Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Cranberries

I can not get enough of sweet, roasted chunks of butternut squash in the fall. I like to keep a whole cooked squash in the fridge to use in salads where the bright orange squash chunks take the place of tomatoes, or for use in warm, hearty grain salads made with onions, peppers, kale, and farro. Recently, I picked up a few butternut squashes and Brussels sprouts at a farmstand and roasted them with olive oil, salt, and garlic pepper.  When they came out of the oven, I sprinkled them with dried cranberries and a drizzle of sorghum syrup. The result was as colorful as it was yummy.
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Prepping butternut squash can be a challenge. The shell is hard to peel, and it feels like you are risking life and limb when you try to cut into one. I make a shudder/squirm movement everytime I make that first cut as I try to shake off the image of me lopping off one of my fingers. Here is a cooking tip, so none of us will ever have to face that scenario, microwave the squash for a few minutes to soften the shell and then peel and slice it. To do this, cut the tips off of each end of the squash, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, pierce the squash up and down its length with a fork, and microwave for three to five minutes depending on whether the squash is cold or at room temperature.
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The Recipe
Yield: makes 8-9 cups

Ingredients:
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2 pounds Brussels sprouts, stem trimmed and quartered
4 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon McCormick’s Garlic Pepper
⅔ cup dried cranberries
2 heaping tablespoons sorghum syrup or honey

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400º

Prep Brussels sprouts: wash, dry, trim the stem, and quarter lengthwise.
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Prep butternut squash. Microwave to soften shell and then peel, slice into discs, and dice into bite-sized pieces.
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Toss butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, olive oil, salt, and garlic pepper in a bowl. Spread into two parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheets.
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Roast for 20 minutes and then rotate pans on oven racks. Cook until done, about 20 minutes more. Remove pans from oven and immediately add about a third of a cup of cranberries and a heaping tablespoon of sorghum (or honey) to each pan. Stir together in a bowl and serve.
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Here it is served with Brooks’s recipe for Pork Tenderloin and Perfect Rice Every Time!

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Favorite Fall Desserts
Marion’s Crazy Good Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips
Mom’s Pumpkin Pie
Mom’s Apple Pie with a Cheddar Streusel Topping
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie
Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie
Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and Whipped Cream

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe.

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Sorghum, Oats, and Cranberry Granola

When I first started making my own granola, the family couldn’t get enough of it. Yes, it was nutritionally dense, packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, but it was also sweet and salty, which is what made it so addictive and high in calories.

Granola

I recently read Michael Moss’s bestseller, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. He wrote, “To make a new soda guaranteed to create a craving requires the high math of regression analysis and intricate charts to plot what industry insiders call the “bliss point,” or the precise amount of sugar or fat or salt that will send consumers over the moon.” With the concept of the bliss point in mind, I began tailoring my recipe to reign in the salt and sugar content and decrease the calories. I had to make quite a few batches to get to a healthier and tolerable bliss point.

Here is a list of the dry ingredients and their corresponding nutritional attributes (starting with the bowl of coconut at the top of the photo):

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Coconut: fiber, iron, zinc
Pecans: antioxidants, vitamin E, protein
Craisins: antioxidants, fiber
Ground Flax Seed: omega 3’s, fiber, protein & lignans
Raw Pumpkin Seeds: magnesium, zinc, omega 3’s
Brown Sugar: calcium, iron
Wheat Germ: vitamin E & folic acid
Raw Sunflower Seeds: vitamin E & magnesium
Almonds: protein, fiber, vitamin E, minerals
Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats: lowers LDL cholesterol, fiber
Chia seeds: high in fiber and protein

Ingredients:
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8 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups wheat germ
1 cup ground flax seed
1 cup raw, unsalted, sunflower seeds
1 cup raw, unsalted, pumpkin seeds
2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup slivered or sliced almonds
1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
¼ cup chia seeds
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons sea salt
⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
⅔ cup sorghum syrup (or honey)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup hot water
2 cups dried cranberries

Yield: 4.5 pounds

Preheat oven to 275º

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, wheat germ, flax, brown sugar, seeds, nuts, coconut, cinnamon, and salt.

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Into a 4-cup liquid measure, pour ⅔ cup olive oil, add sorghum until it reaches the 1⅓ cup line, and add hot water until it reaches the 2⅓ cup line. Stir in vanilla and whisk until well mixed.

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Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and immediately mix until all of the ingredients are uniformly coated.

Pour mixture into two  13″ by 18″ baking pans.

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Bake for one hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Once out of the oven, add the cranberries and mix. The granola will become crunchy as it cools. Store in an airtight container when thoroughly cooled. Freezes well.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds add a nice crunch and they are high in fiber and protein. “Chia” comes from the Mayan word for “strength, ” and apparently athletes swear by them for improving endurance. The chia seeds are on the right. The flax seeds are on the left.

