Every Day Chef Challenge – Autumn Bisque

In my last post, I shared with you my first Every Day Chef contest entry, Pumpkin Pie Parfaits. Today I will share with you a delicious holiday starter, Autumn Bisque.

Here is my inspiration for the recipe:

“I love cooking seasonally, and autumn is my favorite season. I adore the bright orange squashes that are so plentiful this time of year. We are hosting Thanksgiving this year, and I wanted to create a wonderful seasonal starter with delicious local vegetables, local beer and sharp cheddar cheese – all three things we are known for in terms of food culture here in Vermont.”

So yes, this delicious and creamy soup contains, vibrant orange winter squash, local beer, sharp cheddar cheese and BACON! So what’s not to love?

Recipe ingredients:
1 cup carrots cut into chunks (@ 2 small carrots)
3 cups red kuri squash, halved (@ 3 medium squashes)
Olive oil to drizzle
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 apple, cored, seeded and chopped (@ 1 small apple)
½ cup yellow onion, chopped (@ half of a small onion)
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced (@ 1 medium clove)
½ teaspoon sea salt
Dash of black pepper
¼ teaspoon of dried ginger
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups Pacific Organic Free Range Chicken Broth
½ cup of gluten free ale (local is best!)
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 strips of bacon, cooked and cut into pieces (optional garnish)

Cooking instructions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut the squashes in half and lay cut side up on a cookie sheet. Also place carrots on cookie sheet. Drizzle vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper. Roast in the oven for about an hour, or until fork tender and slightly caramelized.
2) Scoop out the insides of the squash and set aside with the carrots.
3) Brown butter in the bottom of a large soup pot, over medium heat, sauté apples, onion and garlic until they browned – about 5 minutes. 3 minutes in add the salt and spices. Stir frequently.
4) Add Pacific Organic Free Range Chicken Broth, turn heat up, stir and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until apples are tender – about 5 minutes.
5) Add beer, squash puree, and carrots. Stir and heat through.
6) Add entire contents of pot to a blender. Puree in a blender; be careful not to burn yourself. Make sure the lid is on tight, and don’t do the whole thing at one time, unless you have a large capacity blender.
7) Carefully return contents to the soup pot, add the cheddar and lemon juice, and stir over low heat until incorporated.
8) Top with bacon crumbles if desired, serve immediately. Can also be reheated for later use.
9) Serves: 4 appetizer sized bowls.

Please click on this link to see the recipe and vote ! It only takes a second, you don’t need to register to vote, or anything. AND, you can vote everyday! So if you feel inspired and like both this recipe and the Pumpkin Pie Parfaits, you can vote for both, everyday until November 14th! Thank you so much!

Summer Solstice 2011

Happy Summer Solstice to all my readers in the Northern Hemisphere!

 

The Summer Solstice marks the beginning of summer and is the longest day of the year! Here in Northern Vermont, it began getting dark around 9:30 PM. Sitting out on our side deck enjoying the mountain views and listening to all the sounds – barnyard animals, birds, frogs, insects made me think about past Solstices, and I recalled my time living in Norway when it was still bright as day at 2 AM! Very different but both great experiences!

 

I like to celebrate my Northern European roots on the Solstices and usually we toast with a local sparkling mead. Unfortunately we were not able to find the mead yesterday, so we settled on Sah’tea by Dogfish Head Ales. I was drawn to the graphics on the label – as it features my favorite animal, the Reindeer. Sah’tea is based on a 9th century Finnish recipe, Sahti. It is brewed with rye and juniper berries. They break with tradition by adding chai tea at the end of the boil. The flavor of the ale was intense with the chai spices tickling the palette. The color was a darker amber than we are used to seeing in an ale. It is a very unique brew, not something I would want every day, but it was definitely a good choice for a celebratory meal!

As for the nibbles, we decided on an antipasti of sorts. For proteins we had prosciutto, fresh marinated anchovies, duck rilettes and 2 types of cheese – a raw cow’s raclette and a sheep’s milk Lancashire. We also had assorted olives, peppadew peppers (which were delicious stuffed with rilletes), artichoke hearts homemade pickles – daikon radish and carrots. For dessert we had fresh, local, organic strawberries with fresh whipped cream!

