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Pumpkin & Apple-Fennel Tamales with Cinnamon Masa

A favorite thing of mine to do is develop recipes. I love getting creative in the kitchen, and look forward to the outcome.  One important word of advice given in culinary school was….experiment. Sometimes things turn out great, other times you go back to the drawing board and make alterations here and there.  In the end, it only helps to make you a better cook.

Tonight I needed to use up some fresh pumpkin that I had roasted and pureed for a previous recipe; my cranberry pumpkin loaf.  I love to bake, but unfortunately cannot live off of baked goods. So, the pumpkin & apple-fennel tamales were born.  Seasonally appropriate, these tamales were delicious.  (yield: 10 tamales)

MASA INGREDIENTS:

3 cups masa harina

2.5 cups warm water

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup olive oil

1 tsp. sea salt

TAMALE FILLING:

1/4 cup carmelized onions

1 tsp. orange zest, minced

1 Tbsp. fennel fronds, minced

1/4 cup apple, minced

pinch sea salt

1/8 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 tsp. organic brown sugar

* 10 tamale corn husks, soaked.

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the masa: Place 3 cups of masa harina in a bowl. Add cinnamon, and sea salt and whisk.  Drizzle in water and olive oil and fold the wet into the dry.  Set aside

Soak the tamale husks in warm water for 3-5 minutes to soften.

Prepare the filling: In a saute pan, caramelize onion. Add orange zest, fennel fronds, and minced apple.  Saute for 7 more minutes. Add a pinch of sea salt and vanilla extract.  Then add pureed pumpkin and 1 tsp. brown sugar.  Saute for 3 more minutes.

Prepare the tamales: Place husks flat with pointed tip towards you (almost like a triangle tip) and the wider side away from you.  Press 1/8 cup of prepared masa onto the husk and make a flat surface to place the filling.  Place 1 heaping Tbsp. onto the masa and then cover filling with another 1/8 cup of masa; encasing the filling with the dough.  Take the pointed tip and fold onto the pile of uncooked tamale, then fold one side towards the other, rolling in the process.  You can tie the tamales with twine if they feel loose, or keep them piled with the fold on the bottom to prevent unfolding.  Repeat this step for each tamale.

Cooking the tamales: I have a 30-year-old tamale steamer I use, but I suppose you can use a steamer  if there is enough space for the tamales to cook thoroughly.  Allow 60 minutes to cook completely due to the pumpkin puree.  Otherwise, it will be mushy.  I like to accompany this meal with cumin scented pinto beans, Spanish rice, fresh salsa, a side vegetable, and home-made guacamole.

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Creamy Potato Leek Soup

Yesterday afternoon it began sprinkling. My hopes began. I said a quick prayer for rain, and then it happened.  An entire night of blissful tappity-tap-tap on the barn’s tin roof.  Yes, we sleep in a barn. There are no animals in the barn, unless you include a hamster and a family dog; or three children.  When we transitioned from Southern California to Washington, we were blessed with living quarters on my parents six acres to focus on business and family; get away from the hustle and bustle and jobs that drained us spiritually & emotionally.  A fresh start.

These six acres also blessed my oldest brother and his family 4 years ago when he pioneered his way here from San Luis Obispo seeking the same change we do now.  This homestead is nestled amongst antique maple trees, and settled upon a hill overlooking the Puget Sound.  Not only am I able to see Mt. Rainier on one spectrum, I can also see the Olympic Cascades.  In all the wonder lust, these six acres provide the space my children need to run, play, scream, and laugh to their heart’s content. To play in dirt, run barefoot in rain, forage for berries, and hunt for chanterelle, this place is a nature seekers Heaven.  It’s like an adventure playground for kids and adults. My palate has never been more satisfied at all the fresh offerings right on this property.

One of my favorite things here is that each morning, my oldest runs down to spend some time with her grandparents.  There is something so completely peaceful and important about this.  Her sisters eventually join her, while I prepare breakfast and daily home school lessons.

But, back to that tappity-tap-tap.  That rain! Oh, that rain! That rain brought 2 1/2 inches in less than 24 hours. I was in my glory!  I may be a native Californian, but I do love my rain.  It was such a perfect setting to enjoy fall flavors of fare and to pour my energy into an evening of preparing creamy potato leek soup (home-grown potatoes and garlic).  From fresh made rustic bread, to home-made crackers, from-scratch hummus with hand-picked cucumbers, and farm picked fruit smoothies, this potato leek soup was just one of the many recipes that were dived into with utter appreciation today.  This place is amazing!

POTATO LEEK

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 cup of freshly chopped leeks

4 large potatoes, cubed 1/2 inch

2 cloves of garlic

6 cups of water

2 bouillon cubes (I like using The Organic Gourmet-Vegetable Bouillon)

salt & pepper to taste

*** If you have vegetable broth, use that in place of the water and bouillon cubes.  Use 6 cups just as you would water.

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a soup pot, saute leeks and garlic in olive oil, until tender.

2. Add chopped potatoes and continue to saute with the leeks and garlic for flavor.

3. Add water and bouillon cubes. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, then turn to simmer for another 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste

4. With an emulsifier or blender, blend until completely creamy or pureed. Garnish the way you choose. We like to eat ours alongside a salad with a toast crisp.

 

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Creamed Curried Coconut Cauliflower Soup

About 15 years ago, our paths intertwined with this amazing couple from our church. Rich and Lucy  are the type of people who light up a room; charming, funny, inspiring, uplifting.  They are the kind of people you can’t get enough of.

One evening, in an unusual torrential Southern Californian downpour, we were fortunate to be the lucky recipients of a meal hosted by them at their cute little Costa Mesa abode.  Fortunately for us, the rain dissipated so we could enjoy their lovely backyard lit up with decorative lights set amidst their quaint city garden to partake of the amazing meal Rich prepared.

Rich is probably one of the best cooks I have met.  He can pair flavors together with such intrigue, that I find myself dissecting the meal so that I can replicate it at another time. But, he is similar to me, in the fact that often times, I prepare a meal and do not write down the recipe.

This wonderful meal consisted of a main dish of creamy curried coconut cauliflower soup. Such a depth in flavor, and the perfect accompaniment for the fresh garden salad, and rustic bread and garlic spread that he created.  Since that evening, this soup has been on my top five favorite soups list.  I cannot prepare it with the same umph, as he, but it comes close enough to where I can allow my palate to be content.

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup of olive oil

1 head of  cauliflower, chopped

1 small white onion chopped

2 large cloves of garlic

1/2 tsp. curry powder

1/4 tsp. turmeric

1/2 tsp. coriander

1/2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/2 cup cashews

1 tsp. sesame oil

6 cups of vegetable stock

* salt and pepper to taste

1 can coconut milk

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375. In a bowl, mix together olive oil, cauliflower, onion, garlic, curry, turmeric, coriander, cumin, sea salt, and pepper. Allow to roast for 30 minutes until cauliflower is softened.  In a soup pot, place the roasted cauliflower mix with vegetable broth, coconut milk, and cashews. Bring to boil for 5 minutes, then simmer for another 15.  Blend with an immersion blender until creamy.  If you don’t own an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender if yours is fine with heat.  Add the sesame oil, and adjust the salt and pepper to your liking.

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