Holiday Treats: Sinful Eggnog and Chile-Spiced Chocolate “Gorp”

For the winter holidays, I like to spread light and love in the form of hand-created food. In particular, two rich and delicious treats I never make any other time of year.

I reserve these treats for the holidays partly because of the effort involved (that's my big mixer in the photo above, working at top speed to whip 36 egg whites!), and partly because I like the idea of some things being so special that I only make them once a year. Their uniqueness increases the anticipation among the recipients, and also my joy in sharing them.

Since I can't give you these treats, I'm doing the next best thing and sharing the recipes. 

First is my homemade-from-scratch eggnog, famous among my friends and my family. If you've never had real (meaning not store-bought) eggnog, you're in for a treat. (Warning: This eggnog is smooth, but very strong! Drink it responsibly in small doses.)

This hand-thrown porcelain sake cup is the perfect size for sipping this rich eggnog.

Susan's Sinfully Delicious Holiday Eggnog

one dozen eggs (free-range eggs with their orange yolks make prettier 'nog)

1 pound powdered sugar

2 to 3 cups dark rum (if necessary, can substitute brandy or bourbon, but the flavor is different)

1 qt 2% milk

1 qt half 'n half

1 qt heavy cream

Separate eggs, placing yolks in one bowl and whites in another. Cover whites and refrigerate. Beat yolks until creamy. Add powdered sugar gradually, beating slowly. Add two cups of rum (reserving one, if using three), beating constantly. Cover and let stand in refrigerator for at least an hour to eliminate the "eggy" taste. Then add the remaining cup of rum (beating constantly), along with the milk, half 'n half, and the cream. Cover the mix and put it back in the refrigerator overnight (if overnight is not possible, for at least three hours) to mellow the liquor. When the egg mix is ready, beat the whites until they form soft peaks (the peaks barely droop). Fold the whites gently into the egg mix and sprinkle the whole with freshly-grated nutmeg. Serve in a punch bowl with a ladle and small glasses or cups—this is very rich eggnog! A grater with whole nutmegs nearby is a nice touch. (Keeps about two weeks in the refrigerator, but it never lasts that long.)

A large steel bread bowl full of freshly made eggnog, with nutmeg grated on top–yum!

I make the eggnog in batches of three dozen eggs, ending up with  enough to fill Richard's two largest bread bowls. I ladle it into quart and pint-size jars to give away. 

The other treat is the deluxe holiday "gorp" or trail mix I've been making for years. This year's version is definitely the best yet, though I just thought of a small tweak I'll try next year to make it even more addictive… 

Chile-Spiced Holiday “Gorp”

1 cup Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips (or another premium kind, 60% chocolate or more)

1 cup Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips (or another premium brand)

2 cups roasted whole pecans (I think organic pecans have the most buttery flavor)

1 cup organic dried sour cherries

1/2 cup organic raisins

1 cup crystallized ginger chunks (I use Reed’s baby ginger)

1 tsp dried red chile powder (I use hot red chile; adjust for your spice tolerance)

Mix ingredients thoroughly in a steel, glass, or glazed bowl (a porous bowl will absorb the chile flavor). Package however you wish; I like to put the mix in pint jars with pretty lids. (A little of this gorp goes a long way, and the chile powder gives a lovely spicy finish that offsets the bit of the ginger and the sweetness of the dried fruit.)

Enough for 3-4 pint jars

May the remainder of your holiday season be full of light and joy, the warmth of love from family and friends, and the goodness of healthy, delicious food. And may you find time to get outside and be awed by the blaze of the stars overhead at night, and refreshed by the beauty and wonder of nature wherever you are. 

Blessings to all!

What’s Cooking: Easy Pesto Pizzas for One or More

Once I got used to the idea of not having internet and electricity, the thing I missed the most during my blissfully off-the-grid time working in Yellowstone National Park last month may seem strange: cooking.

