Autumn Recipes

Winter Recipes: Braided Spinach and Ricotta Bread

The Traditional, Twisting Challah

The Traditional, Twisting Challah

When this tumultuous week first began, I had high hopes of baking a traditional challah bread in recognition of this being the week of Chanukah. However, upon an initially innocuous run to the store for some last minute baking supplies, I had a rather unfortunate (but thankfully painless) run in with a hit-and-run driver. So, with my trip to the store rather forcefully postponed, I’ve finally been able to get back into the kitchen! Now, with the holiday week ending tomorrow, I made a last minute decision to try a wonderfully braided bread recipe that’s inspired by challah, but, after reading up on this ancient loaf, most certainly can not claim to be challah bread. However, keep an eye out for my (most likely woeful) attempt at weaving challah bread in the Spring, nearer to the time of Purim, a celebration that’s main focus is freedom and feasting: two things that are truly near to my heart!

Without further ado, let’s dive back into breakfast with a loaf of braided spinach and ricotta bread!

Braided Spinach and Ricotta Bread Recipe

 

Challah-inspired, braided bread that's bursting with seasonal flavor!

Challah-inspired, braided bread that’s bursting with seasonal flavor!

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 10 ounces of cooked, drained spinach
  • 3/4 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for Dough:

  • 2 eggs (save one for an egg wash)
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup warm water (between 100 – 110 F / 37 – 43 C)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour (or white whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast (about half of one packet)
  • Sesame seeds to garnish

Directions:

  1. In an empty frying pan/skillet, toast the 1/4 cup of pine nuts over medium high heat. Toss or stir the nuts every 30 seconds for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the nuts start turning brown and smell toasted. Place toasted pine nuts in a bowl to completely remove them from the heat.
  2. Drain your spinach as much as possible and place in a medium bowl. Add the oregano, thyme, basil, garlic, pine nuts, cheese, and flour to the spinach. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover your bowl and refrigerate until needed.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg, sugar, oil, salt, and warm water.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together the flours and the yeast. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, and mix to form a rough dough.
  5. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until springy, or about five minutes.
  6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and roll to coat. Cover with a clean towel, place in a warm place, and let rise for 1 hour.
  7. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  8. Transfer your risen dough to the baking sheet, and stretch it diagonally into an oval that reaches both corners of the sheet and is around 6-8 inches wide (see pictures below).
  9. Place your filling in the center of the dough, and shape it into a column that is no more than 2 inches wide and leaves about 1 inch of room at the top and bottom.
  10. Starting at the top, cut uniform strips into the sides of the dough on the diagonal (about 1 inch wide). Fold the top of the dough over the filling.
  11. To braid your bread: fold one strip over the filling, and then overlap with a strip on the other side; repeat until you reach the end of your bread. Before overlapping the final strips, fold the bottom flap of the bread up over the filling, and then cover with the remaining strips.
  12. Beat your remaining egg in a small bowl, and brush the top of the bread with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake in your preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  13. Enjoy a warm slice of beautiful, braided bread, bursting with flavors of the season!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s (delayed) breakfast recipe! Be sure to stop in this Saturday for a bubbly remedy for all that ails ye!

Keep digging!
~Nate

 

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Categories: Autumn Recipes, Baking, Bread, Breakfast, Winter Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Autumn Recipes: Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie

Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie Recipe

 

Enjoy a dairy free (and equally flavorful) rendition of this classic Thanksgiving dessert!

Enjoy a dairy free (and equally flavorful) rendition of this classic Thanksgiving dessert!

Ingredients for Crust:

You may also use a standard unbaked pie crust for this recipe!

