We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Classic Pumpkin Pie — A Salvation Sisters' Day After Thanksgiving Breakfast Favorite (Gluten-Free)

by Linda

"Cut my pie into four pieces, I don't think I could eat eight." — Yogi Berra

   My brother-in-law, Jay, is fond of saying, "Nothing ruins a good dinner like dessert," and my sister, Michelle, who is married to Jay, has become fond of repeating this sentiment over the many years of their marriage, as well. As I have gotten older, I have grudgingly leaned more and more toward this perspective, although I do enjoy a scoop of ice cream, a piece of chocolate or a little something sweet after dinner from time to time.
   When it comes to Thanksgiving, our family has come to agree that when it comes to the biggest meal of the year, having a big slice of pie not too long after eating a very large dinner, is the final coup in feeling overly full and uncomfortable—an unpleasant exercise in gluttony.

   Not ones to cast aside dessert completely, especially at Thanksgiving, our family has stumbled upon a solution to this issue that seems to please everyone. I am pretty sure that we are not alone in adopting this tradition, but I have yet to see a food magazine touting having the requisite pumpkin pie for breakfast the morning after—which is what we now do.

   On the morning after the big day there is no 'Black Friday' for this family. We have traveled long distances to be together and enjoy each other's company. First one up makes coffee, and then as we wake up and gather in the family room, each of us grabs coffee and pie at our leisure. With a fresh palate, I enjoy my slice so much more the day after.

Vignettes from Michelle's beautiful holiday tableau.
My nephew Paul and his son Parker are top right.
My son Jordan and our mother Dianne are bottom left.
Our family enjoys a lazy morning after the big meal.
My nieces Avalon and Sonora take time to pose for a photo with their cousin Jordan.

Salvation Sisters' Classic Pumpkin Pie (Gluten-Free)

by Michelle

   This pumpkin pie is a combination of our Grandma Elsie's batter and Libby's recipe that is printed on every can of pumpkin purée. To make pumpkin purée from scratch you would peel, cube, cook and mash small pumpkins that are labeled "sweet". This one of the few occasions where we honestly like using canned pumpkin better than fresh based on taste, texture and ease of use. You may choose to substitute one rounded tablespoon pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg, however the taste will be slightly different. Do not freeze a pumpkin pie, as this will cause the crust to separate from the filling.
   I like to garnish the pies with piped Cream Cheese Frosting flavored with Amaretto liqueur and cinnamon-sugar dusted Pie Crust Cookies made from the leftover dough. 
   As part of a dessert buffet, the pies are gorgeous displayed with Apple Crostatas or All American Apple Pies and Pecan Tassies. Homemade Marshmallows or Meringue Cookies are a fun addition as well as Brownies for the die-hard chocolate crowd. 

The photos above are of the Absolutely Delicious All-Butter Pie Crust
that is gluten-free and gum-free. Your guests will never know the difference.

All-Butter Pie Crust 
Absolutely Delicious All-Butter Pie Crust (Gluten Free and Gum Free)

The remaining scraps of pie dough are great for making pie decorations.
Michelle purchased the cookie cutters from Williams-Sonoma.
Jordan gives his mom the 'stink-eye' for bringing out the camera too early in the morning.
Pumpkin Pies—just out of the oven and piping hot.
Ingredients for Pumpkin Pie:
2 unbaked deep-dish pie shells of your choice from above:
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar, or 3/4 cup granulated and 3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves 
1/4 tsp nutmeg
6 large eggs
29 ounces (about 3-1/2 cups) 100% pure pumpkin purée
2 tsps pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
24 fl. oz. half-and-half or evaporated milk, or a combination of the two

1. Arrange two oven racks so one sits in the middle or lower third of the oven and the other on the top shelf or upper third. Place a large cookie sheet on the top rack. The cookie sheet will act as a shield for the pies as they bake to prevent the crust and surface of pie from over-browning. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg in a small bowl. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin, vanilla extract and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk or half-and-half. Pour evenly into both pie shells.
3. Place pies side by side in the oven. Bake for 60-65 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Rotate pies after 30 minutes for even baking. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. If you wish, decorate rim of pies with piped cream cheese frosting and pie crust cookies. Serve with whipped cream. Yield: 2 pies

