One of gifts of holiday season: sharing delicious food

  • Kachemak Cuisine - Terri Robl

I love this time of year, not only because it’s my favorite time to cook comforting soups, casseroles, roasts with gravy and mashed potatoes, apple pie and pumpkin desserts, but because I can share recipes and stories with you again. This year I will enjoy the holidays with my sister and her husband who recently moved to Homer.

The Other fisherman and I went back to visit our family in Wisconsin last month. While in northern Wisconsin, we went to a cranberry farm and saw mountains of big, ruby red berries loaded into huge harvest bins. The cranberry harvest in Wisconsin this year was one of the best, producing huge berries. Special dry harvesting was done which resulted in perfect, non-blemished cranberries for sale only to select buyers. I returned home with fresh cranberries in hopes of using them in our Thanksgiving feast.

Sis and I both love cranberry and orange nut bread. Of course after talking about how much we like it, we decided a loaf had to be baked with some of those beautiful berries. As we were discussing the perfect cranberry orange and nut bread recipe, not sure which one to follow, Sis jumps up and and disappears downstairs. She appears with Gramma’s old recipe box, jammed packed with recipes handwritten by Gramma from 93 years spent in the kitchen cooking tasty meals and treats for her family. What a treasure! Filed within the box was Gramma’s recipe for our favorite holiday quick bread. I was tickled to see the handwriting of this wonderful woman we adored.

 

Cranberry Orange Nut Bread

Courtesy Gramma ‘B’

Preheat oven 350 degrees, bake one hour or until done.

She has a note on the card that she doubles the recipe and makes 3 large loaves. This quick bread is so tasty you will want to make a double batch. Eat one now, freeze one and give one away.

Grease and flour one 9x5 loaf pan and one small loaf pan for a single batch. Ingredients listed here make one large loaf and one very small loaf.

Mix together dry ingredients in a large sized bowl:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

I cup white sugar

 

Mix together wet ingredients in a small sized bowl:

1 beaten egg

2 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons hot water

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

zest of 1 orange, finely grated

 

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix with a spoon just until moistened.

Stir in 2 cups cut up fresh cranberries and 1/2 cup chopped nuts. I use hickory nuts or walnuts.

Put into prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The little loaf pan will be done much sooner than the larger pan, so start testing for doneness after 20 minutes baking time. The larger loaf baked over an hour in my oven. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool on rack. Once cool, wrap and if you can wait, store overnight. It will taste much better the next day.

After talking about it so long, we couldn’t wait for a taste, so we sliced up the small loaf and ate that. I wonder if that was what Gramma had in mind when she decided how much to put in each pan?

 

Wild Rice, Pecan, Cranberry and Herb Dressing

Wild rice is also a specialty harvested product of the northern states of this country. This exotic, crunchy and highly nutritious grain is not actually rice, but an annual water-grass seed. Naturally abundant in the cold rivers and lakes of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canada, wild rice was the staple in the diet of the Chippewa and Sioux Indians, native to this region. It is expensive and reserved for special occasions. I have loved wild rice since the first time I tasted it as a little girl served in a casserole with mushrooms, cream, dry sherry and almonds. Wild rice can be a refined accompaniment to your Thanksgiving meal. As much as I like sweet Italian sausage, I wouldn’t hesitate to add it to this recipe. Just brown about 1/2 pound and add at the end before final heating.

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ quarts chicken stock, turkey stock or vegetable stock

2 cups wild rice

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion or 2-3 shallots, chopped fine

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

1 cup chopped celery

1/3 cup toasted pecans or hickory nuts, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup dry sherry - do not use cooking sherry or cream sherry

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf, Italian parsley

1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

 

Bring stock to a boil in a large saucepan, then add wild rice and salt to taste. When the liquid returns to the boil, lower heat, cover and simmer 40 minutes, until rice is tender and has begun to splay. Drain through a strainer, and set aside.

Heat oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet, then add onion or shallots. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about five minutes for onions or three minutes for shallots. Add a generous pinch of salt and the garlic. Cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add mushrooms and celery and cook, stirring, until mushrooms have softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in rice and remaining ingredients. Cook, stirring, until sherry has evaporated. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove from the heat. Place in an oiled baking dish and cover, then warm for 20 minutes in a 350-degree oven.

You can also allow it to cool a bit and stuff your turkey with it. I prefer mine baked in a dish.

My best to you and yours this wonderful time of the year, my friends.

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