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons melted butter (I prefer Earth Balance’s vegan buttery sticks)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of clove

 Ingredients for Pumpkin Filling:

  • 2 eggs (for a truly vegan twist, substitute eggs for 4 Tablespoons water + 2 Tablespoons Oil + 4 teaspoons baking powder)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup soy milk

Directions for Crust

  1. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, butter, and spices until combined.
  2. Press mixture into a 9″ pie plate and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Directions for Filling

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F / 230 C.
  2. Beat together eggs (or egg substitute), brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt.
  3. Add in pumpkin and soy milk and beat until smooth.
  4. Pour mixture into your pie shell.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F / 175 C and continue cooking for 30 – 35 minutes.
  6. When an inserted cake tester or knife comes out clean, your dairy free pumpkin pie is done!
  7. Let your pie cool completely before enjoying!

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Autumn Recipes: Zesty Orange Cranberry Sauce

Zesty Orange Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Five simple ingredients, one incredible autumn recipe!

Five simple ingredients, one incredible autumn recipe!

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces (1 bag) of fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • zest of half of an orange
  • 1 1/2 cinnamon sticks

Directions

  1. Combine cranberries, sugar, juice, zest, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan, add water until the cranberries are covered, and place over high heat.
  2. Heat ingredients until boiling, then immediately reduce the temperature to low and let simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  3. The cranberry mixture will thicken as it cooks, so when it has reached your preferred consistency, remove from the heat and let cool. It’s impossible to overcook this recipe, so don’t feel pressured to remove your sauce from the stove after exactly one hour!
  4. Remove cinnamon sticks and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until needed.
  5. Garnish with a dusting of orange zest for a truly zesty burst of seasonal flavor!

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Categories: Autumn Recipes, Cooking, Winter Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Autumn Recipes: Apple Cinnamon Rolls

Frozen winter rain has finally downed the last bastions of autumn color.

Frozen winter rain has finally downed the last bastions of autumn color.

With Thanksgiving but two days away, and tomorrow marking one of the busiest travel days of the year, it seems as though the most pressing news story is the winter storm that’s currently blanketing the eastern United States. So for those of you in the audience that are gearing up to visit friends and family this holiday season, I wish you truly safe travel! For everyone else who, like me, are either staying home for the holidays, or are the destination for your own traveling friends and family, a warm kitchen and a hearty autumn breakfast recipe might be just what you need to keep the winter weather out of sight and mind!

So, as the freezing rain’s plastic hiss washes autumn from the tree line, I thought it was only fitting to use some of the last fresh fruits of autumn for this week’s breakfast recipe. Cinnamon rolls, while wonderful on their own, can be autumnally augmented with just a few ripe apples, which lend their sweet, homey flavor and aroma to this classic dish. And, if you are hosting Thanksgiving this year, this recipe is a fantastic way to greet road- and snow-weary loved ones with a warm taste of autumn!

Apple Cinnamon Rolls

 

Banish winter (at least for a moment) with these warm, gooey, autumnal cinnamon rolls!

Banish winter (if only for a moment) with these warm, gooey, autumnal cinnamon rolls!

Ingredients for Dough

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (or one packet)
  • 2 cups milk (soy, as always, works wonderfully!)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose or white whole wheat)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)

Ingredients for Cinnamon Filling

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (I had two Jonagolds on hand, but any baking apple will work!)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Ingredients for Glaze (Optional)

  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons milk

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, mix together 1/3 cup granulated sugar and yeast.
  2. Heat milk in a saucepan until it reaches 100 – 110 F / 37 – 43 C. Stir warm milk into sugar and yeast mixture until dissolved.
  3. Add salt and two cups of flour to the bowl and beat with a stand or hand mixer for two minutes.
  4. Beat in eggs and butter.
  5. Add in remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, and beat well after each addition. When all flour has been added, knead for five minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in a medium sized bowl that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Roll dough to coat in oil, cover bowl with a clean dish towel, and place in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  6. While the dough is rising, mix together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and apples to prepare the filling.
  7. When your dough has risen, roll out the dough on a floured countertop to form a large rectangle that’s approximately 1/4 inch thick. Brush the top of the dough with about half of the melted butter and coat evenly with the filling mixture. Leave 1 inch of empty space around the edges of the dough.
  8. Tightly roll the rectangle from one of the long sides until it forms a log. Cut off the ends of the log which do not have any filling, and then cut the log into even increments.
  9. Place each piece into the cups of a greased muffin tin (Because my pieces were larger, I had to use a large muffin tin, but smaller slices should fit into a regular muffin tin). Let dough rise once more for thirty minutes.
  10. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C. Brush the tops of the apple cinnamon rolls with remaining melted butter. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  11. (Optional) Mix powdered sugar and milk together to form a classic white glaze. Drizzle glaze over warm rolls and enjoy a sweet reminder of the autumn harvest!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for some of this year’s final autumn recipes! Be sure to check back throughout the week for a few more Thanksgiving dinner ideas!