When I’m camped out in Red, my trusty Toyota Tacoma pickup, I keep meal-prep simple (and make my home-on-wheels less attractive to bears and other wildlife) by only cooking breakfast. And that’s just gluten-free instant oatmeal with organic dried fruit. I perch on Red’s tailgate with my JetBoil stove, which lives up to its name by boiling a cup of water practically faster than I can empty the packet of oatmeal into my mug and add the dried fruit. 

Sitting on Red’s tailgate in the chill pre-dawn air, eating my oatmeal (enriched with a dollop of half-and-half from the Mammoth store) and watching the sun rise over Mount Everts across the valley, listening to the bluebirds and buntings sing and the mama elk squeal at their young was about as wonderful a way to start the day as you can imagine. 

Mt. Everts from the hill above the Mammoth Campground in the evening (look closely and you can see Red between the trees).

For lunches and dinner, I ate deli salads and wraps from the Gardiner Market, bought whenever I went out of the park to town to get my wifi fix. Or if it was a shower day, I hiked up to the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room, where I had some delicious meals, great wine, and interesting conversations with the servers, who come from all over the country and in fact the world to work there. 

But I missed being able to cook, especially using whatever was fresh in my kitchen garden.

When I got home, one of the first things I did was check my garden, tended by my friends (thank you, Bev and Maggie!), to see what needed harvesting. I noticed that the basil had thrived in the hot weather while I was away, so I snipped enough of that to make a batch of pesto. (Recipe here.)

One of the best things about having fresh pesto around, from my point of view, is all the ways you can use it. Not just on pasta: Mix a dollop in scrambled eggs, or spread it on an omlette. It’s great broiled on crusty slices of bread, or as a sandwich spread. Bake or grill chicken breasts (or mild fish) spread with pesto and wrapped with foil, and you’ll be hooked. 

My favorite way of using pesto on hot summer nights though is to make easy pesto “pizzas” using tortillas or pita bread as the crust. Here’s the recipe:

Individual Pesto “Pizzas”

1 corn or flour tortilla, or one round pita bread

1 or 2 tsps of basil pesto (the amount depends on the size of the “crust”)

1 T sliced fresh leaves of spinach, radish, mustard, or other flavorful green (I use whatever needs harvesting from my garden)

1 slice mozzarella cheese, cut into strips

2 grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise (I use organic tomatoes)

2 half artichoke hearts, cut in half again (I use grilled baby artichoke hearts in jars)

Pre-heat broiler. Spread the pesto on the tortilla or pita bread, thinner on the tortilla (it’ll run off if you use too much), thicker on the pita bread since it’ll soak in. Cover with the sliced greens. Put the “pizza” on a cookie sheet and put in the broiler until the greens wilt and the pesto bubbles. Remove from broiler and layer on strips of cheese to mostly cover wilted greens. Top with tomato halves and artichoke hearts. Return to broiler (on cookie sheet) and broil until cheese bubbles, about two minutes. 

Slide onto a plate, let cool for a moment, and enjoy! (Warning: these are messy. But oh-so-good.)

For dessert, serve up some warmed fresh summer fruit topped with vanilla yogurt or ice cream. (I just finished eating warm Palisade peaches, which I sliced and froze last summer, topped with Noosa vanilla yogurt. Heaven!) 

I loved my time in Yellowstone. But it’s good to be home with my garden and my kitchen. 

Happy Summer!

What’s Cooking: Simple Herbed Chicken Breasts

My apologies for not writing a blog post at the regular time on Sunday evening. I simply wore myself out over the weekend doing what I think of as the usual stuff–a three-mile walk to check if spring was springing along the river, plus laundry and other household tasks, and readying the studio for a house guest. Somehow that all took more out of me than usual.