 

We had a great evening, enjoying our al fresco meal and ending the night by “tucking in” all the animals. It is quiet moments like this that make everything feel right in the world. Hope you enjoyed yours too!

Real Food Irish Feast for St. Patrick’s Day…Better Late Than Never!

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United Irishmen Flag

Well it’s better late than never, I say. Just think of this post as a jump start to next year’s celebration!

These last few months have been very exciting for me. I recently discovered that along with my new found English ancestry (and a few other Northern European ancestries) and in the company of millions of other Americans, I may have some ancestral roots in Ireland. I am still learning about where it comes from, which has been a very fun process for me and has revived in me my love of anthropology and population migrations. I am not sure how much I will ever really know about my heritage, being adopted with no ancestry history, but it looks like there is a strong Northern Irish connection from all my research so far. So this year, I decided that I want to explore these cultures in my ancestral line through the foods of these lands, and St. Patrick’s day seemed like a good place to start, in good company.

I am not Christian, so for me, my St. Patrick’s celebration is not religious or political, but more of a general Celtic heritage and cultural celebration. It should be no surprise that I have Celtic ancestry, as I have always loved Celtic music (even teaching myself to play the fiddle) and culture, and Scottish and Irish desserts have been among my favorites for years. So I felt like even with its religious roots, this would be a good a time as any to celebrate the rich culture and heritage of Ireland with so many others!

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Some Irish Feast Ingredients: Fresh Organic Eggs, Organic Cream and Guinness plus Homemade Buttermilk and Whiskey and Aquavit Soaked Raisins

I wanted to celebrate by cooking some semi- “traditional” dishes, and to challenge myself by cooking with Guinness! So the menu is as follows :

*Guinness Stew
*Sautéed Cabbage in a Mustard Glaze
*Brown Soda Bread
*Guinness Ice Cream

Everything is made from scratch, including the buttermilk in the soda bread. The meal turned out great, and I would certainly make any of these dishes again, for St. Pat’s or any other day.

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Brown Soda Bread

I was inspired by several different recipes for this meal, and it all started with Jenny’s Brown Soda Bread Recipe .

As many who follow this blog know, I have been tweaking various bread recipes these past many months, so that the flour can be soaked for at least 12 hours before baking ( to find out why click here ). Jenny is a master at this kind of cooking, even recently being featured on CNN for her Real Food Challenge . When I saw her soda bread recipe, I knew I had to make it.

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Guinness Stew

From there, the idea for an Irish feast began. I didn’t have a lot of time this year to research “corning” my own beef brisket , so to speak (maybe next year). So I decided to go with something a bit more in my comfort zone – beef stew with a beef and Guinness broth.

I love sautéed cabbage, and since it was on sale at the grocery store, I decided to grab a head and figure out what to do with it later. As I was cooking the stew, an idea for a delicious spicy mustard and honey glaze was concocted in my mind! I will definitely be making cabbage this way again!

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Creamy Guinness Ice Cream without white sugar

I had also been wanting to try this recipe for Guinness Ice Cream for about 2 years. However, I did modify it, to make it more healthy by omitting the 2 cups of sugar called for in the original recipe and using date sugar and maple syrup to sweeten it, instead. I also omitted the brown bread, however I may have to add it in the future, because it sounds yummy!

This was a wonderful celebration to begin to connect with some of my ancestral roots and share it with my awesome and supportive family. Thanks Guys! :) Hope my readers enjoy this menu as much as we did! Recipes under the cut…

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Localvore Dinner at Applecheek Farm in Hyde Park, VT

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(Jenn with Rocio of Applecheek Farm AT Applecheek Farm)

Recently when we were in Vermont finalizing some things before the big move this April, we were able to take in another wonderful Localvore Dinner at Applecheek Farm. We went to our first Localvore Dinner when we were in Vermont last November, and it was a fun night filled with great food and music. So we were looking forward to being able to attend another one during this visit to Northern Vermont.

