Maple Cinnamon Almond Butter with Flax

Almonds

Nut butters are an easy way to consume healthy fats and add protein and staying power to a meal.  I have been hooked on almond butter for some time now.  For the past year I’ve eaten a bowl of oatmeal topped with a scoop of almond butter almost every day for breakfast.   Those empty jars were adding up!  I’ve made my own nut butter a couple of times, but never really settled on a recipe I love.  My favorite store bought almond butter is roasted and contains flax seeds, so using this as inspiration I went about creating a recipe I would love.  It worked too well!  I’ve been meaning to share this with you for months now, but the almond butter has been eaten up before I got a chance to snap photos every time.

Maple Cinnamon Almond Butter with Flax
Nut butters are relatively simple to make at home with a food processor.  I love being able to control extra ingredients as well as how dark the roast is.  When I began to create this butter, I knew I wanted to roast the almonds because I love the nutty flavor they take on.  You can roast them for longer if you prefer a stronger taste, or leave them raw if you prefer. If almonds aren’t your thing I think this would be equally delicious using pecans or sunflower seeds.  The almond butter is super creamy and drippy, but you could also add some chopped almonds after you are done processing if you want a crunchy batch.

This is a snack that packs quite the nutritional punch. Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats, which have been associated with lowered risks of heart disease.  They are also high in magnesium, potassium, and Vitamin E.  They are also a good source of protein, which helps you feel full longer and assists with muscle repair.  I also added a good amount of whole flax seeds, which are pulverized with the almonds.  This breaks them down, which allows the essential fatty acids they contain to be digested.  Along with Omega 3 fatty acids, flax is a fantastic source of B vitamins, fiber, and many antioxidants.  The maple syrup and cinnamon add a touch of sweetness and turn a run of the mill almond butter into an addictive snack.

Almond Butter with Apple

Ingredients:

3 cups raw almonds
1/2 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt

  1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix the ingredients together.  Transfer the mixture to a rimmed sheet pan.  Roast the almonds for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned
  2. Immediately transfer the almond mixture to the bowl of a food processor.  Process the mixture, scraping the sides occasionally, until smooth and drippy, about 15 minutes.
  3. Store the almond butter in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Makes about 2.5 cups

The Garden in Back

For a blog named Garden Gastronomy we have been fairly light in the garden category and so in the spirit of spring, I though I’d give a little tour of what we’re working on in the backyard.

There’s a squirrel that lives among a row of cypress trees which grow along our fence line.  I imagine the squirrel is a “he” and know him to be a bold creature.  He’s the one who  braves a yard patrolled by dogs and cats to get to our persimmon tree during the winter. He’s the one who has been caught in bags of chicken feed I have left open.  And he’s the one who runs along the tops of aging fences to get from one yard to the next.  If I were to take the time to study this squirrel I suppose I would have a name for him and could tell you the meanings of the different noises he makes.  Instead I am content to know him in passing, besides it’s spring now and the creature I have known as a solitary man has made a close friend.  While he’s busy with that I am busy tending to the small garden I grow for Jessica’s kitchen.

This garden is partly a continuance of tradition.  You see, in my family everybody grew something in their backyard and we children were encouraged to work these modest plots.  We’d push seeds into the ground, pull out weeds and would spend hours getting lost in the spaces created by bushes, vines and fences.  It was in the gardens of my family that I learned most of what I know now, simple lessons that culminated into a rich knowledge.  When I decided to plant my own garden a couple of years ago, I bought the same tools my father had hanging in the shed and I carved furrows out of the ground the way he showed me to.  When I planted onions all around my tomato plants I was trying to recreate the dense garden my grandmother grew, where there wasn’t a patch of bare earth. And now, when I’m alone in my garden if I find myself acting out all the other things I saw in the gardens of my father, my grandmother and my aunts and uncles.

