I love Thanksgiving time. The weather starts to get colder and the leaves are mostly gone from the trees. The mornings are crisp and the chilly evenings are accompanied by a fire in the fireplace. Not to mention the delicious food that comes with the season: pumpkin pie, turkey, and stuffing! I could go on and on…
At our house, we do not hold back the abundance of food at the Thanksgiving table. I love the traditional feast. I’ve tried new ways to reduce fat, gluten, and sugar, but it just isn’t the same. The only thing I’ve been able to do successfully is remove the gluten from my father’s original stuffing—with my homemade Polenta Croutons!
This stuffing recipe was made by my father every year until he passed. “Boo” was his nickname because he and my nephew played peek-a-boo so much when he was little that the name stuck.
I daresay that my entire family has used this recipe every Thanksgiving and in my search for gluten-free products, I have not found a suitable alternative to the Pepperidge Farms croutons my dad always used. One day, using my love of polenta, I made polenta croutons. Initially, I used these as a crunchy topping for salads and eventually I tested them in Boo’s stuffing recipe and, to my surprise, it was delicious!
Nothing else will change though—we will still have green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, cranberry relish, turkey, and, of course, gravy, the way they were intended.
olive oil, for greasing the pan
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup instant polenta
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup grated cheese, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano
garlic powder, to taste
1 tablespoon each: fresh parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme, chopped
Coat a 9-x13-inch baking dish with a thin coat of olive oil. Combine 4 cups water and 2 teaspoons salt in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Slowly add the polenta, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low, bringing the polenta to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally until thick (about 5 to 8 minutes). Turn off the heat and stir in the butter, cheese, garlic, and herbs. Pour the polenta into the prepared dish and cool completely until firm. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick silicone liner. Remove the polenta from the baking dish and cut into 1-inch squares. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake until crisp and golden, about 1 hour.
1 onion, chopped
1 pint fresh mushrooms, sliced
polenta croutons (recipe above)
2 cans beef consommé soup
1 clove garlic (or more to taste), minced
2 sticks butter
salt and pepper, to taste
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 lbs. Jimmy Dean sausage (we prefer sage)
Sauté onion and mushrooms in butter. In a separate pan, brown the sausage and drain well. Add the sausage, polenta, and cans of soup to the sautéed onions and mushrooms. Season with garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook in a casserole dish at 375 degrees until crispy on top and moist on the inside (about 45 min to 1 hour).
Along with pumpkins, the fall harvest brings a bounty of orchard fruit as well, like apples: nice crisp cold apples. Though common, apples are extremely nutritious – hence the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
Apples have TONS of antioxidants, helpful molecules that prevent our cells from becoming damaged. One in particular, called quercetin, has been shown to reduce the death of neurons, which could improve dementia and other neurological issues.
Current research is showing that eating apples regularly may help prevent breast cancer, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. Apples also have almost no fat, sodium, or cholesterol!
To kick the nutritional value of eating apples up a notch, I created this wonderful and delicious Apple Ginger Tonic drink for my collection of fall recipes. Enjoy!
1 large apple, cored (not peeled)
1 pear, stem removed
1 to 2 knobs of ginger, peeled
1 lemon, peeled
1 package of stevia
2 tbs of chia seed
1 tablet of vitamin C
Whir in blender and drink pulp and all. YUMMMMMM and SO good for you!
I really look forward to the change of seasons and fall is one of my favorites! It’s early September and pumpkin everything is starting to show up already: latte, ice cream, cheese cake, bread, muffins, scones, raviolis, and more.
Most pumpkin-laced products tend to be things we buy rather than make; many people have not ventured outside of the traditional pumpkin pie. But inventive fall recipes with pumpkin as an ingredient are worth a try not just for the delicious flavor, but also for nutritional value.
Pumpkin is full of vitamins and minerals and is low in calories. It is rich in vitamin A, contains a large amount of potassium, and is one of the best known sources of beta carotene. You can use pumpkin in desserts, soups, salads, preserves, and even as a substitute for butter or oil in baking recipes.
This fall, venture out of your comfort zone and try using pumpkin in new ways! Recently, I saw a recipe for chocolate pumpkin yogurt: mix Greek yogurt with pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin, honey, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. It was yummy!