Pumpkin Pie: It's what's for breakfast on the day after Thanksgiving at our house.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Retro-Style Thanksgiving: Mom's Cranberry Fluff Salad

by Linda

"Most of us have fond memories of food from our childhood. Whether is was our 
mom's homemade lasagna or a memorable chocolate birthday cake, food has a 
way of transporting us back to the past." — Homaro Cantu

   Recently when questioning our mother about the origins of one of our families long standing accompanying dishes to our family's Thanksgiving menu, she said that she does not really remember where the recipe came from. She said that she remembers making it one year, and the kids were wild for it—particularly our cousin Larry.

   I remember that it was one of those sides that became part of our traditional menu. So much so that it is still being made for our gatherings today. Michelle and I made it this past year when my son Jordan and I joined the family for a Southwest Thanksgiving holiday when we all gathered in Tucson to celebrate the day.
   This past year as I quickly chopped the cranberries to an even minced consistency in the food processor, I reflected on the days when I was a girl and helped our mom prep the cranberries on Thanksgiving eve with an old-fashioned meat grinder which was clamped tightly to our bread board in the kitchen on the farm in Lompoc. I loved the popping noise they emitted as the berries were crushed by the augur and then forced out the mouth of the grinder into a bowl.
   More dessert than a real salad, but still fifty times better that anything made with gelatin (however our niece Avalon vehemently disagrees with this bold statement as she absolutely adores molded berry spiked red Jello® on the Thanksgiving table) this fluffy pink side has remained unchanged and beloved by our family, and is now considered by us to be part of the requisite heritage sides for the big feast. Make the young and old happy at your house by giving it a place on your Thanksgiving buffet this year. It is a beautiful addition to a Christmas menu as well.

Down home, nothin' fancy Thanksgiving buffet. Just good eats and no fuss.
Cranberry Fluff
by Michelle
   Aside from being a beloved national holiday, I suspect most people adore Thanksgiving because it is a perfectly balanced meal flavor-wise: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. The meal is an umami flavor bomb. To help contribute to the sweet portion of the meal, the favored combination is typically sweet potatoes or yams and cranberry sauce. Although it fell out of favor for awhile on our Thanksgiving table, I was reminded again last year of the joy of having Cranberry Fluff in addition to Cranberry Sauce on the menu. The sour portion of the meal is brought to the plate with Tangy Four Bean Salad, which we like to make Paleo-Friendly with a honey syrup and red wine vinegar marinade.
   The minced cranberry/marshmallow/sugar mixture for this dish needs to be made and then rest in the refrigerator for 24 hours before assembly of the final salad, so plan accordingly.

2 cups raw cranberries, ground
2 cups tiny marshmallows
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups peeled, diced tart apples (such as Granny Smith)
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1/2 cup seedless grapes, halved
1/2 cup broken walnuts or pecans
1/4 tsp sea salt

Garnish: There is a note on the recipe card to trim each serving with a cluster of green grapes, if desired.

1. Combine ground cranberries, marshmallows and sugar. Cover and chill overnight.
2. The next day, add apples, red grapes, walnuts and salt. Fold in whipped cream. Chill. Turn into serving bowl, or as presented in the 1950's and '60s, spoon into individual lettuce cups. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Michelle's Big and Brined Thanksgiving Turkey — Thanksgiving in Tucson, Arizona

The Memory Keepers by Michelle

"There is one day that is ours. Thanksgiving Day is the one that is purely American." 
                                                                                              —O. Henry