Between the months of November and February, I have become Twitter and Facebook buddies with the folks at Applecheek, and have really enjoyed getting to know Rocio and John better through our internet connection, at the dinners, and during frequent stops to the farm when we have been in town. The internet is really an amazing tool for networking with other people who are passionate about the same things you are, and those Applecheekers are certainly passionate about local, sustainable agriculture, something I am becoming increasingly passionate about. Roberto and I are looking forward to learning more about the farm, and all the wonderful things they offer there once we are living in Vermont.

Going to Localvore Dinners at Applecheek is a way to meet and chat with your neighbors while dining on foods produced locally by your neighbors. This time we had a great time meeting Rocio and John’s children, as well as some other neighbors doing interesting things, like Nathan of FollowNathan.org(definitely check him out – he rode almost 5,000 across country on a bike learning about sustainable agriculture – talk about cool neighbors!). There is always local music, and before the dinner starts, there is always a short talk about what is new at the farm, and new in agriculture that affects everyone, both locally and at the national level. This last evening we were happy to hear that the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) bill was not passed and to learn more about the Consumer-Farmer Alliance that is working together to keep sustainable agriculture alive while giving the consumer(as opposed to the government) the right to decide what products (like raw milk products) they want to purchase from local farms. It is always informative and a great way to learn more about how you can participate in Farm to Table initiatives.

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As interesting as those talks always are, we all look forward to the delicious food that Chef Jason from JDC (Just Delicious Catering) cooks up!!! Applecheek is a real family farm and has been in the Clark family for generations. Chef Jason is the brother of John. John runs the farm operations and Jason is the chef!

On this night the menu was the following:

* Homemade Kimchee made with veggies from the chef’s garden – I found it perfectly spiced and crunchy

* Poutine – a French Canadian specialty of French fried potatoes and homemade gravy with cheese curds from just across the border (literally 20 miles) in Quebec. This was the BIG hit of the night. Our whole table was talking about it.

* Root Vegetable Cassoulet made with veggies from the chef’s garden – Delicious!

* VT Soy Tofu Skewers marinated in Rock Art Brewery Beer (made one town over) and spices – I didn’t try it, due to my soy allergy, but it looks like others enjoyed it!

* Turkey Casserole with Herb and Cheddar Crust made from Applecheek Farms turkey and veggies from the chef’s garden – fantastic! I am a HUGE fan of Applecheek’s turkeys ***

* Cheddar Ale Soup – chock full of delicious farm fresh potatoes and local cheese

* Carrot Cake with Crème Fraîche Icing – a wonderful way to end the night with a nice glass of raw milk!

* Farm fresh Raw Milk, Hot Apple Cider and Water to drink

You can also BYO to the Applecheek dinners. Roberto and I decided to try a bottle of Otter Creek’s Russian Stout. Otter Creek is a brewery in Middlebury VT. It is a historic beer that was made in England especially for the Russian Czars. It is a beautiful robust and dark beer with distinct chocolate notes. It was a great choice with this wonderfully hearty winter dinner.

There was a pretty big snowstorm up on the hill that night and the wind was blowing in gusts as you looked out the windows during dinner. But the hall was warm, full of music, laughter and the perfect comfort foods, keeping the chill out.

We had a great night chatting with everyone at our table, and even got the opportunity at the end of the night to enjoy some of John’s homebrew – a wonderful fermented maple sap drink that he made using ancient brewing techniques. Something I am also interested in trying my hand at somewhere down the road.

My wheels are turning – I am thinking perhaps making elderberry mead from our own bees and elderberries (that we still don’t have, but hopefully will one day)….but that is what happens when you are out in the country, your life has more space for learning new hobbies and skills, and the sky is the limit.

Happy Valentine’s Day! : Roasted Chicken with Heather Ale & Herbs de Provence & A Delicious Way to Help Haiti

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This is a great dish to serve your loved one(s) for Valentine’s day. The flavors are unique, as are some of the ingredients which makes it a special kind of meal. Yet at the same time it is quite easy to prepare – the oven does most of the work. It is like fancied soul food.