My favorite, however, is my Pumpkin Cavatelli Pasta with Mascarpone Cream. Here is the recipe:
Serves 3 to 4 people
For the Garnish:
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving one cup of the cooking water. Put the pasta in a bowl and mix with just enough olive oil to keep it from sticking.
In the same pot, melt the butter and heat on medium until it starts to turn a golden brown. Immediately add the onion, garlic, and sage and cook over moderately-low heat until the onion is softened, about 7 minutes.
Put the onion mixture and pumpkin puree into a food processor and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Return the puree to the pot and cook over medium-low heat until hot. Mix in the mascarpone and Parmesan cheese and heavy cream; cook on medium-low heat until cheeses are incorporated.
Add the reserved cooking water and mix in thoroughly. Add the pasta and toss to coat and heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta to serving plates or bowls and top with chives, toasted walnuts, and additional Parmesan cheese.
Summer grilling is a must during Maine’s brief hot and humid season. The warm weather and summer treats don’t seem to last long enough here, which is why grilling is such a fun way to cook while the weather permits. What’s grilling without a tasty side of potato salad? I’m a huge fan of buying local Maine potatoes and whipping together my homemade grilled Maine potato salad recipe. All you need are potatoes, my Sherry Honey Vinaigrette dressing, and some fresh chives and parsley to enjoy this summer dish.
Will serve up to 4 people.
*Nancy’s Sherry Honey Vinaigrette
Will keep refrigerated for 4 to 6 weeks and is great on regular salads as well.
The restaurant-centric foodie explosion that has been growing throughout our state has naturally led to an entrepreneurial spirit in providing locally grown ingredients. Locally sourced produce has become a familiar sight at farmer’s markets and on restaurant menus, but intrepid farmers and chefs are venturing into less familiar territory, at least for Maine. From cured meats to malted barley, Maine continues to offer more and more locally sourced products to restaurants, breweries, and you! Here is a list of some of my favorites.
The mid-coast has seen a surge of amazing eateries, including the award winning Primo. Bleeker & Flamm joined the scene in July 2012. Their butcher shop produces 11 different types of house-made sausages, including their own 100% beef hot dogs!
House-made Pate and Terrine. (Photograph by Alison V. Smith.)
Smoking Sausages (Photo courtesy of Bleeker & Flamm)
Maine Meat in Kittery is owned and operated by Jarrod Spangler, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Once a restaurateur in Piedmont, Italy, Jarrod returned to New England and brought his knowledge of Italian-cured meats with him. Maine Meat offers an array of house cured meats, including prosciutto cotto (cooked), pastrami, bologna, and kielbasa.
It only makes sense that Maine’s booming craft beer industry would eventually produce malt houses. Blue Ox Malt House produces four malt styles, including a MOFGA certified organic pale malt. Their malt is included in the all-Maine recipe for Allagash Brewery’s Sixteen Counties.
From left to right – pale base, hard red wheat, organic base, vye-enna (Photo courtesy of Blue Ox Malthouse)
Buck Farms has been growing potatoes in Aroostook County since 1958, but in recent years they have branched out into producing malt. Their malt is used by an impressive list of 22 northeast breweries. Home brewers can find their malt at several Maine-based homebrew shops. In addition to malt, they are working to revive hops in Maine and currently grow Cascade, Nugget, and Centennial varieties.
Smiling Hill Farm has a rich history dating back to the 1700’s, which includes being owned and operated by the Knight family through three centuries. Silvery Moon Creamery was added in 2003 and has been steadily growing their stable of cheeses. In addition to a variety of un-aged and herbed curd, they offer Brie and Camembert that are aged six weeks.
Photo courtesy of Silvery Moon Creamery.
Crooked Face Creamery uses milk from gold-medal Ayrshire cows. This, along with their dedication to the craft, explains their gold-medal winning ricotta: available in applewood smoked, fresh herb, and plain styles. Equally impressive is their wood-fired smoked Gouda.
Photo courtesy of Crooked Face Creamery
If you would like to feature local Maine purveyors like these at your next event, give us a call at 207-756-7599 so we can discuss making your locally sourced event a reality.