Melinda Lee’s Fresh Cranberry Chutney

red-63861_640With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I wanted to share with you a recipe which rocked my sister-in-law’s world.  Let me explain.  Several years ago we had a potluck Thanksgiving dinner at my mother’s house and Sharon (AKA SIL) was new to the family.  This is one of the recipes that I took to dinner.  If you are accustomed to the typical Oceanspray canned cranberry sauce, or worse that jelly looking version (sorry Oceanspray) you are in for a new and exciting culinary experience.
_dsc0169The taste and texture of fresh cranberries, even after cooking is totally different from the canned stuff.  SIL didn’t know that you could buy and cook fresh cranberries — I know she is not alone.  Heck, I was raised on the canned stuff and happened upon the bagged fresh cranberries in the produce department when I moved to the city.  If you’d like to experience the taste and texture of fresh cranberries, this is a good starter recipe.  The mix of spices gives the chutney a nice kick, and it is so good I highly recommend making extra so that you have plenty to eat.  It also makes a great foodie gift.


The finished chutney

Per the recipe, it makes about a quart which is 32 servings — roughly one ounce per serving.  You can put this into Mason jars and refrigerate it where it will keep for up to a year.  It is so great on sandwiches!  By the way, if you make a batch now as I did, you can enjoy some now for Thanksgiving and have it again next month for Christmas.  My one caution is that this recipe is a tad on the pricey side as you add up the cost of ingredients like crystallized ginger, nuts, currants, dates and the various spices.



Melinda Lee is a local cooking show radio host, and I copied this recipe from her website.  She has a variety of recipes for fresh cranberries so if chutney just isn’t your thing I’m sure there is something else you can try.

0e4c5a70e7d90bd4This is a great recipe to give your food processor a workout with.  If you haven’t cooked fresh cranberries before, be aware that they do make a popping noise as they cook.  FYI, I always make this with blanched, slivered almonds which I think are ideal.  I’m not sure I’d really like one of the substitutions.


Here’s an interesting alternative to the traditional cranberry sauce. This chutney must be made a day or more in advance, to allow the flavors to “bloom” – but the good news is that it can be made up to a year ahead, and will keep in the refrigerator or freezer for use as a condiment with other meats or poultry for all that time.

MAKES ABOUT 1 QUART (32 SERVINGS)  Note:  I made 1.5 times the recipe amount in the pot above and was able to fill four 17 ounce canning jars.

4 cups (one pound), cranberries – picked over, washed and dried
2 cups, water
1 cup, sugar
½ cup, cider vinegar
1 medium-size, onion – chopped fine
1 large clove, garlic – minced
1 tablespoon, cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon, allspice
1 teaspoon, salt
1/8 teaspoon, cayenne pepper
1 cup, chopped, pitted dates
1 cup, dried currants
2/3 cup, dark brown sugar (packed measure)
1/2 cup, crystallized ginger – minced [this is one, 4-ounce package, if purchased in a package]
1 cup, slivered, blanched almonds (or chopped pecans, or other nuts)

In a saucepan, combine the water, sugar, cider vinegar, onion, garlic and seasonings listed (through cayenne pepper) not including the cranberries, and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add the cranberries, dates, currants, brown sugar and ginger, and continue to simmer for 10 minutes longer. Stir in the nuts.

Let me know if this recipe is a hit with your holiday dinner guests!

Cool mixture, transfer to a bowl or other container, cover and refrigerate for at least one day to blend flavors. Best served at room temperature.


