What else can be fresher, more local and seasonal than produce directly from the farmer’s market? I love farmer’s markets ( I visit the Boulder Market); the genuine environment, chitchat, stands with crispy produce, freshly baked  bread, artisan cheeses, eggs and meats raised in local pastures , homemade pies and jams… and let’s not forget the variety of blooming flowers…and if you get lucky you can even pet a baby goat!

  It is always fun to watch what fruits and vegetables are in season week by week throughout the season. It is also a good opportunity to learn what produce is actually typical for your area; you would be hard pressed to find juicy berries in Colorado but boy do we have nice peaches come August!  This is something that is barely noticeable in a store… stores also stock the same “perfect” produce over and over; but life comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Farmer’s markets surely bring up the adventurous part of you. There is always an “unknown” vegetable to try, discover a new taste, and get excited about a fun crooked carrot or overgrown zucchini. It is truly eye opening! So what was my “trophy” last weekend?  Fresh garbanzo beans! I consider myself pretty knowledgeable as far as produce goes but I have never seen fresh garbanzo beans in their pods. I also got a tip on how to prepare these little guys from the chef of Black Cat Bistro (and farmer at Black Cat farm). 

This ragout recipe comes together pretty quickly once you have de-shelled the beans. It does takes a little bit of time and patience to remove the shells; a great activity for a leisurely summer evening. The shells easily pop between your fingers.  So sit back with a good friend, glass of wine or just enjoy yourself and let your thoughts go and get peeling!

If fresh garbanzo beans are unavailable you may want to experiment; try those adorable tiny black beluga lentils or dry garbanzo beans (you will want to soak and cook the lentils and the beans before adding them to the ragout , you may need to adjust the amount used as well… keep them al dente though.. no mush!), french cut green beans which are easily found in the supermarket frozen section would be also nice in this dish. But you know… I strongly encourage you to go out and search for the “secret” ingredient you don’t know about yet…!

I served the ragout with pan roasted salmon and garlic roasted potato slices. It would also be great with a scoop of rice for a vegetarian fare.

Fresh Garbanzo Bean, Tomato and Basil Ragout

3 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 Tbs sesame seeds
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes cut into pieces
¼ c white wine
1.5 cups fresh garbanzo beans (about 1lb with shells)
¼ c water (if needed)
Handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan over medium low heat sauté onion and sesame seeds until the onions are translucent and the sesame seeds slightly toasted (“tanned”), about 10 minutes. If you increase the heat this process will happen much faster but I prefer not to heat olive oil too much.

Add garlic and sauté for another minute or so; until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes, wine and garbanzo beans. Cover and allow to simmer until for about 10 minutes, until tomatoes release their juices. If the tomatoes become too dry before the beans are cooked add extra water. I let the tomatoes caramelized little bit before adding the water; this created an extra sweet layer in the dish.

Mix the basil in just before serving. I added the basil little too soon; it turned dark green/black and lost some of its flavor.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!
 
 
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Community garden in Crested Butte, Colorado
After reading this article on "the future of food". I continue to ask myself why “modern” humans try to power their bodies with nonfood created in labs. I am not talking about products sold in fast food places as food but about “healthy” products as indicated in the article. Seems that there is a never ending obsession with deconstructing food into components, attempts to isolate active ingredients and package them into pills and powders and then quantify how much to eat a day.
In my opinion whole food based supplements are useful for a short term use if recommended by a health care practitioner; if there is a desire to make a shift and address deficiencies in the body. But they are not replacements for food created by the sun. True whole food contains nutrients, enzymes, minerals and phytochemicals that act in a harmony; they create a synergetic effect to nourish human bodies which is supported by proper “old fashioned” cooking and preparation methods.  We were created to digest whole foods that grow and we are not able to efficiently process isolated nutrients or processed fragmented food. This is the reason why highly processed foods leave you unsatisfied and wanting more; your body is looking for the minerals, fiber and other nutrients removed during the production process.  Think the white fluffy processed bread .. hmmm.. you eat a slice and don’t even know that you ate something, kind of flavorless, right? Eating this slice is like eating a spoonful of white sugar. That’s how your body looks at it, your blood sugar will skyrocket and then crash. What about a slice of sourdough bread, bread that has undergone a fermentation process that pre-digests starches and makes nutrients more available for you to digest? This bread has a bite and flavor due to a ”ripening” time;  a slice will keep you satisfied. ( it will have a much milder effect on your blood sugar).