I think that if I am really to continue this tradition that it is important that I extend it.  That is why I take to this garden as an experiment as well, a chance to try new things and test them for my specific place under the sun.  I planted broccoli and brussel sprouts this year and they grew into plants.  Unfortunately, they haven’t grown much that looks like brussel sprouts of broccoli.  Conclusions: try again next year, plant earlier and move on to the next experiment. I have been seeing vermiculture and composting systems for sale in every nursery I go to.  The idea intrigued me but didn’t feel like paying for a worm bin. Then I read about Will Allen and saw how simple his composting systems were so I built my own out of scrap wood and chicken wire.  The compost has now turned a handful of worms into a horde all working tirelessly to convert what would be trash into piles of fertilizer.  Conclusion:  you don’t need to pay for a worm bin.  Another experiment of mine has been the backyard chicken project. Across from the garden we have a chicken coop where Penelope, Rosie and Lucy live.  This experiment has been simple: Can I keep chickens alive and not piss off my suburban neighbors?  Conclusion: Yes and I think so.

You may say, well I cant grow a garden, I don’t know how, nobody ever showed me and I have no tradition.  To this I’d say that we humans have an agricultural instinct – our hands know what to do when we put them in the dirt.  If you say you don’t have the space than check out check out square foot gardens and see how you can grow a few weekly salads in a space the size of a balcony.  And if you say you don’t have the time than I say stop watching commercials and find the outdoors in your own plot of land, whatever size it may be. Plant the flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds, recruit ladybugs to help you fend off pests and get to know the squirrel that makes his home next to yours.  By doing this you will find what I found as a kid and have recently found again, the simple joy of bringing your own food into the kitchen.

Carrot Parsnip Soup

Roasted Vegetables

For a long time I thought I disliked parsnips, putting them in the same category as turnips and writing them off.  Fortunately I gave these root vegetable a second chance a couple of years ago and discovered a new favorite.  Parsnips are actually less like turnips and more like a white carrot with a peppery taste which turns mellow and sweet when roasted.  I’ve prepared them in all sorts of ways; added to a lentil curry, in a spring vegetable braise and simply roasted with a little olive oil and eaten straight off the pan.  Their earthy flavor is versatile and adds a lovely little something to all kinds of meals.

Hidden in the ground while they mature, parsnips offer the reward of surprise when you grow them yourself.  Nick experienced such a surprise when he pulled up a row of parsnips we planted late last summer.  With our modest and proud harvest and the though of spring carrots I had seen at the market,  I immediately thought of soup.  I wanted to create something that would wake up the taste buds while banishing the last chills of the passing winter.  The silky mix of pureed carrot parsnip soup, spiked with warming spices and topped with roasted parsnips fit the bill perfectly.

Harvested Parsnips

First, I roasted the vegetables to bring out their natural sweetness while adding depth of flavor. Spices such as turmeric and cinnamon add another layer of complexity. These spices are both full of anti-oxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties as well. Ginger, another natural anti-inflammatory, is finely grated and stirred into the soup at the end.  When it’s done the soup becomes robust with an array of natural flavors and what’s more, with a base of parsnips and carrots the dish is a great source of Vitamin C, folic acid, magnesium, beta-carotene and potassium.

Soup Pour

Parsnip Soup
Ingredients:

8 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
5 medium parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 (15 oz) can light coconut milk
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon grated ginger
salt and pepper to taste

Garnish:
1 parsnip, finely chopped
1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 tablespoon minced cilantro

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Toss the carrots, parsnips, onion, and garlic with the 2 tablespoons coconut oil, spices, and salt.  Roast for 25-30 minutes, until slightly browned and caramelized.
  2. Transfer the roasted vegetables to a pot and add the vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.  Using an immersion blender, puree the soup.  Alternatively, carefully transfer the mix to a blender in two batches and blend throughly.
  3. While the vegetables are simmering, make the garnish.  Toss the remaining parsnip with the remaining 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and roast, at 450 degrees, for 10-15 minutes, until crispy and brown.
  4. Stir the lemon juice, grated ginger, and coconut milk into the puree.  Taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
  5. Serve, topped with crispy parsnips and minced cilantro.

Serves 4

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s pie is the quintessential comfort food. Red wine laced stew covered in creamy mashed potatoes? Yes, please! Traditionally made with beef or lamb and topped with cream and butter laden potatoes, Shepherd’s pie can be far from a health conscious meal. With this recipe, I set out to change that.

