RECIPE. Oct 26, 2012

Roasted Eggplant Ratatouille

I have a confession. I love to mess up a perfectly good recipe, on purpose. I adore any recipe writer who is detailed and precise about their explanations and measurements. It helps me figure out how far I can veer before crashing into disaster. Becoming a decent cook is similar to any skill in life. Once you learn the basics you can begin tweaking, fiddling and meddling until you find your pulse. Your mark. Your touch. Typically, I try to follow a recipe exactly as written on the first attempt. Any attempt after, however, is fair game. Even at first attempt, I am liable to cut diagonally instead of vertically. I might add a handful of chopped basil instead of measuring it out precisely to 1/4 cup. I want to stay within the confines of the recipe without letting it confine my spirit, my passion for food. I, more than most, can become so lost in perfectly executing the details that I completely forget to enjoy myself. The final product may look and taste perfect but it will lack heart, soul and passion.

I’m really trying to remind myself of this lesson, especially lately. I fear I have gotten into a spell of looking a life as far to precise and perfect. As a set of skills I must develop and execute to succeed. As though anything in life that is executed perfectly, without heart, ever inspires anyone, including me. Inspiration is a feeling you get when you see someone else showcase a part of themselves that comes from a deep spark within. Perfection has nothing to do with that spark. This recipe falls right into that opportunity. Originally taken from Molly Wizenbergs book “A Homemade Life”, it is dictated with precision. She tells you how much to use, how thinly to slice and which way to cut and shape each vegetable. It doesn’t really matter. Really. I chopped and seeded with abandon. I measured and guessed. I threw in a bit of curry powered, garam masala and nutmeg. It still tasted delicious. In fact, I got so wrapped up in the process that I completely forgot to take a final picture. I think, in spirit, that is best. Then you never know what it was “supposed to” look like. You will only know what you created, how it tasted on your tongue and the way it made you feel when you were creating and that is all you need to know.

Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Arrange eggplant rounds in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Pour 2 Tbsp olive oil in small bowl and brush onto eggplant. Flip slices and brush second slices as well, taking care that each as a thin coating of oil. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping slices halfway through, until soft and lightly browned on each side. Remove from oven and cool. (You can do this step a day or two ahead and refrigerate)

Warm 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or large, deep skillet. Add zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and just tender, 10—12 minutes. Remove it from the pan, taking care to leave behind any excess oil and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and add onion. Add a bit of oil if pan is dry. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add bell pepper and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, but now browned, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt, thyme, and bay leaf and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low, over and cook for 5 minutes. Add eggplant, zucchini, stir to incorporate and cook until everything is very tender, 15-20 minutes more. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Discard bay leaf and stir in basil.

Serve hot, warm or room temperature, with additional salt for sprinkling. This dish is even better a day or two later, as the flavors get time to mesh.

RECIPE. Sep 27, 2012

Apple Tarte Tatin

I will begin this post with a great deal of apologizing. It will be the kind, however, that is done by any good friend that has been gone for far too long. The kind of apology that occurs after I knock the door, you open and I thrust a delicious dessert, still warm from the oven; begging to be drenched in vanilla ice cream and consumed. That is the only way to apologize for such an unexplained absence. I am not only apologizing to you, my dear friend, but to Molly Wizenberg. Writer of “A Homemade Life”, creater of the blog “Orangette” and my current personal hero. I believe the next few posts will be a direct copy of every recipe from her book. I can’t help myself. In my defense, she really should not have written such beautiful stories and recipes to match. As with any good idea, I want to try everything she writes about because she makes it all sound not only incredible, but familiar.

Familiar in the way you feel about your best friends spaghetti sauce and the way it always fills your house with the smell of love, comfort and safety. Familiar in the way that your favorite cookie recipe automatically makes everything feel right, even if they whole day fell to pieces. I want to make every recipe in Molly’s book because I feel like I know her and thus know the food she makes. I not only want to taste it all, I want to feel the way she feels when she eats it. Powerful stuff. So forgive the next few posts as I lavish adoration and attention. She may or may not be my idol right now, but I’m sure it will be evident the former is true.

