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Auntie’s Cranberry Chutney


Holiday season is officially here. It’s only three weeks until Thanksgiving! Holiday and family recipes are fair game at this point! Today I wanted to share a cranberry chutney recipe handed down from my great aunt. This is what my family always had in place of cranberry sauce. The truth is it was always my mom and I who really enjoyed it. She would make a batch of it and we would snack on it through out the week.
The original recipe has twice the amount of sugar than this recipe calls for. Trust me it is just as good with only half the sugar.
It is a great accompaniment to chicken as well as turkey. It is pictured here on top of pan seared chicken thighs and sautéed kale.

Auntie’s Cranberry Chutney

1  16 ounce package fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped celery
1 medium apple, chopped
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Mix cranberries, sugar, and one cup water together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Cool then refrigerate. Let sit for at least 2 hours before serving.

Makes about 7 cups


A Recipe for a Ghost Story


It’s party weekend! Halloween festivities started Friday evening with a downtown trick or treating event in my hometown. Businesses handed out candy and people preformed Thriller in the street. We’ve also been carving pumpkins and putting finishing touches on homemade costumes. Saturday is Halloween day. I’ll be helping out with a trunk or treat event, then trick or treating with family. The evening will wrap up with chili and a scary movie with friends. On Sunday I’ll be throwing my annual Day of the Dead party. So now that you know my whole social schedule, you’ll understand if I neglect crumbs for a few days.
For the holiday weekend I want to leave you with this fun recipe for a ghost story I came across.
Tis the season for ghost stories!  Perhaps this will help you cook up your own stories this halloween.
Recipe for a Ghost Story

1 solid ghost story
2 cups environment
1 cup audience
1 tablespoon of dramatic effect
a dash of inflection and tone

Prepare your environment with candles or low-lighting to create a smooth consistency and ambiance. Add in a small audience and channel their focus so that all eyes are on you. Mix in your organic ghost story with some dramatic effect and include varying inflections and tones together to create a solid substance. Build the suspense for about 20 minutes, leaving your audience completely transfixed and terrified.
For more detailed directions follow the link.

Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin Seed Butter


While searching the aisles at the grocery store I came across raw pumpkin seed butter the other day. It seemed like a fun alternative to peanut butter. Especially this time of year. I decided to try making my own. It was really easy and quite satisfying. Pairing my results with a tart cherry jam, I have been enjoying it as a sandwich or using it to dip apple slices in.
If you have a peanut allergy or just like trying new things check this recipe out.

Pumpkin Seed Butter

1 cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted (or other oil if you prefer)

In a food processor begin to puree pumpkin seeds, scrape down sides periodically, add maple syrup and oil gradually. Process until a smooth, butter like consistency is achieved. Approximately 5 minutes.

Dia de los Muertos Tres Leches Cake

Day of the Dead Three Milks Cake


The internet and social media sites are all a buzz with Halloween treats. I love them and think they are all adorable. Halloween is such a fun holiday. Who doesn’t love dressing up and eating candy!? I have made a few halloween themed treats this year, but alas I can not come up with anything original, so this year I’m skipping over a hollowed blog post and moving onto the following day, Day of the Dead.
Where I am from there is a large hispanic population and celebrating this cultural holiday has become a community event. This is the second year I will be participating and even throwing my own party. If you are interested in learning more about this holiday in which passed loved ones are celebrated check out Dia En Downtown. It will give you information about the events taking place in my hometown. For more information on the history and tradition of Dia de los Muertos check out this site:
Dia de los Muertos isn’t for another week, but I have been celebrating already… And by celebrating I mean eating a lot of Tres Leches cake while perfecting this recipe. I hope you will enjoy this cake that is famed in Mexico and named for the three milks it soaks in. This otherwise ordinary sponge cake is transformed into an incredibly moist crumb that is surprisingly not soggy. It is delicious topped with fresh fruit! I decorated mine with a fruity sugar skull.

Tres Leches Cake

6 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Three Milks
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla

1 1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar

Assortment of fresh berries and fruit.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly butter a 9 x 13 baking pan.
Using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar until pale and creamy. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla. In a clean bowl, also using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites, 1/4 cup sugar, and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.
Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.
Gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg white mixture. Gently fold in flour mixture.
Pour batter into prepared baking pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes.
Let cake cool, then poke several holes in it using a fork. Whisk together milks and vanilla. Pour mixture evenly over cake. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. In the meantime prepare the whipped cream topping. Combine heavy cream and sugar. Whisk until stiff peaks form. Spread evenly over cake. Decorate with fruit and berries. Here’s your chance to let out your inner artist!

Maple Glazed Acorn Squash


Today I am sharing a recipe I love, but is not my own. I discovered this recipe last fall and have been looking forward to this time of year ever since. Jenny from Spoon Fork Bacon beautifully narrates her love for winter squash and describes some great ideas for tasty combinations. Please check out her original blog post.

