Archive for Breakfasts

How to Roast Squash

This post is really more of tutorial than a recipe. I use butternut squash in the video, but this method can be used on any kind of squash or pumpkin.

Most squash roasting instructions will tell you to roast the squash for 30 minutes, which results in tender but firm squash to serve cut into pieces. I prefer to roast the squash for closer to 60 minutes, resulting a squash which has essentially pureed itself. (If desired, a quick whirl through the food processor will remove any lingering stringiness or lumps.)

I generally roast squash to prepare it for freezing, though, of course, the roasted squash can also be served immediately, preferably with a pat of butter and perhaps a sprinkling of turbinado sugar and cinnamon or of garlic. I often defrost the squash for a hearty winter breakfast (usually with served with that bit of turbinado sugar), but it can also be used in any soups or casseroles that call for squash puree, or as a substitute for pumpkin puree.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

It’s squash, plain and simple.

Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy

The yumminess rating really depends on what you do with the squash. On it’s own it’s okay, but not that amazing, however it can be turned into yummy amazingness as desired.

How to Roast Squash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. This isn’t really an exact science. 350 or 450 will still get you roasted squash, 350 will just take longer and at 450 you start to risk scorching the squash.

Rinse any loose or excessive dirt from the outside of the squash. You don’t have to be meticulous because you won’t be eating the skin anyway, but I like to avoid the risk of having large chunks of mud fall into the food part of the squash.

Cut of the top of the squash, then cut the squash in half lengthwise. Unless you have a particularly small squash or are particularly handy with a knife, it may be easier and safer to cut the squash in half once crosswise before cutting it in half lengthwise.

Scoop out the seeds. I like to use a large spoon for this because it has enough edge to easily scrape out the orange stringy bits clinging to the seeds, but won’t take away much of the flesh of the squash with it. If you like, you can set aside the seeds to clean and roast later.

Arrange the squash on cookie sheets with sides. (Once I forgot to use cookie sheets with sides and water released by the roasting squash spilled all over the floor of my oven and scorched there. Not ideal.) I can normally fit one squash per cookie sheet unless the squash are abnormally large.

Put the squash into a hot oven for 45 minutes to an hour. The squash is done when a fork easily pierces the skin and slides through the squash.

Remove from the oven and let cool. (If you’re not going to get to it within a reasonable amount of time you can throw it in the fridge and deal with it later, but generally just letting it cool to room temperature on the counter works fine.) If you like, you can save any ‘squash water’ that’s collected in the cookie sheet and add it to soup or stock.

Peel the squash. Once again, I like to use a large spoon for the process. If the squash has been cooked very well you may just be able to remove the peel easily with your fingers, and if it’s still a bit hard it’s best to peel it with a knife as you would any vegetable. However, for everything in between the spoon does a good job of scraping the squash from the peel without making too much of a mess.

Use or freezer the squash puree/pieces. Half a squash serves the two of us for a breakfast or side dish and fits nicely into a quart size freezer bag.

Did you notice how at 40 seconds in I said “cut the half in piece” instead of “cut the piece of half”? Yeah, I’m smooth like that. But I make up for it and prove I’m a cool person anyway  with that Tetris reference at 2:52 right?

Creamy Spicy Chicken Broth

Creamy Spicy Broth

When I first ran across a recipe for Thai broth I thought it looked amazing. I knew my husband wasn’t likely to go for it as a thin, brothy soup though, so I filed it away on Pinterest, waiting for a flash of inspiration. Maybe I could make a reduction sauce based on Thai broth and serve it as a gravy? Maybe turn it into a noodle soup?

Every time I ran across it again it still sounded good, but I never wanted to go to the trouble of making coconut milk that day just to try it. Then one day it suddenly dawned on me that I could give a try with the regular cow’s milk I always have on hand. (I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me, the queen of changing recipes, to come up with that idea.)

Once I started changing it though, I just couldn’t stop. I didn’t have fresh herbs on hand either, so I fell back on my standbys garlic powder and ginger powder, and of course, I had to add turmeric, that powerhouse of adding anti-inflammatories and richness of flavor at the same time. I salted it heavily and added just a dash of cayenne (especially because I was going to be drinking it instead of eating it as a soup, I was skeptical of the chili flakes, and their tendency to burst unexpected waves of heat in unpredictable intervals).

