Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Cranberry Sauce with Asian Flavors

It is Thanksgiving here tomorrow in the US and we've started preparing. My son, Stephen has decided that we are going to do an Asian version of all the standard dishes. So, for the main course, we are having Lacquered Roast Duck with Sticky Rice cooked with Chinese Sausage, Green Onions, Water Chestnuts and Ginger (previous post). For the vegetable, we are making Green Beans with King Oyster Mushrooms and fried Shallots. There will also be an Asian Hasselback Potato dish too and we haven't decided on the other vegetable, but it will most likely be a Cucumber Salad (previous post).

I decided today to make an Asian inspired Cranberry Sauce, a bit more savory than the usual and flavored with Five Spice Powder. I use the Dynasty brand and it is made up of the following warming spices:  Cinnamon, Star Anise, Fennel, Cloves, Ginger, Licorice, Szechuan Pepper and White Pepper. There are obviously more than 5, but the first 5 are the most important. These spices aid digestion and are ubiquitous in Chinese cooking. I've always thought of the popularity of Five Spice Powder in Chinese cooking as the equivalent of Pumpkin Spice in the US, only savory!  

To make this Cranberry Sauce, I first sautéed some Shallot, added in some diluted Chicken Broth (or you can use Vegetable Broth), the Five Spice Powder, Rock Sugar and a little Sea Salt too. I used half as much Sugar as is usual and the bit of Salt helps balance it all. The Rock Sugar isn't absolutely necessary, but it is a bit less sweet than either Brown Sugar or White Sugar. I buy the light golden colored Rock Salt and use it for many Asian dishes so it's worth having it around. When using Brown or White Sugar, use just a bit less. I absolutely loved this Sauce and will probably make it every year from now on. Happy Thanksgiving!

Cranberry Sauce with Asian Flavors


12 ounces fresh Cranberries

¼ cup minced Shallots

1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil

1 cup diluted Chicken or Vegetable Broth (½ cup Water and ½ cup Broth)

½ cup Rock Sugar 

½ teaspoon Salt

¼ teaspoon Five Spice Powder


Rinse the Cranberries in a strainer and pick out any soft ones and rinse. In a small saucepan, heat the Oil and add in the Shallots. Cook, stirring often until you can smell their fragrance and then add in the Cranberries, Broth, Rock Sugar, Salt and Five Spice Powder. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the Cranberries pop and the sauce thickens, about 10 - 15 minutes. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use. 

Five Element Analysis

Cranberries, with their bright red color, belong primarily to the Fire Element. But they are also very tart, which contributes the Wood Element and the Broth adds even more. The Shallots and Five Spice Powder make sure the Metal Element is present and the Rock Sugar makes sure the Earth Element is there too. Only the Water Element is missing, which can easily be found in one of the other dishes on the table and is why this sauce is perfect for Duck!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Turnip Puree


Turnips are not considered a very exciting vegetable, but I want to champion them a little. I wrote a previous blog post about Turnip Fries that I know a lot of people have liked and today I want to give Turnips just a bit more respect by showing you how great they are as a base for the rest of the plate. Pictured is Stephen's version of Asparagus and Steak with Chimichurri Sauce plated over Pureed Turnips. I made the same Turnips, but I topped it with Salmon and Peas. And unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo. 

Like Mashed Potatoes, cooked Turnips have a very mild flavor that doesn't interfere with the other flavors of the dish. They are also very nutritious. I cooked them in Chicken Broth, although Vegetable Broth is good too and then mashed them with a Potato Masher and of course added a couple of Tablespoons of Butter. So, I should probably call my version Mashed Turnips. Stephen made his silkier by putting them in the Cuisinart. And these Turnips are so easy to make. You can add Broth back in if you need to make the Puree smoother and thinner, but I didn't need any. There will be extra broth left over, which is great for soup. Either way you make them, I think you will be surprised how good Pureed Turnips taste!

Turnip Puree

3 large Turnips, peeled and cut into chunks

4 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth

3 - 4 Tablespoons Salted Butter

Pour the Broth into a medium pan. Add in the Turnips and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the Turnips from the pot, reserving the Broth.

Ad Butter to the Turnips and mash a fork or potato masher or put into the food processor. Add in a little broth if necessary. Plate as the base layer for your other foods or eat as is!

