Recipe: Creamy Sauteed Mushrooms, a la Meagan

True story: I used to hate mushrooms. Just looking at them gave me the shudders.

My hatred turned into a hesitant like, then love, a few years ago. J and I were at an Italian restaurant, and J, being a Mushroom Lover, ordered stuffed mushrooms baked in a pesto cream sauce. They arrived at the table, the steam redolent of basil, Parmesan and Italian sausage. My  mouth watered a little bit, and as I have a policy of trying foods I hate once a year, I decided this cheesy concoction was my best bet.

So I tried one. I hesitantly moved it onto my appetizer plate. Cut into it with my steak knife. Dipped the slice in the cream sauce, and haltingly (this sounds dramatic, but I kid you not—I really hated mushrooms!) moved the fork towards my mouth.

Then? Well. Earthy, herby, creamy bliss. I started to like them then—on a trial basis—but my affection has grown steadily ever since.

Now, mushrooms remind me of autumn.  They pair well with traditional autumn seasonings like sage and thyme. They’re even nicely symbolic of the dark season, since they grow without light. Since it actually feels like autumn here (I’m continually amazed!) I picked up a huge box of Baby Bellas at Costco and have been enjoying them for days.

Here’s my favorite easy mushroom recipe, which is less of a recipe and more of a…method? Enjoy.

Creamy Sauteed Mushrooms, a la Meagan

Ingredients:

(This is a very elastic recipe–do with the amounts what you like)

2 tbsp butter

8 oz. (ish) Baby Bellas, de-stemmed and sliced

1 clove garlic, smashed and minced

Generous sprinkle sea salt, thyme (fresh is best, but dried is fine). Fresh parsley is a nice finishing touch if you have it.

Splash of red wine, dry white wine, or cognac

~1 tbsp Whole grain or dijon mustard

2-4 tbsp Heavy cream

Directions:

1. Melt butter in pan.

2. Add sliced mushrooms, toss in butter. Add salt and herbs.

3. Add a couple of tablespoons of wine. Be aware that mushrooms expel water as they heat, so don’t add too much liquid or it’ll get soupy. Let it cook for a few minutes.

4. Finish it off. First, stir in the mustard.  Then add 2-4 tbsp. of cream to thicken the sauce. Cook for another minute or so before taking off the heat.

—–

Note: this recipe is AWESOME when made as a topping for steak. Simply pan-sear a steak then continue this recipe in the pan with the steak drippings.

Note 2: I tried taking pictures buuuuuut….the lighting in the apartment kitchen is terrible. Plus, the mushrooms were so good that I only got two horrible photos before they were gone. Rest assured, they’re delicious.)

Note 3: The Kitchn’s What Are Cremini Mushrooms blew my mind.

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Honey Bun Cake

On Saturday I attended the Biannual Austin Area Pagan Meetup Workshop (whew!) and Potluck. It was great! So informative and fun. The presentations were well-researched and relevant. I have to say—for all the bickering that can go on online, for all the naysaying about the Pagan community within the Pagan community…I don’t see that in the Pagans I’ve become involved with. They’re all different religions or philosophies, from eclectic to Druid to Wiccan (traditional, solitary, derivative covens) to reconstructionist to Asatru and guess what…? Everyone manages to go to the same meetup and have a damn good time.

That aside, for the potluck I made a recipe called Honey Bun Cake. I made a gluten-free version that turned out great, and as I was making it I realized it would be a perfect Imbolc dessert or to be served in the cakes and ale portion of any ritual. The cake itself is very dense, chewy and moist, while the topping is nice and crunchy. It really does remind me of those old honey bun snack-cakes.

Honey Bun Cake, Gluten Free

A lot of the proportions depend on how dry your cake mix is—gluten free mixes can vary considerably. I used King Arthur’s Yellow Cake Mix and these are the proportions I use. By the way…King Arthur gluten-free mixes are amazing. All of them.