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You may be wondering where you have heard the word “chia” before:

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A tasty and nutritious breakfast:

I enjoy having a half cup of granola with plain kefir for breakfast. Kefir is a slightly sour probiotic drink that has the consistency of liquid yogurt. It can be found in the health foods section of the grocery store. If you add berries to the top, it’s like eating a healthy sundae for breakfast!

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Related Breakfast Posts
Fruit and Nut Bread
The Biscuit King
The Navel Mary Way: How to Peel an Orange

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Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe.

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Raising Sorghum Cane to Make Sorghum Syrup

Last fall, my husband and I were invited to watch a Mennonite family make their fall batch of sorghum syrup. We have enjoyed exploring the Kentucky countryside and had been watching the fields of sorghum cane grow since they were planted in the spring. While there are many varieties of sorghum, some for syrup, some for silage to feed the animals, and some for grain to be milled for a gluten-free flour, this family was growing sorghum for syrup and animal feed.

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The fields were gorgeous with their tall stalks, topped by a sea of golden bushy seed tassels. Up close, one can quickly see why sorghum is in the same grass family as corn, oats, and wheat; they all grow in the same way with their long stems, broad leaves, and seed tassels full of kernels of millable grain.

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Sorghum cane usually grows from six to ten feet tall and is harvested in September and October. It is very heat tolerant which may explain why it is often the last grass plant standing in local fields and why it is grown mostly in the Southeast.

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To harvest the cane, farmers strip off the leaves and remove the seed tassels. Next, the stalks are cut down as close to the ground as possible because that’s where most of the juice is found. The stalks are stacked on carts, and on this farm, the carts are pulled by horses to the grinding shed.

We had been to this farm many times to buy eggs and vegetables but had never been down this lane which goes to the sorghum processing shed. The farmer told us to look for the tall smokestack, and we’d find the family there boiling the syrup

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The open shed on the right is where the grinder is located. Here, the sorghum stalks are fed into a set of rollers which presses the juice into a collection basin.

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If you have ever been to a historical demonstration of sorghum pressing, you may have seen this same process, only back in the day, a mule was used to provide the energy to rotate the gears which turned the rollers. The farmer fed the cane into the rollers, and the sorghum juice was pressed into a barrel. I found this image online from a publication called Bittersweet.

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In Nashville, you can see a live demonstration of this process at the Music and Molasses Arts and Crafts Festival held annually at the Tennessee Agricultural Museum in October.

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On the Mennonite farm, a conveyor belt removes the leftover stalks and drops them into another horse-drawn cart

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where the sweet tasting scraps are fed to the horses.

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There is beauty in the simplicity of this process.

Further down the road, we came to the cooking shed where the thin green sorghum juice is cooked down to a thick syrup.

The uncooked juice is stored in the white tank located on the shelf of on the left. The gray tank, on the right, is the boiler where the steam is created that is used to cook down the syrup in the cooking trays located inside that white door.
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On the backside of this building, you can see the boiler on top of the wood-burning furnace. The younger generation of boys is tasked with keeping the fires stoked while the older men tend to the cooking inside.
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The steam, much hotter than boiling water, from the boiler, travels through pipes to the cooking room where it runs under a 75-foot maze of metal cooking trays.
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Ten gallons of juice will render one gallon of syrup. The steam in the room is created by the nine gallons of water boiled out of the juice. The steam is so thick you can barely see across the room. The sorghum syrup starts out as a thin neon-green liquid loaded with not so tasty chlorophyll. The farmer uses a hoe-like tool to skim off the chlorophyll and other impurities on the liquid’s surface, as it boils up from the juice.
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By the time the syrup reaches the end of the maze, it is ready to be filtered and jarred. Here the farmer scrapes the last bit of sweet foam off the syrup so there won’t be white streaks in the jar.

An old farmer I met in Nashville told me when he was growing up, there was a commercial sorghum mill in Crossville, and on the day they were cooking the syrup, all the mothers in town would send their kids to the mill with steel cups to scavenge the foam and bring it home. The mothers would use this gleaned sweetener to make cakes and biscuits. He said the foamy syrup was tasty and free!
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The syrup drips through the filter into a barrel and from there is poured into jars of all sizes. It is sold in stores around the county.
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Sorghum is enjoying quite a renaissance lately. I see it frequently listed on restaurant menus. You can use it in almost any recipe that calls for honey, molasses, corn syrup, or pure maple syrup. That includes both sweet and savory dishes. It is high in iron, potassium, and calcium and is 100% natural with no chemical additives.