Everyday Whole-Grain Bread

Last week I tried King Arthur’s recipe for Everyday Whole-Grain bread and really enjoyed it.  The recipe was featured in their October bake-along and calls for 1/2 each of all-purpose and whole wheat flours.  As usual, I used their white whole wheat, and for the vegetable oil, I used olive oil.  It tasted great in my sandwiches.  You can find the recipe here.


bowl of black bean yellow pepper and cumin chili

Black Bean, Yellow Pepper, and Cumin Chili

One of my favorite chili recipes is from Bon Appètit magazine, and it is perfect for the cooler fall and winter months.  The weather here in Southern California has cooled off a bit which has prompted me to whip up a batch.  This recipe is loaded with black beans, tomatoes, onions, peppers with an extra kick from chipotle chiles.  You will notice that the chili is very thick — you actually puree approximately two cups of the cooked chili and use it to thicken the remainder.  The recipe calls for three cans of black beans, however, I typically cook and use approximately 1-1/2 cups of dried black beans.  Once I’ve cooked the beans I proceed with the rest of the recipe.  My one other modification is substituting ground cumin for the cumin seeds.

The recipe calls for three cans of black beans, however, I typically cook and use approximately 1-1/2 cups of dried black beans.  I pre-soak the beans which means I have to plan ahead, and I cook them with a small onion and a bay leaf.  I add a bit of salt about 30 minutes into the cooking — if you add the salt in the beginning, it makes the beans tough.    If you don’t believe me, you can read more about that here.  By the way, if you cook your own it is typically better for your wallet, and they will be more flavorful.  Once I’ve cooked the beans I proceed with the rest of the recipe.  My one other modification is substituting ground cumin for the cumin seeds.

This recipe is very easy, and as written it is vegetarian.  Instead of using vegetable broth, I use Better than Boullion Seasoned Vegetable Base with water to yield the required amount of liquid.  btb_p-11_vegetable-baseI will sometimes cook a pound of ground turkey and add it after I’ve prepared the recipe and added the puree as directed.  The final result is good on its own, but I really enjoy it with a side of tortilla chips.  It also works well topped with either a shredded “Mexican-style” cheese blend, or with crumbled cotija as shown here.  If you really want to splurge, you can also use it to make chili cheese dogs.

You can find the recipe here.  I hope you enjoy it!

Pumpkin, Oat, and Date Muffins

fall-pumpkins-chs-2Now that fall has really arrived in Southern California, I thought it was time to do some fall baking. I think of pumpkins as really being the ultimate symbol of the season. I had some canned pumpkin on hand and thought a muffin recipe would be a good choice for seasonal baking. I started with a base recipe from King Arthur Flour to develop this variation. These came out with perfect texture and just the right amount of sweetness. To boost the nutritional value and fiber content I used some of King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat  and whole rolled oats. I had considered using my Vitamix to make oat flour, but that extra step really was not necessary.

Note that the base recipe (Pumpkin Leaf Muffins) I jumped off from called for 100% all purpose flour, which always 3311_12_16_2013__15_00_26_700makes me feel guilty so I substituted 1/3 white whole wheat for the all-purpose. I like the milder taste that you get from white whole wheat – it isn’t as obvious in terms of the taste or texture. According to the King Arthur website,

“All the goodness of grains in a lighter, milder-tasting flour. 

Our unbleached white whole wheat flour is milled from hard white winter wheat – a lighter-colored grain than traditional red wheat – which yields milder-tasting baked goods. Substituting this flour for up to a third of the white flour in your favorite recipes gives you all of the nutrition and fiber of whole grains without compromising flavor.”

I’ve been using this flour for several years now with good success. If I happen to be out when I’m placing an order with King Arthur then I will order it directly from them. Otherwise, I am usually able to find it at local specialty grocers and will pick up a bag as I need it. If you haven’t tried it, and if you aren’t a fan of regular whole wheat flour, do give it a try.

Here are the ingredients that you need which will yield 12 generously sized muffins.  By my calculations, each muffin comes in at roughly 221 calories with 2.45 grams of fiber and 4.82 grams of protein.  The fat content as written was 33%, but you can substitute reduced fat (2%) milk without any negative effect on the taste or texture.