The result was a rich and creamy broth, with lot of flavor and just a bit of spice on the back end. For the first time in my life I found myself drinking chicken stock every morning, and even enjoying the experience.

Now, I’ll tell you that my husband does not like intense flavors first thing in the morning, so I haven’t gotten a good read on whether he will like this broth or not. I’ll let  you know when I get some kind of conclusion one way or the other. I’m thinking maybe adding homemade ramen noodles for supper one night would be good way to introduce him to this broth…

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

This is one of those recipes that just about everyone can agree is healthy. (Except angry vegans, but I generally try to ignore them.) You have all the minerals and gut healing gelatin from the chicken stock, the enzymes and minerals from the raw milk, and the metabolism boosting and immune boosting spices to top it all off.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

As I mentioned, I don’t yet have my husband’s opinion on the yumminess factor, but myself, I give it a completely yummy rating.

Creamy Spicy Broth

4 servings

4 cups chicken stock

1-2 tsp salt*

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ginger powder

1/8 tsp cayenne, or to taste

4 cups milk (preferably raw and organic)

Heat chicken stock to just below boiling. (If you like your broth very hot, go ahead and heat it to boiling–I prefer more moderate temperature for drinking broth, and a moderate temperature also preserves some of the enzymes in the raw milk.)

Whisk in spices and salt.

Add milk.

Drink as is, or use as the base for a soup.

*NOTE: I use homemade chicken stock which has not yet been salted when making this recipe. If using store bought or pre-salted homemade stock, you will need a lot less salt, and possibly none at all.

Cooking 101: Easy Berry Cobbler

Cooking 101: Easy Berry Cobbler

This cobbler is made with raspberries, while the cobbler in the video is  made with blackberries. Blueberries, strawberries, peaches and other fruits can also be used.

 

My nephew Toby guest starred in the video for this recipe. He’s sixteen years old, and recently learned how to make eggs and toast, so in the very strictest sense he’s not a complete beginner at cooking, but he is very close. (He’s a brilliant absent minded professor type who could solve for x in his sleep, but didn’t learn how to turn on the stove until he was ten. Also, as you will notice when you watch the video, he’s very funny and makes me laugh a lot.)

I’m going to be posting a few recipes that are very simple for new cooks to learn, and I wanted to have a true novice cook use the recipes to make sure that I didn’t skip over anything in the instructions because it seemed ‘obvious’ to me. If I did miss anything, or you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at gbfoodrocks@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have. (That goes for any of my recipes, in fact.)

This particular recipe is pretty adaptable to different types of flours and sugars (though I haven’t tried gluten free flours) so you can make it with healthy ingredients (whole wheat pastry flour aka white wheat flour and turbinado sugar) or ingredients found in typical kitchens (white flour and white sugar). I wouldn’t recommend using a hard red whole wheat flour, as it will have the typical whole wheat flavor and texture drawbacks, but it would probably do in a pinch if that’s all you have.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy to Kinda Healthy

This cobbler could qualify as completely healthy if you choose to use whole wheat flour and turbinado sugar. If you use white flour and white sugar it’s not going to have a whole lot going for it in terms of nutrition.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

It’s a really good basic cobbler. My version is heavy on the cobbler, but if you prefer it heavy on the fruit, just double the amount of fruit used.

Easy Berry Cobbler

based on this recipe

4 TBSP butter

3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (aka whole wheat pastry flour) OR unbleached all purpose flour

3/4 cup turbinado sugar OR white sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk

6 oz package berries of choice (or 1 cup of sliced fruit such as peaches)

Fresh or frozen fruit works fine in this recipe. If using fresh fruit, rinse the berries and leave to drain dry, or prepare the fruit (remove seeds or pits, slice, etc).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the butter in a 8×8 square baking dish and put it in oven to melt.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. (Note for beginners: This is an important step, so make sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined and you don’t see any patches or lumps of seperate ingredients.)

Add the milk. (Note for beginners: Stir briefly, then scrape along the bottom of the bowl to make sure you don’t have any pockets of flour mixture that haven’t been stirred in. Do NOT overmix. As soon as the batter is smooth and all the flour is incorporated, stop stirring.)