Five Element Analysis

Turnips are a root vegetable, which automatically makes them a part of the Earth Element. But they are also a bit pungent and white and that makes them a part of the Metal Element too. And the Butter adds even more Metal. The Broth brings in the Wood Element.  Only the Water and Fire Elements are missing, so be sure to have foods from those elements in your meal.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Brown Butter

I was out looking at my container garden and realized that I had lots and lots of Sage and hadn't cooked with it at all this year. Of course, I will use some for Thanksgiving, but really felt like I needed to make something with it today. I had a Butternut Squash sitting on the counter and decided to make a soup that has the flavors of Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage. I put the Butternut Squash in the microwave first for a few minutes to make it easier to cut and then after I cut it and scooped out the seeds, I roasted it for 45 minutes. This is best done ahead of time and you can store the cooked Squash in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.  

When I was ready to make soup, I lightly browned some Butter in a soup pot and added in some Shallots and Sage until they were soft and the Butter was even more golden brown. I pulled out the Sage leaves and then added in some diluted Chicken Broth and cooked it all together for only 20 more minutes. You might need to add more Broth if you have a bigger Butternut Squash. After that, I pureed it with a stick blender and added in a teaspoon of ground Sage and stirred it in. It was so good!  Creamy and smooth with a wonderful savory note from the Sage and a lovely nutty flavor from the Browned Butter. I thought about serving it with some cooked and crumbled Breakfast Sausage or some minced Ham, but it was just so good the way it was. And you could also reimagine this as a pasta sauce too. This is going to become a new favorite!

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Brown Butter

1 small Butternut Squash

6 Tablespoons Butter

2 large Shallots, minced or about 1/2 cup of minced Onion

12 fresh Sage Leaves

3 cups of Chicken or Vegetable le Broth 

2 cups Water

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1/2 teaspoon ground Sage

Optional for Serving: 1/2 cup Breakfast Sausage, cooked and cut up if links or cooked and crumbled or 1/2 cup minced Ham

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prick the Butternut Squash all over with a sharp knife. Place in the microwave for 5 minutes. Then cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven. Roast for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and when cool, peel off the skin and cut in to chunks. Refrigerate until ready to use.

When ready to make the soup, melt the Butter in a soup pot. Cook, stirring until the Butter just starts to turn a light golden brown. Then add in the Sage and Shallots (or Onion) and cook until the Butter is a darker golden color. Pick out the Sage leaves. Then add in the Chicken Broth, Water and Salt. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes. Then add in the ground Sage. Take off the heat and puree it with a stick blender. Serve with extra Sage leaves for decoration or stir in the cooked Sausage or Ham.

Five Element Analysis

Soup is always considered part of the Water Element, but this one is made with a very Earthy vegetable (really a fruit) that is also a beautiful yellow orange color. If you serve it with Sausage ro Ham,  you add more of the Water Element, as they are both salty meats. The Chicken or Vegetable Broth brings in the Wood Element. The Butter and Sage contribute the Metal Element. Only the Fire Element is missing, so it would be good to serve a salad with it to create a balance or serve at the beginning of a meal that also has other Fire foods in it.


Saturday, October 31, 2020

Coconut Caramel Sauce


I've been meaning to post this recipe for quite some time as I made it last for a dinner party (back when we could have or go to dinner parties) as a Caramel Sauce to pour over Brownies.  One of the other guests there was Lactose Intolerant so I knew that this Coconut Caramel Sauce would be a big hit. I have to admit that I used a packaged mix for the Brownies (Betty Crocker Gluten Free Brownie Mix) but it's actually very good and the Coconut Caramel dresses it up so much. I also added some Maldon Sea Salt to the Caramel to give it more depth of flavor. Instead of Butter, I use Coconut Oil and instead of Cream, I use Coconut Cream from the top of the can of regular Coconut Milk. I'll use the rest of the Coconut Milk tomorrow in a Thai Curry. Oh my, this Coconut Caramel Sauce is so good!  I'm going to slice and peel some apples and dunk to my heart's content!  After all, it is Halloween and Caramel Apples, in a more refined way, are a must at my house. Happy Halloween!