Lately, I have been trying to familiarize myself with artisan brews. For years, like a lot of people, I thought I just didn’t like beer. But I have come to find that once in a while, I do enjoy a bit of the bubbly. I prefer unique brews, generally dark porters and stouts, and I love British style hard cider (which isn’t beer either…), but sometimes a lighter beer catches my fancy. I have always been fascinated with the Ancient world, especially in Northern Europe. The myths, stories and legends of Scotland, England, Ireland, Brittany in Northern France, and Scandinavia have always been my favorites. Of course due to my food obsession, I have also been curious about ancient feasts – the foods and cuisines.

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Years ago I found an amazing ale, the likes of which has been made in Scotland for over 4,000 years. This ale is brewed with heather flowers and Scottish malt and has a very floral flavor. It is quite refreshing and crisp, and goes really well with roasted chicken. It can also be enjoyed on it’s own, or with really earthy cheeses, like raw cow or sheep milk cheeses, which often have a grassy quality to them.

In light of recently finding out a bit more about my biological ancestry, I decided that it would be fun to start exploring more of the foods and dishes of Northern Europe (perhaps that explains my long held fascination with that area of the world, and its history). I also happened upon a pack of Fraoch, Scottish Heather Ale,and felt inspired to make roasted whole chicken legs and root veggies with a heather ale sauce. In honor of our upcoming move to Vermont, I also added some maple syrup to enhance the sweetness of the ale, and used Herbs de Provence to enhance the floral qualities. I can honestly say the result was one of the best dishes I have made in a while. If I had known how good this was going to be, I would have made it for Valentine’s Day. It is definitely special enough for that. Thank you kitchen muses for this wonderful meal! Sometimes, hobbies and interest outside of the kitchen, can really inspire us, IN the kitchen. This dish is certainly a testament to that.

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For dessert, be sure to try my Spicy Mayan Hot Chocolate . It is a recipe from my e-book The Secret Energy of Love Through Food .

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Here is a sweet way that you can give a little this Valentine’s Day – I will be giving all the proceeds for the book, during the month of February, to blogger efforts on behalf of Haiti relief.

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Half will go to H2Ope for Haiti (a way to raise funds to supply water to Haiti by BloggerAid-CFF) and the other half will go to

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Stir It  28 for Haiti

So please buy a copy today!  And please spread the word! This is a perfect cookbook  for Valentine’s Day and any day to share a delicious meal with any loved one!

You can also send a donation directly to Stir It 28 by going to Bren’s blog There is a Paypal donation box on the upper right hand side and to H2ope for Haiti by going to this Justgiving Page .

Recipe under the cut…

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Sweet and Tangy Stewed Pork Country Ribs… in a Tagine

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Yes, fine, I am officially tagine obsessed. I know. But what can I say? I am one of those people who really hates doing a lot of dishes. I like to cook with as little mess as possible and so I am highly attracted to one-pot dishes and the tagine is the king of one pot meals. I can’t really say enough about this cooking vessel – everything I have put into it has always come out amazingly tender and full of flavor. I mean just look at this bone – there is not a scrap of meat left on it, and I just pulled it right out.

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Tagine cooking is perfect for the busy people and families. Since Roberto and I have been on a health kick this year, we are spending many evenings out exercising and so when we get home, we want something that is healthy and filling and delicious, AND QUICK that doesn’t require a lot of slaving over the stove – because some nights, I don’t have the energy to lift a spoon!

So with the tagine, I can put everything in it, cook it for an hour before we leave, and then turn it off while we are gone. Come home turn the stove back on, and by the time we are showered and ready to eat, the food is done! It is like a slow cooker, without the chord.

So this time I decided to do some pork in there, slow cooker style, to see if the tagine would be a good candidate for making pulled pork in the future. After this experiment, I would say it is. This stewed pork dish with beans was delicious and hearty. The meat literally just fell off the bone. Perfect after working out or on a cold evening to warm up.

I served this up with some awesome Bubbly Beer Bread by Zesty Cook

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Again, I mixed the dry ingredients for the bread before we went to work out, and then added the beer when we got home and threw it in the oven with the tagine. I was a delicious and slightly sweet bread. Perfect with soups and stews.
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