Another way to look at whole foods is from the energy point of view. What would you rather have on a hot day,.. a cucumber or a carrot? Yes, cucumber... cucumbers have cooling effect on the body. Carrots that grow for a longer period of time are more dense and have warming more grounding effect... and next time you eat a carrot notice the different energies on the top and bottom end...
My point here is that cooling and warming properties of foods is a natural flow of energy that transfers to our bodies and creates harmony. What will a nutritional chemical compound do? I don't know... only wonder if someone else does.

Yes, it DOES take time to grow and prepare food; it always has and always will. There’s no way around it; sadly we want to eliminate the "food preparation" part from our lives!
Food also takes time to eat. Mindful eating and proper chewing is part of the digestion process and food experience. So, please, try to put down the phone, computer, newspaper, turn the TV off at a meal time. Try to chew each bite 50 times; challenge yourself!  Our society just needs to slow down and enjoy the synchronized process of healing thru everyday meals; one bite at a time, instead of mindless swallowing of a flavorless “something” that is supposed to make us healthy and vibrant.

Yes, there are many environmental issues that threaten our food supply… but will a pill solve these issues?  Most certainly not.  These issues need to be addressed directly by sustainable living; current society needs to turn back to its roots and traditions, limit waste, start returning “favors” to the earth by composting for example, relearning how nourishing wild foods can be and sustainably cultivate food even with weather pattern changes. Did you know that dandelions are one the most nourishing plants on the planet… so please, instead of spraying them with poison put them on your plate; they are the first spring food for bees too!

Feel free to check this website out for more inspiration on sustainable living.

http://www.lexiconofsustainability.com/the-lexicon/#foodandfarming

 
 
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Hanalei Bay Hawaii
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Czech Republic
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My kitchen
I am sure you have noticed that the promotion of local products lately; eat local… buy local…

How far is local? 100 miles? 1000 miles? Or half way around the globe?

 Don’t take me wrong. I am all for supporting the economy, farmers and craft workers of the region I live in.  I will always buy Colorado honey, peaches and tomatoes for example and  search for wild food in my area. I love the farmer’s market!

But what about produce that simply does not grow in the Colorado region? Juicy mangos? Sweet bananas? Or nowadays so popular quinoa? Should I be avoiding these foods? It may be food for thought and a more complex discussion. But my simple answer is: “No”.

In my opinion by purchasing goods from a different part of the planet I support the economy of the particular country; often a developing country.  The key is though that these products have to be produced under “fair trade” conditions; the workers have to be paid fair wages and treated as humans.

Trade, as an exchange of goods, has existed for centuries if not longer; remember those spice and luxury fabrics routes you learned about in your history class? Trade is something that should help “local” communities worldwide flourish and get higher value for their unique products. Trade is something that brings supply and demand into balance (what if there’s a year of draught in my region…); in a deeper sense it has the power to reduce poverty and famine in developing countries.

I bought delicious Haitian mangos in Whole Foods the other day; these mangos were marked “whole trade”. After talking to the produce manager I learned that these mangos come from small scale farmers who are contracted by Whole Foods and paid fair wages. I purchased two and I felt like I supported a local farmer. Then I went back and bought two more, they were sooo good.

By this short post I would like to inspire you to think about where your food truly comes from and what impact your purchase makes and what footprint it leaves... seek balance and sustainability… because this is our planet, home and community… and we don’t live in isolation… Let's "localize" our planet!

Enjoy this “Global Village Salad” made out of these responsibly sourced ingredients – mache greens (my favorite lately.. it is hard to resist the nutty flavor mixed with the rosy aroma) from Black Cat Farms in Colorado, Haitian mangos, Californian blueberries and avocados from Henry Farms California. This recipe is quite loose.. so adjust amounts to your liking.

Global Village Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

for two servings I used
2 cups mache rosettes greens
1/2 mango, peeled and cut into cubes
1 small avocado, peeled and cut into cubes
1/2 cup blueberries
1/4 c blanched almonds

Orange Vinaigrette
(this makes 3/4 c of dressing)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs honey
1/4 + 2 Tbs olive oil
pinch of salt

Mix orange juice, vinegar, honey and salt together. Whisking gradually pour olive oil into the mixture. Whisk until emulsified.
 
