New Year, New Eats – Mahi-mahi and Lamb

So, I’ve been busy cooking and prepping and cooking some more. The BA Food Lovers Cleanse seems to be a little easier this year. I mean, I’m not doing the whole thing by any stretch, so that makes it¬†much easier. But the recipes (mostly dinners) that I am doing seem easier. Fewer ingredients, less chopping. Some of them still take a long time, but there’s less active time.

The first BACleanse meal I made was mahi-mahi without the beans (#Whole30 and all that), which I’d never cooked before, and a side of rainbow chard with mushrooms. The mahi was good. I’ve never loved chard, and I’m afraid I didn’t wash mine enough, so it tasted sort of grainy. But the mushrooms were delicious. It doesn’t look very appetizing in pictures, unfortunately :-(.

Next up was the Moroccon lamb with pomegranates. The recipe called for lamb shanks, but I could only find lamb shoulder. Google told me that they are both tougher meats that do best with long cooking, so I figured they were similar enough. I bought the shoulder.

Side note 1: I have only somewhat-recently begun eating significant amounts of meat, and apparently it hasn’t been long enough to learn the different types of meat and cuts and what’s good for what. But now, thanks to the Food Lovers Cleanse, I know this about lamb at least.

Side note 2: I learned several years ago that, according to the Environmental Working Group, lamb has the highest environmental¬†impact of the meats Americans typically eat. So my husband and I generally avoid it. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve only had lamb a few other times in my life. I remember trying a ‘lamburger’ at… I think the state fair?… in second grade. And maybe one or two other times. However, the whole reason I like doing the BACleanse is ¬†to try new things… and let’s be honest, I like having a schedule and sticking to it. To a fault.

So back to making the lamb. Shoulder instead of shanks. I really wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do to the meat. I trimmed off most the fat and cut the meat from the bone (which I don’t think would have been necessary for shanks, but seemed to be necessary for what I had), and saved the bones in the freezer for making bone broth sometime soon. And, instead of braising it in the oven, I used my brand new slow cooker that my sister gave me for Christmas. And then left the house to go to yoga.

The pomegranate juice and seeds in this made it really fruity and sweet – in a good way. I’m not sure if this is what was supposed to happen, but my dish resulted in more of a stew than anything else, and that’s how I’ve been eating it. I still have one serving frozen in the freezer. Yum.

I made both these dishes on a weekend (Saturday and Sunday nights). That was especially important for the lamb, which required several hours at least to braise/slow cook. I think I slow cooked it for about 3 or so.

I’ll write about the other dishes I’ve been making in a later post, which will probably be less exciting because I have been forgetting to photographically document my process for most of them.

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Pumpkin Puree

Making pumpkin puree has become an annual tradition for me, one that I use to celebrate the arrival of Fall. This year, I made it on October 4th, which was maybe a little early. It was officially Fall, but the weather was still pretty summery, and I had a little trouble finding the small pumpkins I wanted. However, it was also a rare weekend in town, and making pumpkin puree is an all-day event. I was only in town because Hurricane Patricia rolled through and messed up my weekend plans, and I thought I should seize the opportunity.

This tradition started in October 2012, which was the month Dan and I got married. We decorated the head table at our wedding with sugar pumpkins, and after the festivities were over, I decided to turn them all into puree. I froze the bounty and had delicious, homemade pumpkin puree that lasted me through Winter.

Atlanta Wedding Photographer | Jo Arellanes for LeahAndMark.com
Atlanta Wedding Photographer | Jo Arellanes for LeahAndMark.com

You can only sort of see the pumpkins in the photo above. It’s the only one I could find that even kind of shows them.

Anyway, I used then and continue to use The Pioneer Woman’s homemade pumpkin puree recipe. (Aside: I recently learned that The Pioneer Woman has a TV show, and I saw part of an episode while on a cross-country flight. Who knew. She wasn’t what I expected. Sweeter in person; more sarcastic in blog form. The opposite is probably true of me.)

This year, I bought six pumpkins, knowing that each additional pumpkin means that much more work, but also that much more pumpkin puree. The first step is to cut the tops off. One of the six proved much too hard to cut off. I swear it was like plastic. I also made Dan try. The knife simply did not cut into the flesh at all. So I put that pumpkin out on the front steps for decoration, and proceeded to use only five pumpkins. A week later, someone had smashed the poor pumpkin in the street. Whoever did it must have been much stronger than Dan or me.

The whole process took maybe five hours. And made me realize that the 30-year old food processor that my mom gave me is not as effective as my cheap immersion blender, so… I think it’s gonna go.

I now have pumpkin puree galore! From the picture above, it looks like I filled 8 quart-size bags. I’m not sure if each has a quart, though. I used a 1-cup measuring cup to scoop the puree into each bag, and only did two (albeit, overflowing) scoops into each bag.

While making the puree, I also roasted the seeds (somewhat following this recipe from Oh She Glows and adding Penzey’s Cajun seasoning). That night, I made some really delicious ¬†pumpkin chili. Like,¬†really delicious. Dan thought it was fantastic. Unfortunately, as I so often do (especially with soups and stews), I didn’t follow any specific recipe or document what I did. Just now, I Googled pumpkin chili to try and find a few that I could recommend, but you can do the ¬†Googling just as well as I, and I don’t really know what to recommend. I’m sure it involved at least:

  • onion
  • beans (kidney, black, pinto probably/maybe)
  • maybe a final jalape√Īo from my rooftop pots
  • maybe bell pepper
  • pumpkin puree obviously
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • diced tomatoes

Anyway, it was good. And spicy!

I have since made pumpkin chili twice. Once was adapted from this Serious Eats turkey pumpkin chili¬†recipe. It was good, but not as good as that first night. The second one was adapted from this recipe for¬†easy slow cooker southwester 2 bean chicken¬†from the gracious pantry (which my friend, Emily, shared with me over a year ago). Heavily adapted: I started with but did not fully use a slow cooker, I added onions, I only used a tiny bit of salsa (and only because I felt like I needed something to add a little more flavor at the end, and I don’t even know if it achieved it – I then added chili powder), I used three types of beans, and I added pumpkin, obvi. So. Anyway. Also good, but not as good. I’ll eat the last two servings of that batch this week for lunch – I only need two lunches this week because it’s a holiday week, so no salad jars this week.

In October, I also used some of the pumpkin to make Running on Veggies’pumpkin cranberry oat muffins, which were an attempt to use the pumpkin in a non-chili recipe, while also reintroducing some grains (which I’d been avoiding for months) but remaining mostly gluten-free. I thought they were tasty, but they didn’t really rise like muffins should, and I’m pretty sure that people enjoying non-gluten-free muffins wouldn’t choose these over those.

This past Friday night, I also made hamburgers with pumpkin puree, using Civilized Caveman’s recipe (without the honey drizzle). They were¬†really good. I think it might have been the pumpkin pie spice more than the pumpkin puree, but who knows.

I’m not sure how else I’ll use the pumpkin this year. In years past, I’ve used it to make homemade pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, but since I’m still not really eating sugar and bread, I probably won’t be doing that. Regardless, I’m pretty sure that whatever I do with it will be delicious, because, pumpkin puree.