Remove pan with melted butter from the oven. Pour the batter into the pan.

Sprinkle the fruit across the top of the batter. Return the pan the oven and set a timer for 50 minutes.

After 50 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. If a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, the cobbler is done. (Note for beginners: ‘Clean’ in this case means that there’s no gummy or liquidy batter sticking to the toothpick. You may get fruit juices or even a dry crumb or two stuck to the toothpick, but if the toothpick is coated in crumbs or other signs of uncooked batter, the cobbler needs to back in the oven for five or ten more minutes.)

Fried Dandelions (Dandelion Fritters)

 

 

 

Fried Dandelions (Dandelion Fritters)

Dandelions taste wild–a little bit flowery and a little bit green and bitter, but mostly like nothing else you’ve ever tasted.

These pretty little yellow flowers (yes, they are pretty, and I can’t for the life of my understand why people hate them and try so hard to get rid of them) are high in antioxidants and lecithin and a smattering of vitamins and minerals. And not only are they quite nutritious, but most of us have them available for free and very little work involved in getting them to grow.

A couple of cautions before you start eating dandelions though:

First, make sure the dandelions you gather have not been sprayed with pesticides, weed killer, or any other chemicals. If they’re in your lawn this may be as simple as refraining from spraying any chemicals (as long as your neighbors aren’t spraying anything that’s drifting over to  your yard), but I would be reticent to use dandelions growing in any public places, unless I could confirm a lack of chemicals.

Second, if you’re allergic to ragweed or daisies you may also be allergic to dandelions. Be very cautious in starting your dandelion consumption if you have allergies these or similar flowers.

Fried Dandelions can be eaten plain as a simple side dish, with savory sauces such as ketchup or ranch dressing (think anything you might dip onion rings in), or with sweet toppings such as powdered sugar, honey or maple syrup.

I recommend making this recipe with a whole wheat flour made from soft white wheat, but the recipe can quickly be adapted to use white flour or hard red wheat by adjusting the amount of liquid used. The basic ratio is 1 cup of milk to 1 cup of white flour. Use less milk for soft white whole wheat flour and extra milk for hard red whole wheat flour.

You can fry your dandelions in any oil you normally use for frying. Coconut oil makes a nice healthy (and fairly neutral flavored if you use expeller pressed coconut oil) light oil, while lard would have a heavier flavor which might be better suited to a plain or savory side. Vegetable oils would be completely neutral flavored. You might even be able to fry these in plain butter, but you’d want to keep the butter at a lower temperature, and fry the dandelions more slowly so as not to burn the butter.

In the video I demonstrated making individual fried dandelions, but for a faster process, you can also just mix all your dandelion flowers into the batter and form the batter into small pancakes.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy to Kinda Healthy

While dandelion blossoms are definitely healthy, your choice of topping or sauce might downgrade this kinda healthy. (Though if you make your own powdered sugar from turbinado sugar, you’re moving back toward healthy territory again.)

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

As I said, it’s an odd, wild flavor, but very yummy. These are very much husband approved, and as far as I can tell, my version even measured up his very fond childhood memories of fried dandelions.

While fried dandelions are definitely addictive, there are plenty of other uses for dandelions which I’m looking forward to trying this summer. If you’re also intrigued by using up your dandelions, dandelion flowers can be added to green salads, or used in any of these recipes:

Dandelion Jelly

Dandelion Soda (fermented)

Dandelion Lotion Bars

Dandelion Muffins

Fried Dandelions (Dandelion Fritters)

based on this recipe

3/4 cup milk (or more depending on flour used)

1 egg

1 cup soft white whole wheat flour (or flour of choice)

about 80 dandelion blossoms (a little less than two cups)

water and salt for soaking flowers

 

Remove the entire stem and as much of the green part as desired from each flower. (The green part is somewhat bitter, but if you remove all of it your flowers will tend to fall apart. I find it simplest to just remove the stem.) Soak flowers in salt water for five to ten minutes to remove any bugs that might be hiding in them.

Heat coconut oil or oil of choice over a medium (or slightly lower than medium) heat in a skillet.