Stay warm, safe, and keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Autumn Recipes, Baking, Breakfast, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Autumn Recipes: Spiced Pumpkin Roll

The autumnal season (and its inherent deliciousness) returns once more!

The autumnal season (and its inherent deliciousness) returns once more!

Over the past week, with the plummeting leaves finally being outmatched by the temperature, I resigned myself to allowing my remaining ties to autumn fall away. However, in the maelstrom of daily life, I completely forgot about Thanksgiving, a holiday dedicated to all that autumn embodies; namely, a bountiful harvest, the warmth of loved ones, and taking the time to appreciate what might otherwise be ignored. So even though snow is prophesied for our area this Thursday, the autumnal glow of the hearth will be enough to keep winter from completely invading our hearts (for this week, anyway)!

So, to kick off what may be this year’s final celebration of the harvest season, we’re going back to pumpkin for our first Thanksgiving recipe: spiced pumpkin roll! Now, before you judge my pumpkin roll too harshly, I have to admit that this was my first attempt at this type of dessert. And, while I may have rolled my cake before it completely cooled (causing it to break in places), and, though it’s possible that I overfilled the center (resulting in a slightly bulbous roll), I assure you that this recipe, whether it ends up looking perfectly or not, is one of the most deliciously pumpkin-y desserts I’ve ever had (and as a lifelong lover of pumpkin, that’s saying something)! Disclaimers out of the way, let’s dig in!

Spiced Pumpkin Roll

Ingredients for the Cake

Rich cream cheese wrapped snugly in the essence of autumnal flavor!

  • 3/4 cup flour (white whole wheat or all purpose)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree

Ingredients for the Filling

  • 1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese (I use dairy-free cream cheese, but any variety will work!)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F / 190 C. Line a 10×15 jelly roll pan (or a baking sheet with a rim) with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla, and sugar until smooth and creamy with an electric mixer. Slowly mix in the pumpkin puree until smooth. Mix in the dry ingredients.
  4. Spread the batter into your prepared pan until evenly distributed. Tap the tray on a hard surface to release any air bubbles in the batter.
  5. Bake in your preheated oven for 13-15 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched.
  6. Sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar and top with a clean, dry dish towel. Place an upside-down cooling rack on the towel and quickly flip the pan, towel, and rack over to release the cake. Remove the baking pan and carefully remove the parchment paper. Roll up the towel and cake together. Let cool completely (trust me-let it cool completely!) with the seam side down.
  7. While waiting for your cake to cool, beat the cream cheese, sugar, butter, vanilla, and cinnamon together to make the filling.
  8. Carefully unroll the cake when it has completely cooled. Remove the towel and spread the filling onto the cake. Leave some room around the edge of the cake to prevent it from overfilling. Now reroll the cake one last time.
  9. Wrap the pumpkin roll tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
  10. Your freshly made pumpkin roll will keep in the refrigerator for five days; however, if, like me, you’d like to use it for Thanksgiving, this recipe will freeze well if you rewrap it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil before placing in your freezer!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this weekend’s recipe! Just so you know, next week may look a bit different compared to our typical Tuesday/Saturday schedule. If all goes according to plan, still plan for Tuesday’s customary breakfast excavation, however, there may be a few other dishes sprinkled in on Wednesday and Thursday, in case you’re in need of a last minute Thanksgiving recipe!

