Tag Archives: Brussels sprout

Spicy Mexican Mulled Red Wine Cocoa – The Dusty Baker Goes Camping

Definitely not New York City

Now and then it’s a good thing to listen to those around you who know you well.

I love my work.  I love my time in the kitchen, this blog, writing for websites, writing articles and working with Easy Eats Magazine, which has been an incredible trip so far.

But I’ve recently been made aware that unless someone demands that I turn off for a little bit and just enjoy… well, I don’t naturally do it for myself.  I so love how I fill my time that it seems I’ve forgotten the joys of an entire day without a computer, a smart phone, a fully stocked baking kitchen, or a to-do list.  So last weekend my father and brother intervened and forced me to leave my computer and phone at home and spend the weekend in the hills of Vermont with nothing but a grill, campfire, a few ATVs and rocky trails, and some pretty awesome people.  Tough love, right?

Mitra in her smoking jacket, perfectly at home in the wild.

At first light Saturday morning I jumped in a van with the Dusty Brother, Mitra, my cousins Brien and Tanya and their daughter Maria.  We had the ATVs strapped onto a trailer, a huge pile of wood, a mess of groceries and way too much booze for four adults.

And, by George, it was an incredible weekend.  Cold, but not frigid.  We stayed in the framework of a house my father and the boys were in the process of building: no electricity or running water, but some basic kitchen equipment, a propane grill and rooms with mattresses on which we layered sleeping bags and warm blankets.

My brother introduced me to the thrill that is racing ATVs through rocky mountain paths – they were definitely rough.  But the childhood drive to keep up with my baby bro led me to maneuvering a huge machine through mud puddles, between low branches, and up an intense, rocky, uneven hill that definitely inspired an inner pep talk before I got the courage to plow up it (in fairness I had totally made Dusty Bro drive the thing DOWN for me cause I totally thought I’d flip the thing, and he gave me no choice but to go back up alone – which I did, better than him, if I say so myself).  We raced down the windy streets at crazy speeds and came home muddy and exhausted.  I want to do that every day.

Food was never far away, and I found incredible peace cooking simply: a skillet apple pie, hot toddies, roasted Brussels Sprouts and potatoes, a breakfast of steak and eggs, and a little improvised concoction I’m calling Spicy Mexican Mulled Red Wine Cocoa, that kept us warm and dizzy as we toasted by the fire.

Warming, sweet and pungent, it was inspired by Paul A. Young’s Adventures in Chocolate.  I saw his demo at the NY Chocolate Show and fell in love with his recipe.  I’ll be making it soon in full at my holiday dinner.  But for this trip I merely used what I had – some crushed Mexican chocolate I had spiced up for an article, a good bottle of red wine, some dark chocolate left over from S’Mores and some decaffeinated tea bags that were seasonally spicy.  The result was rich, warming and festive – perfect when the sun went down early and the darkness brought on a bitter chill the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Cousin Maria and Mitra

Dusty Bro at the "stove"

Me cooking (Maria playing with my camera)

Mother Gaia in a plastic cup

Spicy Mexican Mulled Red Wine Cocoa

Prepare in Advance:

Crush two disks of Mexican chocolate into a fine powder.  Add a dash or two of cayenne pepper, two dashes of cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg.  Preserve in an air-tight container.

Bring on the trip:

  • The Mexican cocoa
  • 1 large bar of dark chocolate
  • 3 chai, ginger or some sort of spicy teabags
  • 1 bottle of dark red wine
  • some sugar
  • water
  • A medium saucepan
  • Hot cups


  • In the saucepan, combine the cocoa and enough water to just dissolve it.
  • Put the saucepan on heat, and add enough wine to cover the bottom of the pan.  Heat to steaming.
  • Add teabags, and let infuse for about 15 minutes.
  • Remove teabags, add the chocolate (chopped) and stir until it dissolves.
  • Add the rest of the wine, and bring up to a steam (don’t simmer, as you want to keep the alcohol in!)
  • Serve and enjoy around a blazing fire.