 
I have been dying to make a raw dairy free cheesecake for a while now. Since today is my birthday I figured it was a good opportunity to try one out. Considering that this was my first "cheesecake" attempt it came out great.

Originally I had my mind set on a walnut date crust for this cake.. well, as luck wanted there was not enough nuts in my pantry... yes, poor planning on my part... but it sparks creativity. So this coconut base crust is kind of an experiment on my part ..and I have to say I am quite pleased with the outcome. I processed the coconut together with dates into a pretty solid dough and maybe as a result of that the crust is little hard to cut with a fork... tasty though and highly recommended for coconut lovers!
I added coconut cream to the cashew mix to balance out the cashew flavor. To get cococnut cream place a can of full fat coconut milk to the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. The thick cream will separate from the liquid; scoop this thick cream and add it to the cashew mixture. Sometimes for some reason the cream will not separate from the liquid; as a precaution I would recommend that you chill two or three cans. I have had good results with Whole Foods brand 365; I also shake the cans in the store looking for a can where I cannot hear any liquid splushing around.
As far as a sweetener goes I used whipped thick honey as I was little worried not to add to much liquid to the mixture. Seeing the final result I would guess that regular raw honey would work as well.
I chose blueberries for my second layer but any berries will work. I would recommend fresh berries though; frozen ones may add too much liquid into the mixture.
My cake pan is a 10" pan and in my eyes the cake could have had little more height. So if you have a smaller diameter pan you may want to use it for a higher cake.
So these are my notes and here is the recipe:


Coconut Crust

3 cups dried shredded coconut
1 1/4 cup soft dried pitted dates ( if your dates a little too dry, pour boiling water over them
and let sit for 5 - 10 minutes)
1/4 tsp salt

In a large skillet over medium heat toast the coconut until golden . Mix it constantly with a wooden spoon so that it does not burn. 
It does burn easily!
Add the toasted coconut to a food processor together with the dates and salt. Blend until a solid mixture forms.
Line the bottom of a cake spring form with a parchment paper and press the coconut date mixture into the form. Refrigerate.

"Cheesecake" Filling


2 cups cashews, soaked overnight
1 cup coconut cream ( see note above)
1/3 cup softened coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp thick honey (see note above)
2 tsps lemon juice
1/4 tsp cardamom
pinch of salt
1 cup blueberries (or any other fresh berries)

Rinse the cashews thru a strainer. Place all ingredient except for blueberries to a blender or a food processor. Since I don't own a high speed blender I used a food processor figuring it would whip it up better. Blend the mixture until very smooth; it may take few minutes.
Pour about a half of the mixture on the crust. Add the blueberries to the remaining filling and process until the blueberries are blended in. Pour the purple layer on the top of the white layer. Smooth it out nicely. Place to freezer to solidify. Depending on how much you freeze it allow some time to soften a bit before serving (
if completely frozen 30 min should do), of course this is the time to decorate it with some fresh fruit.
For a nice clean cut run a sharp knife under hot water before cutting into slices.

Enjoy and Happy May... the month of flowers!

 
 
Even though the calendar is calling for a change of seasons winter is not giving up yet in the Colorado Rockies. There is still of lots skiing to have and the peaks still have their white blankets on.  Having said that though the spring is in the air even up in the high country.  The slopes turn into soft “mashed potatoes” kind of snow with a huge puddle in the base area in the afternoon, the sun is high in the sky when the lifts close and if you look closer there are tiny little blades of grass or leaves coming out in the resort village.

  About two weeks ago I visited Roaring Fork Valley; the marvelous place that I visited in the middle of the winter as well. The spring is in the air there... the smell of moist fresh soil, budding willows and grazing horses and cows on the first blades of grass… and all this early spring mood topped with a magnificent view of Mt Sopris still covered in snow.

Today’s recipe is inspired by the spring mood; fresh green peas on a blanket of creamy rice like the fresh leaves digging their way up thru soft spring snow.