Cake:

1 gluten-free yellow box cake mix

1 cup sour cream (maybe a little more if your box cake is very sweet)

4 eggs

1/2 c. oil

Milk to thin the batter. I think I ended up using around 2 cups.

Topping:

Up to 1/3 c. brown sugar

Up to 1/3 c. honey

1 tbsp. cinnamon

Icing:

2 c. powdered sugar

1/4 c. milk

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325.

Mix the cake mix, eggs, oil, sour cream and milk until smooth. Some lumps are fine, just not big lumps. Pour into a greased 9 X 13 pan.

Sprinkle the brown sugar, cinnamon and honey on top of the batter. Swirl with a dinner knife. Bake at 325 for 35-45 minutes.

For the icing, whisk together the powdered sugar and milk until desired consistency. Pour onto the hot cake and let set for about 10 minutes.

Here’s a link to the original recipe.

Here’s a link to a non gluten-free version.

Honoring the Ancestors through Food, Part Two

Third question–Theoretical Application

[Disclaimer #1 before the next section:  While I think some traditional ways are preferential to modern ones, I also think that inspiration from traditional ways is more valuable than trying to emulate them wholesale.]

[Disclaimer #2: Yes. I know. These are broad generalizations. “Traditional culture” can mean anything from the milk-and-blood eating Masaai to the largely-meat Inuit to nearly-vegetarian-except-for-bugs. There are similarities though, and restrictions that would have been temporally based. For example, all livestock/grazing animals/game back in the day would have been grass-fed–no CAFOs in the Mesolithic.]

But using food to connect–what does that mean, in particular? I can think of several things:

1. That food be grown and tended traditionally. Pastured-based dairy, poultry and beef has been shown to be higher in CLA, vitamin K2 and other nutrients that our bodies need. Also, land needs animals (there, I said it), especially prairie and grasslands. I’m not going to make outlandish claims about the superior health value of organic produce, as I think those claims are still contested, but growing produce traditionally is low-impact, creative and when done best can be restorative to the soil and surrounding natural systems. Having a part in these processes connects us to the past and to the future, much like picking up your Granny’s knitting needles to make a baby blanket.

2. Eating traditional ingredients. Many pre-industrial diets are pretty healthy, especially with the addition of fresh meat. Think about it: soured oats and an egg for breakfast, a ploughman’s platter of meat, cheese, greens, chutney for lunch, then for dinner is a stew. Emphasizing fresh vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, soured grains and reducing white sugar and flour.  Also, these cultures ate all parts of the meat and used the bones for broth as well–important in traditional cuisine and full of vitamins A and D, as well as minerals and gelatin. Making sure dairy sources are fatty and greens are cooked with fat is also important.

There are some traditional ingredients that are controversial, to say the least. I’m thinking particular about raw milk. Raw milk is what any culture who drank milk drank before the pasteurization process was invented. In modern times, if you haven’t heard, some groups claim that the health benefits of grass-fed raw milk outweigh the risk of maybe consuming harmful bacteria. If you’re going to consume milk, they claim, you should only consume raw. Governmental agencies and other safety advocates say nonsense, if you’re going to consume milk, raw milk could kill you. I’m doing more research on this at the moment, so I don’t have a firm conclusion yet.

3. Preparing traditional dishes. Some of these are harmless enough, such as Colcannon. Who doesn’t love a huge pot of mashed up potatoes, leeks, kale, ham and scandalous amounts of butter? Soured oatmeal seems fine to me; I love fermented foods. Gotta love a big pot of stew, as well! Other dishes…well…I can’t say I’m raring to try oat-stuffed cod heads.