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (about 1/2 of a 15 ounce can)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil – I used grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup King Arthur Premium Whole Wheat or White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates (add 1-2teaspoons of flour if you are using a food processor to minimize sticking)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

*If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, substitute 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preparation Steps:

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a 12-well muffin pan with papers.
  • In a large bowl whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, oil, molasses, salt, spices, and milk.
  • In a separate bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, and baking soda together.
  • In a third bowl assemble the oats, nuts, and dates
  • Add the flour mixture all at once to the wet ingredients and mix until all ingredients are well combined.
  • Stir in the oats, nuts, and dates.
  • Distribute the batter evenly into the wells of the prepared muffin pan.
  • Bake until firm to the touch, about 18 to 20 minutes.

Store baked muffins well-wrapped, for 3 days at room temperature, or freeze for up to a month.

Eat and enjoy!


Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup

As the seasons change, one of my regular cooking projects is making homemade soups and stews. I typically make a large enough batch so that I can have some to eat that week and a supply to freeze for later. Ultimately I will end up with an impressive stash of soups and stews that I can take from the freezer and use to supplement lunches or dinners during the fall and winter months. Just imagine how great these are to have with homemade bread.

One of my favorite fall recipes is for a Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup from Joanne Weir. I had the pleasure of taking a couple of Joanne’s classes at Sur la Table a few years back, and I would love to take one of her culinary journeys to Tuscany, Spain or Morocco. tuscany-984014_1920The recipe is easy and straightforward, and the result is another creamy soup without added calories from cream so it is guilt free. When blended in a Vitamix you end up with a creamy, silky smooth soup with a texture similar to the Creamy Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup from an earlier blog post. Joanne recommends enjoying this soup with a nice Sauvignon Blanc. I would second that recommendation as this soup is filled with spices which include paprika, cumin, turmeric, and coriander.

This is a really simple soup to prepare. The two most difficult things are 1) cutting the butternut squash in half, and 2) neatly getting the soup from the pan to the blender. It is also a good recipe for advance prep work since you can roast the squash in advance. In addition, I tend to wait longer than the recommended 15 minutes for the soup to cool because it really is tricky getting the hot soup into the blender without spills or burning yourself. As with the tomato soup recipe, the Vitamix will reheat the soup while you’re blending it, although you may want to pour it back into the pan for stovetop reheating to ensure it is evenly heated.

P.S. – The recipe calls for a 1-1/2 to 2-pound squash, but often the ones in the store are much larger. This time around I bought and roasted a 3-1/4 pound squash with the intention of using half for the soup, and keeping half for another use. You can certainly just eat the other half or use it in another recipe. I’m contemplating a butternut squash and spinach lasagna recipe for the other half.

Test Kitchen: Bush’s Hummus Made Easy

I tried a new product today that I’d like to share a quick review on. If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll know that I typically bake or cook from scratch. In fact, I don’t often use canned beans. If I have my act together from a planning point of view, I will soak and cook ahead dried beans when I need them for a recipe.

Last month I attended the Blogher conference here in LA, and the Bush brand was one of the conference sponsors. I have not received any compensation from the company related to this post other than a $1 off coupon that I forgot to take to the store with me. I decided to try Bush’s Hummus Made Easy as I have not up until now found a black bean hummus recipe that I like. I have several recipes for the traditional chickpea based spread so I wasn’t particularly interested in the two other varieties – Classic and Roasted Red Pepper.

All that is needed is one pouch of the Southwest Black Bean Hummus Made Easy mix which is basically a mixture of tahini, olive oil, lime juice and southwestern spices as well as one 15 ounce can of black beans. I used the standard black beans, not the pre-seasoned or low sodium varieties. img_0122You can prepare the hummus using either a blender or food processor. My Vitamix makes great hummus, but I decided to use my food processor as it is a little easier to scoop the finished mixture out of the larger work bowl. This hummus is super easy to make and was nicely seasoned with a little kick. I drizzled the finished mixture with a bit extra virgin olive oil, and garnished with a bit of freshly chopped red bell pepper, cilantro, and red onion. Naturally you can serve with crudités or pita, but I also enjoy hummus with my favorite Snack Factory “Everything” flavor pretzel crips. The hummus turned out yummy and I’d certainly make it again.


P.S. – if you’d like to follow my blog via Bloglovin’ it is a new option for you so you don’t have to miss a thing. Just click here.