I think I'm still recovering from the nasty respiratory flu I picked up in early February. I was really sick for a week, then sort of sick for week two–I sounded like a frog and had a deep cough that frightened dogs and small children. By the third wee, I thought I was over it, but my energy has never really recovered. Or maybe I'm just getting old. 😉

(By the way, the answer to the question about whether spring is springing along the river is told in the buds of the native sand cherry in the photo above: close but not quite. It's been unusually windy and dry here during both February and March, and so far "spring" means wind and blowing dust.)

One thing I did do was cook, including figuring out a simple and delicious new recipe for baking chicken breasts. I'm always looking for prepare-ahead recipes, things I can cook on the weekend and use for several meals during the week, when I often don't have time or energy to do much cooking. I particularly like this way of preparing chicken breasts because it's easy and quick (half an hour total, including prep time), makes enough for half-a-dozen meals for one or a dinner with friends, and the herbs add a lovely flavor. 

Simple Herbed Chicken Breasts

1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts (I use organic, free-range)
olive oil
Mediterranean herbs (I use a mix of dried oregano, basil, tarragon, garlic, and lemon peel)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rinse the chicken breasts, removing any remaining lose membrane, and pat them dry. Cut four or five squares of aluminum foil (depending on how many breasts there are) nine or so inches on each side. Pour about a tsp of olive oil into the middle of each square. Place two chicken breasts onto the square, spreading the olive oil around under each, and then pour about another tsp olive oil over them. Sprinkle each chicken breast with herbs. Pull the sides of the aluminum foil up and over the chicken breasts and fold the edges together to seal in juices during baking. 

Set the foil packets on a baking sheet with edges to catch any drips (a pizza pan with sides works too), and center the the sheet or pan on the middle rack in the oven. Bake for about seven minutes or until interiors of the breasts are no longer pink. Open packets and serve. Also good cold, chopped in salads, or used in sandwiches. After cooling, you can refrigerate uneaten ones in the foil packets; they’ll keep for a week.

For lunch, I often make a bowl of salad with whatever greens and fresh vegetables and fruits I have around. Today, I added one chopped chicken breast to my salad ingredients: a quarter of a ripe avocado, five small organic tomatoes, and some corn I shaved and froze last summer.

I heated the corn right in the bowl, added the rest of the chopped ingredients, plus a sprinkle of salt, a splash of orange-infused California olive oil that Molly brought me from San Francisco (thanks, sweetie!), and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Simple, fresh, pretty, and tasty–the perfect meal, from my point of view. 


Countering Fear With Love and Food (Recipes Included)

Where love flourishes, hatred withers.

Perhaps I am a naive, but my response to the recent shootings in Colorado Springs and San Bernadino was not to curl up in terror and lock my doors, or go out and buy a gun, or engage in hating anyone. I do not believe in letting fear and hatred get the best of me, of my culture or my country, or the world, for that matter. 

So I reminded myself of the resolve I adopted some years back to guide my daily life, words I turn to whenever I need to right myself, a motto adapted from a line in Mary Chapin Carpenter’s, “Goodnight America”: My aim is to live every day–every moment if I can–with my heart outstretched as if it were my hand. 

I believe that my best response to terrorism, whatever the flavor, is to nurture love and kindness in the world around me, starting with my own attitude and actions. For me, the way to keep hatred and violence from flourishing is to refuse to participate. To grow generosity and compassion instead.

I think of love–in the sense of behaving with lovingkindness to others–as the light that keeps the darkness we humans are capable of from taking over. Where love flourishes, hatred does not. 

One way I express that love is by cooking. In my thinking, food (the kind of made of healthy, local, carefully raised ingredients) translates as love.

No surprise then that this week I’ve cooked more than usual. Thursday night, my friends Maggie and Tony came over for dinner, and I gave myself part of the afternoon off to immerse myself in preparing a beautiful and delicious food.

