Gumbo with Ham Hock and Shrimp

Gumbo with Ham Hock and Shrimp

I was lucky to be involved in many projects when I was teaching requiring travel to many areas of the U.S. and what I  enjoyed about each experience was that after a brain draining day of work — often dealing with a three-hour time difference — we’d wander in small groups to shop, take a tour of something interesting if it was available, and most often enjoy local cuisine.  Although it has been many years, I was able to visit New Orleans twice for two different projects, and on one of the trips happened across a tiny red book called The Little Gumbo Book by Gwen McKee.

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Pork and Cabbage Soup


Pork and Cabbage Soup

When I think back on most years of my life, I am able to remember being sick once every year or two — and when I started teaching — every year.  Sometimes, it went on for more than two months, lingering, wearing me down, leaving me longing for a chest that felt free of the elephant that seemed to be sitting on it, and the racking cough that left my ribs sore from the exertion — sometimes even cracking them.  I’ve never been told I have a chronic illness, but if I had,  I wonder whether it would have changed anything.  I know when I’m getting sick.

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Baked Apple Dumplings with Sweet Browned Butter Sauce

<img alt="Apple Dumplings with Sweet Browned Butter Sauce from Sass & Veracity"/>

I think the first time I tried to make an apple dumpling I was about 26, give or take a year. I don’t remember cooking much during that particular time in my life, but what I did cook has stayed with me — for better or worse.  A successful pot of chili verde qualifies as one of my better accomplishments, and apple dumplings one of my worst.

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Apple Pomegranate Crisp with Pistachios


I love baked apples;  in pies, cobblers, cakes, — you name it, and I love them. But I think apple crisp is my favorite.  I’ll blame it on my brother since he was crazy over it when we were growing up.  And if he knew I was playing around with an old favorite, he’d roll his eyes and tell me I was ridiculous.

But I already know that.  It makes life much more interesting — especially if one’s a foodie.  Understanding how flavors and textures work with one another opens up so many possibilities, and waiting for that first bite after the experimentation is done is so worthwhile.

The perfect baked apple dessert is a bite of still slightly crunchy, and tart — nothing too sweet or soft.

So when I thought about the ingredients in this apple crisp, it only made sense that if pomegranates were included, then pistachios should be included as well.  Both are native to Iran, but now grown in California.  Pistachios are one of nature’s amazing foods — packed with antioxidants just like pomegranates.  If you’re a nut lover, then it will help to know that while you’re munching your way through a hand full, you’re helping your HDL levels as well.

I’d say that with all that good info, this dessert not only fits the comfort food bill, it’s healthy, too.

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Pomegranate Vanilla Pot-de-Creme

Arils from 5 pomegranates
I can't resist pomegranates.  Although I've never owned a tree, I can remember knowing where at least one was growing when I was young — no matter where I lived — and kept an eye on it to see if it mattered to whomever owned it.  If the fruit was left on the ground after it fell, then that meant I was free to pick one from the tree and dig in, no matter how long it took — even if I had to climb over a fence.

The only places I see pomegranate trees now are around older homes, or on the perimeter of lots where homes have been removed to create something new, like a strip mall.  And since fence climbing doesn't exactly mix with middle age, I've succumbed to purchasing pomegranates when I see them at the market these days.  Pushing a shopping cart can be brutal during the rush hour, but I rarely wake up sore the next morning.

I do understand that the semi arid and temperate climate of San Diego makes it a perfect place to grow them however, and that they adapt well to containers, so I just may be in the market for my very own tree.

Why all this talk of memories and pomegranates?  POM, the nation's largest producer of the antioxidant rich pomegranate, is having a contest, so I thought I'd do some thinking about how I might use the fruit in something other than a salad.  I settled on two homey desserts — one for my husband and one for myself.  He loves creme brulee, and I enjoy baked fruit crisps, so that's what I created:  "Vanilla Pomegranate Pot-de-Creme" and "Apple Pomegranate Pistachio Crisp."

And yes, they taste great together if you want lots and lots of pomegranate!  IMG_7331

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