I wanted a dish that was full of whole foods (no meat substitutes or soy “creamer” here!), rich in flavor, and comforting to boot. The backbone of the stew is cubed tempeh, which could also be grated for an alternative texture. Tempeh is a fermented soy product which is a complete protein high in B vitamins, magnesium, and copper.  If you are aiming to make this dish gluten free make sure to buy pure soy tempeh – some versions are made with gluten containing grains. A variety of fall vegetables are added to the mix, which is then simmered in a red wine gravy. The whole thing is topped with creamy mashed potatoes that contain a secret ingredient – celeriac. Celeriac is a root vegetable in the celery family which adds an unexpected flavor to the mash, along with fiber, potassium and B vitamins.

The only thing this dish lost in the conversion is fat and calories. I served it for Thanksgiving this year with a green salad on the side, and it was the first holiday meal I left satisfied but not stuffed.

Ingredients:

12 oz frozen pearl onions, thawed
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1 1/2  pounds soy tempeh, cubed
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed and sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, quartered
1 pound carrots, peeled, halved, and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 pound parsnips, peeled, halved, and chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoon thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
1 (750 ml) bottle red wine (I used Merlot)
3 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
3/4 pound celeriac, peeled and chopped into 2 inch pieces
sea salt and pepper to taste

  1.  Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add the leeks and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes.  Add the tempeh, carrots, parsnips, thyme and rosemary.  Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are barely cooked, about 12 minutes.  Transfer vegetables to a bowl.
  3. Add the bottle of wine to the empty pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced to 1 cup, 10-15 minutes.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer.
  4. In a small bowl mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water.  Slowly whisk cornstarch mixture into the broth/wine mixture, whisking constantly.  Add the pearl onions and the vegetable mixture to the broth.  Simmer on low, covered, for 30 minutes.
  5. While the stew simmers, prepare the mashed potatoes.  Place the potatoes and celeriac in a pan.  Cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, until potatoes are cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and drain the potatoes.  Return the potatoes to the cooking pan and mash with a potato masher.  Mix in the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and enough cooking liquid to create creamy mashed potatoes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Preheat the broiler.  Remove the stew from heat.  Stir in 1/2 chopped parsley.  Season stew with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour the stew into a large baking dish.  Top with the mashed potatoes.  Broil until the top is browned, about 5 minutes.

Serves 8

Blueberry-Banana Flax Muffins

Stacked MuffinsBananas are a staple of our household; we eat them by themselves, in our cereal, in smoothies and even give them to our dogs as treats.  No matter how fast we eat them a few bananas do occasionally end up over ripe and covered in brown spots. When they turn brown and mushy I usually stick them in the freezer for smoothies, but with winter in full swing smoothies aren’t sounding very appealing. When I was recently left with a collection of blackened bananas I knew it was time for something different.

With muffins in mind, I set about building a baked good I could grab as a healthy snack. Mashed bananas bring sweetness and moisture, so I was able to reduce the added fat and use less sweetener than usual. I like using maple syrup to sweeten things because it is less processed than table sugar and thus still retains its minerals.

These muffins contain a large amount of flax, which not only holds them together well, but adds a super boost of omega-3′s. Many Americans are deficient in this essential fatty acid, which can lead to fatigue, poor memory, immune weakness and depression. Getting enough omega 3′s can reduce inflammation, increase brain function, help stabilize moods and contribute to heart health. Adding flax to your diet is a great way of increasing this vital nutrient, which can only be absorbed when the flax is ground. Film StripMuffin AnimationIngredients:

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup pure maple syrup
3 large over-ripe bananas, mashed
2 tablespoons lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup ground flax (sometimes sold as flax meal)
1 1/4 cup brown rice flour (I like the Bob Red Mill brand)
3/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup tapioca starch
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (sometimes sold as “Sugar in the Raw”)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 12 muffin pan with muffin liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the coconut oil, maple syrup, lemon juice and vanilla together.  Stir in the mashed bananas.
  3. In another bowl mix together the dry ingredients.  Slowly mix into the wet ingredients.  Carefully fold in the frozen blueberries.
  4. Spoon the batter into the ready muffin pan.  Sprinkle each muffin with a small amount of the turbinado sugar.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until dark golden brown.  Let cool completely before storing in an air tight container for up to a week.