I hope, only hope, to find some way to convey that feeling to everyone here. I want you to try these recipes that I create, not only because they will feed your bellies but because they will nourish your soul. I want to become familiar with y’all. In that spirit, I’m going to make it clear that my absence has occurred due to a family move to Austin, Texas. We are simultaneously settled, settling and unsettled. I’ve been inspired and found a renewed energy around being in the kitchen. I can’t wait to share what I’ve been doing. Tonight, however, I start with Molly’s Tarte Tatin.

It doesn’t look glamorous, and isn’t even the very first thing I would choose if waiting in line at a local bakery. I would be the fool in the end. This is astounding. My husband likened it to “creme brulee but better”. It is really best warm and served with a simple vanilla ice cream. I landed on this recipe because Molly described it as “a housewife in stilettos” and “it doesn’t dally with small talk. It reaches for your leg under the table”. Who wouldn’t want to eat something that is described with such passion? I know I am first in line. In fact, bakeries should really start describing their pastries in a similar manner…I would love to see what they invent.

Molly recommends puff pastry and I bought what I thought was puff pastry but was called Filo Dough. I’m not sure if they are really the same thing but it worked just fine. I just skipped the step where she asks you to roll out the dough really thin. I actually think I put to little dough in the pastry and would just put all of it in next time. It was still heart stopping and phenomenal…I can’t imagine how much better it would taste with even more dough. I may have just fainted from elation while writing that last sentence.

I also made a choice to buy whatever crisp, sweet apples I could find and used whole wheat pastry dough. Small changes but it didn’t seem to alter the incredible complexity of taste…as long as butter and sugar is involved…you are typically set. Since I don’t want to completely steal Molly’s thunder, I am making you go to her original post for directions. It’s the least I can do for a woman who talks about food the way a person might talk about a lover.

RECIPE. May 3, 2012

Cheesy Spinach Crackers

A friend of mine had posted a link to a recipe for home made goldfish crackers a few months ago. I tried the recipe and my son gobbled down the entire batch, along with an entire group of mom’s I meet with on Monday mornings. It was such an enormous hit I thought often about making them again. Just as I got up the motivation I saw another post by a food blogger I follow that made spinach crackers. Whoa. The two recipes began making love in my mind and made this little baby. It was born from a desire to make great crackers with even more nutritional punch. My first attempt was soggy and sticky. I added more flour and less water and got a winner.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a non-stick mat. Or just use 1 baking sheet and bake 2 separate batches like I did. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, dill). With a pastry blender (or two forks), cut in the butter into the flour mixture until crumbly. In a blender, blend the water and spinach until smooth. Now pour this into the flour and butter mixture. Stir this mixture until it just comes together and then gently knead with hands until it forms a ball. Be sure not to over handle the dough.

Split the dough in half. On a non-stick mat or lightly floured surface, roll out one half of the dough very thin (1/16th inch). Cut with cookie cutters or with a pizza roller. Gently lift off with fingers and place on prepared sheet (no need to space far apart as they don’t spread). Repeat as necessary. Sprinkle with more salt (I used Herbamare and it tasted amazing!) Bake for 9-10 minutes, rotating pan half way through baking to ensure more even baking. Crackers should be lightly golden when ready. My crackers took 10 minutes, but watch closely after 8 minutes. Be careful because they burn quickly. Cool completely on baking sheet and serve immediately. Store leftovers in a glass container.

RECIPE. Apr 24, 2012

Bake Sale for the Food Bank

I know at every post you read you deeply wish I would just show up on your door step with everything cooked and ready for your immediate consumption. I know your drool at every photo, short circuits your keyboard and you’ve bought 100 in the last two years I have been posting. I know you bookmark the recipes with every intention of trying them on some night when inspiration and energy consumes you, only to discover you end up falling asleep on the couch every night with a empty bowl of ice cream on the coffee table. Oh I know. I know because I do it to. I bookmark recipes from other blogs and tear out photos and inspiration from magazines and Pinterest. All the while wishing they would just materialize in front of me so I could eat it. Sometimes it is not the baking and cooking I enjoy so much. It is actually just the eating. I also know how excited I would be if some of my favorite bloggers were just happening to sell their baked goods. I would probably pee my pants due to complete elation if I knew I could buy these goods and the proceeds would go to benefit my local food bank. I just might have a heart attack if I could also meet these bloggers. Guess what? It’s happening. Jenni from The Plum Palate is putting together an incredible event to benefit the Olympia Food Bank. You should check out her write up for the full details but I can promise incredible food from eight local food bloggers at only 1$ per item. Seriously? You gotta do it. Oh and did I mention there will be a raffle to win gift certificates to some incredible local bakeries such as Bearded Lady, San Francisco Street Bakery, Blue Heron Bakery, 8 Arms Bakery, and Bonjour Cupcakes.