Conclusions

The Weston A. Price Foundation pioneered the traditional food-culture trail in the 1940s, and with the popularity of farmer’s markets, eating locally and the Paleo/Primal diets, traditional foods are coming back in vogue. Pagans as a whole have been on the tradiotionalist train since the beginning of the neo-Pagan movement in the ’40s and ’50s. I’m thinking in particular about the Patricia Campanelli who wrote The Wheel of the Year and Ancient Ways: Reclaiming Pagan Traditions. So, not exactly groundbreaking territory. It really isn’t even a new idea for this blog, I’ve explored it in most food philosophy posts.

Still, I find the idea of ancestor work through food compelling. It has so many nuances. One could connect to ancestors of place by eating seasonal foods, and buying local meat, honey, alcohol and produce. Blood ancestry could be explored through growing cultural ingredients and using them in different recipes. Also, of course, since culture is fluid, one shouldn’t feel trapped in “I’m Scottish so I must eat kippers and bannocks”, and instead experiment with traditional (and non) ingredients, methods, etc. and see how they can be incorporated.

Personally, our family already does some of this, but I would like to incorporate some low-stress daily/weekly dishes and methods into our rotation. Tea, while more modern, is one aspect of this. I’m thinking about starting a soured porridge pot and a sourdough starter. I’m also tentatively exploring raw milk, more for the culturing possibilities (yogurt, cheese, clotted cream) than for drinking. We’ll see.

Much to my husband’s dismay, we’re also now taking regular spoonfuls of ghee and Cod Liver Oil. At least it’s not it’s not fermented.

(Yet.)

Honoring the Ancestors through Food, Part One

I’ve always been curious about how our ancestors ate. I love the whole realm of food and beverage, from anthropology down to history. One of my favorite aspects of being in the wine business is that it is a traditional industry steeped (fermented?) in history and culture.

So I began pondering: How would eating traditionally connect me to the ancestors? Not just my temporally near ones, but what about my deep, genetic ancestors?  I honor the ancestors in my daily prayers, but it feels important to cultivate that connection in other ways.

My favorite aspect of all the holidays and Sabbats is definitely the food. I make butter on Imbolc, Colcannon on Samhain, soda bread for the Vernal Equinox. Not to mention the feasts of Yule, Christmas and Thanksgiving. So, if I like that connection so much, what about starting to extend it to daily life?

One of my favorite blogs, Hunt Gather Love, got me to thinking about food anthropology, and piqued my interest even more when she posted about a traditional Scots diet (basically, bleeding venison and kale).

So–first question–who are my ancestors? And where are they from?

Thanks to extensive genealogical research done by my maternal aunt, I know that my bloodline contains ancestors who arrived in America from France, Austria, Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales. I also have one flaming genetic marker for Celtic ancestry: I’m a red-head (and freckled).

Question two–That’s a lot of different cuisines and regions.

Sure…well, kind of. And it’s not like I’m trying to be a purist here. Hello, I’m an American whose family has been here since the 1700s. I could also add in Scots-Appalachian food (redundant, perhaps?) and traditional Southern into the mix. But since I’m mostly referring to deep ancestry, I think those more modern distinctions are less important.

Here’s what I’ve gleaned from research into a traditional Scots diet:

Grains: barley, rye, oats.

Vegetables: kale, cabbage, Allium crops (garlic, shallots, leeks, onion), turnips,  sea vegetables, wild vegetables (nettles, watercress), marsh plants (sea beans).

Fruits: berries, apples

Dairy: cream, milk, butter, cheese, whey

Meats: fish (especially salmon and trout), shellfish, game meat (especially venison), lamb/mutton, eggs, sometimes beef.

Sugars: honey

A traditional Irish diet would have looked much the same. In researching the topic I found more references to milk products, ducks, geese and beef in the Irish diet–but that doesn’t mean that the Scots didn’t enjoy these foods as well.

A more continental European diet would include beans and legumes, more grains (wheat, though not much, and millet), and a more diverse set of vegetables and fruits.

Traditionally, grains would have (most of the time) been soaked or fermented, which makes them easier to digest and shortens the cooking time.  Think of soured porridge, sourdough, and soaked oats.