*Note: If you don’t need to make gluten free muffins you can replace the brown rice flour and tapioca starch with whole wheat pasty flour and omit the xanthan gum.

Makes 12 muffins

 

Homemade Samoas

Cookies and EspressoThe first Girl Scout cookies were sold in Muskogee, Oklahoma back in 1917. Almost 100 years later these cookies, sold annually and exclusively by the Girl Scouts themselves, are a hot commodity.  Their popularity may be due to a perceived scarcity or it may be due to the fact that old standbys like the Thin Mint and the Samoa put most other commercial cookies to shame.

I hated coconut for a long time and because of this I didn’t have my first Samoa until a few years ago. It was love at first taste. Since then, I have bought a box or two every year when Girl Scout cookies are sold. After changing my diet, making my own gluten free and vegan version was a prioritity. The recipe I came up with is healthier than the original and will satisfy anyone with a craving for Samoas.

For starters, I swapped white table sugar with coconut palm sugar, which contains more micro-nutrients because it is less processed. Coconut palm sugar is also a lower glycemic sweetener, so it doesn’t spike blood sugar as much as table sugar. It is important to buy 100% pure coconut palm sugar, as some brands are mixed with white sugar. I like the Sweet Tree brand which I find at Whole Foods. This recipe also swaps butter out for coconut oil, a healthy fat, which not only adds health benefits, but also ups the coconut flavor.

IndgredientsIndgredients TwoChocolate RainSamoas

Ingredients:

1/3 cup virgin (unrefined) coconut oil
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups coconut palm sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 (12 oz) bag chocolate chips (vegan if you want vegan cookies)
1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the unsweetened coconut for 5-10 minutes, until light brown.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Melt the coconut oil in a pan over low or in the microwave for 1 minute.  Mix the palm sugar, almond milk, vanilla, and flax seed into the melted oil.
  3. Sift the flours, xanthan gum, baking soda and salt into the sugar/oil mixture.  Stir to combine.  Mix the toasted coconut flakes into the batter.
  4. Drop batter by rounded tablespoon onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Using a measuring cup dipped in water, press each cookie flat.  With your finger, poke a small hole in the center of each cookie.
  5. Bake cookies in the preheated oven for 9-12 minutes, until slightly firm.  Cool 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove the cookies to a cooling rack.
  6. While the cookies cool, melt the chocolate and remaining coconut oil in a small saucepan for 2-4 minutes or in the microwave 1-3 minutes, stirring each minute.
  7. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper.  Dip each cookie bottom in the melted chocolate and place the cookie on the parchment paper.  Next, drizzle a small amount of chocolate on the top of the cookie.  Fill the hole with melted chocolate as well.
  8. Put the cookies in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes so the chocolate can firm up.  Remove from the parchment, and serve.  The cookies will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container, either in the refrigerator or in a cool, dry place.

Makes 2 dozen cookies

Blue Cheese & Fennel Fall Salad

Fennel and Fingertips

During the summer I eat salads daily.  The hardest part seems to be choosing what yummy, fresh vegetables to add to my daily dose of greens.  When the weather cools down and fresh produce becomes more scarce, I’m forced to get more creative with salads.  I still like to have a variety of raw greens in my diet, but my preferences and options for toppings change.

When Nick and I picked up some Point Reyes Blue Cheese during our recent trip to the coast, I knew I wanted to make a salad.  We had some baby greens and arugula growing in the garden, and I knew the greens would pair beautifully with the creamy cheese.  I added some toasted walnuts for texture and the benefit of Omega 3′s and sliced up some crunchy apples for sweetness.  Caramelized fennel added the perfect final touch.  Topped with a whole grain mustard vinaigrette, this salad is full of seasonal, nutrient rich ingredients and totally hits the spot.

Many people add raw fennel (which tastes a bit like black licorice) to salads, but I like it cooked.  Caramelizing fennel mellows the licorice flavor and brings out a subtle sweetness.  Fennel is full of antioxidants, such as anethole, which has been shown to reduce inflammation and help prevent the occurrence of cancer.  Fennel is also a good source of vitamin C, which helps neutralize free radicals and prevent cellular damage.