Monthly Blog Post: Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers August 2016

So here is a confession for you….wait for it….the only cinnamon raisin swirl bread I’ve had until now is the mass market stuff you buy at the local grocery store. Here in Southern California the brand is Oroweat. It’s okay, but nothing I would spend one bit of energy thinking or writing about. This past week I made our August recipe for Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers – the Cinnamon Raisin Loaf. julie-e-julia-sonypictures-com-brDespite a couple of minor hiccups that I’ll explain later, it was fantastic. By the way, this is the second month in a row where we’ve made a bread that I haven’t made before so I’m expanding my baking horizons. This is one of the beautiful things about the Bread Bible. With 150 recipes to choose from, many of which offer multiple variations, it will take a bit of time (maybe years unless you do one every day) to get through them all. As I write this, I am thinking of the 2009 movie Julie and Julia with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. I may have to watch that again soon on Amazon Prime as I haven’t seen it in ages.

Made entirely with white flour, there were three important similarities with the Caramel Sticky Buns we made last month. The two obvious similarities were the use of cinnamon and raisins, as well as the spiral rolling technique. One other note, for both of these recipes, I tried the Vietnamese Cinnamon from King Arthur Flour.  It provides a really nice, vibrant cinnamon flavor, and a large 3 ounce jar is only $5.95.  Be sure to add it to your shopping list next time you order — you won’t regret it.  The third similarity was the use of butter in the dough which created a silky rich dough with great texture and taste. I started work on this recipe on a IMG_0067Saturday morning by preparing the dough starter. I should note that the recipe is enough for two loaves baked in 8.5 x 4.5” loaf pans. I only have one loaf pan, so I decided that since I had such success with the Oxo cake pan I purchased last month that I would pop by Bed Bath and Beyond to pick up a second loaf pan. When I got it home I realized that my old pan was actually 10.5 x 5.5” and I’m not sure how I ended up with a non-standard pan size. Anyway the new pan was $16.99 less the $5 off coupon I remembered to take with me, and I love the square straight sides. Both pans performed well, however the loaf baked in the larger pan was not as tall. I suppose I didn’t split the dough into two pieces of quite the right size, but it wasn’t really a problem.

IMG_0055Now here is where my urgent need for a mani-pedi set me up for one of two minor hiccups. If you use Rose’s recipes and have read Chapter One in “The Bible” about the need to wait and add the salt after the yeast so that the two ingredients don’t come into direct contact then you don’t add the salt with your other dry ingredients. What I normally do is sit the salt container next to the mixer as a reminder to add it when I mix the dough. When I initially prepared the sponge and dry ingredients 4 hours earlier, I forgot to put the salt out and failed to add it as I was rushing to get that mani-pedi.  I realized the salt was missing of course as soon as I tasted the finished bread, although nobody else seemed to notice or care.

Fast forward to post mani-pedi and rolling out the dough. The dough was very smooth and easy to work with after refrigerating it. I brushed the dough with the lightly beaten egg before sprinkling on the cinnamon-sugar mixture, but I forgot about dimpling the dough to prevent gaps from forming. You’ll see that the smaller of the two loaves does have one gap towards the top of the loaf, while the other is gap free. By the way, I do believe that the smaller loaf had risen fully so I don’t believe I had excessive oven spring. That top layer just wasn’t rolled tightly enough.

Despite these minor issues, the results were great and I would certainly bake this recipe again. Rose does provide an herb variation with parsley and green onions instead of the cinnamon and raisins that I’d love to try in the near future. Another idea would be to try a sun-dried tomato or herb and cheese mixture like the Pane Bianco recipe I tried last month. My only bit of advice is to pay attention as you go along and do not rush off to get a mani-pedi!

P.S. – if you’d like to follow my blog via Bloglovin’ it is a new option for you so you don’t have to miss a thing. Just click here.

Pan-Roasted Orange Maple Sablefish recipe review

This is a quick review of a recipe for Pan-Roasted Orange Maple Sablefish that was originally published in Sunset magazine. Two reviewers rated this recipe with five stars, and I agree with their assessment.

