Feasting at Home

December 20, 2014

Winter Persimmon Salad

I will love the light for it shows me the way. 
 Yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.
 Og Mandino

To bring a little brightness and lightness to your table this holiday season, serve this ultra refreshing salad made with seasonal Fuyu Persimmons, pomegranate and shaved fennel.  The delicious citrus dressing, with oranges and limes and honey, makes me happy every time I make it, infusing the kitchen with its invigorating cheery aroma. Citrus is an instant mood lifter --and just a little secret, persimmons and citrus love being together. It's amazing what a little squeeze of lime juice does to Fuyu persimmons --completely transforming them, bringing out all their lovely tropical flavors and nuances. Give it a try. It wasn't until I did, that I began to fully appreciate this lovely fruit.

To balance out traditionally heavy holiday dishes, I purposefully left out the cheese and nuts from this salad, but if feeling so inclined, roasted pistachios could work well here. So would crumbled goat cheese.

Fuyu persimmons are distinguished by their flat bottoms and squat shape. They should be more orange than yellow and are at their best when slightly soft. They will ripen after being picked, so allow them to sit on the kitchen counter for a couple days, until their flesh gives to the touch just a little. Fuyus are commonly eaten raw, often peeled ( but not always) and sliced and added to salads or salsas. If thinly slicing, the skin is not too noticeable. This is up to you. Fuyus are also great roasted.

This salad is also very pretty served plated. Just layer the dressed lettuce between slices of persimmon. Finish with pomegranate and orange zest.

December 17, 2014

Finnish Cardamom Rolls

The highest spiritual path is life itself.
Michael Singer -The Untethered Soul

In winter when temperatures drop to bone chilling degrees, warmth can often be found in the kitchen. During the cold months, I find myself gravitating towards the warming the spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, curry, white pepper and cardamom, which generally get pushed to back of the cupboard during the summer months.

But it is cardamom that holds my heart, keeping it warm on the coldest of days, not only for its flavor, but through the memories it brings. It is one of the first spices I remember tasting as a child. Growing up with a Finnish mother and an Egyptian father, the holidays were filled with recipes from their homelands. Each Christmas, my mother would make a Finnish bread, called Pulla, a subtly sweet braided loaf, speckled with fresh ground cardamom seeds, soft and buttery and topped with course sugar. Sometimes she would add raisins and sliced almonds. When it came out of the oven, the whole house smelled happy -its aroma whispering of exotic faraway places. On Christmas morning, my Egyptian father would crush a few cardamon pods and add it to their brewing coffee, a wistful nod to his past. Cardamom, like the broken English they both spoke, became their common ground in the kitchen.

This recipe for Finnish Cardamom Rolls is similar to my mother's Finnish Pulla recipe, but instead of making a big braided loaf, the dough is rolled and cut into smaller rolls, perfect for company and easily stored away in the freezer. For the traditional braided loaf recipe, and more on my mother and her homeland, Finland, visit this post, Pulla for Lea.

December 11, 2014

Thai Turkey Meatballs with Lemongrass Coconut Sauce

This recipe for Thai Turkey Meatballs with Coconut Lemongrass Sauce, created by chef and friend, MaryAnn Delaney instantly transports me to sunny Thailand with its fragrant aromas and fresh ingredients. The meatballs, made with ground turkey - are not only healthy, they are incredibly flavorful, seasoned with lemongrass, ginger, and shallots. The meatballs are simmered in a Coconut Lemongrass Sauce, infused with star anise, cardamon, and coriander that will make you want to lick the bowl.  Fresh lime and cilantro finish the dish giving it a beautiful brightness that I crave in wintertime. Serve these as an appetizer, or with rice for dinner, or over a bowl of rice noodles, mopping up the delicious sauce.

Those of you who know MaryAnn, will agree when I say that she is genuinely one of the most thoughtful humans I have ever known. Her peaceful, gentle way blesses those around her, without her even being aware of it. Her deep and soulful spirit, reminds me often, that we too have a wellspring of wisdom and insight that we can dip into if we choose to.  I feel honored to be able to witness her journey through this world ...and share a little of her here.

Some of you may know her from her former restaurant, Junebugs Cafe located in the Perry District in Spokane. Or from the South Perry Farmers Market where she managed it and nurtured it into the thriving vibrant market it is today. Currently she teaches private cooking classes, offers catering and personal chef services. To find out more about her classes, catering and personal chef services, please contact her here at  MaryAnnDelaney.com.

December 6, 2014

Cranberry Orange Muffins with Rosemary

These festive Cranberry Orange Muffins with Rosemary, created by Alison Collins, owner of Boots Bakery and Lounge are not only beautiful and tasty, they are gluten free and vegan! Those of you familiar with Boots, already appreciate that most of the food they serve up is both vegan and gluten free, a true gem in our neck of the woods. But if vegan gluten free is not your thing, you will still enjoy these muffins, and if you happen to live locally in Spokane, Boots is a must see. Designed with a thoughtful eye, the space is alone is worth a trip, with its reclaimed and recycled decor and its upbeat urban vibe. Not only do they serve delicious Doma coffee, pastries and a deli case full of fresh, healthy fare - in the evenings they serve up some of the best grown-up cocktails in town. It would be a great place to host a holiday party --or any party for that matter. It is little unique businesses like these that bring color and originality to our towns and cities. 