Maple Glazed Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash, seeded and sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup, warmed
salt and pepper to taste
fried sage leaves, optional (I used a fresh sage chiffonade)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place squash sliced onto a baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Season with alt and pepper and gently toss together. Sprinkle tops of squash with brown sugar. Roast squash for 35 to 40 minutes occasionally tossing around, gently, to avoid sticking. 7 to 10 minutes before roasting is completely, brush a small amount of maple syrup over each piece of squash and finish roasting. Top with fried sage, if using, and serve warm.

Chestnut & Wild Rice Stew

There’s a fall tradition we accidentally started ten years ago. My husband and I were living in Oregon and by coincidence a number of friends had traveled to visit on the same week. We invited all of them over one day and started a big pot of stew. The stew, accompanied by beer and candy filled our bellies and we lazed the rest of the day, playing poker and goofing off.

It was just an impromptu get-together, but apparently it left us with warm enough memories that we tried to repeat it the following year after we returned to Idaho. Then again the next year. Each year, we invited more and more people. Each year, there were new activities – pumpkin carving, puzzles, dancing, flag football, hula hooping, a nintendo tournament – but the two elements that have stayed firmly in place every year are brew and stew. Hence the name.

Because 50+ friends come through the door, we ask that our guests bring either a stew in a crockpot, drinks, or snacks and sweets. I try to sample at least five stews. As of late, there have been around 12-15 crockpots squeezed onto a table at one time. Usually when one guest leaves with a crockpot, another arrives. The diversity of stews is a beautiful thing. There are vegan stews, venison stews, gourmet stews, incredibly spicy stews, stews that aren’t stew but actually chowder or soup or chili. The brew is surprisingly diverse too. Microbrews and cheap domestics; heavy stouts, seasonal ales, hoppy IPA’s, and hard cider; and guests have shared their home brewed, fermented, and distilled beverages.

Brew and Stew feels like a holiday. It’s long and exhausting and takes days to prepare for, but it’s not the kind of event you can just cancel or would ever want to. The anticipation builds as leaves start to fall and we know the most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner.


This vegetarian stew is rich and hearty.  It is a nice mix of interesting flavors and familiar comfort food; making it perfect to add to the mix of choices for Brew and Stew.

Chestnut & Wild Rice Stew

1/4 cup butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 cup uncooked wild rice
1 parmesan rind
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely minced
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
10 ounces roasted and peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream

In large pot melt butter on medium heat.  Sauté onions, carrots, celery, and butternut squash on medium high heat until vegetables are softened.  About 10 minutes.  Rinse wild rice and add to pot.  Add rosemary, bay leaf, parmesan rind, salt, pepper, broth, and chestnuts.  Bring to a low simmer and cook for about 45 minutes.  Cover pot if liquid begins to evaporate too much.  Remove parmesan rind and bay leaves.  Finish with heavy cream.  Careful to not boil stew after cream is added.

Makes about 2 1/2 quarts stew

Wild Mushroom Ragout

Cooking with mushrooms has been on my mind a lot lately. (See last post.) Finding the perfect complimentary flavors and cooking techniques has been a lot of fun. I am a nerd when it comes to that. Stacks of cookbooks, my trusty flavor thesaurus, culinary reference guides, and several open tabs on my computer clutter my kitchen work space as I dream up the perfect recipe.
I am particularly proud of this recipe, but the true star is the wonderful variety of wild mushrooms I obtained at my local farmers market. Shiitakes, lobster, oyster, and chanterelles are featured here, but another combination would work well in this recipe.

Wild Mushroom Ragout

1 1/2 pounds wild mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 star anise
3/4 cup red wine
3 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 tablespoon fresh tarragon, slightly chopped.

Melt butter in large skillet on medium heat. Add shallots and garlic. Sauté until butter begins to brown. About two to three minutes. Add mushrooms. Toss to coat in butter. Add star anise, salt, and pepper.  Cook mushrooms on medium low heat.  Stir occasionally until they release some juice and start to cook down.   About 10-15 minutes. Add red wine and simmer liquid off. About 10 minutes. Take off heat and remove star anise. Stir in sour cream and garnish with tarragon.

This ragout can be enjoyed by itself or as a topping on chicken, tofu, or steak.

7 Tips for Stalking Wild mushrooms


The Mushroom Ranch at Boise Farmers Market.

Recently I have been stalking the wild mushroom stand at my local farmers market. The shapes and colors mesmerized me, luring me to return to research and experiment with new varieties each week. This developed into digging out a book I read awhile back called The Mushroom Hunters, by Langdon Cook.  An insider tale of foraging mushrooms and how they get to high-end restaurants or farmers markets. That led me to research local mushroom clubs, classes, and outings. I then went on a weekend long retreat with a bunch of mushroom enthusiasts I had never met. In the end I learned a great deal more than I ever knew about these incredible little organisms and the potential of their flavor and health benefits. Perhaps I uncovered a new hobby for myself, but more than that I have a new appreciation.

Beautifull, but don't eat this amanita!

Beautiful, but don’t eat this poisonous amanita!

Unidentified wild mushroom.

Unidentified wild mushroom.


Unidentified wild mushroom.

These are pictures of my adventures and tips I have collected through research, the farmers market, or my new mushrooming friends.

