up.  Brush the flesh with olive oil or butter and bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until slight caramelization occurs. Fill each half with desired stuffing and bake for an additional 10 minutes.


    Blue Hubbard
      Its thick bumpy skin is more difficult to handle and cut, but the orange flesh on the inside is well worth it.  The flavor is sweet and nutty. Both flavor and texture are comparable to a sweet potato.  Blue hubbards are great with butter and maple syrup.  Cut in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place halves cut side down in a baking dish with a half inch of water. Bake at 400 degrees for one hour. Let cool and mix in butter and syrup to your liking.  Finish with salt and pepper.
    This large and misshapen squash is one of the most challenging to deal with.


    Buttercup
    This petite squash is one of the easier varieties to handle due to its size and relatively thin skin.  Peel and cut into one inch pieces. Mix 2 tablespoons each of agave (or honey) with balsamic vinegar. Brush liquid mixture over squash pieces and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.


    Butternut
    This is the squash everybody knows.  Its delicious, easy to find, and you can do almost anything with it. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut in half lengthwise and peel.  Scoop out seeds and cut into ¾ inch pieces.  Coat pieces in olive oil and roast for 30 minutes. Heat 6 cups chicken stock on low heat. In a separate large pan melt 5 tablespoons of butter and sauté 2 ounces of diced pancetta and two diced shallots until shallots become translucent. Stir in 1.5 cups Arborio rice until coated. Add a half cup of dry white wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and 1 cup grated parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve.


    Delicata
    This cylindrical squash is very easy to handle and is my personal favorite.  The skin is edible when cooked making it hassle free. I love using delicata in quesadillas this time of year.  Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place halves in a baking dish with the cut side down in a half inch of water and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Allow squash to cool to the touch and cut into quarter or half inch pieces.  Saute the pieces with sliced mushrooms, garlic, onions, dried sage, salt, and pepper.  Cook the mixture in your favorite tortillas with a nice sharp cheddar and enjoy dipped in hot sauce.


    Kabocha
    Also know as the “Japanese Pumpkin” this squash is exceptionally sweet and also nutty in flavor.  It’s texture is reminiscent of russet potatoes and can either be very smooth and creamy or firm depending on how it is cooked.  This is by far one of the most dynamic winter squash varieties and can be used in almost any winter squash recipe.  To get the best out of kabochas, I like to bake in half (with seeds scooped out) at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  Place each half face down and add about a half inch of water to the bottom of the baking dish. This will allow some parts of the squash to remain slightly firm while other parts are soft and smooth.  Allow squash to cool for a few minutes then carve out the flesh away from the skin with a large spoon.  Partially mash and add spices that compliment the rest of your meal.


    Red Kuri
    The red kuri squash is often mistaken for sugar pumpkins as their shape, size, and color are similar. The orange flesh provides a chestnut aftertaste. I like using red kuris for breakfast.  Try adding some mashed red kuri squash into your favorite potato cake recipe.  You could also add small cooked pieces to potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, and corned beef for an awesome breakfast hash.


    Spaghetti
    The name says it all here, spaghetti squash is an excellent alternative to pasta, especially if you are on a gluten free diet.  Cut in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds out.  Place flesh down in a baking dish and add a half inch of water to the dish.  Bake at 450 for 30 to 40 minutes.  Allow squash to cool for a few minutes.  Grab two forks, using one to hold the squash in place and the other to the scrape along the flesh.  As you scrape the flesh it will yield spaghetti-like fibers.  Place all the fibers in a bowl and mix with your favorite pasta sauce.

     

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    Thanksgiving Food Blog Round Up

    The holiday season is upon us with just about a week til the big T-day! We've covered all sort of holiday dinner topics previously on this blog, so we wanted to do a little round up for you...

    The Turkey

    The Veggie Sides

    Appetizers

    Special Diets

    Sweets & Treats
    Want more inspiration? Check out EatingWell and Vegetarian Times.