Happy holidays and keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Autumn Recipes, Baking, Odds and Ends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Autumn Recipes: S’mores! (Whole Wheat Graham Crackers and Marshmallows)

On the Importance of Excavation

The perfect place to ponder kitchen excavation!

The perfect place to ponder kitchen excavation!

Over the past week I’ve started developing the habit of taking  walks through the surrounding forest as a starting point for self-improvement. While on these walks, in addition to admiring the rising sun and accidentally startling  families of deer, I’ve found copious time to simply think and reflect (something that is alarmingly difficult to do in front of a computer screen). Particularly, I’ve been meditating on why I believe the excavation of skills, techniques, and recipes of the ancients is a worthwhile pursuit, and I thought I’d share my conclusions with you. Before we begin, I must warn you: today’s discussion involves more human than culinary history, so if you’d like to simply jump down to this weekend’s recipes at the bottom of this post, certainly feel free. And, never fear, food history lovers,  I’ll be posting the mucilaginous history of the marshmallow (and perhaps even a bonus recipe!) around this time tomorrow!

At our outset, humans, as far as we can tell, did not spend their free time in the way we typically do today (consuming entertainment for personal pleasure). Instead, our ancestors began their day by foraging (or farming, after the great agricultural switch around 10,000 BCE); and, only when enough food was gathered, would they engage in a host of other, beneficial activities. Storytelling (then writing), playing music, creating artwork and dyes, preparing and cooking food, making medicine, and engaging in active games and sports dominated the leisure time of these peoples. However, as civilizations and technology advanced, a new brand of “empty,” entertainment-fueled free time began creeping into the modern lifestyle. This emptiness, particularly for women, reached a fever pitch in the Victorian Age of England, where the goal of civilization became the expanse of pointless leisure. From the accounts written during this time, rampant boredom and “melancholy” took hold of these prosperous, yet idle individuals, causing great mental illness and unrest (for a devastatingly powerful, semi-autobiographical look into this topic, I cannot recommend Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” highly enough).

It would seem, then, that we are not wired to be idle creatures; but, instead, to feel the most satisfaction in life, we require creative, constructive actions to supplement our work. On my morning travels, I’ve returned to the conclusion that to recapture the purposeful living of the ancients, we need to reclaim some ancient activities and skills in order to make our free time more meaningful and fulfilling. And this is why I’ve chosen to showcase two recipes that most of us have probably never made ourselves (I know I hadn’t!), yet are complexly interwoven into our modern collective culinary consciousness in the form of the gooey and delicious fireside treat: the s’more. So, instead of buying a bag of marshmallows for your next bonfire, try making a batch yourself-it’s surprisingly easy to do!

100% Whole Wheat Graham Crackers

 

Crunchy, whole wheat graham crackers with a hint of spice!

Crunchy, whole wheat graham crackers with a hint of spice!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour (all purpose flour works just as well)
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup room-temperature unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • (Optional) Raw sugar for topping

Directions

  1. Whisk together flours, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the sugars and butter together until light and fluffy (around 3 minutes). Add half of the dry ingredients and a 1/4 cup of water and beat slowly for 30 seconds. Repeat, and then knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for several seconds until fully combined.
  3. Divide dough in half and wrap one half in plastic wrap.
  4. Roll the other half of the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until very thin and even (around 1/8″ thick). Repeat with the rest of the dough, and refrigerate both for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C
  6. When the dough has finished chilling, cut into desired shapes and sizes and place on parchment-lined baking sheets (I only had a round cookie cutter on hand, hence my non-traditional looking crackers). Sprinkle with raw sugar.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are a dark golden brown. Let cool completely on wire racks before enjoying!

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Homemade Marshmallows

 

Homemade marshmallows, sweet and squishy-no corn syrup required!