Laura’s Tips for Enjoying Mushrooms:

  1. When picking out mushrooms from the store or farmers market, they should be firm, plump, and clean. Too much moisture will eventually create slimy mushrooms.
  2. Store mushrooms in a paper bag. Paper allows the mushrooms to breathe and stay fresh longer. Avoid storing mushrooms in plastic; it will cause them to sweat and get slimy. Mushrooms that are starting to dry out can easily be reconstituted when cooking. A dried mushroom is more desirable than a slimy one.
  3. Fresh mushrooms only have a shelf life of two to four days. I have heard that they should be stored in the fridge and that they should never be stored in the fridge. I have done both without a significant difference.
  4. Do not wash mushrooms. They soak up water like sponges. Instead carefully brush them off with a soft brush or paper towel. Which brings me to my next tip…
  5. Mushrooms should always be cooked. This is especially true for wild mushrooms they may contain bugs, bacteria, or worms. All mushrooms including the common white button mushroom contain a toxic compound, hydrazine. Small amounts probably won’t hurt you, but cooking mushrooms neutralizes the chemical and releases beneficial nutrients.
  6. Dried wild mushrooms are often more accessible than fresh varieties. Some even benefit from the drying process. Shiitakes really bloom in flavor after they have been dried and then reconstituted. Chanterelles on the other hand lose their flavor.
  7. This is NOT a wild mushroom hunting guide. I do not feel qualified to give you any tips in this area. Consuming wild mushrooms should be done with caution. Carefully select varieties that you are positive are edible. Check with a guide book and or someone who is an expert. When eating wild mushrooms you picked for the first time it is a good idea to eat only one variety at a time. Eat only a small amount and wait to see how it affects you before proceeding. (One of the speakers on the mushroom foray explained it this way: “save one mushroom for the doctor and one for the Mycologist.” Essentially, be careful!
The beloved bolete mushroom. Coveted across America and Europe. Also know as ceps or porcini.

The beloved bolete mushroom. Coveted across America and Europe.
Also know as ceps or porcini.

Roasted Maitake mushroom. Drizzle with olive oil and roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Recipe from The Mushroom Ranch.

Roasted maitake mushroom. Drizzle with olive oil and roast at 425 degrees farhenheit for 20 minutes. Cooking tip from The Mushroom Ranch.

Coming Soon: My own wild mushroom ragout recipe.  

Root Veggie & Hazelnut Hash with Goat Cheese


Some time ago somebody imposed some beets on me.* It is a good thing they keep for a long time because it took me forever to get around to doing something with them. I pressured my boyfriend to make his “famous” borsch. I had in mind that I would pickle them. A few times I thought that I would just roast them to have them ready for a dinner side. It’s not that I don’t like beets. They just seemed like a daunting task to me.

Finally I got hungry and decided to make a lovely hash out of some of my favorite ingredients on hand, including the beets! I like using beets in this application because you don’t have to roast them before moving on to the next step.
This dish comes together quickly. It feels like comfort food while also being healthy. Lots of warm and savory vegetables and no heavy sauces.

*I really am grateful for gifts from the garden, even beets.

Root Veggie & Hazelnut Hash with Goat Cheese

1 medium sweet potato
2 medium beets
1 small onion
2 carrots
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
2 teaspoon dried parsly
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste
2 or more fried eggs

Peel and cut all veggies into 1/2 inch cubes. Heat olive oil in large skillet on medium heat. Sauté vegetables until tender and crisp on edges, about 10-15 minutes. Work in batches if needed, in order to not over crowd pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Add chopped hazelnuts and sauté for another minute. Take off heat and sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese and parsley. Top with fried eggs.

Serves 2-4

Pumpkin Bisque


The weather often determines the recipes I choose to work on and what flavors I want to highlight. I apologize if I drive this point home too often, however I know I am not alone in this. When the air gets crisp, warming comfort foods hit the spot. A little bit of rain and the promise of cooler days brought me to the conclusion I should make soup. We are fully into autumn now! It is October after all, so today I am sharing my favorite pumpkin bisque recipe. I have tweaked and perfected this recipe over the last few years to make it exactly what I want it to be. I wanted a creamy soup that brought out the flavor of pumpkin, but not sweet like pumpkin pie. Coconut milk is complimentary without overpowering the other flavors. Plus it is such a great consistency adding richness and creaminess to the soup. The warm spices keep the soup grounded with the kick of crushed red pepper for excitement. Feel free to add more if you like spicier foods.

Vegan Pumpkin Bisque

1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 cups vegetable stock
1 large can pumpkin puree (approximately 3 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 can coconut milk (approximately 1 2/3 cups)
juice of half a lemon (approximately 2 tablespoons)

In a medium pot, warm coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion. Sauté for several minutes, until onion softens and starts to brown. Add garlic and sauté a couple more minutes. Add vegetable stock, pumpkin puree, and spices. Simmer on medium low heat for 30 minutes. This allows the flavors to meld together.
Working in batches transfer soup to blender or food processor and puree. Return to pot. Add coconut milk and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer to warm. Season to taste with salt and pepper.