    Holiday Cooking with Fresh Herbs

    by Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

    In November, I’m still harvesting fresh herbs from my garden to complete a dish for dinner or a party. Even though most of our garden sleeps during the winter, a few hardy herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, and savory will persist into the snowy weather. It’s no surprise that they pair so well with the foods of the season: roasted poultry, squash and root vegetables, cranberries, apples, and baked goods.

    Whether you’re harvesting these herbs straight from the garden or “cheating” and purchasing them from the Co-op’s produce department, the few minutes it takes to add fresh herbs to these dishes are worth the amazing flavor.

    Roast Turkey & Chicken

    Stuff sprigs of rosemary, sage, winter savory, and thyme under the skin of the turkey or chicken before roasting. This prevents the herbs from burning and allows the flavors to penetrate the meat as it cooks. I usually put 1 to 3 sprigs per pound of poultry. (Sage and rosemary are potent, but thyme is mild.)

    Gravy

    Separate the leaves from the stems of several sprigs each of rosemary, sage, and thyme. Place the stems in the hot gravy for several minutes to infuse it. Strain out the stems, then add 1 tablespoon of chopped leaves per cup of gravy. Or simply place the whole sprigs of rosemary, sage, and thyme in hot gravy for 10 minutes, strain, and serve. (I learned this trick from famed herbal chef and author Jerry Traunfeld.)

    Stuffing

    Sage and thyme offer classic flavors to stuffing. For 12 servings of stuffing, chop 1 to 3 tablespoons of fresh herb leaves and fold them into your stuffing. Add 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley for bright flavors.

    Biscuits, Rolls & Butter

    Fold chopped fresh chives and grated cheddar into biscuit batter for a tasty quick bread. Rosemary, sage, thyme, savory, and dill hold their flavor well when baked. Add a handful of fresh, chopped herbs into any dough or batter. If you don’t have time to make fresh bread, flavor the butter instead. Use a food processor to mix 1 tablespoon of chopped chives and 1 teaspoon of fresh squeezed lemon into a stick of softened butter. Reshape in wax paper or place in serving dishes, then
    refrigerate to harden slightly before serving. Using the same technique, add roasted garlic and finely chopped rosemary leaves to softened butter.

    Potatoes

    In a food processor, blend any tender herbs into softened butter, then add that butter to mashed potatoes. Parsley or chives work well. Use 1/4 cup of herbs and 6 tablespoons of butter per 2 pounds of potatoes.

    Squash & Roasted Vegetables

    Sage brown butter adds creamy goodness to mashed squash and pureed root vegetable soups and chowders. In a small skillet, fry a handful of whole, fresh sage leaves in a half stick of butter. You can use the fried leaves as a garnish or remove them before adding to your recipe. Frying sage transforms and mellows the flavor. For roasted squash and root vegetables like potatoes, add several whole sprigs of rosemary, thyme, and/or savory to the pan. Or fold in chopped chives a few minutes before the vegetables are done roasting.

    Apple Cider

    A crock of cider accompanies all our fall and winter get-togethers. Pour 1 gallon of local cider into a crock pot and add 2 to 3 cinnamon sticks, 10 whole cloves, 3 allspice berries, 2 bay leaves, a sprig of fresh rosemary, 1/2-inch of fresh ginger root (sliced), and some freshly grated nutmeg. Let simmer at least one hour. Serve with local maple liquor or homemade cordial. (Available in liquor stores. Make your own by combining equal parts maple syrup and good vodka.)

    Cranberries

    I’m a cranberry purist, but a sprig or two of fresh rosemary infuses nicely in homemade cranberry sauce (remove before serving). Or make this easy cordial: On the stove, dissolve 2 cups of sugar in 1 cup of water. Add cranberries and cook until tender. Fill a mason jar halfway with the mixture, then top it off with quality vodka and a few sprigs of rosemary. Let sit for two weeks, strain. Serve solo or in cocktails at parties. It also makes a nice gift.

    Maria teaches and sees clients throughout the country. Her first herbal wellness book is due out from Storey Publishing in February 2016. Visit www.wintergreenbotanicals.com for more herbal recipes.