As we were getting ready to leave the farm, a young boy offered me a sorghum seed tassel. He had been picking off the kernels and eating them while we toured. I asked his dad if the seeds were good to eat. He told me, “Don’t eat them, PLANT them,” and he gave me a seed tassel. He instructed me to plant one red seed every six inches in the spring.
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Our favorite way to enjoy sorghum is mixed with butter and spread on a biscuit! Check out my biscuit recipe here.

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Related Posts on Commercial Farming:

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Oats, Sorghum, Ginger and Cranberry Cookies

My son is leaving town after a nice visit home, and even though he has moved out, I still have a need to send him off with his favorite cookies. He says they are so hearty he eats them for breakfast. I like the way he is thinking; it helps me feel virtuous when I go for seconds.

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One of the key ingredients in this recipe is ginger, a spice that imparts heat and sweet at the same time. Usually, I use ground ginger, but since I had fresh ginger root in the fridge, I decided to grate it and see how it affected the taste.  The change was mind-boggling. Between the ginger and the sorghum, this is one flavorful cookie.

Yield: 3 dozen large cookies

Ingredients:   
sorghum oat cookies     
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons salt
½ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons ground ginger or 1½ tablespoons freshly grated ginger
4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sorghum (could substitute honey or molasses)
2 tablespoons water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1½ cups raisins, Craisins, or dried cherries
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (try sunflower seeds if allergic to nuts)

Topping mixture: you’ll need a small bowl of water, and some sugar and salt

Prepare oven and baking pans:
Preheat oven to 350º.
Line three baking pans with parchment paper, or grease pan lightly with canola oil.

Mise en Place (or getting your ingredients ready):
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To melt butter: place butter in a Pyrex liquid measuring cup. Pyrex measures are made of tempered glass and won’t burst when exposed to extremes in temperature. Melt butter in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. If little flecks of butter remain after melting, that is okay; better to let them melt on their own than risk overheating and causing the butter to separate into fat, water, and milk solids.
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To prepare chopped nuts*:  I won’t dirty the food processor for just one cup of nuts, so here is what I do instead: place the measured amount of nuts in a baggie and use a meat mallet to crush them into small pieces.
*NEVER pound directly onto a granite or a soapstone surface! You could crack the countertop. Always pound on a wooden board placed on top of the counter.
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To grate fresh ginger: As a general rule of thumb, when substituting fresh spices for dried, triple the amount of dried spice called for in the recipe. This recipe called for 1½ teaspoons of ground ginger, so I grated 1½ tablespoons instead. Know that 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon. Also, you can store unpeeled ginger root in a baggie in the freezer.

First, peel the ginger root and then grate. I used a fine-holed Microplane grater. The ground ginger will be very moist.
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To prepare eggs for recipes: Always break eggs in a separate bowl before adding to the batter.  You need to inspect them for broken shells or for a bad, foul-smelling egg.

Finally, Making the Cookies:
Into your large mixing bowl add the dry ingredients: the flours, baking soda, salt, sugar, ginger, and oats. For a refresher course on how to properly measure dry ingredients, check out my post, Home Ec 101. As an FYI, I spooned the flour into the measuring cup and then leveled it off with a knife (or my finger!). If you scoop the measuring cup directly into the flour sack, it packs the flour into the cup. If you do that four times, for the required four cups of flour, you could add as much as one full cup of flour to the recipe.

Mix on slow speed for about 30 seconds.
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Add the liquids: sorghum, melted butter, water, and eggs, and mix on low-medium speed for about one minute.
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Turn the machine off and use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the Craisins and nuts and mix on slow speed for another 15 seconds. Over-mixing the flour could result in tough cookies.

Use a tablespoon or a cookie scoop to make golf ball-sized portions of dough.
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Place 12 balls of dough on each cookie sheet. You could make these cookies smaller and get more cookies, but when I tried this, the smaller cookies were too crunchy and lost their soft, chewy texture, which is what makes them so special. Press the balls flat with a fork in two directions to create a criss-cross pattern.
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Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of each cookie lightly with water followed by a  sprinkle of sugar and a touch of salt.
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Bake cookies for 8 minutes and then rotate cookie sheets on oven racks. Set a timer! Cook for about 7 more minutes, or until lightly browned. Cooking time may vary. Best to err on the side of “I think they’re ready,” than “Ugh, too hard” when determining doneness. Place cookies on wire racks to cool. Cookies will harden as they cool.
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 39
Amount per serving
Calories 186
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7.4g 10%
Saturated Fat 3.3g 16%
Cholesterol 22mg 7%
Sodium 223mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 28.2g 10%
Dietary Fiber 1.9g 7%
Total Sugars 16.3g
Protein 3.1g
Vitamin D 4mcg 21%
Calcium 22mg 2%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 145mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Recipe analyzed by

 

Here are a few other recipes that use sorghum:
Sorghum, Oats, and Cranberry Granola
The Biscuit King
Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Cranberries
Raising Sorghum Cane

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe.

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.