Here are two of the recipes from the dinner, my gift of love to you. The first is adapted from Melissa Clark’s recipe in the New York Times. (Watch the video to see how spectacular this savory and puffy pancake can look in the hands of a superb cook.) The second was inspired by receiving several quarts of sour cherries from my friend Louise’s nearby tree (thank you, Louise!). 

Savory Dutch Baby Pancake 

1 cup plus 2 T all-purpose flour (gluten-free flour works too)

1/2 tsp kosher salt (or coarse-ground sea salt)

fresh-ground pepper to taste (I used a five-pepper blend, and gave the grinder three healthy turns)

8 large eggs (the deep gold yolks of free-range eggs that eat bugs lend a lovely color)

3/4 cup skim milk

a splash of half-n-half

2 T chopped fresh thyme (it’s worth the effort to use fresh thyme for the rich flavor and fragrance)

2 T chopped chives (or basil, or minced tops of green onion)

4 T unsalted butter

1/2 cup Gruyére cheese or another nutty aged cheese

sea salt for sprinkling (any coarse salt will do)

Heat oven to 425 degrees and position a rack in the middle. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then whisk the eggs with the milk/cream mixture in another bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until they are barely combined (no big lumps, but it doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth). Add the herbs. 

Melt the butter in a heavy, 10 to 12-inch skillet with high sides. Cook the butter over medium heat until it smells nutty and is brown–not black! Swirl the pan so the butter coats the sides. Then quickly pour the batter into the pan, and sprinkle cheese and salt over the top. Put the pan in the oven on that middle shelf and bake 20-25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve while still warm, cutting the puffy panckae into wedges. 

Sour Cherry-Ginger Tarts

4 cups sour (pie) cherries, pitted

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

pinch salt

1/2 cup water

2 T unsalted butter, chopped into pieces

1-1/2 T chopped candied ginger (reserve 1/2 T for sprinkling on filling in shells)

pre-baked tart shells (I used phyllo dough shells from the grocery store–they were okay, but next time I’ll make my own)

Puree half of the cherries in a blender or food processor and set the other half aside. Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small saucepan, then whisk in water until smooth. Stir in the pureed berries along with the chopped ginger (reserving some for sprinkling) and the butter. Simmer the sauce over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook until thickened (about a minute). To fill tart shells, start with a layer of whole cherries, then pour over enough sauce to hold the cherries together, then top with more whole cherries.

You can also use this sauce for ice cream topping. In that case, stir whole cherries into sauce as it begins to thicken. 

Both dishes are best shared, as a way to nurture friendships and connections of the heart. Enjoy!

Where love flourishes, hatred withers. 

What’s Cooking: Peach Sorbet & Almond Butter

I’m always ridiculously pleased when I invent a new recipe, especially one that’s relatively simple and turns out to be delicious. 

Here are two, one using summer’s ripe peaches, and the other using almonds to make a less-expensive alternative to one of my staple proteins: almond butter.  

The peaches from Colorado’s West Slope are ripe and abundant right now, and this year’s crop may be the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. Hence this recipe, a non-dairy, gluten-free sorbet using juicy, ripe peaches. 

Peaches Drink Wine Sorbet

(Adapted from a recipe in Sunset Magazine from 1998!)

4 cups ripe and chilled organic peaches, peeled, and cut into eighths

1 T lime juice

2 T lemon juice

2/3 cup white wine (anything you have left over is fine)

1-2 T brandy or port

about 3 T sugar

Rinse, slice and peel the peaches (ripe peaches peel easily, especially if they’re chilled). Put them in a food processor (if you’re using a blender, you’ll need to split them in 2 or 3 smaller batches) and mix in lime and lemon juice. Puree until smooth, then add white wine, brandy and sugar to taste. Process until blended. Pour puree into an ice cream maker (make sure it’ll handle a quart) and freeze until sorbet is firm enough to scoop. Makes a quart of summer-delicious sorbet! 