Beat egg into milk, then add to flour. Mix just until combined. Mixture should be about the consistency of a thick pancake batter–add more milk or flour if needed to get the right consistency.

Dip flowers into batter, using a fork or tongs to make sure each flower is well coated with batter. (Or, mix all your flowers into the batter, and make small pancakes instead of individual fritters.) Drop each flower into the hot oil. (If you’re not sure whether your oil is hot enough, you can drip a small amount of batter into the oil. When the batter floats and begins bubbling briskly, your oil is hot enough.)

Fry for about two minutes on each side, or until each side is golden brown and slightly crispy.

Remove to plate lined with paper towel or a clean rag to absorb the extra grease. Immediately sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

Continue until all dandelion blossoms are fried.

 

Overnight Refrigerator Oatmeal

Overnight Refrigerator Oatmeal

Pay no attention to the extremely un-photogenic oatmeal in the plastic cup…

 As I may have mentioned before on this blog, by husband is of Irish descent. He will eat cold baked potatoes out of the fridge as a snack, but his oatmeal tolerance is near zero. Apparently, oatmeal has a sliminess that my Scottish taste buds do not detect.

Now, he doesn’t complain if I serve him oatmeal for breakfast, and if I put some peanut butter in it he doesn’t even mind eating it (occasionally). But since I’m all about finding GOOD ways to fix food, I try not to make a habit of fixing foods that are merely tolerable to my husband.

So, when I read comments that refrigerator oatmeal was more enjoyable to those who find hot oatmeal to be slimy, I was intrigued, if also skeptical. I made up a couple cups of oatmeal for breakfast, assuring my husband that he didn’t have to eat it if he didn’t like it. I could just save the refrigerator oatmeal for my breakfasts, and fix him an egg or something.

Imagine my surprise when my Irish husband decided he liked this oatmeal.

As another plus, it’s a perfect make ahead breakfast the requires no work on those mornings when you get up and go running instead of making breakfast. (Or those mornings when you sleep in until ten minutes before your husband leaves for work… But the first one sounds like a much better excuse for not making breakfast, doesn’t it?)

Ideally, you’ll want to make this in half pint mason jars (affiliate link), because they’re easily sealed with lids, but I also often make them in disposable plastic cups for simplicity, and any mug or glass will do just as well. (A sandwich bag or piece of plastic wrap makes a good impromptu disposable ‘lid’ for  while it’s in the fridge.)

Some people will make ahead a week’s worth of refrigerator oatmeal at a time, and it keeps just fine in the fridge for that long. If you’re planning to do this though, consider your fruit/flavoring choices. Blueberries will probably be fine steeping in the cup of oatmeal for a week, but don’t try to hold bananas for more than a day or two.

Healthiness rating: Healthy

I do have to point out that oats contain phytic acid, which blocks the absorption of nutrients, but don’t contain enough phytase for soaking to really eliminate the phytic acid as it would with wheat. So, if you’re very concerned about the effects of phytic acid (I’ve discussed before when you might need to be concerned) skip eating oats entirely, or add a teaspon of rye flour (which is high in phytase) when you soak them.

However, if you’re generally getting plenty of vitamin C in your diet (such as, in the fruit you put in your oatmeal) the phytic acid shouldn’t be a big deal, and kefir or yogurt will provide plenty of probiotics to help you digest your grains.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

As noted, the texture is improved over hot oatmeal for those who have an issue with oatmeal’s sliminess, and those who already love oatmeal will find the same old comfort food, but better acclimated to a balmy summer morn than their standard steaming porridge might be.

Refrigerator Oatmeal

(per cup)

1/4 cup oats (quick or old fashioned)

1/2 cup kefir

OR

1/3 cup milk + 1/4 cup greek yogurt

1 1/2 tsp chia seeds (flax seeds will work okay as a substitute, but you might need to cut back on the liquid a bit)

Fruit/Flavorings of Choice:

1/2 banana + 1-2 TBSP peanut butter + 1-2 tsp honey + (optional) 1 TBSP cocoa powder

OR

2-4 TBSP of your favorite jam or jelly + (optional) 1 tsp vanilla

OR

1/2 tsp cinnamon + 1 TBSP honey

(For lots more flavor ideas see the posts I originally got this recipe from here and here)

Put all ingredients into a cup or mason jar and mix. (I like to put the fruit in first, so that there’s something yummy all the way to the last spoonful, even if I don’t quite mix it thoroughly.) Refrigerate overnight or for up to a few days.

http://youtu.be/0bSdcYISpc4

 

Homemade Yogurt, The Easy Way + How to Drain Yogurt for Thicker Greek Yogurt

Homemade Greek Yogurt

Homemade raw Greek yogurt, topped with honey and cinnamon.

