Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Ginger

It is getting cold here on the shady side of the iceberg. Living in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada in the wintertime requires a certain fortitude, and attitude, for that matter, that I sometimes wonder if I possess. The morning temps have been hovering between 20 and 28. Snow is on the way this weekend. And this is just the Fall. Winter sometimes lingers here until early June. It is a long haul, especially here on the shady side of the iceberg.

But on the bright side (and the warm side) there is cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Without even thinking about it I instinctually begin cooking and baking with these spices as the weather cools. How wonderful that these spices go so well with the season's produce and have the ability to warm you up on a chilly Fall day. Let me share a few of the things I've been making in the past week or two that incorporate these spices.

Carrot Gratin
Courtesy Eric Skokan, Black Cat Farm Table, Boulder, CO.

1 1/2 lb. carrots peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium potato peeled and thinly sliced
1  medium onion peeled and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves peeled and minced
1 cup half and half
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or not freshly grated)
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 sprigs of thyme

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Combine carrots, potato, onion, garlic, half-and-half, cream, nutmeg and salt in a large mixing bowl. Toss well to combine. Transfer to a an ovenproof baking dish. Lay thyme sprigs over the top. Cover with a tight fitting lid or foil.
3. Bake about 1 hour. Remove lid and continue baking for 10 minutes to allow the gratin to brown. Let sit for 10 to 30 minutes and remove thyme sprigs before serving. Serves 6.
We grew several types (and colors!)
of carrots this year
Looks like an eye right?
And carrots enhance eye function!
The gratin straight from the oven
Butternut Squash Soup

I forgot to take pictures of this when I made it last week.  I am still getting used to this food blogging thing.  There are, of course, many variations of this simple blended style of soup.  I like this one with nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, AND one of my all-time-favorite spices, cumin.

1 medium onion chopped
1 T. butter
1 to 1 1/2 pounds of butternut squash peeled and cubed
1 potato peeled and cubed
1 (or 2 if small) apples peeled and cubed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 cup apple juice
1 cup milk or half-and-half
salt and pepper

Saute onion in butter until soft then add butternut squash, potato, and apple.  Saute for a few more minutes. Add 1 to 2 cups of water and all of the spices and let simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes and butternut are tender.  Let cool a bit and then blend in food processor or blender until smooth. Return to soup pot and add apple juice and milk or half-and-half and heat through. Season to taste with salt and a little pepper. Serves 6

Chewy Ginger Raisin Cookies
I never make these in the Spring or Summer but they are a staple cookie in our house this time of year.

Combine and beat together:
2 c. dark brown sugar
1 ½ c. canola oil
2 eggs
½ c. dark molasses

Stir together:
4 c. flour
4 t. baking soda
2 t. cinnamon
2 t. ground ginger
1 t. ground cloves
½ t. salt
Optional: 1 ½ cups of raisins added to dough last

Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet one in the mixer (I highly recommend using a mixer if you have one.)  Dough should be quite stiff.  Roll into small balls with the palms of your hands and then roll the balls in granulated sugar or a courser raw sugar if you have it and place on greased cookie sheet or parchment paper.

Bake at 375 degrees.

8 or 9 minutes for chews (this is the way I do them)
10 or 11 minutes for snaps

Makes a lot (4 to 7 dozen depending on size).  I often halve this recipe if it is just for our family.

*A note about my recipes.  If there is no credit given it is either because I made it up or, it is one of the scores of recipes in my "recipe drawer" (the subject of a future post) that are hand-scrawled on anything from a napkin to an envelope and the source has been long forgotten. Like, for example, the ginger cookie recipe above comes from a photocopy of a handwritten recipe that I believe may have come from a co-worker of my father's, 20 or so years ago, when she sent cookies home with him and I requested the recipe. The tattered page now has my notes and changes on it along with vegetable oil stains. : )


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