Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks


I spent a little time this past weekend looking through last year's blog posts, reliving dishes made and events transpired.

Starting with the death of our family dog, Sam, punctuated by my dad's passing, and three surgeries (1 for me and 2 for my husband) thrown in for good measure, it's been a challenging year. As 2011 winds to a close, I won't be sad to see it go.

But today, on this day, only one from Thanksgiving, I want to set sadness and frustrations aside. It's time to give thanks. Because while 2011 has brought trials, it also has seen tribulations.

Just last week, Purple Asparagus witnessed its most successful week ever. We ran programs in eight schools reaching close to 400 children in five days. The best part of this? I personally only taught two of these programs.

For this, I am grateful. Grateful to our sponsors, donors and volunteers. Without them, this success would have been out of reach for our small, grassroots, volunteer run non-profit.

So on Thanksgiving, I will raise a glass to say goodbye to the last twelve months and look forward to the promise of 2012.

To help your kids participate in the true spirit of this American holiday, check out my most recent post for NPN. Giving tasks to little hands help get them into the true spirit of the season.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy (Virtual) Thanksgiving!

Brussels Sprouts Chilaquiles

In our household, we don’t really have traditional family recipes. I’ve never subscribed to the notion that a holiday isn’t complete without green bean casseroles or candied yams on the table. Instead, I like to mix it up with new dishes appearing each year.

What we do have is a family recipe tradition. As long time readers will recall, my son and I started one of these a few years back. He had returned from school with some cockamamie story about our Thanksgiving dinner written on a construction paper turkey. The tale involved mashed potatoes shaped like turkey legs, cooking the turkey for an hour, and stuffing it with French Fries. While the first two suggestions were ludicrous to me, the third had possibility.

Since that year, our Thanksgiving family recipe tradition is that Thor and I concoct some new and unusual stuffing for our bird. Last year’s dressing was cornbread, black bean, poblano peppers, and chorizo. With this recipe as the centerpiece, we went with an entirely Southwestern theme to our feast. It was a delicious meal, spicy and rich with one dish in particular standing out as a star: Brussels Sprouts Chilaquiles.

Incorporating a generous helping of bacon grease, crumbled tortilla chips, and caramelized onions, it was quickly devoured leading me to think this recipe might actually become a tradition in my house at Thanksgiving or any other day.

Bacon-Brussels Sprouts Chilaquiles
Serves 4-6

This is not a dish for the dietetic. It’s unabashedly full of bacon and bacon grease – a natural partner to Brussels sprouts. I keep a small container of rendered bacon grease in my fridge, which I use as a fat in cooking certain dishes like this one. If you don’t have a ready supply of bacon grease and still want to make this recipe, just cook more bacon slices at the end of the recipe. Save them for another purpose, eat them, or throw caution to the wind by including them all in this recipe.

2 ½ tablespoons bacon fat
1 medium yellow onion, chopped into small dice
¼ teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 pound Brussels sprouts trimmed and halved
¼ cup amber beer
¾ cup turkey stock
3 slices bacon
2 cups corn tortilla chips
Juice of ½ lime
Salt, pepper, and hot sauce

Melt two tablespoons of bacon fat in a covered skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook slowly until golden brown. Sprinkle the cumin and chile powder on top of the onions. Cook until fragrant, merely a few seconds. Stir in the Brussels Sprouts and stir to coat. Pour in the beer, increase the heat to medium, and cook until slightly reduced. Add the turkey stock, cover and cook until the Brussels sprouts are almost tender, just about five minutes. While the Brussels sprouts are cooking, render the bacon slowly until brown and crispy. Drain. Uncover, crumble all of the tortilla chips into the pot. Add a little more stock or water if the liquid has evaporated. Cover again and cook until the chips are softened. Season with lime, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Crumble the bacon into the dish. Serve warm.

Posted as part of Williams-Sonoma's Virtual Thanksgiving. For more recipes, visit the Blender blog.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ummm . . . Doughnuts: Chocolate Glazed Pumpkin Doughnuts


Just last month, I wrote a post for Williams-Sonoma’s Blender blog about the multitude of uses for squash and pumpkin. When cooking for families, the puree can be blended into mac and cheese, smeared onto tortillas for quesadillas, and whirred in a blender with a banana and apple cider for a smoothie. All of these recipes are delicious and nutritious as we like to say at Purple Asparagus. But none will generate more applause than this.


I love homemade doughnuts. But making them for the three of us doesn’t seem an economical use of time or ingredients. The cost of the oil alone. Oy.

I don’t often entertain for brunch. But when I do, it’s too much effort to sit in front of a hot pot of oil. Fry, drain, repeat. Fry, drain, repeat.

That’s what’s nice about being the snack mom for the organized sport du saison. I get to try out new crowd-pleasing recipes for a very hungry crowd. On a cold, October morning, two dozen chocolate and cinnamon sugar pumpkin doughnuts were disappeared by a hungry team of 6, 7 and 8 year old soccer players and parents.

Pumpkin-Spice Doughnuts
Adapted from John Hadamuschin’s Special Occasions

3 cups sifted cake flour
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup sifted whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ cup vegetable shortening
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups pumpkin or other squash puree

Cinnamon Sugar
¾ granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Chocolate Glaze
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate
¼ cup heavy cream
1 ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Cream together the shortening and the sugar in a large stand mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after the addition of each. Beat in the squash puree. Gradually add in the dry ingredients and stir until just blended. Let the batter sit for ½ hour.

Pour vegetable oil into a large heavy pot to about 4-inches. Heat it over medium high heat to 360° F.

On a well floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 3/8-inch. Cut out the dough with a doughnut cutter well dusted with flour. Let sit for 10 minutes.
While waiting, make the cinnamon sugar by combining the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Set the chocolate in a medium heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir in the cream and sugar.

Fry the doughnuts and the holes in the hot fat until browned, a minute or so on each side. After the first batch of doughnuts are done, you can reroll the scraps.

While hot, toss half the doughnuts and the holes in the cinnamon sugar. Glaze the remaining doughnuts by dipping them in the chocolate glaze. Let them drain on a baking rack.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Way to Go Girl Scouts: Locavore Badge

It may or may not come as a surprise, but I was a Girl Scout. And not just a Junior troop dropout. But full on, Brownie to Senior scout. I sold cookies, marched in parades, traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands AND Bermuda with my troop, and even served as the youth representative on my county's Girl Scout board of directors. Seriously.

Given this, I can't tell you how tickled I am that the Girl Scouts have introduced a locavore badge! To earn this, Girl Scouts will need to:

1. Explore the benefits and challenges of going local
2. Find your local food sources
3. Cook a simple dish showcasing local ingredients
4. Make a recipe with local ingredients
5. Try a local cooking challenge

After learning this, I want to offer my services. Obviously, I know a thing or two about being a locavore. If any of you troop leaders or scout parents, if you want some ideas on how to earn this badge, I'm happy to help. Send your questions, concerns, and comments my way. As a proud Girl Scout and locavore, I'm all ears!
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