 Over the past couple of years I have struggled with some fairly major health problems. leaving me with low energy most of the time, ranging to completely fatigued and exhausted on a bad day. Thankfully, the bad days are becoming less frequent than they used to be, but even on an average day I have far more project ideas than I have energy to put into projects.

This means, that while cooking healthy food is usually a priority for me, I really don’t like to make any of my projects  more involved or complicated than they have to be. Certain projects that others consider complex might fit nicely into my routine, but other projects, sometimes even one that don’t seem so complicated to most people, just seem overwhelming.

So, when I discovered a super easy way to make my own raw yogurt, I was thrilled. Yogurt is generally considered fairly fussy. Regulating the temperature is a pain and doesn’t seem to guarantee results no matter how carefully it’s done. Plus, I was on GAPS diet at the time, with little energy to spare, and a lot of special cooking to be done, and a lot of slowly fermented food needed on a regular basis. The idea that I could drop yogurt in a jar, add milk, and then just let the whole thing sit out in a warm spot to make yogurt was a relief.

Now, as simple as the process is, fermented foods do often have a bit of a finicky streak. You may immediately find a warm spot that happily makes yogurt without any problems, ever. More likely, you’ll have to try a couple warm spots to see which one ferments your milk at the speed which is convenient to your schedule. You may find that the warm spot on top of your fridge, that normally turns out yogurt like clockwork, overheats on your baking day, and the pervading warmth of the oven ferments your yogurt unexpectedly faster than normal.

To me, these inconsistencies are simply an expected part of cooking real and traditional food. Like making soup with leftovers, or marrying into a family that makes a lot of last minute plans, life is often something of a grab bag no matter how carefully we try to regiment it.

I have found this method of making yogurt to produce mostly consistent results, and the occasional batch of extra sour and thick yogurt, or runny yogurt can easily find their home in baked goods without dramatically disrupting the rhythm of my life. These odd batches of yogurt even seem to make fine starter for a new batch in most cases, as the inconsistencies are naturally evened out by the steady working of the natural probiotics and enzymes through slight disruptions of their routine.

If this sort of adaptation to changes in your life is not for you, I recommend googling ‘crockpot yogurt’ and continuing in your quest to bend the world to your will without detouring through my yogurt making method. Best of luck to you in that endeavor.

In the realm of adapting to changes, the video I have posted on  making yogurt is technically a fail video. It still demonstrates *how* to use my yogurt making technique, but in a moment of brain fog, I misremembered how much whey was needed for the amount of yogurt I was making, resulting in a less than optimal batch of yogurt. Feel free to both laugh at my fail and glean what you can from watching my methods.

Straining (or draining) the yogurt to make it thicker is completely optional, but since we really like greek style yogurt, and I find it really handy to have whey around for recipes (soaking whole wheat flour, ketchup, etc), I almost always do drain it.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Not only is the yogurt completely natural, but making your own plain yogurt gives you the ability to make your own flavored yogurts without any unnatural sweeteners or additives. Obviously, you get an extra boost to your enzymes if you start with raw milk, but you can use this method for any type of dairy you generally use (I haven’t tested it with non-dairy milks) and meet your general health standards.

Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy

I’ll be honest here: homemade yogurt isn’t something my husband raves about. He actually kinda likes Yoplaits.

As for myself, I don’t hate yogurt, but I’ve never been a huge fan of any kind of yogurt, even including Yoplait (which baffles my husband). But, throwing a couple splops (yes, that’s a very specific measurement, why do you ask?) of yogurt into a smoothie is easy and doesn’t adversely affect the taste, and if I mix the homemade yogurt with sufficient honey and fruit, my husband doesn’t mind eating it, and in the right mood, I rather enjoy it.