Coconut Caramel Sauce

1/2 cup Sugar

2 Tablespoons Hot Water

2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil

2 Tablespoons Coconut Cream (from the top of the Can)

1/8 teaspoon or more flaky Sea Salt

In a small pot, add in the Sugar and Hot Water. Stir to combine and place on the stove. Cook, stirring until the Sugar is melted. Then turn up the heat to medium and cook (not stirring) for about 7 - 8 minutes, or until the Caramel is a golden brown color. Add in the Coconut Oil, Coconut Cream and Salt and whisk to combine. Take off the heat and let cool in the pan for 3 - 5 minutes and then pour into a bowl, on top of brownies or put into a container and store in the fridge. If refrigerated, reheat slightly before serving. 

Five Element Analysis

This is an Earth dish, through as it is sweet and Coconut is considered an Earth food too. The fact that the Coconut Milk and Oil are white adds just a bit of Metal and the tiny bit of Salt makes sure the Water Element is there too, but barely. That's why this Caramel Sauce is so good over Brownies as the Chocolate is so Fiery.. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Red Cooked Pork with Napa Cabbage


Red Cooking is a classic Chinese braising technique that really just means that you cook meat of tofu in Soy Sauce, or in this case, Tamari. It is a slow way of infusing food with the Umami flavor. I previously posted a version using Pork Belly that was my Mother's recipe, but I wanted a slightly more savory version and I decided to add in some Napa Cabbage and served it along with some Rice. I used boneless Pork Shoulder that I bought as Steaks and cut it up into smallish pieces and cut away most of the fat. This sauce also works for Chicken Things and Tofu although the cooking time will be much shorter (one hour for Chicken and 30 minutes for Tofu) and you will have a lot of extra sauce so use half as much for Tofu. I just put everything in the pot and cooked it a while. I thought it was the perfect meal for this cold Autumn evening and I loved smelling it cooking on the stove and it was delicious. It reminded me of my Mother's  in the best of ways.

Red Cooked Pork with Napa Cabbage

1-1/2 pound of Pork Shoulder, cut into cubes (or Chicken Things or Tofu)

4 cups Water

1/2 cup low sodium Tamari (used a little less if using regular Tamari or Soy Sauce)

1/2 cup Rice Wine

1/2 yellow Onion, chopped

4 - 5 Green Onions, white part only

a 1" chunk of Ginger, needed and cut in half

1 Tablespoon of Rock Sugar (or Light Brown Sugar)

1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon Five Spice Powder

6 - 8 whole Napa Cabbage leaves, bottom trimmed off and cut into 1" pieces

In a Dutch oven or other large heavy pot, add in all ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for two hours for Pork or one hour for Chicken, or until the meat is tender. Add in the Napa Cabbage and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Serve with steamed Rice. 

Five Element Analysis

Pork belongs to the Water Element and so does the Tamari. The Rice Wine contributes the Fire Element. The Napa Cabbage, since it is a leafy green, brings in the Wood Element and the Onions and Rice along with the Five Spice Powder make sure that the Metal Element is present too. There's only a little bit of the Earth Element, from the Sugar and Ginger, So serve a lovely Earthy dessert to create a balanced meal. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Dill Potato Salad

I've been having some fun with the unexpected substitutions that I've been finding in my grocery orders. And yesterday, I received a really big bunch of Dill, which was apparently a substitution for Parsley. Now I love Dill, but I certainly didn't need that much and I've been thinking about the different ways I could use it. Of course, I could make my Tuna Salad with Dill and I could also make an Herbed Tahini Dip. But, because I had Salmon for dinner, I decided to make a Dill Potato Salad. Dill is wonderful with Seafood of all kinds, but it's not usually something I add to my Potato Salad. But I did have a wonderful Dill Potato Salad at a Potluck a few summers ago. However, it contained Sour Cream and since I don't do dairy, I never tried to make it myself until today. I wanted to replicate that tangy flavor in a dairy free version. 

So, I used two kind of Mayonnaise combined that are a bit tangy - Sir Kensington and Kewpie Japanese Mayonnaise. Both are very rich because they are made with Egg Yolks and both are delicious. But, if you don't have either one of those kinds of Mayonnaise, just use what you have but add a splash of Vinegar. I also added in some Dijon Mustard, a little Salt, a bit of Sugar, some Celery and Red Onion and of course Dill. I thought about using some Green Onion and I may try that next time. I added in some Dill Pickles for extra crunch.  I made it earlier in the day so that the flavors would meld and so it would be ready when the Salmon was cooked. I was so pleased with how it turned out and it was absolutely delicious! I think this is an especially good Potato Salad to accompany a Seafood Dinner and I'm thinking that it might be a good idea to add in chunks of the cooked Salmon so I can have it for lunch tomorrow.