Both cash and food donations will be valid for tickets you can exchange for baked goods. And remember, the food bank accepts both perishable and non-perishable items. That means you can donate almost anything, from a package of pasta to a bunch of carrots. I will be there from 5-7 and I will be making the following:

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Seven Layer Cookies

Vegan Brownies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows

Visit our Facebook event page. Come down. Enter a raffle. Donate and eat some food all for an incredible cause.

RECIPE. Apr 20, 2012

Vegetable Lasagna

My son is at an age now where he can legitimately help out in the kitchen. The tasks must be simple and supervised but it is a fantasy fulfilled. When he was much younger my sister bought him a full chef kitchen kit. Even though he was no where near old enough to utilize the toys, I pulled them out and he used them as rattles and items to chew and drool upon. I still dream of the day he will pick the recipe and I will help him in his determination to make our family a meal. I’m far ahead of myself but these small moments prep me for a completion of that dream and fill my days with little moments of contented bliss and fulfillment as a human being.

There are days when I am multitasking a boiling pot, frying chicken and roasting vegetables that I wish he didn’t have such a keen fascination with what I was doing in the kitchen. On this particular day, however, I prepped the meal during his nap, excited for his participation once he woke up. I lined up all the ingredients and he stood on a chair and diligently placed one layer on top of another. The focus and concentration out of this kid at such a young age still astounds me. The meal was incredible and tasted even better with that special layer of dreams and fantasies fulfilled.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make white sauce: Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in flour with a wooden spoon and cook until mixture darkens slightly in color, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil. Smash and peel garlic. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and add the garlic. Cook, whisking occasionally, until thick (about the consistency of yogurt), about 20 minutes. Season with salt, cayenne and nutmeg.

Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil over high heat and salt generously. Add lasagna noodles to boiling water and cook until ardent. Drain, but do not rinse and lay each noodle out flat on a work surface.

Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish with olive oil. Use hands to squeeze as much water as you can from the spinach (if frozen); set aside. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Cook meat or mushrooms with spinach and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook until meat is no longer pink or mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Tear basil leaves over the mixture and toss.

Cover bottom of the prepared baking dish with 3 of the noodles. Top with 1/4 cup grated cheese, 3/4 cup tomato sauce, 1/2 cup white sauce and 1/3 of the sausage/mushroom mixture. Season with black pepper.

Add another layer of 3 noodles. Repeat twice and dot the top layer of noodles with the remaining tomato sauce, white sauce and grated cheese, making sure to dot some tomato sauce around the edges so that the noodles don’t dry out. Bake, uncovered for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Let lasagna stand for 10 minutes before serving.

This will freeze really well. After baking, let rest and freeze whole or in portions.

RECIPE. Apr 15, 2012

Apple Cake

Tis the season that the weather begins to tease and taunt. Currently, the sun is out and I’m donning shorts and sandals. Tomorrow I could be in three layers of clothing and shivering as the rain pelters my face. This brings me no delight. It’s downright frustrating. It’s like someone giving you the most amazing bite of food you have ever had in your life and as you beg for more they just smile and say, “You will get more at some point but I’m not gonna tell you when”. Begin meltdown and an adult tantrum. This cake, however, is the ideal tantrum tamer. It’s like and flakey with a touch of apples, which happen to be in season at the farmers market, leftover from last September. It is also dense enough to go with a warm cup of coffee as the rain smothers your windows and you glare at the clouds.

