I have been so inspired by the hope, resilience, and generosity of so many around me who are searching for and finding ways to feel and share a spirit of gratitude this holiday season that I am moved to want to share something of myself, too. There was my neighbor who recently lost his beautiful wife to cancer (a woman who, herself, continues to be an inspiration to me of living a full, wholehearted life) finding the courage to pour his broken heart into building a friendship with my family. And my nine year old son, who was overjoyed to empty his piggy bank to support his school's food drive. My heart is overwhelmed by the light that can still be found and flamed amidst the darkness of these times, so much so that I want to carry that love forward.
What gift can I bring? Deeply nourishing food, of course! Not only am I a Registered-Dietitian-Nutritionist, but I married into a wonderful Italian family in which "to feed is to love" (yes, my hubby cooks, too. In fact, I regularly have to stop him from actually trying to spoon-feed delicious morsels into my mouth!) Special thanks also to my astute and honest sister, who after reading my blog post from last week, commented, "Um...well, I like it, but it doesn't really have anything to do with nutrition!" Excellent point, Lauren! And just because you may not have a big crowd this year is no reason not to celebrate the blessings you do have with a sumptuous feast. In fact, I believe that our hearts need these traditions more than ever. Plus, what's the added bonus of spending the time to prepare a big, fancy meal without a lot of mouths to eat it?... Leftovers!
The recipes I've chosen to share with you bring back special memories for me because I learned of or helped to develop them in the early days of my nutrition training, when I was first discovering the joy of preparing delicious, nourishing food from locally sourced ingredients and sharing it with others. All these years later, they still have a place at my family's table and in in my heart. These are truly "special" dishes because they are brimming with ingredients that burst with flavor and are deeply satisfying, on a sensory level, and also through their naturally occurring nutrients that will make every cell of your body sing. They
are not your typical, quick weekday dinner fare -- they take a little more time and care, but the result is certainly worth it. The Savory Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque recipe was featured by the Keene State College Dietetic Internship team at the Stonewall Farm Thanksgiving Farm Fair. My colleague and I had the privilege of traveling around the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, meeting local farmers and turning their harvest into culinary delights to feed a crowd. At the Farm Fair, we were able to join with other local artisans gathered to bring fresh, delicious food to their neighbors' Thanksgiving tables.
The Sumptuous Swiss Chard & Fontina Risotto has another simpler name, "Mac & Chard." I fell in love with this recipe during my senior practicum, when I had the opportunity to be part of the pilot phase of the Early Sprouts curriculum, the brainchild of my professor and mentor, Dr. Karrie Kalich, now Dean of Professional and Graduate Studies at KSC. The program teaches young children to love fresh fruit and vegetables by getting to help grow, cook, and interact with them, using their senses. My now-sixteen year-old daughter, then two, learned about rainbow "chart" (chard) and literally got to plant some of the first seeds of what has now grown into a nationally recognized program. This grown-up version is soooo good! It might even open up a whole new world of enjoying green things! (photo by Sophia Hsin)
Finally, no Thanksgiving Table, whether set for one or for 15, would be complete without the cranberry sauce. Please, for me, your nutritionist, skip the sugary canned jelly and make the real stuff! It's quick, cheap, super-duper easy, and loaded with anti-inflammatory phyto-nutrients and antioxidants, and of course oh-so yummy! "Make your holidays brighter with this Cinnamon Orange Cranberry Sauce made with fresh orange juice and whole spices for a delightful Thanksgiving dish," from MyDarlingVegan.com.
Without further ado, from my family table to yours:
Savory Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque
Adapted from Zov: Recipes and Memories from the Heart, by Zov Karamardian
1/4 cup unsalted butter (+ additional 1 Tbsp, melted)
1 large butternut squash (about 2 lbs), halved & seeded
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 leaks (white & pale green parts only), trimmed & thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled & grated
1 lb yams, peeled & coarsely chopped
5 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
4 Tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tsp course salt
1 tsp grated orange peel
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
Optional garnish for each serving: dollop sour cream or unsweetened yogurt + toasted pumpkin seeds or chives
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the melted butter over the cut sides of the squash. Wrap each squash half in foil and place them on a heavy baking sheet. Roast in the oven until the squash is tender, turning occasionally, about 1 hour. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Spoon the flesh into a medium bowl. Discard the skins.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy, large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, leak, garlic, and ginger. Sauté until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the yams and the broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the yams are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Stir in the roasted squash flesh, maple syrup, salt, orange peel, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cool the soup slightly.
3. Using a hand-held immersion blender, puree the soup in the pot until smooth. Alternately, working in batches, puree the soup in a regular blender or food processor until smooth, then return it to the pot. Add the rest of the butter to the soup and whisk over medium heat until the butter melts and soup is hot.
Ladle the soup into a heated tureen or individual bowls. Add sour cream, sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds, garnish with chives, and serve.
Sumptuous Swiss Chard & Fontina Risotto
3/4 cup vegetable broth
2 shallots, diced
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 bunch Swiss chard, shredded or finely chopped
½ lb orzo pasta
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 oz pine nuts (omit if nut allergy)
3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 oz fontina cheese
½ cup chopped crimini mushrooms
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
1. Bring broth to a simmer in a small saucepan.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter and lightly sauté orzo and pine nuts. Immediately add the hot broth to the skillet. Stir orzo until the pasta reaches a creamy consistency (approximately 20 minutes). Keep cooked pasta warm.
3. In another large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms and sauté 3-5 minutes or until tender. Add the chard and stir quickly over moderately high heat for approximately 2 minutes, or until leaves are wilted.
Stir in vinegar to deglaze the skillet.
4. Add the sautéed chard to the warm orzo, along with the cheeses and fold togethe
r until cheese is thoroughly melted. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.
Serve warm, recipe makes ~ four 1 cup servings.
Cinnamon Orange Cranberry Sauce
Recipe and Photograph by Sarah McMinn
1 (12) ounce bag fresh cranberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup water
3 cinnamon sticks, or 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1. Rinse cranberries in a colander, removing any bruised and damaged cranberries.
Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved and water is boiling.
2. Once dissolved add cranberries, orange juice, cinnamon sticks, and ground cloves. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until cranberries begin to burst and a thick sauce has formed about 10 minutes.
3. Remove from heat, remove cinnamon sticks, and let cool completely to room temperature. The sauce will thicken as it cools.
Serve at room temperature.