Risotto is an Italian rice dish of rich and creamy consistency; with still some bite to it. So don’t overcook your rice into porridge! Arborio is the rice of choice for this dish. The grains are short, fat with pearl like glitter and have high starch content. The starch releases in the cooking process into the liquid creating the desired creamy consistency. Stirring your risotto almost constantly and adding hot liquid little bit at a time helps to remove the starch into the liquid and create the creamy goodness. It is truly a comfort food!

Parmesan cheese is often added for extra creaminess but I substituted cheese with full fat coconut milk.  The approximate cooking time is 20 minutes but as always go by your feel to create the perfect consistency.  You can even remove the dish  from the heat little earlier, cover it and leave to finish in its own heat; adjust the consistency by adding more or less of the coconut milk.

A few words on coconut milk… I am talking about full fat coconut milk sold in cans; not cartons. See what kind is available to you. I personally like Whole Foods 365 Brand or Thai Kitchen. If the can is kept in cooler temperature the fat will separate from the liquid. Blend the fat into the liquid. Experiment with reserving some of the coconut fat and mixing it to the risotto at the end for extra creaminess. Just be aware that the separation does not always happen.

Spring Risotto


3 Tbs ghee, divided
1 shallot, finely diced
3 – 4 celery stalks, diced
1 rosemary twig, minced
1 ½ c – 1 ¾ c Arborio rice
½ c white wine
1 c coconut milk
2 ½ c water or as needed
1 c peas
few pinches of dried parsley

In a medium size saucepan saute shallots and celery in 1 Tbs ghee for 3-5 minutes. Add rosemary and rice. Deglaze with wine, when wine is absorbed add liquid about ½ c at a time. Stir frequently and don't let the rice dry out. Continue cooking until the rice is creamy but still al dente.
When the risotto is almost done mix in peas, remaining ghee and parsley. Cover and allow to rest  for a few minutes.

Good bye winter, hello spring!

 
 
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Snowdrops
 I would like to start with  a quote today. This sort of expresses the mood I have been in lately... things come and go and we have to accept it.

"We think the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, room for relief, for misery, for joy." - Pema Chodron


Other than that today is a special day; and it should be for all women. It is International Women's Day ( even though it is not very known here in the US it is a well recognized day in the Czech Republic). On the top of that today is my name day! Again, a Czech thing; yes, we do celebrate our names. There are names written in the calendar and every day there's somebody's day. Don't ask me for the origins of this but it is certainly a nice thing. Your name is being recognized and celebrated like birthdays without getting older :)) ( well, not really). So Happy Gabriela and Women's day!


A special gift came in the mail yesterday; a Happy name day card from my grandmother. Don't you love getting cards thru snail mail; so rare these days! Hand written lavender flower card! So real that I can almost smell the fresh smell of Provence (seriously put a trip to southern France on your bucket list!) My grandmother is almost ninety years old and boy does she have energy for her age; her letters always keep me up-to-date of her life and local weather. She still takes care of her 4 chickens and garden, goes for walks to the local woods (with my aunt), sweeps dusting of snow from her walkway. In her last letter she was so excited about the first flowers popping their heads up! You know those tough little guys that grow even when there is snow around (see the top picture).
So since today is such a special day let's sweeten it with homemade chocolate spread with hazelnuts, shall we?

Here is the recipe. Eat the spread your way... top your favorite crackers or fruit
with it (it is delicious with apples); if you are more ambitious and looking for a chocolate filling on a dessert this will work as well... or just dig a spoon into the jar and enjoy!  Shhh.... I eat it even for breakfast... there's seriously no guilt in this chocolate; loaded with healthy fats and antioxidant rich cocoa.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
(the measurements are in grams to measure ingredients more precisely (and keep this sort of European :)) compared to volume measurements more commonly used in the US. A good digital scale should have the option to switch between ounces and grams)
If you don't have a double boiler simply put a glass measuring cup into a pot with simmering water.

Ingredients:

1 cup hazelnuts
80 grams cocoa butter
55 grams cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1 - 2 Tbs honey
13.5 oz can of full fat coconut milk

Process:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10 minutes or until fragrant. Spread roasted hazelnuts on a damp cloth and rub them until most of the skin is removed.
Place the hazelnuts in the food processor and process until they’re ground; it is up to you how fine you want the hazelnuts to be.
In a double boiler, melt cocoa butter. Remove from heat and add the cocoa powder, salt, honey and coconut milk.
Mix and  add to the food processor with the nuts. Process until the mixture is a smooth consistency.
Store in a jar and then in the fridge.

