Autumn Entertaining Menu


This past Monday, I found myself cuddled around a wood stove, watching scary movies with friends for Halloween.  As it turned out, we had an impromptu dinner party.  I amended my original menu for the addition of a few guests.  We were all extremely pleased with how it turned out!  Seasonal, nutritious, hearty and gluten free, one guest commented that it hits your soul! (In a good way!) Enjoy!

 

POTATO LEEK SOUP

Heat extra virgin olive oil over medium heat and add 1 onion, chopped, 1 large leek, sliced, and 2 cloves of garlic, minced.  Cook, stirring frequently about 10 minutes.  Add in small cubes of potatoes (I used 2 red skinned, 2 yukon, and 1 large sweet) and cook for 5-10 minutes.  Add in 2 cups vegetable broth, and seasonings (I used 2 tbl thyme, 1 tbl oregano, 1tsp black pepper, 1 tsp chipotle powder, 1 tsp sea salt, and 1 tsp cumin powder) and stir. Cover, and cook at a low boil/high simmer for about 30 minutes.  Add in 1 cup half and half, stir to incorporate, and blend about 3/4 of the soup in a blender until smooth.  Return soup to pot and add in small torn up pieces of 3 kale leafs.  Cook for about 5-10 more minutes and season to taste.

MESCLUN SALAD WITH PLUM AND PEPITAS

Toss about 3/4 mesclun mix and 1/4 arugula in a large salad bowl.  Add 1-2 plums chopped into small cubes and cherry tomatoes cut in quarters.  Toss with a few handfuls of pepitas (pumkin seeds) and a drizzle of Killer Maple Mustard Cider Vinaigrette.

HONEY MAPLE ROASTED PEARS

4-5 bosq pears cored and quartered

1 cup local honey

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 cups pineapple juice

1 tsp fresh grated ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg

splash of balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place pears skin up in a pyrex or ceramic baking dish.  Mix liquids and spices together and pour evenly over the pears.  Cover and cook for 30 minutes.  Uncover and cook for 10 more minutes.  Carefully pour off the liquid into a small pot and cook over med/high heat for about 5 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half and caramelized slightly.

Serve pears with a drizzle of the reduced liquid and vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or brie/goat cheese/other creamy mild cheese. YUM!

 

Killer maple mustard cider vinaigrette!


To balance out the heavier foods of fall, I’ve been making side salads like crazy!  I’ve been craving fresh, crisp greens and salad cucumbers daily.  I found that the farm stand near my house still has greenhouse grown organic arugula which is deliciously peppery.  SO GOOD!  You’ve probably been told throughout your life to ‘eat your greens!’ but do you know why?  Greens oxygenate the blood and increase circulation which helps to boost the immune system, detoxify the blood, refresh detoxification organs such as the kidney, liver and gall bladder, clear out excess mucous in the lungs, provide us with energy and mental clarity, and lift our spirits.

There are many ways to get your greens, but fresh is best!  We often get bored with salad after salad, so why not experiment with making your own customized salad dressings to add some extra delicious nourishment to your greens?  Vinaigrettes are simple and easy to make at home.  Try using different vinegars (balsamic, plum, cider, white wine, etc.) and different oils (olive, flax, coconut, sesame, etc.) to produce a variety of flavors.  Add in whatever seasonings and spices you desire and voila!  Incredible, fresh, house-made dressings!  You can even print out some labels and give away bottles to guests as gifts!

KILLER MAPLE MUSTARD CIDER VINAIGRETTE

2 cloves of garlic

4 tbl mustard seeds

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine garlic, mustard seeds, 1/4 cup of the maple syrup and a healthy splash of the cider vinegar in a blender or food processor.  Pulse until most mustard seeds are cracked.  Add in the rest of the vinegar and maple syrup, pulse until combined. Slowly add in the olive oil until everything is combined and opaque.  Add more olive oil or maple syrup to taste.

(Note: I am very fortunate to have a good supply of maple syrup!!!  Honey would be an excellent substitution in this recipe!  :)

Quinoa!


As a vegetarian, I am often battling meat-eating friends on the issue of protein.  I tell them that I get protein from eating a wide variety of vegetables and being sure to add-in nuts and beans every so often.  A few years ago I discovered the glory of quinoa!  An ancient Peruvian grain that provides a complete protein all by itself and can be used in as many forms as rice.    Pronounced KEEN-wah, this grain comes in a standard ‘white’, as well as red and black forms. Each grain has a little curly white ‘tail’ that sometimes detaches during cooking.  I find the red and black varieties to be crunchier in texture and delicately nutty in flavor, but expensive.  I often blend two or three varieties together.

I tend to explain protein sources like this:  Some foods are complete proteins all by themselves like animal proteins (meat) and some vegetable sources (like quinoa).  A complete protein means there is a full and balanced panel of amino acids in the food.  You can also consume a complete protein by combining two or more sources with partial amino acid chains (most vegetables).  For example, beans are a nutritionally dense food but they lack an amino acid that corn possesses.  Eating beans and corn together gives your body a complete protein.

Of course protein isn’t the only nutrient the body needs.  We also must eat a fair amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals to feel balanced.  However, a vegetarian source of protein can help many people reach their weight loss goals by cutting down on animal fat.  Quinoa is easier for most bodies to digest than animal protein, so the body stands a better chance of absorbing all of the nutrients and energy that it can.  Additionally, quinoa is gluten-free, and offers a tasty and nutritious alternative to rice-based foods.

Cooking quinoa is similar to cooking rice: combine 2 cups water and 1 cup quinoa and bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover for about 15 minutes, turn off heat, fluff and serve.

The flavor of quinoa is very mild and a bit bland.  Therefore, it lends itself to infinite taste combinations!

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