Homemade Yogurt

1 cup of whey or yogurt

3 cups of milk

Mix whey or yogurt with milk in a quart jar. Cover and set in a warm place for 12-24 hours. Refrigerate, or proceed to straining your yogurt first.

To make greek yogurt: Line a strainer or colander with cheesecloth or thin cotton (not terrycloth) dishtowel. Set on a bowl to catch the whey. Pour yogurt into the cheesecloth lined strainer and let it drain for a few hours, until it is your desired thickness. (You can also make yogurt cheese, which can be used as a cream cheese substitute, by draining the yogurt longer, until it’s very thick.) Using a large metal spoon or rubber spatula, transfer yogurt to a jar or covered bowl and store in refrigerator. Pour whey into a separate bowl or jar and store in refrigerator.

 

Boxty: Irish Potato Pancakes

Boxty: Irish Potato Pancakes

 

While I have a fair amount of Scottish blood in me, and my husband is part Irish, we share an interest in good foods, celtic music and traditions, and church history. As you might guess, we celebrate St Patrick’s Day every year, and with lots of Irish food. Our standard Irish dinner is corned beef with cabbage and potato, a sweeter version of Irish soda bread, and whatever other irish or green (or orange if I’m feeling especially like a cranky protestant Scottish girl…) food happens to hit the table.

I discovered boxty when looking for ways to extend our Irish food exploration beyond just dinner on St Patricks Day–why not have Irish food for breakfast too?

Boxty is like a cross between hashbrowns, biscuits and pancakes, and can be eating like any of those: with lots of butter, with butter and honey or syrup, with meat and gravy, or with ketchup. It can also be eaten as a breakfast food, or as a side at lunch or dinner. (Or as a snack for that matter. They’re even fairly portable, though better when they’re still warm.)

Healthiness rating: Healthy to Kinda Healthy

While I have no problem with including this in a meal and then classifying the meal as healthy, I am, for some reason hesitant to  put forward this recipe as having a lot of redeeming health food features. Depending on your definition of healthy food, and what kind of flour you decide to use, this could range from healthy to kinda healthy food.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

This one is less complicated: yummy and husband approved. (But then, he’s Irish, and eats cold baked potatoes straight out of the fridge, so in this case it might actually be more helpful to point out that I also like this recipe.)

Boxty

Large batch:

10 cups of mashed potatoes

10 cups of grated potatoes

8 cups of flour (white or whole wheat)

5 cups of milk or whey

1 cup melted butter

2 TBSP salt

Small batch:

2 cups of mashed potatoes

2 cups of grated potatoes

1 1/2 cups of flour

1 cup milk or whey

3 TBSP melted butter

1 tsp salt

butter or oil for frying

Put the grated potatoes in a clean cotton dishcloth. Squeeze out the excess moisture.  Mix grated potatoes with other ingredients (other than butter or oil for frying, obviously).

Heat butter over medium heat in skillet. Using about 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup batter per pancake, depending on size desired, fry two minutes on each side, until outside is crispy and inside is set to a firm but crispy consistency.

Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding

This is my third year making Christmas pudding. The first year I followed the traditional instructions to make it a month ahead so it can age for proper flavor. It went moldy.

The next year I decided to make it only a week or two ahead of time, and as an extra precaution, poured rum over it as a mold preventative. I served it with a simple brandy sauce (recipe below) and it was amazing.

Christmas pudding is very dense, like a hearty bread pudding. Lightly sweet, with dried fruit and spices, it has a good medley of rich flavors, but none of them overwhelming.

I used a white flour in this years pudding, but it’s one I got through Azure Standard with the wheat germ left in and only the bran removed. With the bran removed you have no pesky phytates to worry about, and a lot of the nutrition is still intact because of the wheat germ.

I used homemade bread crumbs this year. I save bread heels and overdone (but still not burnt) toast and other such odd bits of bread in a bag in the freezer, and just throw them in the food processor when I need bread crumbs. This means my bread crumbs were in about the same ratio of wheat to white as the bread we eat–mostly whole wheat, but with a bit of white thrown in here and there. In previous years I’ve used store bought panko bread crumbs.