   It's only been in the last couple of years, since my friends Stephanie and Michael moved to Colorado, that I have begun making Thanksgiving dinner again. For many years, Stephanie and Michael hosted friends and family at their house. Every year I'd contribute the desserts, and I was more than happy to take on the baking responsibilities. My daughter, Maddie and I would spend Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, baking pies, fruit tarts, crostataspecan tassies and cookies. Pumpkin pies were always a fixture, of course. But we'd mix up the other desserts based upon what we felt inspired to bake.
   After a huge midday meal of turkey and all the fixings, Stephanie and Michael would pull out games and we'd play Trivial Pursuit (usually women vs. men), Apples-to-Apples, or Liar's Dice. The big group would sit around the table, talking, laughing, joking, with a lot of good natured ribbing being exchanged between us all. In the early evening, we'd dig into dessert and leftovers were divided up so everyone could spurge again the next day. Those are wonderful memories, and I miss our days and evenings shared together, especially around the holidays when we'd gather for Halloween parties, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

   When Stephanie and Michael pulled-up stakes and moved, the task returned to me to pull together a Thanksgiving dinner for my family. Thanksgiving takes a lot of prep, and a good plan, but I don't particularly think of it as a difficult meal, especially if there is one or two additional sets of hands that pitch in and help cook and clean.
   Every year I buy all the food magazines searching for inspiration. I don't know why I bother because like most families, everyone wants the same meal year after year. I still enjoy seeing an Asian spin on the holiday meal though, or how the folks in Louisiana are adding Cajun spices and oysters to the stuffing. I think I'll add a new side dish, but it always seems that the menu is practically carved in stone by our family tradition.

   Last year was particularly special because my sister Linda, and her son, Jordan were able to come to Arizona for Thanksgiving. If you are a frequent reader of the blog, you probably know that Linda is a manager at Whole Foods. When your career is in retail, especially a grocery store, the holidays are the busiest time of the year. Grocery employees simply do not get time off between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Linda had sustained a work injury in the fall and for the first time in many years she was able take the time off and be with us for Thanksgiving.
   So, then, here's what happens when our family gets together. And, I'm sure we are not unique. Perhaps you can relate. Practically everyone has an opinion about how the dishes should be made, what kind of turkey should be served, and how to eat dessert. That's why God made wine I've decided. One of the bigger debates last year involved stuffing the turkey. Due to well established food safety rules, cooking professionals pretty much agree that turkeys should not be stuffed. The dressing is simply heated in its own container. Linda and I were in complete agreement on how the stuffing would be prepped and heated. When Mom heard this news, it just about sent her over the edge. Her happy Thanksgiving dreams were quickly turning into a holiday dinner nightmare. What proceeded was a long, somewhat heated exchange between we three about the damn turkey and the damn dressing. It was two sisters against one Mother, but Mom won in the end. The turkey was stuffed. Nobody died. Everyone managed, in fact, to end the day on a very positive note.

Our Mother poses with her grandson, Jordan.
   I did find out just recently that my niece Avalon was quite disappointed that we didn't serve molded red Jello with berries last year for Thanksgiving. This is a dish that Juliette made every year, and the girls grew up on it and fondly refer to as, "White Trash Jello". On the other hand, Mom was quite happy that we made Cranberry Fluff after having it out of the Thanksgiving menu rotation for so many years. With a large group, in particular family, it's hard to make everyone happy. But we sure try. And we love everybody just the same in the end.

P.S.: My daughter, Maddie is away at college. She is regularly enduring cafeteria food during her first semester in college. When I asked her recently what she cared about most for the upcoming Thanksgiving glutton fest, she listed off her favorite dishes in the following order: pumpkin pie, apple pie, turkey, mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, and stuffing. Everything else on the table is just a bonus.