Leftover sorbet frozen in a re-used gelato jar… 

Note: I usually serve this directly from the ice cream maker. If you need to freeze it first, take it out before serving and thaw until soft enough to re-blend with a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula. Then serve immediately. Also, if you have leftover peach slices, sprinkle them with Fruit Fresh (a citric-acid-based natural preservative that keeps them from turning brown), and a little sugar, stir, and put them in freezer bags or containers. They’ll give you a sweet taste of summer sun come winter.


As a kid, I loved peanut butter, the chunkier the better. As an adult, I’ve migrated away from peanuts after a bad reaction to a bag of airline peanuts a few years back. 

Almond butter is my nut butter of choice these days, but not the kind in a jar with various additives. I’ve been getting it fresh-ground at Whole Foods. (No additives there, and if you’ve never had nut butter still warm from being ground, you’ve missed the real stuff!) 

But it’s expensive, and the closest Whole Foods is two hours away. So when I saw an article in the Denver Post about making your own nut butters, I was excited. Turns out it’s even simpler than the article makes it seem. (Especially if you have a food processor—mine’s a 35-year-old Cuisinart, and it still does a great job). 

Homemade Almond Butter

1-1/2 cups organic almonds

1/4 tsp salt (or more to taste)

about 1 T organic light olive oil or nut oil

Roast the almonds in a 350-degree oven for five to seven minutes (shorter if you like a “lighter” flavor, longer if you like a more roasted flavor). Let the cool, and then place in a food processor. Add salt, and process until the nuts turn to flour and then begin to gather in a ball. Drizzle in olive oil while they’re processing. Continue to process until the butter is the desired consistency. In my machine, it takes more than five minutes to get to chunky and may take another five to get to full creamy butter. 

Almond butter at the chunky stage…

Note: You can use roasted peanuts, cashews and pecans instead of almonds. Each different nut will have a different roasting time.  


Writing Progress & What’s Cooking

First, the writing progress: On April 29th, I started on one more revision of Bless the Birds, my memoir-in-progress, giving it what my writer/editor/fiber-maven friend Deb Robson calls a “French polish.” I’ve been reading it aloud, listening to the story, and doing the kind of detail work that I hope makes the story leap off the page and into a publisher’s line-up.

The revision has been… interesting. Each time I look at the story, I can see layers and levels of meaning, threads in the overall story if you were, that I didn’t notice before. And each time I read it aloud and listen to it, I relive it yet again. The emotional intensity of that part of my life makes it exhausting to be immersed in this particular story, but also exhilarating. And each time, I dive back in, I’m surprised at how much I like the story–it’s lyrical, compelling, authentic, and even has touches of humor. 

The subtitle gives an idea of why re-immersing myself in this story is intense, exacting, draining and also very, very rewarding: Embracing Life, Loss and Love.


The story’s about the last few years of this guy’s life: Richard Cabe, the love of my life and my late husband

Now, after a solid four weeks of work, five days a week—I usually give myself a breather on weekends so that I can recover from the intensity and have enough distance to approach it afresh the next week—I’m closing in on the end. As you can see from the photo of the manuscript on my desk at the top of this post. The pile on the left is the chapters I’ve worked through. The pile on the right is what I have left to revise.

Once I work my way through to the end of the story, I’ll give it a quick read from the beginning again, just to check for anything I missed, and then off it goes to my agent.

And off I will go, first hitting the road to Denver for a Habitat Hero program at Denver Botanic Gardens, and then to Tucson, where I’ve been invited to participate in Canyon Ranch Institute’s scholarship program for community wellness.

I’ll be working with community organizers involved in gardening and open-space projects from around the country. My workshop, “Planting a Neighborhood,” is about the re-birth of my formerly junky industrial block and the adjacent restored urban creek. It’s about gardens, ecological restoration, and how seemingly small projects can have a positive impact on community health and culture. The story I’ll tell is part of the larger story in the book that’s tugging at me next…. 