Something else to think about–after the hunter/gatherer period of history, fresh meat would have been the province of the nobility, except for feast days. Food of the lower classes would have been grains, dairy and vegetables, supplemented with blood sausages and the like. It’s interesting to note that because of the emphasis on dairy, some of the dietary practices were similar to the traditional diet of the African Masaai tribe (like mixing raw blood, raw milk and butter together).

[Part II will discuss Application and will have a list of my resources and the Wish List Cookbooks]

Sometimes You Just Need to Bake

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t eat a lot of “carbs”. Rather, I don’t eat a lot of grains or refined sugar. Though I love them, they don’t love me back.

However, I do love to bake. And sometimes, when life becomes joyful or, conversely, really confusing I just…my fingers twitch with the craving to preheat ovens (all ovens!) and line muffin tins. Usually, to avoid looking like an utter lunatic, I follow that desire to its conclusion and fill the tins with batter. And bake it. Yum.

Today is a joyful day–J and my third anniversary (!)–but we’re also in the midst of an uncertain, liminal time when our family (might, maybe, possibly) has some big changes coming up.

So, I baked. I couldn’t help it. I chalk it up to my specific biological imperatives.

Low (or No) Sugar Banana Chocolate-Chip Muffins

Adapted from Eat, Live, Run (a blog)

2 ripe bananas, mashed (the riper the better)

4 tbsp. butter, melted

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

up to 1/2 c. sugar, depending on personal preference

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1.5 c. whole wheat pastry flour (or AP white flour)

3/4 c. unsweetened or bittersweet morsels

Directions

Preheat oven to 350.

Mash bananas. Add melted butter, vanilla, egg, stirring after each addition. Add sugar, stir well. Mix in baking soda, salt, flour and morsels. Do not over mix. Stir until just combined.

Spoon into lined or greased muffin tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Notes

I didn’t have morsels/chips on hand so I just chopped up a four ounce bittersweet chocolate baking bar.

Adjust the sugar proportional to the ripeness of the bananas. My bananas were on their way to overripe, so I added only 2 tbsps. of sugar. The muffins were just sweet enough to enhance the flavor of the chocolate and banana. The less ripe the bananas the more sugar you may want to add. Or not.

Enjoy!

Muffins with Anniversary Flowers...Awww.

Maple Roasted Acorn Squash

[First, I have to say, my kitchen is a terrible place to take pictures. The people who redesigned it installed lighting that throws shadows everywhere. Obviously not food bloggers. 🙂 When I went to preview this post the pictures just looked terrible, so I decided to leave them out.]

Moving on!

Saturday morning we made our way to the mall for mine and J’s optometrist appointments. As we pulled into the parking lot we happened upon a happy surprise–a farmer’s market! I thought I knew about all of the markets in town, but apparently not. It was nice sized, not very large, but big enough to have some meat, crafts and a few veggie vendors. When we entered the market a lady shoved a $3 coupon in my hand. Sweet.

The market stalls were picked over by the time we got there, but my roving eye spotted a display of winter squash.

Winter squash = winter is coming…hahah. No. Sorry. I mean, yes, winter is coming, but we don’t live in Westeros…okay, forget it.

It does mean that autumn is on its way, and to celebrate these happy little finds I fixed up the squash in my favorite way.

Maple Roasted Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash, quartered and seeded

1 tbsp. olive oil

1-2 tbsp. butter (depending on the size of the squash)

2 tbsp. maple syrup (the real deal, please)

sea salt, to taste

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400*

2. Rub/sprinkle/spray the acorn quarters with olive oil. Then, chunk up the butter and put it in the little cavities of the squash. Drizzle with maple syrup and sprinkle with salt.

3. Bake at 400*, from 25-35 minutes

4. Eat with gusto.

Notes

I prefer Grade B maple syrup for all syrupy applications. It has a much stronger flavor that really holds up to high heat cooking.