Makes about 2 cups
 
 
 
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Longs Peak as seen from Black Lake
Wow! What a winter it has been here in Colorado. We have been getting snow non stop in the last 10 days or so. Even though I am one of the "front rangers" who commute to enjoy the snow it has been truly incredible... the best powder ever in Summit County this season. Yes, pick a weekday to go up there... weekend traffic is just NO FUN...
About two weeks ago my husband and I left the ski Saturday crowds and enjoyed the peacefulness of Rocky Mountain National Park. I think this park is magical... I did not use the word beautiful on purpose here... it is magical in a sense that the peaks have really odd shapes; they are craggy and rugged and they just form unusual formations. The winters are quite cruel up there; with low temperatures and
super windy conditions... which was the case when we went but having the right gear made the difference. We started at Glacier Basin trailhead and hiked all the way to Black Lake. The beginning of the trail is easy to follow; to Mills Lake. After that it is quite tricky to find the snow covered trail to Black Lake; the trail starts at the very tip of the lake; slightly to the left. The rangers cleared some of the fallen trees from a few years ago when high winds left a lot of blowdown. The trail goes thru the woods but eventually opens up to some fairly steep meadows. The lake is nestled on the top of the steep slope. The magnificent Longs Peak is just above to the east.
It has been a cold and windy day... but it was so worth it; just bundle up!
This tilapia curry sauce is just the perfect ending on a cold snowy day outdoors.
The great thing about the curry sauce is that most of the work can be done the day before, marinating. It is very quick to cook afterward; so convenient for a hungry stomach after a long day outdoors!
Tilapia is a white fish with firm texture which is essential for this stew; cod with its flaky texture will fall apart.
Tamarind is a brown pod that grows on the tamarind tree; it literally looks like a bean pod. Inside of the pod there are inedible seeds; the pulp is what we are after. The pulp has a tangy taste and is widely used in Indian cuisine in curries. The pulp is available in easy to use paste or I like to buy tamarind concentrate in a liquid form. If you cannot get tamarind in your local store substitute tamarind paste with dried apricots; create a paste from about 2-4 dried apricots and 1-2 Tbs water.(small food processor works great for this or mince the apricots and "paste" them with a knife).

Tilapia Curry Sauce

4 cloves garlic, minced
2 small green chiles, seeded and minced
1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 Tbs tamarind concentrate or 1 Tbs tamarind paste mixed with 1 Tbs water or apricot substitute (see above)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 lb tilapia, cut into chunks
2 Tbs coconut oil
2 shallots, minced
1 can coconut milk
1/2 c - 1 c vegetable broth
1 -2 Tbs kudzu powder (optional)
chopped cilantro for garnish

Toss the fish with garlic, chiles and the spices. Allow to marinate for at least 1 hour; best overnight.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the shallots and saute for about 3 min, until golden. Add the coconut milk and the broth; stir to combine. Add the fish, turn the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 10 min until fish is cooked thru.

If you like your stew a little thicker (like I do) dissolve kudzu powder in 1/4 c vegetable broth (or water) and add to the sauce. Boil for another 2 minutes or so to thicken the sauce.
Garnish with cilantro and adjust seasoning if needed.

Stay warm and enjoy!

 
 
Happy New Year everyone!  I will cut my wish for this year short : "Let the new born year be exactly the way you want it; the way you have always dreamed about a perfect year..."

I have to say I could not wish for a better start. I spent the beginning of the year outdoors cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado... what a beautiful and peaceful area; especially with some snow on the ground.  Let me take you onto three trails in the Basalt/Glenwood Springs/Aspen area that are absolutely gorgeous.