Homemade marshmallows, sweet and squishy-no corn syrup required!

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons agar-agar powder (or 2 packets/2 Tablespoons of traditional gelatin)
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, soak agar-agar or gelatin in cold water and set aside.
  2. Combine granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until fully dissolved (the syrup will no longer be gritty when fully dissolved)
  3. Stir in agar-agar or gelatin and bring mixture to a boil.
  4. Remove from heat and pour into a large bowl to cool.
  5. When mixture is partially cool, add salt and vanilla extract. Using your electric mixer, beat for 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy and has doubled in volume.
  6. Pour fluffed mixture into a 9×9 pan that has been coated in powder sugar.
  7. Allow to cool for 2 – 3 hours, or until the marshmallow is no longer sticky to the touch.
  8. Cut into desired sizes and roll in powdered sugar.
  9. Enjoy a reclaimed bite of confectionary history!
Melty, chocolatey, deliciousness: the s'more.

Melty, chocolatey deliciousness: the s’more.

Now, to finish off your s’more, you’ll need to employ a truly ancient form of cooking: the open flame! So, grab some friends, start a fire (responsibly), and roast a few marshmallows that you can proudly claim as your own! And, if you’re unable to have a fire outside, you can always huddle up around the oven to roast some indoor s’mores!
For a truly homemade s’more, we’ll have to dig up the ancient art of chocolateiring, but I think that’s a topic for another time!

As always, thanks for stopping by the dig! Be sure to check back tomorrow for some more food-focused history, as well as a spicy drink recipe that pairs perfectly with homemade marshmallows!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Autumn Recipes, Baking, History, Odds and Ends, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Autumn Recipes: Crustless Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

The Search for Spinach

After last Saturday’s chard-infused recipe, I was inspired to find a use for spinach, another of my favorite dark green, fall crops for this week’s breakfast excavation. Unfortunately, though, I failed to plant a second crop of spinach in time before the winter frosts began whispering across our lawn. So, I was forced to look elsewhere for my main ingredient!

localharvest.org

Local Harvest: An incredible resource for finding truly beneficial produce for your family’s cooking!

Now, what the spinach industry doesn’t want you to know, is that even when refrigerated, spinach only holds its nutritional value for a single week (cooked, frozen spinach, if processed in time sidesteps this timeframe). With modern demand and subsequent shipping requirements, this means that the sparkling green spinach leaves that greet you at your local supermarket are already well on their way to being nutritionally neutral: certainly not bad for you, but not all that great for you either! This dilemma highlights one of the reasons I find local, seasonal eating to be so very important: finding fresh produce from farms near you can guarantee the best nutrition for you and your family. But, like many people I know and talk to, I didn’t know where to find a local market, store, or stand that would have fresh greens for me to use.

You won't find good company like this in your supermarket's produce section!

You won’t find friends like this in your typical produce section!

However, I did come across a website that can help those of us in the US find the closest, freshest produce that’s been harvested seasonally: localharvest.org. Using this resource, I was able to locate a farm store that, thankfully, had all of the spinach I needed for this week’s quiche (and, I got to meet a few cows along the way)!

With the ingredients finally sorted, on to our recipe! In the interest of full disclosure, this quiche is missing a few key components (a crust and smoked bacon) to truly be considered a “quiche lorraine,” the French matriarch of modern quiches dating back to 1588. But, I think our interpretation is perfectly acceptable, especially because the origins of quiche (originally “kuchen”) are actually German, not French!

Crustless Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

A modern take on the 16th century classic quiche!

A modern take on the classic, 16th century quiche!

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs fresh spinach (or a 10 ounce box of frozen, cooked spinach, thawed)
  • 8 ounces of fresh mushrooms
  • 2 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 3/4 cups mozzarella
  • salt and pepper

Directions

If you’re using frozen, cooked spinach, skip to step four!