Fresh Garden GreensRed BowlSalad SettingBlue BowlIngredients:

10 oz. mixed greens (I would suggest using half baby greens, half arugula)
2 bulbs fennel
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (Point Reyes Blue if you can get it!)
1 apple, cored and chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon white balsamic
1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine the greens, chopped apple and blue cheese in a large salad bowl.  Whisk the balsamic, mustard and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Toast the walnuts until fragrant and light brown, 3-5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
  3. Slice the fennel bulbs in half.  Cut out the core out and thinly slice the fennel.  Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the skillet over medium heat.  Add fennel and saute, turning occasionally, until brown and caramelized.  Add the minced garlic and cook one minute longer.  Set aside and cool for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add the fennel and walnuts to the large salad bowl.  Toss with the dressing and serve.

Serves 5 as a side salad

Buckwheat Pancakes with Coconut Butter & Caramelized Bananas

Plated Pancakes
Just the thought of pancakes can get me out of bed.  When I first began removing gluten from my diet, the pancake recipes I found were a sad, sad thing.  The recipes were either full of processed, nutrient devoid ingredients or produced pancakes as hard as rocks.  When I finally perfected this recipe, I did a happy dance.  These pancakes are full of whole grain flours but manage to have a light texture.  The buckwheat adds a nice crunch, while the blueberries provide sweetness and an extra serving of fruit.

Nick likes to top these with maple syrup, but I prefer to forgo the extra sugar and spread mine with coconut butter.  Coconut butter can be bought in health food stores, but it can be rather pricy.  You can make you own at home with a food processor in about 10-15 minutes.  While coconut has gotten a bad rap in years past for its high saturated fat content, it’s actually a healthy addition to a whole foods diet.  The fats in coconut are medium chain fatty acids, which are broken down quickly by our bodies and are readily accessible as fuel.  Coconut is also said to have anti-bacterial properties, improves digestion and helps reduce inflammation.  The best part?  It tastes AMAZING!

Topping the pancakes with bananas quickly caramelized in a little coconut oil pushes these over the top.  If you or somebody you know have a knee-jerk opposition to “healthy foods” these pancakes may be just the introduction you need.

Pancake BatterPancake GriddlePancake Bite

Ingredients:

1/2 cup buckwheat flour (made from 1/2 cup buckwheat groats, instructions to follow)
1/4 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
2 tablespoons tapioca flour (cornstarch would work too)
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the toppings:
1 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 teaspoons coconut oil
2 ripe bananas, sliced

  1. To make the buckwheat flour – Process the buckwheat groats in a food processor or blender until ground into a fine powder.  I like to leave a few larger pieces for added crunch.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the blueberries, toss to coat. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a small bowl.  Mix the wet ingredients into the dry.  Let the batter stand for 5 minutes (it will thicken up).
  3. Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Spray with cooking spray.  Cook pancakes, 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Top with coconut butter and caramelized bananas and serve.

For Coconut Butter & Caramelized Bananas:

Process the unsweetened shredded coconut and 1 teaspoon of coconut oil in a food processor 10-15 minutes, scraping down the sides occasionally, until smooth and drippy.

Melt the remaining 1 teaspoon coconut butter in a skillet over medium high heat.  Saute bananas 2-3 minutes, until golden brown.

Serves 3-4 5F924WTJPPZP

Herb Roasted Squash With Wild Rice

Roasted SquashAfter I left the farm stand in Bolinas with a bag full of bounty, all I could think about was roasted squash.  I love how the natural sweetness of winter squash comes out after spending time in a hot oven.  The crispy, caramelized outsides complement the sweet, soft inside perfectly.

I wanted to make something that screamed fall – a recipe that would bring together the flavors and colors of the season.  Also, with Thanksgiving looming in the near future, my thoughts went to a vegetarian main dish that would please the omnivores as well.  Serving the squash over the wild rice creates a prefect entree, but the squash could also be chopped up and tossed with the rice for an easy side dish.

