Archive | October, 2013

Pear Gingerbread

20 Oct

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I didn’t use to like pears. I had a strange prejudice against them. The texture wasn’t quite crisp enough, the flavor perhaps a little too floral. And you can’t deny the slight graininess. I was an apple girl.

But I’ve made a real effort to give foods I didn’t use to like a chance to prove themselves to me again, to show their worth. My parents did a fair job trying to expand my palate as a kid. I grew up eating Thai food and all manor of sea creatures, but some dislikes are hard to get past. Brussels sprouts? I didn’t even try them until I was in my late teens. Squash? In pie form only, thank you. And don’t even get me started on peas and carrots.

Tastes change, however, and now I’m known to buy four different types of squash at the farmers market. I make Brussels sprouts for my boyfriend and I on a weekly basis. I’m still not a fan of carrots, though I’ve had success with an admittedly delicious carrot ginger soup. Peas are still a no go. Sorry peas!

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Pears got their chance as well. It started with perhaps some matchsticks in a salad, or a few pear slices eaten with some stinky bleu cheese. Their merits started to show. That sweet, floral flavor pairs nicely with tangy foods and hearty spices. Hmm…perhaps pears aren’t so bad after all!

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The real star of this Pear Gingerbread, however, is the molasses. It’s dark, smoky, slightly bitter aroma is the perfect counterpoint to the warm spices and sweet pears. Now, before the Paleo Police come knocking on my door, I know that some people might not consider molasses to be on the paleo “yes” foods list. There seems to be an overarching taboo towards all things cane-derived in this community, but in all honesty, why is cane sugar any less natural than coconut sugar? Both have been extracted and refined from a plant. And of all the forms of cane sugar, molasses still contains some vitamins and minerals. Look into it.

Besides, it really wouldn’t taste like gingerbread to me without a little molasses. If you really want to avoid it, substitute with additional honey or maple syrup. It won’t have the same rich flavor, but it will still be delicious.  Or you can live on the edge. I dare you!

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Spiced Dried Fruit Pumpkin Loaf

9 Oct

We are in the midst of an epidemic. Everyone is experiencing Pumpkin Fever right now. It usually hits near the first of October, and it’s a fast-spreading and potent illness whose symptoms only worsen through the remainder of the year. The only cure is to feed the fire. You must start eating as much pumpkin-laden food as you can stuff into your pumpkin-pie-hole. From lattes to muffins to pancakes and waffles. And it’s not restricted to sweet treats either. I’ve even seen recipes for pumpkin enchiladas and pumpkin chili!

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Here’s my first contribution to the pumpkin recipe roundup, and boy is it a winner! I took my first bite of this Spiced Dried Fruit Pumpkin Loaf, took another bite, made my boyfriend take a bite, looked at him expectantly, eyes wide and declared “I nailed this one, didn’t I?” He took another bite. “Oh yeah,” he mumbled with his mouth full.

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I decided to mix in chestnut flour with my usual base of almond flour for this recipe. Ground chestnuts create a very fine flour with a rich brown color and a nutty, sweet aroma that I thought would pair beautifully with the fragrant blend of spices in this loaf. The texture and flavor of this pumpkin loaf are truly divine. You can find chestnut flour in some specialty markets (it’s commonly used in Italian cooking), but you can also order it online. Go buy some– I plan to use it more often in future recipes!

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The mix of dried fruits in this loaf makes it a little more interesting than your typical pumpkin loaf. I went heavy with the spices as well to create an intoxicating flavor experience. A slice of this loaf is a truly decadent treat and will satisfy even the most powerful Pumpkin Fever cravings.

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Creamy Artichoke Basil Chicken Spaghetti (Squash)

5 Oct

Necessity is the mother of creation, isn’t that what they say? Chefs often say their favorite meals are the ones they whip up after a long shift from whatever ingredients are left in the kitchen. I’d like to pretend I’m always prepared– I try to keep a well-stocked pantry, I’m always flagging recipes in magazines or on Pinterest, and I go to the grocery store way too often. But sometimes I’m caught without a plan. More often than not I get into the kitchen and I improvise.

A few weeks later my boyfriend will say something like “Can you make those lamb chops again?” and I’ll have to admit that I really can’t because I only kinda sorta remember what I put on that lamb that one time.

So I’m very proud of myself this time. I created a recipe…and I wrote it down! Granted, this recipe had a little more brainstorming behind it. You see, on Monday I took advantage of the Whole Foods $6 rotisserie chicken special and bought two chickens. I figured my boyfriend could pretty much eat an entire one on his own (he really almost did!), but that still left plenty of chicken behind. What to do with all that chicken?

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I crafted this recipe in my head throughout the day as I ran around town doing errands. Most of the ingredients were things I already had on hand in my pantry. There were just a couple things I wanted and I swung by the store on my way home to pick up the last few essentials to what I hope would be a delicious dinner.

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Sometimes I get a little nervous serving meals like this to boyfriend. He always devours and praises the food I cook for him, but he recently admitted that his favorite food is pasta…which I obviously never cook for him! So when I present him with a plate of spaghetti squash with a dairy-free “cream” sauce, I worry a bit.

There was no need this time. This Creamy Artichoke Basil Chicken Spaghetti Squash was a bowl of warm, comforting, hearty and delicious food that we both gobbled up. Good thing I wrote down that recipe, because I’ll be wanting to make this again soon!

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Harvest Spice Apple Squash Muffins

2 Oct

Fall hit us with full force here in Portland. We were caught off-guard, blissfully sedated by the endless days of hot, cloudless weather we’d had for the past few months. One day it was 90°, our windows were thrown open and we had the fans going, then WHAM, it dropped down to 55°, the clouds barreled in and threw a stormy surprise in our faces. We quickly slammed our windows shut, threw the heavy comforters back on our beds, and put pants on for the first time since July.

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Welcome to fall!

“Don’t you love fall, though?” my hairdresser asked as she colored my locks an autumn-appropriate auburn red. “Yes, I do.” She knows me better than I thought. I love the crisp air, the smell of all the leaves on the ground, the excuse to bake and drink copious amounts of tea and cocoa. I love scarves and cozy sweaters and earth tones. I love boots.

I’ve created a plethora of fall-inspired treats over the years, chock full of pumpkin and pears, apples and cinnamon. But they’re not paleo! This needs to change, and change fast, as fall is most certainly upon us!

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The original version of these Harvest Spice Apple Squash Muffins appeared on my old blog exactly 2 years ago. I loved those spiced muffins so much, I actually developed this paleo version last year, but never shared it with the world. I gifted my mom with the recipe in her birthday card, however, and she adores them (right Mom?). I’m pretty sure she usually substitutes pumpkin for the butternut squash, so that’s definitely an option if pumpkin is what you have on hand. Try to find butternut if you can, though! Give the other squashes a chance!

These little muffins are a perfect taste of fall. Warm spices, tart apple, tender squash. And what a pretty orange hue!

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