Dill Potato Salad

6 small to medium Potatoes, washed (equals about 4 cups when peeled and cut up)

3 - 4 stalks of Celery (about 1-1/2 cups), cut into small pieces

1/2 cup minced Red Onion

1/4 cup (loosely packed) Dill, minced

1 cup of a tangy Mayonnaise (or add 1/2 teaspoon of Vinegar or Pickle Juice to your Mayo)

2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard

1 teaspoon Sugar

1/2 teaspoon Salt

Optional:  1/2 cup chopped Dill Pickles

Place the Potatoes in a pot and cover with Water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Remove and cool slightly and then peel with a paring knife. Cut into small cubes and place in a mixing bowl. Add in the Celery, Onions, Dill and Pickles.

In another bowl, mix together the Mayonnaise, Mustard, Sugar and Salt. Stir to combine and then add to the Potato mixture Toss to coat the Potatoes thoroughly Place in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Five Element Analysis

Potatoes belong to the Earth Element, but the Celery brings in the Wood Element. The Red Onions and Mustard contribute the Metal Element and the Dill adds some more since it is a pungent herb, but it also considered part of the Wood Element since it is a green herb. The Pickles add even more Wood. So, this really is a good side dish to Seafood, which is from the Water Element and make sure that there is a dish that contains the Fire Element to with the meal too, like a lettuce salad or a red fruit dessert to create balance.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Gluten Free Peach Galette


While I have been cooking a lot lately, I haven't been feeling very creative so I've been making all my standbys, most of which have been previous posts. However, I recently made a lovely dessert that I thought I would share with you. I had two, big, beautiful Peaches that I had delivered in my grocery order and then I forgot to eat them. They were just a little on the too soft side for eating out of hand, but perfect for making a pie. But, I made a Galette instead. This is  and rustic. When you make one with a regular Pie Crust, it can be baked on a sheet pan. But, when you are working with Gluten Free Pie Dough, it helps to have a little support since you are missing the Gluten that makes the dough elastic. So, I cooked it in an 8 x 8 inch glass pan instead. I used only a little Sugar as I like my fruit to be sweet. You can use more and you can leave it out if you want to. Make sure you toss the Peach slices in some cornstarch or the filling will get too runny. And bake until the crust is golden brown and the Peaches and their juice are bubbling. Oh my, this dessert is good!  

Gluten Free Peach Galette

For Peach Filling:


2 large Peaches (equals about rounded cups peeled and slicced

2 Tablespoons or more Sugar

2 heaping Tablespoons Cornstarch

Optional:  pinch of Cinnamon and.or Nutmeg


Peel and slice the Peaches. Place in a large mixing bowl and mix in the Sugar, Cornstarch and Spices (if using). Pour into the prepared dough.


Gluten Free Pastry Dough


1 ½ cups Gluten Free Flour Blend (with Xanthan Gum or add 2 teaspoons)

½ cup cold Butter, Lard or Vegetable Shortening

1 large Egg
2 teaspoons Sugar

½ teaspoon Sea Salt

1/3 cup Ice Water


In a food processor (or large mixing bowl), mix together the Flour, Sugar and Salt. Then add in Butter, Lard or Shortening. Pulse until it is incorporated (or use a pastry cutter or two forks). Then add in the Egg and Cold Water and mix until it forms a ball. Wrap in plastic and chill until cold (about 30 minutes). 


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8 x 8 inch pan. Then lightly dust a cutting board and rolling pin with a little extra gluten free flour. Roll out the dough into a large square of about 10 x 10 inches. Using a dough scraper, carefully pick up the dough and lay into the baking pan. Don’t worry if it cracks, you can fix it by pushing it together once it’s down in the pan. Push the dough into the corners and pour in the Peaches. Pull down the extra dough over the edges of the peaches.


Place in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm or cool.  

Five Element Analysis

Peaches are a mostly fiery fruit with their beautiful pink and orange colors (which also makes them a bit Earthy) and because they look like hearts. The Sugar adds in more of the Earth Element. The Gluten Free Flour Blend I use is made mostly of Rice Flour, which belongs to the Metal Element and also some Tapioca Starch, which contributes more to the Earth Element.  The Egg adds some Water. But the Wood Element is not present, so this is a good dessert to serve after a meal that has foods from that element.