As you may know, the common name for sablefish in Canada, the US, and the UK is black cod. This fish has a rich, buttery taste and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Sablefish7I would definitely describe this as a “special occasion” meal as it is typically one of the more expensive fish in my local market — $30 per pound is not unheard of. I normally prepare it in what I call “Nobu fashion “ by marinating the fish for a day or two in a mixture of miso paste, sugar, and sake – a signature dish made famous by the renowned Nobu restaurants. This entre sells for $32 per serving in the restaurant, but it is easy to make at home.

I decided I wanted to expand my horizons by trying a different preparation and came across this recipe. It is perfect for a decoratively plated sit down meal as it presents very well, and it tastes fantastic. The cooking tips provided are very helpful and foolproof. The combination of orange, maple, and sweet potato flavors is classic, and the herb sauce drizzled atop is a great finishing touch. It is not a difficult recipe to make, but there is a bit of prep work and planning that you’ll need to do in order to bring it all together nicely. If you have a warming drawer, it is handy for keeping your vegetables warm while the fish cooks. The only change I made to the recipe was omitting the blackberries. LOL I did have some in the refrigerator, but I think I was so looking forward to eating the meal that I forgot to put them on the plates. Honestly, I was hurrying to take the photos so we could sit down and eat.

main_variation_Default_view_2_425x425.Here is my one recommendation. Sablefish is very delicate or fragile when cooked which makes plating the meal nicely somewhat challenging. One piece unfortunately slipped from my spatula and broke up as it fell onto the plate so of course I didn’t photograph that one. After this mishap, I attended a cooking class at the new Sur La Table store in Westwood Village and was introduced to a very handy fish spatula. Its unique shape is especially designed for fish and it was highly recommended by our instructor. I got to try it out last night with a rather thin large slice of swordfish and it worked great.

If you’re looking for a special occasion plated meal, this one is great…. give it a try and let me know what you think.

PS – if you haven’t tried a cooking class at Sur La Table, they are great fun. Do give them a try.

Hooray, August is National Peach Month!

Did you know? I didn’t know until a few days ago, but it seemed like a perfect excuse to make a peach cobbler. My Nana, God bless her, made the absolute best peach cobbler. Unfortuately I didn’t learn her secrets before she passed, and although this one was good, I have a few ideas on how to improve upon the recipe I found in the Fannie Farmer cookbook. The filling was a simple combination of peaches, sugar, lemon juice and butter – this is the aspect I’d like to improve upon next time. I’d cut a bit of the sugar, add a little cinnamon, as well as a bit of cornstarch to thicken the juices a bit. The biscuit topping, however was wonderful exactly as written.

I’d love to hear how you plan to celebrate the divine peaches available in your area during National Peach month.   We have eight days remaining in the month of August so let’s make the most of them!

Pane Bianco recipe review

This is just a quick post to review the recipe for Pane Bianco —  featured in the King Arthur Flour bake along this month.  I’m not sure I can commit to a second bake along, but the gorgeous photo on Instagram inspired me to bake this recipe immediately.

IMG_0018I followed the recipe to the letter, the only change was using a sun-dried tomato and basil spread instead of sun-dried tomatoes which would have needed to be chopped.  I used a grated pecorino romano for the cheese.  The dough was absolutely lovely, and the filling smelled wonderful before the bread even went in the oven.  I think the biggest challenges with this recipe were making it look pretty in the shaping process, and keeping it from over browning in the oven.  None of my kitchen work surfaces are quite long enough to make a 22″ long roll, so maybe next time I need to take it to the dining room.  Although I tented the bread during baking, it still was over browned at the end which was troublesome.  The taste of this bread, however was phenomenal so I will absolutely bake it again.  By the way, the loaf you end up with is absolutely huge so I ended up cutting it in half and freezing it for later.  I have plenty of ideas for filling combinations or substitutions.   Pine nuts and olives are two ideas that come to mind, as well as using a basil pesto.