Meet Alison...go say hi sometime. For more on Alison and Boots Bakery and Lounge  or her tasty recipe for vegan, gluten-free Mac and Cheese ....take a peek here.

November 29, 2014

Vietnamese Hot and Sour Tamarind Soup

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. 
~Meister Eckhart~

I love the clean flavors of this Vietnamese soup called, Canh Chua. Brothy, flavorful with a little heat, this vegan soup is rich and tangy, perfect for detoxing after all the holiday indulgences. Fresh mushrooms, tofu, herbs and tomatoes make up the bulk of it - but the secret to its great flavor is the tamarind paste. Don't worry if you don't stock tamarind paste, lime juice is an easy substitute. But if you are tempted to try tamarind paste, it's easily found at Asian Markets and gives this soup a particular kind of sourness that I really enjoy. The nice thing about this recipe, besides being healthy and good for you - is that is quite easy and fast to make. And it's a great soup to have if you are feeling under the weather.

November 25, 2014

Turkey Brie Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Cranberry Mustard

In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.
Deepak Chopra

Perhaps it's a good thing Thanksgiving only happens once a year.  This decadent Grilled Brie and Turkey Sandwich with fresh Cranberry Mustard is a little over the top, but once a year, it seems... reasonable, doesn't it? The richness of the brie is balanced by the tangy bite of the homemade cranberry mustard, and if feeling too lazy after all the holiday hubbub to actually make the cranberry mustard from scratch, there is an easy cheater version that works well too. Either way, the sandwich is pure and total comfort food. Next week, we will eat healthy once again, but for this holiday weekend, I'm giving in and indulging a little.

In the coming weeks, our life will get crazy once more with all the holiday catering and events. In some ways, truthfully, I almost dread this time of year, because for me it's fraught with worries and anxieties about work. In the end, it always turns out, but still I manage to get myself all wound up about it.  I want everything to be good, and perfect of course. :)

So this week feels like the calm before the storm. I'm trying to soak up the little moments as I can. Early mornings spent fireside. Sunlight.  Brisk walks. Twinkling stars. Focusing on the good things, the amazing things really, that normally I hardly give a thought to. Like breathing.

So here's to breathing. To being alive today. To getting to experience one more day of this thrilling roller coaster ride with all its beauty, magic, frustration and heartache. Sometimes I wonder if our sole purpose here...is to feel.

This morning, my heart feels thankful. To those who raised me, to those who have befriended me. To he who stands by my side, day in, day out, steady, faithful. To the trees for teaching me. To the birds who sing, for the pure joy of it. To the sky for being so big and full and endless. To my cat for laying by my side, purring her loving energy into me each morning as I watch the sun slowly rise up, shining its light on my face for seven glorious minutes before slipping behind the sycamore....thank you.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

November 20, 2014

Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

In one of those stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. 
And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night...
 Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry

This is the recipe for Horseradish Mashed Potatoes I told you about last week in my post for Cranberry Pot Roast. A lighted up version of mashed potatoes, this easy recipe has a zippy horseradish bite, that pairs well with rich meaty dishes, cutting through the fat. Add as little or as much horseradish as you want, depending on your taste for it.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful November. Once again, I want to thank all the newcomers for signing up this month....I hope you find some inspiration here. This month has been a wild one for sure, full of all sorts of life events. Beginnings and endings. Joy and sorrow, the full gamut.  Each day I am reminded how short life is, how precious our time here is, and mostly, what an honor it is to get to be here, for this short time. A little spec, on another spec, among the million of specs out there in the universe.

November 13, 2014

Cranberry Pot Roast

The falling leaves have

laid out a yellow blanket

The trees are undressed.

Ng Hiu-lui

Put a pot roast in the oven and watch what happens. There is something about the smell of pot roast that turns a grumpy husband into a purring husband. Aroma therapy. It works every time - I've done studies. In this recipe for Cranberry Pot Roast,  beef chuck roast is seasoned with salt and pepper, and browned on all sides. It's nestled in a mixture of fresh cranberries, port wine, onion and beef stock, then braised for 3 hours in the oven. When it comes out, the incredibly tender roast melts in your mouth while the deliciously reduced cranberry port sauce adds a burst of flavor and tanginess. I love this served over Horseradish Mashed Potatoes-- which I will share here in couple days.

Those of you who live here know how lucky we've been with our long warm summer, and our incredibly brilliant fall. And overnight, mother nature flipped a switch, and suddenly it's winter, bone chilling, hat and glove bonafied winter.  When the temperatures drop below freezing, it's time to pull out the dutch oven and turn on the oven. Tis' the season of roasting, baking and braising…and aroma therapy.