HerbsPomegranateDelicata SquashThis dish is chock full of all things good.  Both the delicata squash and the pomegranate seeds are full of antioxidants, as well as vitamins A and C.  Wild rice is a whole grain that is actually not related to Asian rice and is high in protein, fiber, manganese and B vitamins.  Pecans are a rich source of healthy fats as well as Vitamin E and B complex vitamins.  This is a great holiday season meal that will leave you feeling energized.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pecans
1 large red onion
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 delicata squash
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped sage
1 cup wild rice
2 1/3 cup water
crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons white balsamic
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
salt and black pepper to taste

  1. Combine the wild rice and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
  2. While the rice is cooking, prepare the onions and squash.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Chop the onion into a large dice, place in 8 x 8 roasting pan, and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.  Set aside.  Slice the squash into 1/2 inch thick rings.  Using a butter knife or the back end of a spoon, scrape the guts of the squash from each ring.  Delicata squash does not need to be peeled.  Toss the squash with the chopped sage and rosemary, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper.  Place the squash in one layer on a cookie sheet.  Roast the squash and onions in the oven for 25 minutes.  At this point, remove the onions and flip the squash over.  Continue to cook squash for another 10-15 minutes, until browned.
  3.  While the squash is roasting, toast the pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat for 5-7 minutes.  Remove from the heat and chop.  Set aside.
  4.  Whisk the white balsamic, maple syrup and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil together in a small bowl.  Add a pinch of crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper to taste.
  5.  To assemble the dish:  Toss the pomegranate seeds, chopped pecans, wild rice, parsley and dressing together.  Top with the roasted squash.  Enjoy!

   Serves four as a main dish.

Plated Squash

Bolinas Jaunt

A vacation doesn’t always require air fare and lodging.  All you really need for a vacation is a day off and the words “let’s go a little further down this road”.  Such was our experience on a warm and bright November day.  We had planned on a short drive to one of our local hill-cradled reservoirs to get some sun and let our dog run until he was tired.  Instead we kept driving up a windy road and found ourselves perched atop a ridge looking down onto the ocean.  By this point the town of Bolinas was not to far away and so we decided to keep going a little further.

Bolinas is one of those places that doesn’t seem real at first.  After all, farm stands don’t rely on the honor system for payment and kids don’t go to school in well kept schoolhouses.  If you’re like me you might think you’ve snuck onto a movie set, possibly another Spielberg film set in a nostalgic portrait of an American town.  However the schoolhouse is real, and so is the farm stand, which is owned by Gospel Flat Farms and resides in what is the extended front porch of a small white farmhouse.  The farm stand’s honor system is simple:  every morning local fruits and vegetable are harvested and brought to the stand where they are cleaned up and put out for sale.  After that you are left to choose your produce, weigh it, write down what you bought and drop your payment into a slotted box. Inside the farmhouse beautiful light pours in through dormer windows and splashes against plaster walls and a well worn pine floor. This space functions as an art gallery and is currently showing the photography of Ethan Rafal. Like the produce stand, the gallery trusts the public and is left wide open.

Gospel Flat FarmKale, Leeks and Herbs

Chard and BeetsDelicata SquashJess and Duke

Bolinas Lagoon and Stinson BeachAfter filling up a paper grocery bag with a little bit of everything at the farm stand, we got back into the car and drove down a road flanked by tall poplar trees.  All the houses along this road sported white paint, sweeping porches, gingerbread details and like any good farmhouse they were surrounded by manageable plots of farmland.  This road soon took us into downtown Bolinas, which consists of maybe three or four blocks.  We parked our car when we arrived at a dead end that was defined by the waves of an incoming tide.  As the waves pulled out, the beach was revealed long enough for Duke (our dog) to stretch out his stride in pursuit of thrown driftwood.  We stayed long enough for Duke to make a mess of himself and decided we should make our way back.

The way we came was more circuitous than it need be so we went back down Highway 1, past Stinson Beach, through the shadow of Mount Tamalpais and met up with The 101 in Mill Valley.  Our mission had been fulfilled – Duke was asleep in the back seat. When we got back home, shortly after roasting potatoes and sauteing some of the beet greens we bought, I opened up my web browser.  I needed to find out how long the commute from Bolinas to San Francisco would be

To find out more about the Gospel Flat Farm please visit their website.