Savory Stuffed Acorn Squash with Lamb and Cranberries

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Lamb and Vegetables

For those of you who don’t know me very well, my food lifestyle and this blog started because of a lifetime of dealing with Lyme Disease and her related minions.  Since I was twelve I’ve had three serious flares of Lyme, which have resulted in severe joint and bone pain, muscle spasms, neurological waves of yuckiness (medical term) and scores of issues with food.

But I am very fortunate.  I have an incredible medical team, a supportive family, and health insurance through my family business (it’s practically impossible to get insurance outside of a business if you have a pre-existing condition).  And the intimate experiences I’ve had with my body have shaped my lifestyle and approach to wellness and food.  

This week I could feel the weather changing in my bones.  From a springy, energetic summer demeanor I’ve felt my body shifting into the Hunchback of Washington Heights.  Today, for the first time in a while, I had to medicate, and know the coming cold will make this a more regular occurrence.

But overall I still feel so far from where I’ve been before.  And that is a result of listening to my body, seeking out excellent medical advice and constantly nourishing my body with the goodness of positive things around me.

Enter this recipe.  I’d noticed I’ve been craving meat lately, suggesting that I may be slipping back into anemia.  The abundance of root vegetables and hearty leafy greens of the season is timed perfectly.  As is the new batch of Indonesian cinnamon I just picked up.  Along with the calming, inspiring affect I feel when working with food, a recipe like this provides so many nutrients to fortify us against the coming cold.

And it’s just plain tasty.  And not hard to make.

Many newer cooks can be intimidated by lamb – I know I once was.  But it’s one of my favorite meats to cook, and so deliciously versatile.  I find it takes the combo of sweet and savory that I so love better than pork or beef.  And it’s packed with iron.

Acorn squash is another of my favorite fall foods: along with simply roasting it, it’s the perfect nest for meaty and vegetarian dishes alike.  A favorite filling is tempeh stir-fried with quinoa, carrots and dried fruit.  Heck, even a Thanksgiving bread stuffing would taste divine.

But this one combines lamb, onions, carrots, cranberries, Brussels sprouts and sunflower seeds for warm, filling and dynamic results.

The recipe is endlessly adaptable.  Grab what you have leftover in the fridge or pantry, and have a blast.

Happy Autumn everyone!

Lamb, Carrots and Brussels Sprouts Inside Sweet Acorn Squash


  • 2 acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 2 Tbsp blackstrap molasses, regular molasses or pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup rocking awesome olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 lb lamb, cut into small cubes
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 4 carrots, scrubbed and chopped into small pieces
  • 6-8 Brussels sprouts, shredded
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 2-inch ginger root
  • 1 tsp sharp cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • sunflower seeds or other chopped nuts to taste


  • Heat oven to 350°.
  • Place squash in a deep baking pan skin down.  Brush with molasses / maple syrup.
  • Place in heated oven and bake for 30 minutes while prepping lamb.
  • In a large skillet or cast iron pot, heat oil on low.
  • Add onions and garlic and cook on low until golden and soft.
  • Season lamb with salt and pepper and add to skillet, browning on all sides.
  • Add rosemary and toss to coat.
  • Remove lamb to plate.
  • Into the hot skillet drop cranberries and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add carrots, Brussels sprouts and cinnamon.  Grate ginger over the mixture and stir to combine.  Cook for about 8 minutes until the vegetables soften.
  • Add vinegar and toss to coat.
  • Turn off heat, return lamb to skillet and mix thoroughly to combine.
  • Remove squash from oven, fill evenly with lamb mixture.  Cover with tin foil.
  • Return to oven and cook an additional 30 minutes or until lamb just starts to brown on top.

Serve sprinkled with nuts and a drizzle of molasses and vinegar, if desired.

Makes four hearty servings.  Great as a main course with a salad or wilted greens on the side.

Beautiful to present at a special dinner, too!

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