  1. Remove stems from spinach leaves and cut/tear into small pieces. Wash leaves to remove any dirt or debris and pat dry.
  2. Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic to oil and cook for one minute.
  3. Add washed spinach to the pan and toss to coat in oil and garlic. Cover the pan and cook for one minute. Uncover and stir the spinach. Replace the lid on your pan and cook for one more minute. After approximately two minutes of covered cooking, your spinach should be fully wilted.
  4. Transfer cooked spinach (either fresh or frozen) to a small mixing bowl and set aside.
  5. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C.
  6. Rinse the dirt off of your mushrooms and slice thinly. Place your sliced mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, and a dash of salt and pepper in the frying pan you used for the spinach. Add the remaining one teaspoon of oil to the pan and mix all ingredients until coated evenly.
  7. Saute the mushrooms on medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes, or until there is no water left at the bottom of the pan. When your mushrooms have finished cooking, add them to the mixing bowl with the cooked spinach.
  8. Stir 1/4 cup of feta cheese into the mushroom and spinach mixture until well distributed.
  9. Grease a pie plate with olive oil and spread the mushroom, spinach, and feta evenly across the bottom of the dish.
  10. In a medium bowl, whisk the four eggs, milk, and grated parmesan cheese together until smooth. Pour this mixture over the spinach and mushrooms and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top of the raw quiche.
  11. Cook quiche in preheated oven for 50 minutes – 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown.
  12. Enjoy your homemade, seasonal quiche hot or cold for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

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As always, thanks for stopping by the dig site! Be sure to stop by this Saturday for a fireside recipe that can warm even the chilliest soul!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Autumn Recipes, Breakfast, Cooking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Autumn Recipes: Swiss Chard and Spaghetti Squash Salad

An Autumn Recipe from an Amalgam of Autumnal Ingredients

Our Miniature Forest of Swiss Chard

Our Miniature Forest of Swiss Chard

Even though autumn is, without question, my favorite season, seeing a green world ignite and leave behind charred trunks and stems is certainly bittersweet. And, as a gardener, witnessing the microcosm of nature that you’ve nurtured from seed to fruit wither back into hibernation can be truly moving. However, one patch of radiant swiss chard still stands tall in our small garden, sheltered beneath the drying dill and perched over the remnants of lighter greens.

If you’ve stopped by the dig before, you know that I try to orient my recipes and eating around what’s in season; so, in keeping with this trend, I thought I’d try a recipe that I found quite some time ago which pulls ingredients straight out of autumn’s larder: chard, squash, and cranberries!

Swiss Chard and Spaghetti Squash Salad with Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

Ingredients

Enjoy a salad bursting with fresh, autumn ingredients!

Enjoy a salad bursting with fresh, autumn ingredients!

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash (roughly 3 pounds)
  • 6 large leaves of swiss chard
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons wine vinegar (white or red)
  • 1/4 cup + 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F / 190 C
  2. Pierce the spaghetti squash several times with a sharp knife and place on a baking sheet. Bake your squash in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, then turn the squash over and continue baking for 30 more minutes.
  3. When you have cooked the squash for 1 hour, let it cool for ten minutes before handling.
  4. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Using a fork, scrape away the flesh of the squash and place the noodle-like strands in a medium sized bowl (see pictures below). Let cool completely.
  5. To prepare the swiss chard, wash your leaves and cut the leaves away from the stems, then roughly cut (or tear) the leaves.
  6. Pour the 1/2 teaspoon of oil in a large skillet and warm on medium-high heat.
  7. Add the chard to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the chard has reduced and darkened (see pictures below).
  8. To make the dressing, place the dijon mustard in a small bowl and slowly whisk in the olive oil.
  9. When the oil and mustard are combined, stir in the wine vinegar, along with salt and pepper to your liking.
  10. To finish this autumn recipe, just stir the chard, cranberries, and dressing into the cooled squash and enjoy!