1. Road to the Maroon Bells
Maroon Bells are the most photographed mountains in Colorado; thousands of people come to press the shutter in summer time... but what about winter? Undisturbed and covered in a blanket of snow...
The Maroon Creek Road leading to the Bells is closed at T Lazy 7 Ranch; roughly 7 miles down the road. The road is groomed and cross country ski track set... what else to wish for, right? The road has a steady uphill grade with beautiful vistas and the Maroon Bells view at the end. Yes, you will sweat but it is sooo worth it... and on the way back... you will just cruise downhill...
I will say that
T Lazy 7 Ranch organizes snowmobile tours up this road.. go for it if you have extra spare cash but I personally recommend the non-motorized way. By the way I was a little worried about the noise and smell from the snowmobiles but it was not a problem at all... share the road and wave!
2. Hanging Lake
Another very popular destination...  a short hike (maybe 1.5 miles ... if that) right off of I-70 in the Glenwood Canyon to a lake that is truly a gem. We decided to explore it with the snow on the ground. This is truly a walk in the paradise; winding trail up a canyon covered with snow capped branches  and snowy canyon walls around you. Yes, the trail is steep and slippery (I highly recommend microspikes and hiking poles) but very easy to follow. Right before you get to the lake there is a sign to Spouting Rock. Go check it out! It is only a few yards above the lake. In winter time there is an ice "wall" around the waterfall from the splashing water.
3. Spring Gulch
Spring Gulch is a system of maintained cross country ski trails on a community basis; so remember to leave a donation! It is not as "touristy" as the two areas above but very worth visiting. The views of Mt Sopris and other peaks in the distance are just breathtaking ! As you make your way up thru the intersecting trails the view will become better and better. Enjoy the long Finlandia Trail ! You can see two Colorado 14ers from this trail - Capitol and Snowmass Mountain (just barely). This area is tucked away a few miles past Carbondale ( just keep going north on Main Street until you can't drive any further).
Of course, that I had homemade meals with me on this trip. For breakfast I enjoyed sprouted buckwheat granola or my breakfast salad. I had home made flat bread (this being one of the variations), go go bars or muffins for a snack. I also discovered that baked sweet potato fries make an excellent portable snack.
These fries are quite crunchy when right out of the oven (well, that was my goal). They soften when stored in the refrigerator but still very tasty...

To make crunchy sweet potato fries follow these steps:
1. Cut fries in same size match sticks (or any other shape; like wedges)
2. Soak them in water for about 1 hour, to release some of the starch. Dry them thoroughly.
3. Toss them in red palm oil (or any other higher heat oil) - about 2 Tbs on 1 lb of potatoes, salt and some coconut flour (about 2 tsp on 1 lb of potatoes)
4. Give them room on the baking sheet; spread them apart. Otherwise they will steam each other.
5. Bake them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet at hot oven (I did 425 degrees) for about 10 - 15 min, then turn them and bake for another 10-15 min or so. They should be slightly charred on the bottom.
Every oven bakes slightly differently so test it out. You may have more success with "crisping" on the lower rack.
Enjoy the fries and the outdoors!
 
 
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Lingonberries growing in nice mossy bed
Cranberry sauce.... the must at a holiday table here in the United States; as I came to find out. My first encounter with cranberry sauce was at a Thanksgiving dinner about eight years ago... you know the jelly like stuff that comes out of a can... To cut the story short I hated that stuff and truly missed the cranberry sauce I used to make with my grandmother every fall... 
Later I found fresh cranberries in the store... wow, those cranberries are huge compared to what I have ever seen, I noted. I started making my own cranberry sauce based on the recipe on the package. Tasted much better... but still did not reach the level of the "old home made stuff". Over the years I have perfected my cranberry sauce; I added spices, made it with apple cider, orange zest, dried fruit... every time I make a cranberry sauce now it is a piece of art; always different. I am going to share one of many variations of my cranberry sauce today but first let's go back to the special cranberries from my childhood.
I have heard of these European berries called lingonberries before; Swedish specialty I was told... hmmm... I wonder what those are. Just recently I spotted a good looking jar of wild Lingonberry sauce in Vitamin Cottage. It is Christmas, let's try something new, I figured. I truly couldn't wait to try this sauce... after the first taste I new IT! It was the
same stuff... the "old good cranberry sauce"!! ...
Obviously this is Czech specialty as well :)) I probably don't have to explain that I am currently on lingoberry sauce overload... what a nice surprise for this year's
Christmas.
So what's the difference between American cranberries and European lingonberries? Lingonberries grow in the Czech Republic on low bushes with waxy leaves. They are easier to pick than blueberries because they form sort of "bunches" that can be stripped off the twig. They are very tart and bitter when eaten raw. When sweetened and made into sauce the flavor is more delicate than American cranberries. It is a great accompaniment to wild game... but really, pour it on anything, mix it to yoghurt, pour it over ice cream or try it with brie. Lingonberries (and its sauce) are not produced commercially in the Czech Republic as far as I know; at least not on a very large scale. If you want lingonberry sauce you have to go pick your own lingonberries and make your sauce :)
With all this excitement for lingonberries I am not ditching their large cousin cranberries. I like my spiced cranberry sauce a lot. Here is the recipe. Enjoy!!  And please, ditch the jelly canned stuff; not worth it.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