Michelle's Brined Thanksgiving Turkey

Friday, November 6, 2015

Dr. Budwig's Power Muesli (Gluten-Free)

by Michelle

"But the harm done by eating the wrong kind of food fats has repercussions in all realms of life, including healthy mental and spiritual functioning. In our world, however, the choice of healthy food is one of the elementary aspects of our lives which we should organize as such. It is far more important than many people in the Western world are willing to admit." — Dr. Johanna Budwig

Dr. Johanna Budwig's Flax Oil and Cottage Cheese/Quark Muesli breakfast.
   My sister, Linda is always on the lookout for easy ways to pack more nutrition into her diet. In retrospect, Linda with her insatiable interest in herbal remedies and nourishing traditions, would have made an excellent naturopathic physician. With her extensive knowledge of herbs and vitamins, Linda has helped thousands of people through her work in retail to live healthier lifestyles and assisted them in finding information to help them treat a variety of ailments from the common cold to hot flashes to joint pain—just to name just a few.
    We sisters are tinkerers in the kitchen. My sister and I love to ferment vegetables and infuse alcohols and syrups with assorted ingredients including fruits and spices. Emulating our sister Juliette, we've worked extensively with sourdough over the years, learning the artisinal craft of naturally leavening and baking bread with a live culture. We have also applied that knowledge to making stellar homemade pizza. We've had forays into simple cheese-making. Juliette's pulled her own mozzarella cheese for a restaurant venture. And, we continue to experiment in the kitchen based upon our current interests. Still on my "culinary bucket list" is to try my hand at making vinegar, kombucha and kefir.
    Many years ago, Linda was the first person to share with me the health benefits of flaxseed oil. Much to my chagrin, I'm not good at taking daily vitamins, and it is a chore to figure out an acceptable way to down a couple tablespoons of flax oil. It's one of those thingsI know I should do it, but it's really difficult for me to maintain, with any consistency, a specific vitamin and flax oil regimen. That is, until now.

   In mid October, I visited Linda over a long weekend so that we could jointly photograph our first wedding in Mill Valley, California. Regardless of our photography gig, I always do my best to visit Linda in October. Wine country in autumn is gorgeous and the weather is mild. Sonoma and Napa counties are beautiful any time of year, but particularly in October, when the countryside is really something to behold. The grape leaves are beginning to turn from green to molten hues of gold and red. Cows and sheep graze on the matted hay. The sky seems almost luminous. Pumpkins and pomegranates are stacked up at the farm stands. The oak trees stand majestic in the fields and are also clustered together across the rolling, golden hills.

   On the first morning during my visit, and every morning thereafter, Linda and Mark made me this nutrition packed breakfast, which was truly a revelation. I could happily consume a daily portion of flaxseed oil and ground flax in one serving and absolutely enjoy every bite. I found myself using my spoon to scrape up every last minuscule bits of muesli clinging to the bottom and sides of the bowl.
   If you dig into the benefits of flax, you will quickly learn from various internet searches that flax seeds, and the pressed oil, is high in Omega-3, Omega-6 and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Flax helps to treat hypertension, melanoma tumors, depression, liver disease, cholesterol, all types of cancer and inflammatory diseases. The more I have read about the benefits of flax, the more I am convinced I need to add the oil and ground seeds to my daily routine, either as a breakfast or an afternoon snack. And, believe me, this smooth, creamy concoction is no chore to eat. It's a nutritional powerhouse meal that you'll surely crave—just like I do.

Linda's scribbled notes to Mark providing the measurements to make Muesli for three servings. 
Dr. Budwig's Power Muesli (Gluten-Free)

   The originator of this recipe is Dr. Johanna Budwig (1908-2003), a German biochemist, pharmacist and author. According to Wikipedia, "She developed the Budwig protocol, a purported anti-cancer diet, in 1952." One of the cornerstones of the diet is this recipe. The technique of high-speed blending cottage cheese, or quark, or the combination of the two, with fresh flax oil enables the body to easily assimilate the mixture.
   Flax seeds and flax oil are highly perishable. Flax seeds must be consumed within 20 minutes after being ground. Flax oil must be purchased refrigerated and be kept under refrigeration. Only buy as much flax oil as you plan to consume in one week.
   To make homemade quark, Linda and I like to strain goat milk yogurt through a nut milk bag until all the whey is drained and yogurt condenses into a fresh goat cheese consistency. Linda wrote previously about the benefits of goat's milk in a post about Redwood Hill Farm and a related recipe for Goat's Milk Infant Formula. My husband and I bottle fed my daughter with homemade Goat's Milk Infant Formula after I could no longer breast feed her when I returned to work full-time and my milk dried up unexpectedly.
   The basic muesli formula is 2 parts cottage cheese/quark mixture to 1 part flax oil to 1 part flax seeds. It's easy to scale the recipe, as needed, to serve family and friends.