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As always, thanks for stopping by the dig for this saturday’s excavation into autumn ingredients! Be sure to join us again on Tuesday for a seasonal twist on a famous French tradition!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Autumn Recipes, Cooking, Odds and Ends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Autumn Recipes: Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread

The Source of Cinnamon

The Source of Cinnamon

The Source of Cinnamon

With cinnamon always at the ready in our modern kitchens for spicing up coffees, teas, breads, cakes, candies, and potpourris, it’s almost impossible to imagine a world where this commonplace commodity was simply untasted and untouched by the common people. However, in the ancient world (at least 3,000 years ago), cinnamon was only known to grow on the small island nation of Sri Lanka (located off the coast of India). Cinnamon’s isolation in the times before globalized trade caused the price of 12 ounces of cinnamon (current market price: ~$10 USD) to be sold for over five kilograms of silver (current market price: ~$3,370 USD). With such a high price point, the use of cinnamon was limited to a very niche market: Gods and kings.  Cinnamon became prized for its use in religious ceremonies (most notably in Egyptian embalming and mummification rituals and in the Jewish practice of anointing priests with spiced oil and offering consecrated spice mixtures in the Tabernacle).

By the time of the ancient Romans (according to a document from 301 CE), the cost of cinnamon began to fall, now costing only 125 denarii per pound, or roughly the amount made by a farmer in a week. This (relative) drop in price led to cinnamon’s use as an aromatic addition to funeral fires. According to legend, Emperor Nero is said to have used Rome’s entire annual supply of cinnamon to use in the pyre for his wife, either to show his grief and love for his beloved, or to mask the smell of the fire in order to hide his guilt for, allegedly, causing her death.

While cinnamon was used sparingly in food and drink during this time period, most culinary historians point to the 18th century as the true turning point for cinnamon’s role as an ingredient in food instead of religious ritual. By the late 1700’s, the European superpowers had fully annexed the cinnamon shores of Sri Lanka and India, and began growing their own cinnamon groves in their Asian landholdings, providing the common cook access to a near limitless supply of  cinnamon.  And, for better or worse, this unending supply of what just might be the modern world’s favorite spice continues to this day.

Can Cinnamon be Seasonal?

Since our first few excavations, we’ve been digging into recipes and skills that have been heavily reliant on the seasonality of key ingredients (pumpkins, apples, and peanuts, primarily), a practice I cannot help but stand behind.  I find seasonality to be truly important in our modern kitchens because, with so many ingredients forever present in our modern grocery superstores, it’s far too easy to forget that every ingredient still has a season. And it just so happens that we’re in the midst of one of cinnamon’s two harvest times right now! From October to January, and from May to August, the rainy seasons in Sri Lanka provide cinnamon harvesters with the pliable bark necessary to successfully gather the spice. So, with November falling nicely in that window of seasonality, I thought autumn would be the perfect time to make a batch of cinnamon swirl raisin bread, a modern twist on an ancient ingredient!

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread Recipe

Ingredients for Bread

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 cup milk (I used soy, but any milk will work)
  • 4 Tablespoons butter (I used 2 Tablespoons butter and 2 Tablespoons applesauce)
  •  2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour + 2 Tablespoons (I used white whole wheat for a healthier kick)

Ingredients for Filling

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons cinnamon (about 4 full cinnamon sticks, if you’re grinding your own)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 teaspoons water