The last two years I haven’t been able to find suet in our local grocery store and had to fall back on grated frozen butter. This year I wasn’t even going to try to look, but as I was poking through the meat on manager’s special I found beef suet  just sitting there for seventy-five cents. So I finally get to compare and see if it turns out better with suet! I have to say though, I didn’t notice any problems with using the butter instead.

To puree the orange, cut it in quarters, with the peel still on, and put the whole thing in the blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, with no large pieces of peel. Last year I used a whole lemon instead of a whole orange, but I didn’t happen to have lemons on hand this year.

Healthiness Rating: Kinda Healthy

I rate this as kinda healthy, because you can really make it as healthy as you want to depending the ingredients you choose (there’s very little innately unhealthy about the ingredients: dried fruit, spices, breadcrumbs that can be whole wheat, etc). But then, this is a Christmas pudding recipe. Healthy isn’t really the point.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

The brandy sauce tastes especially amazing, but the pudding is very good too. Let me put it this way: How good do you think it would have to be for me to decide it’s worth it to go through the bother of making and steaming a Christmas pudding every year?

Yep, it’s pretty good.

Christmas Pudding

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 tsp sea salt

2 1/4 tsp baking powder

2 cups bread crumbs

6 oz suet or 1 1/2 sticks frozen butter, grated

3/4 cup turbinado sugar

1 cup raisins

1 cup craisins

½ tbsp molasses

½ apple, peeled and grated

½ carrot, finely grated

1 orange, pureed

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp of ginger

1 egg

Method

Mix all ingredients together.

Run hot water over a thin cotton dish towel (not terry cloth!). Wring out as much as possible. Sprinkle flour on cloth.

Dump mixture on to the flour in the middle of the cloth. Smooth mixture into as tight a ball as possible, then tie opposing corners of the cloth over the christmas pudding ball. Make it as snug as you can (you’ll probably have small divot in the bottom of your Christmas pudding from the knot), then tie the two remaining corners snugly.

The next step is to steam the pudding. I don’t have any fancy steaming equipment, so I’ve used a few different strategies over the years.

I’ve tied the longer ‘tails’ of the corners of the towel to my stockpot handles, suspending the pudding in the middle of the pot above the boiling water.

I’ve skipped the dishcloth altogether, packed the pudding mixture in the bottom of a 2 qt stainless steel bowl and boiled the whole thing, keeping the water level low enough that the water never got in the bowl. (This option  is nice for aging and reheating as it can just stay in the same bowl for that entire process.)

This year I set my mesh strainer in the top of my stock pot and put the pudding-tied-inside-a-towel  inside the mesh strainer, keeping the pudding out of the boiling water but still in the steam.

Whatever method you use, the pudding with need to cook for about 2 1/2 hours. When it’s done it should be one cohesive pudding and no longer crumbly.

When it’s cooled enough to handle, remove the pudding from the towel, poke a few holes in it with a skewer, and pour over it 2 TBSP of rum, slowly to give it time to soak in.

Put the pudding somewhere cool and dry to age for a week or two (or four if you’re a traditionalist).

To reheat the pudding, use any of the methods listed above for steaming the pudding, but only steam it for about an hour.

Pour brandy over the pudding and light it just before serving. Serve with brandy sauce.

If you want to serve it for Christmas breakfast (which is not as scandalous as it sounds, because the alcohol is cooked off the pudding, even if you serve it flaming, and you can easily cook the alcohol off the brandy sauce as well, if desired) you may want to put it in a small bowl inside your slow cooker, put a couple inches of water in the bottom of the slow cooker crock, and steam it overnight so it’s ready in the morning with no fuss.

Brandy Sauce

3 TBSP butter

3 TBSP flour

1 1/2 – 2 cups milk

3 TPSP sugar

1/4 cup brandy

(All these measurements are approximate, as I really just eyeballed measurements for a white sauce, then added sugar and brandy to taste)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in flour. Slowly whisk in milk. Add sugar and wait for it to thicken. Remove from heat and add brandy. (If you prefer, add the brandy and cook for another minute or two to cook off the alcohol.)

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