Since we’re on the cusp of summer (here in the Upper Arkansas River Valley, we went from a month of rain and snow to today’s 80 degreesF), I want to share the fruit salad recipe I invented when my neighbors gave me a half a cantaloupe the other night.

That melon inspired me to take a look at my garden and my fridge, and concoct a savory fruit salad–perfect for a warm day!

Savory End-of-Spring Fruit Salad

1/2 ripe cantaloupe

10 oz box strawberries

8 oz feta cheese

4-5 T lemon-infused olive oil

4 t balsamic vinegar (white if you can find it, as it’s a lighter flavor)

sprinkle of salt

16 or so large basil leaves (I’m growing Italian Genovese basil from Renee’s Garden–the leaves are large and the flavor is rich but smooth.)

Slice cantaloupe into rounds, remove seeds and rind and chop into bite-sized pieces. Hull and quarter strawberries (if they are really large, chop smaller). Mix fruit in serving bowl. Crumble feta cheese over the fruit, sprinkle with salt, and pour olive oil and vinegar over the top and mix thoroughly. With clean scissors, snip basil leaves into thin strips atop salad. Serve in small bowls. (Makes eight small servings or four large ones.)


What’s Cooking: Custom Hot Chocolate Mix

cocoa heart Artistic hot chocolate

My morning writing ritual includes a cup of hot chocolate, something that you might consider decadent unless you know that caffeine, even in the tiny amounts contained in decaf coffee or tea makes me sick. To stay healthy, I avoid all of those caffeinated drinks  I used to love. Instead, I drink hot chocolate.

It turns out that my hot chocolate habit is healthier than you might think. As an article in Mother Nature Network reports, Cornell University researchers studying the anti-oxidant levels in chocolate found that hot cocoa is a great source of antioxidants.

Chocolate chip hearts Chocolate is heart-healthy; cocoa powder has even more benefits than the solid form

In fact, hot cocoa’s antioxidant concentration is twice as high as red wine, and two to three times stronger than green teas, as well as four to five times stronger than black tea. Since cocoa lacks the fat of a chocolate bar (even dark chocolate is high-fat), it’s a healthier way to eat the antioxidants.

And heating the cocoa releases more of those cancer-fighting, age-fighting, free-radical-neutralizing antioxidants, says Professor Chan Yong Lee, the lead author of the study.

Other health benefits: cocoa’s flavonoids help you process nitric oxide, thus improving blood flow (including blood flow to the brain, which helps prevent dementia), lowering your blood pressure, preventing clots, and improving heart health.

Don’t buy commercial hot chocolate mix though. It’s full of unhealthy corn syrup in various incarnations and saturated fats. And it’s expensive on a per-serving basis. Instead, make your own healthy (and cocoa-rich) mix in bulk. It’s ridiculously simple. (There are only two ingredients!)

Two ingredients: cocoa powder and sugar Two ingredients: cocoa powder and sugar

Health-Rich Hot Chocolate Mix

2 cups organic sugar
8-9 T organic cocoa powder (I use Savory Spice cocoa–it has a lovely flavor)

Mix the sugar with the cocoa powder until it is combined. (Add more cocoa if you like a richer mix, more sugar if you prefer sweeter hot chocolate.) Store in an air-tight jar or tin. Add two to three heaping teaspoons to a cup of hot milk. (Use skim or lowfat milk to keep the fat content from counteracting the health benefits.) Stir and enjoy!

As you sip your healthy hot chocolate, thank the Mayans, who invented chocolate drinks many millennia ago. (Cacao beans are native to South America. They’re one of the Americas’ great native crops, along with chiles, corn, beans and squash.)

GIFT IT: Put the mix in a pretty jar, add instructions for making hot chocolate on a hand-made card, and give it to someone you love for Valentine’s Day.

A little artistic expression of how I feel when I drink my heart-healthy hot chocolate.... Valentine’s Day and hot chocolate makes for happy hearts!