32-oz (908g) container Redwood Hill Farm Plain Goat Milk Yogurt (to make a quark-type cheese)
organic cottage cheese, such as Nancy's
fresh, organic flax oil such as Barlean's (not high-lignan)
fresh flax seeds (we like the taste of Golden flax seeds the best)
a little goat's milk (preferred) or cow's milk to thin

vanilla or almond extract
ground cinnamon or nutmeg
in season berries and fresh fruit such as apples, peaches, and pomegranate seeds
sugar-free fruit purees such as applesauce, pear butter, pumpkin, butternut squash
nuts, such as walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds (avoid legumes such as peanuts and cashews)
locally sourced honey or manuka honey from New Zealand

stick blender
coffee grinder
Nut milk bag or cheesecloth and a sieve, if you plan on making quark

Prepare quark (goat yogurt cheese) by straining yogurt—what remains in the bowl is whey.
1. To make the quark, nest a sieve in a bowl with room in between for the whey to drain and collect. Line the strainer with cheesecloth, pour in the whole container of yogurt, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. After 24 hours, transfer the quark to container with a lid and store in the refrigerator.

2. Prep fruits, by coring, peeling, and chopping, as needed.
3. In a prep bowl with high sides, add (per serving):

        3 tablespoons cottage cheese (or 1/4 cup cottage cheese if not using quark)
        1 tablespoon quark or goat yogurt cheese
        2 tablespoons flax oil

    With a stick blender, mix the three ingredients until completely emulsified. If the mixture is too thick, thin with a little milk (not water) until the mixture is the consistency of whipped cream. You should see no traces of oil. Keep blending until the oil is fully incorporated this is key, so no shortcuts!

Stir in the ground flax seeds. Thin with milk, if needed.
4. Grind 2 tablespoons flax seeds in a coffee grinder until fine. Because flax seed meal spoils so quickly only grind the flax seeds just before eating and consume this meal within 20 minutes of preparing. Stir the ground flax seeds into the emulsified cottage cheese/quark/flax oil mixture. Add a 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract, almond extract, or extract of your choice and stir until completely blended. Thin the mix with a tablespoon or two of milk to thin if desired.
5. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl or bowls, drizzle each serving with 1 teaspoon raw honey or manuka honey. Top with berries, prepped fruit, and sprinkle with nuts and ground spices, if desired.

Beautiful Sonoma County, California as seen from the car window traveling down the road.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Celebrating El Día De Los Muertos (The Day of The Dead) in Southern Arizona and Banana Salsa

by Michelle

"After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure."
                                                                                                     —J.K. Rowling

Our sister, Juliette's beautiful daughters, Avalon and Sonora at Tucson's All Souls Procession.
Top Row: Juliette's son, Paul and Sonora. Bottom Row: Avalon and Juliette
We all met for dinner in downtown Tucson before attending the Procession.
   Last year, I celebrated El Día De Los Muertos over the course of a couple of events, beginning with a weekend in Bisbee to attend and photograph an art and altarpiece juried exhibition managed by my sister Juliette and concluding with the All Souls Procession in downtown Tucson.
   The art event was held at Central School Project which is housed in a historical building (and a retired high school) situated just above the downtown area. The former classrooms have wood floors and beautiful casement windows that open to let the fresh air circulate around the high ceilings that are embellished with crown molding.
   The gallery space is not too small and not too big and is flanked by staircases that give the room an air of openness like an Escher drawing. Juliette encouraged me to contribute artwork to the show, and with some nudging, I made canvases from photographs that I captured during the All Soul's Procession of 2012 and 2013 as well as photographs of my visit to Tumacácori. The community altar was decorated with paper flowers made by a small group of women, including my sister, Juliette. I traveled down to Bisbee to photograph the event and to document how the paper flowers are made.