Directions

  1. Place raisins in the cup of hot water to plump up for 10 minutes. Then, drain the raisins and pour the leftover water into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the yeast to the water and stir until dissolved.
  3. Stir in the milk, butter, and salt, followed by the flour. Stir until the mixture forms a rough dough, then knead for 8-10 minutes, or until the dough easily forms a lightly sticky ball (see pictures below). If the dough is very sticky, add another 1/2 cup of flour and continue kneading.
  4. Toss the plump raisins with 2 Tablespoons of flour to absorb any extra moisture. To incorporate the raisins, flatten your dough and cover with half of the raisins. Fold the dough in half from top to bottom (see pictures below), and then repeat. Continue kneading the dough for 3 – 4 minutes so evenly distribute the raisins.
  5. Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
  6. While waiting for the dough to rise, mix the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl; and mix the egg and water in another bowl.
  7. When the dough has doubled in size, divide it into two equal pieces. Flatten each piece until it is about the width of your bread pans, then stretch it as long as possible (see pictures below). Coat each piece with the egg wash and generously sprinkle the dough with cinnamon sugar.
  8. Starting from the bottom, tightly roll up the dough and pinch the seam closed. Place the rolled loaves in your bread pans and let rise for another 35 minutes (or until the loaves are about 1 inch above the edge of the pans.
  9. Preheat your oven to 375 F / 190 C, and coat the top of the risen loaves with egg wash and cinnamon sugar.
  10. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until the loaves are golden brown.
  11. Let cool completely, and enjoy a spicy slice of cinnamon raisin swirl bread!

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Categories: Autumn Recipes, Baking, Bread, Breakfast, History | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Autumn Recipes: Spiced Applesauce

With the leaves finally taking on their truly autumnal form in our small swath of the world (as you can see above), everyone’s mind seems fixed on either the beauty of the season or the impending winter freeze. And while I can understand why autumn might serve as a signpost for ice and snow, I prefer to think of this magnificent time of year as a celebration of life instead of death. After spring’s initial burst of graceful greenery, many of us fall back into the pattern of ignoring the plant life around us, the plants that have provided life and sustenance for all of human history. However, as autumn redesigns nature’s verdant camouflage, we become reminded once again of the living history that surrounds us, and it is nearly impossible not to notice and appreciate such a dazzling display of flickering colors.

So today, I’d like to join in this celebration of the season by revisiting the apple orchards I talked about in “The Alchemy of Apple Butter” in order to make a batch of applesauce. This autumn recipe, which has been in my family for many years, showcases the differences between making applesauce and apple butter. While apple butter necessitates low heat and extended cooking, applesauce involves a much quicker, and much more forgiving process that’s been tried and tested since the 14th century (at least). Unlike apple butter, however, applesauce does require straining, meaning that a standard sauce maker (like you’ll see in the pictures below the recipe), food mill, or straining device of your choice will be needed to transform your apple mash into a true sauce.

Spiced Applesauce Recipe

Yields 4 1/2 Quarts

Ingredients

  • 24 Apples (We used Stayman Winesap this year, but any sauce apple will work – Rome, Ida Red, Golden Delicious, etc.)
  • (Optional) 2 Tablespoon butter – Our family recipe calls for butter, and we have always included this seemingly peculiar ingredient. Unfortunately, as is the case with many old recipes, the reasoning behind this addition has been lost, but its inclusion has never resulted in a bad batch of sauce!
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-2 Cups Sugar (more or less based on the tartness of your apples, and your own taste)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions

  1. Cover the bottom of a large kettle with water, until the water is 1/2″ deep.
  2. Wash your apples, and cut off the stem and tail. Cut your prepared apples into quarters and place in the kettle with water (you don’t need to remove the seeds/skins as these will be removed in the straining process).
  3. Cook apples over medium heat until apples are mushy – about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir the apples frequently to keep them from burning.
  4. When there are no large chunks of apples left in the mash, remove the kettle from the stove and put your apples through your strainer of choice.
  5. When all of the sauce has passed through your strainer and is free of debris, take a taste of your sauce to determine how much sugar you need to add. After adding in your desired amount of sugar, stir in the butter, vanilla, and spices.
  6. Store in mason jars or the container of your choice! This recipe does freeze quite well, and is our preferred method of storage.
  7. Enjoy on its own, or in any recipe that needs a splash of autumnal flavor!

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As always, I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s special excavation, and I truly hope you find the time to celebrate this wonderful season! Stop by on Tuesday to dig into another spicy recipe!

Keep Digging!
~Nate

Categories: Autumn Recipes, Baking, Odds and Ends | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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