What’s Cooking: One Dish Winter Dinner Recipe

It’s Wednesday and DIY night on this blog, so here’s a recipe!

Weather Report: 22 degrees F, wind howling out of the southeast, no snow yet. Perfect weather for a simple, quick and healthy dinner featuring local winter vegetables and soft cheese. (You can add meat if you want, more on that later.)

Your one-bowl dinner ready to eat--ummm! Your one-bowl dinner ready to eat–yum!

Yams Nested in Kale With Corn and Cheese

1 yam (actually, it’s an orange sweet potato, but we won’t get technical!)
5 or 6 leaves kale (I happen to like Lacinato kale for its rich and smooth flavor)
1/3 cup frozen corn (I shave kernels from summer corn and freeze them)
1 oz or so farmer’s cheese (I use Rocking W cheese from western Colorado)
splash olive oil
fresh-ground pepper

This part takes some planning: Prick the yam with a fork and bake for an hour or so at 375 degrees. Basically, you bake it until it smells great and is soft when you touch it. (You can bake the yam the day before, or in the morning if you want.)

Lacinato or dinosaur kale, a heritage Italian variety Lacinato or dinosaur kale, a heritage Italian variety

While the yam is cooling enough so you can slice it, chop the kale roughly into bite-sized pieces.

Chopped kale piled in a bowl with corn on top Chopped kale piled in a bowl with corn on top

Drizzle a little olive oil into a microwave safe bowl (or into a saute´ pan on the stove), pile in the kale, add the frozen corn and microwave covered for two minutes. (Or sauté, also covered, on medium heat on the stove until kale is thoroughly wilted, for about 4 or 5 minutes.)

Yam, baked and chopped, cheese in chunks Yam, baked and chopped, cheese in chunks

While the kale and corn are cooking, slice the yam thickly, and cut the cheese into chunks. When the kale/corn is done, layer the chunks of cheese atop the corn, and then place the yam slices on top. Grate some pepper on top, return to the microwave for 30 seconds (covered) or put back on the stove for long enough for the cheese to melt.

Serve with crusty bread, and enjoy!

Locavore Rating: The yam and the pepper aren’t local at all, but the olive oil I use comes from California, which is more local (and more reliable) than that from Italy. The kale, corn and cheese are quite local (from Ploughboy Local Market).

Meat-Eaters: Add some sausage, preferably chicken or turkey with a lighter flavor that won’t overwhelm the vegetables. Simply brown the sausage while you’re chopping and cooking the kale and corn, and layer the sausage in atop the veggies, but below the cheese and yams.

What’s playing while I cook: Roseanne Cash’s new CD, The River & The Thread.

Jars of eggnog on the kitchen island, waiting to go to happy homes....

What’s Cooking? Sinful Solstice Eggnog Recipe

Jars of eggnog on the kitchen island, waiting to go to happy homes.... Jars of eggnog on the kitchen island, waiting to go to happy homes….

In Sunday’s post about Winter Solstice luminarias, I promised to share the recipe for my Sinful Solstice Eggnog. This homemade eggnog has been part of my holiday season traditions since before Richard, Molly and I moved to Salida seventeen years ago.

It started out (as so many traditions do) as just a small thing, a treat for visiting family at Christmas. Over the years though, as our Light the Darkness party moved to Solstice and expanded, so too did the batches of eggnog, until the year when I used four-and-a-half dozen eggs and over a gallon of heavy cream. That was insane.

Now I make this rich eggnog to give away, instead of as the centerpiece for one of the huge parties Richard took so much joy from hosting. I always toast him with a small glass, remembering how he loved the whole ritual of eggnog, luminarias, and gathering our community of friends to light the solstice darkness.