This is one of the images (and my favorite) that I contributed to the Art and Altar
Piece Juried Exhibition hosted by the Central School Project in Bisbee, Arizona. 
   For the last few years our family has made an event of attending the All Soul's Procession. We eat dinner early and then we stay together as a loosely knit group. We stake a claim to territory on the sidewalk where we hope to maintain an unencumbered view of the Procession as the reflective participants meander by in honor of loved ones that have died. Because I choose to shoot the Procession handheld (no tripod) and without a flash, every year I seek to find an area to stand where the road is flooded with light from overhead street lamps. So, depending upon how long dinner lasted, and how thick the crowds have become, we have not yet had the opportunity to stand in the same place twice from year-to-year.
   The 'tarot of photography' is the way I'd describe capturing images at the All Soul's Procession. No two photographers standing side-by-side will produce the same photographs. A bit of luck and skill and perhaps even chutzpah come together for one to quickly capture with the click of a shutter, the fleeting personal moments that rapidly appear and just as quickly disappear. The strolling crowd is constantly moving forward, and past where I am standing. My camera is held at the ready, just below my chin, while my eyes scan the crowds for interesting subjects and compositions. I never really know what I have picture-wise until I download the photos to my laptop and begin scrolling through the images. I cringe at the "just missed" shots, which are usually too blurry. And, I rejoice at the clean captures. That's life... sometimes you just don't know what you're going to get. It's a bit of a game. Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win.

All Souls Procession 2014

Art and Altarpiece Juried Exhibition at Central School Project 2014

My sister, Juliette and friend, Carolyn did an amazing job organizing the community event.
The larger-than-life Joker was contributed by Tucson artist, Hank Tusinski.
The textile birds are handmade by Renata González.
   This year our extended family was thrilled that Juliette's sugar skull was featured on the cover of Edible Baja Magazine. Juliette has been making intricately decorated sugar skulls adorned with brightly hued fondant frosting for a decade. Her festive designs never fail to delight us and we look forward to seeing her new creations in August and September, which are made in advance preparation for numerous celebrations held in mid and late October leading up to November 1st, when Día De Los Muertos is observed.
   To learn more about making sugar skulls, read our blog post how to make sugar skulls at home and then throw the ultimate sugar skull decorating party. And, if you are going to host a sugar skull decorating party, there is no better time to make and serve Juliette's famous Pumpkin Soup. For dessert, what could be better this time of year then baking Dead Man's Party Cookies? Nada!

My daughter Maddie is proud of her Auntie Juliette for making
 the sugar skull featured on the cover of Edible Baja Magazine.
Our sister Juliette built this shrine in the bar area at Cafe Roka in Bisbee. 
Juliette made the skeleton "Sprite" and the loaf of sourdough fougasse-style 
bread shaped like a skull (featured on the left). 

Banana Salsa

   Make this salsa ahead of time by simply mixing all the ingredients together except the banana. When ready to serve, peel and dice the banana and add it to the mix. Double the recipe if needed, but be forewarned that leftovers of this salsa do not keep well.
   Whip up a quick meal of tacos or steamed tamales and top with a large spoonful of Banana Salsa for a burst of fruity, tangy flavor. The salsa is also beautiful and tasty served over steak type fish such as Halibut, or pan fried chicken breasts.

1 large, ripe, firm banana, peeled and diced
½ red or yellow bell pepper (or half and half), seeded and diced
2 Tbsps chopped fresh mint, cilantro or Italian parsley
1 scallion, trimmed and finely chopped or 2 small shallots, minced
1½ Tbsps fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp brown sugar or honey
1 Tbsp jalapeño, seeded and minced
1½ tsps minced peeled ginger root
1½ tsps olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients; toss lightly to mix. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve within one hour. Makes 1½ cups.

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