1 12oz package cranberries
1 cup apple cider (or water)
orange peel from 1/2 orange
6 cloves
1/3 cup maple syrup or to taste
1 Tbs minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp allspice, ground
1 star of anise, ground
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom, ground
1/2 tsp orange peel powder (optional but recommended)
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh minced rosemary

Pour apple cider into medium size saucepan and bring to simmer. In the meantime place cranberries into a strainer and rinse them. Set aside.
Push cloves into the orange peel ( the reason for this is that you don't have to fish for the cloves later).
Add rinsed cranberries, cloves pricked orange peel and all other ingredient into the simmering apple cider. Cover and simmer for about 5- 8 minutes until cranberries start popping. Remove from heat, take the orange peel out of the mixture. Pour roughly half (depending how chunky you want your sauce to be) of the cranberries with its liquid into a blender and pulse few times until well blended. Put the blended sauce back to the sauce pan with the whole cranberries. Mix and finish with rosemary.


HAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR !!!
 
 
You know the holiday rush... deal hunting, checking off a list of "have to's", decorating, planning and simply trying to make everything perfect for the holidays. Well, I am definitely not one who gets engulfed in these kinds of things... I am not saying that I don't like holidays but I don't go crazy...  nice dinner in a family circle and extra time to enjoy  is really what I am looking for.  Even though you may have more obligations than I do I would suggest that you slow down and relax this holiday season.
The recipe I would like to share will definitely save you some time and room in the oven as well.
Last year I posted a recipe for a dairy free and grain free pumpkin pie which I still highly recommend to try. This year I was looking for ways to eliminate eggs from this popular dessert as eggs are a common source of food sensitivity. I came up with this no bake pie. I used beef gelatin powder as a thickener. I actually recommend to use this stuff on a regular basis as it provides a great nutritional support for your cartilage and ligaments. ( What about home made gummy bears?... well, that's for another post).
If you follow a vegan diet then I would recommend experimenting with agar powder. I haven't tried it yet so I am not sure how much agar powder you would need.

I have to admit I made this pie sort of spontaneously so I used leftover roasted butternut squash that I had in the refrigerator and stretched it with a little bit of roasted sweet potato... . Honestly I find butternut squash tastier and less watery compared to a regular pie pumpkin anyways. Try it for yourself and see.... but I get better and more consistent results with butternut squash... and the sweet potato added an extra nice texture. I don't know about canned pumpkin puree... just not a fan of canned food ;))

Now the recipe for 9" baking dish

For the crust:

2 cups toasted walnuts
8-10 pitted soft dried dates ( about 1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Process all ingredients in a food processor until combined. Press the mixture into 9" baking dish.
Note: If the dates are too hard soak them in hot water for a few minutes. The texture of the pie crust should be soft and easily molded without cracking.

For the Filling:
1.5 c roasted butternut squash
1/2 c roasted sweet potato
1 c full fat coconut milk ( I like Thai Kitchen or 365 Whole Foods brand)
2 Tbs maple syrup
1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbs beef gelatin powder

Process all ingredients except for gelatin in a food processor.
Whisk gelatin into 1/4 cup of very hot water; whisk thoroughly to dissolve all clumps. Pour clear gelatin to the food processor with the squash mixture and pulse several times to combine all the ingredients. Pour the filling into the prepared crust. You will probably end up with a little bit extra of the filling (about 1 cup); just pour it into a ramekin for a delicious pudding.
Allow to set in the refrigerator; preferably overnight. Enjoy!!