Susan’s Sinfully Delicious Holiday Eggnog Recipe
(Adapted from Joy of Cooking)

one dozen eggs (free-range eggs with their orange yolks make prettier eggnog)
1 pound powdered sugar
2 to 3 cups dark rum (substitute a fruity bourbon or whiskey if you prefer)
1 qt organic skim or lowfat milk
1 qt ditto half ‘n half
1.5 qts ditto heavy cream

Separate eggs, placing yolks in one bowl and whites in another. Cover whites and refrigerate. Beat yolks until creamy. Add powdered sugar gradually, beating slowly. Add two cups of liquor (reserving one, if using three), beating constantly.

Egg whites in one bowl, yolks in the mixer bowl, ready to become nog. Egg whites in one bowl, yolks in the mixer bowl, ready to become nog.

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to eliminate the “eggy” taste. Then add the remaining cup of rum (beating constantly), along with the milk, half ‘n half, and the cream. Cover the nog and put it back in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least three hours) to mellow the liquor.

When the nog is mellowed, beat the whites until they form almost stiff peaks (the peaks barely droop). Fold the whites gently into the egg mix and sprinkle the whole with freshly grated nutmeg.

A double recipe of finished eggnog in Richard's largest bread-dough bowl A double recipe of finished eggnog in Richard’s largest bread-dough bowl

Serve in a punch bowl with a ladle and small glasses or cups—it’s very rich. (Serves 20-30 people.)

Enjoy with those you love!

My living room in the afternoon--imagine me on the couch with Medusa, the multi-headed lamp, turned on for light.

What’s Cooking: Stuffed Winter Squash and Change

My living room in the afternoon--imagine me on the couch with Medusa, the multi-headed lamp, turned on for light. My living room–imagine me on the couch after dark with Medusa, the multi-headed lamp, turned on for light.

It’s Wednesday evening, and I’m sitting on the couch in my cozy front room writing a blog post about cooking and change. I know, I usually post on Sunday night. What’s wrong? Nothing.

Just a little shift in my work life: As of next month, I’ll no longer be writing 3-4 blog posts a month for the Habitat Hero project, as Audubon Rockies takes the program under its wing, so to speak.

I’m going to use that spare creative energy to post twice weekly on this blog. Wednesday night will be a shorter post—a recipe, a book review, a “tool girl” project. The longer, more reflective piece will still come Sunday night.

Stuffed and baked Acorn squash Stuffed and baked Acorn squash

Hence tonight’s recipe: Sausage & Vegetable Stuffed Winter Squash

2 Acorn or 3 Delicata squash
1 pound chicken sausage links (I use Gosar Farms natural Mandarin Orange Spice Sausage from Ploughboy Local Market)
1 large bunch organic kale, coarsely chopped
3 organic carrots, chopped
1 large organic Jonagold or other crisp, juicy apple, chopped
2 T good whiskey or bourbon (I use Wood’s Tenderfoot Whiskey, brewed two blocks from my house)
2 tsp paprika
1 T olive oil
2 oz Asiago cheese, coarsely grated

Acorn halves after initial baking; one filled Acorn halves after initial baking; one filled

Halve squash and scoop out the seeds and strings (if you have friends with chickens, save them for the fowl—they love them!). Place each half split-side down in a baking pan with 1/4-inch of water. Bake in a 325 degree oven for an hour, until tender.

Meanwhile. cook sausage until casings brown; slice into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Pour olive oil into the pan with the sausage drippings, heat oil and then sauté kale with carrots until kale is thoroughly wilted. Add apple chunks plus paprika and whiskey, sauté for another few minutes and then add sausage back and mix thoroughly.

That stuffing (which is good just by itself, I might add) That stuffing (which is good just by itself, I might add)

When squash is baked, turn them right side up in the pans, add water if it has evaporated away and mound sausage filling in each squash half. Top with grated Asiago, and bake for another 15 minutes or until cheese begins to crust. Remove from oven and serve while still warm. (Serves four generously as a main dish.)

Vel bekomme! (“Enjoy your meal!” in Norwegian, the language of my last name.)