I would love to try this recipe with whole wheat pastry flour, less sugar and butter and some flax in place of one egg. For now, however, it was exactly what the doctor ordered. Sugar and all. The original recipe is from Honey and Jam. She is incredible. I love anything I have ever made from her blog. Simple. Authentic. Perfect. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 9 inch round baking pan.Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition, then stir in vanilla.

Add the flour mixture all at once and mix on a low speed just until incorporated. Pour (more like spoon, it will be very thick) into the prepared pan.

Score the peeled side of the apples with the tines of a fork and arrange the apples atop the batter around the perimeter with 1 slice in the middle (I cut each large slice into 3-4 small slices)

Sprinkle with turbinado sugar and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the cake is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Sometimes the batter around the apples looks slightly underdone, but don’t worry; it’s just the moisture from the apples.

RECIPE. Apr 12, 2012

“Uchiko” Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

Our family recently traveled to Austin. The reasons for travel were mostly business and SXSW related tomfoolery. It’s an amazing world. Really. Another world. It doesn’t even feel like a state that’s connected to the United States of America. It’s warm. All. The. Time. The people are unbelievably friendly and charming. They really live up to the stereotype of southern hospitality. It was a mecca for our family. It was a trip I enjoyed from the third day to the last. The first two days it rained. Hard. Everyone came outside to watch as though it were some bizarre anomaly like a comet dipping out of the sky on to the ground or a leprechaun really appearing at the end of the rainbow. I was, however, grumpy. I flew five hours with a toddler for more rain? No thanks.

Then on the third day the skies opened like a dark curtain on a stage and the sun made its grand entrance.We spent an unmentionable amount of time outdoors and consuming food, all with very close friends. This recipe is for a deeply good friend. He took us to a place called Uchiko. We waited almost an hour to get inside. I was ready to throw in the towel. My toddler was ready to throw everything. I was starting to get “hangry” a vicious combination of hungry and angry. I’m so glad I stayed. Each dish was an orgasm just waiting to happen inside my mouth. I believe I may have unintentionally reenacted the scene from “When Harry Met Sally”. You know the one. The first dish was roasted brussel sprouts in a thai chili sauce. My tongue wasn’t prepared for such an onslaught of amazingness. I vowed I would come home and replicate it and I think I did.

Cut brussel sprouts in quarters and place in 13x9 glass baking dish. Coat with olive oil, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until very soft and golden. Remove from oven and stir. Switch temperature on oven to a low broil. Broil for 5 minutes. It’s okay if it burns a bit on the edges….it supposed to give it extra crisp. Remove from oven and cover with sweet chili thai sauce. Consume happily. Chopsticks make it even more fun. The measurements for ingredients are not rigid. The recipe can easily be sized down for just one or increased for a party. Add more brown sugar if you want it sweeter or more spices if you enjoy that blow to the mouth.

RECIPE. Apr 5, 2012

Easy Granola Bars

I once wrote about my dear dislike for granola, the store bought kind, only to happily discover that it came alive when cooked at home. The belief that I knew what I did and did not like began to adjust itself. I realized that most anything I can make at home I really enjoy. Most anything. There are a few incidents that we never speak of and won’t dare mention here. I have also taken a stab at granola bars. While enjoyable, they are loaded with sugar and jam and don’t speak to that sweet and salty mix I really enjoy in the perfect snack.

A friend of mine shared that she was trying to decrease the amount of packaged and store bought goodies. Replacing them with as many home made versions as possible. This woman has two small children and a husband who is in the depths of his medical internship and thus rarely home. I admire her and was shocked she has the time to make anything. She insisted they were terribly easy so I requested the recipe. It really is incredibly easy and quick and delicious. When I hear those words combined, I usually do a somersault of glee and put it on the blog. In that order.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine ground flax seeds and water. Set aside. Combine oats, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in mixing bowl. Stir in raisins and chocolate chips. In separate bowl, combine maple syrup and nut butter and mix until smooth. Combine nut butter mixture with flaxseed-water mixture.

Add wet mixture to dry and stir well. The mixture will seem dry, but keep stirring until fully integrated. Press mixture into 8x8 inch pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes. Allow pan to cool slightly, then cut into bars and transfer to cooling rack.

RECIPE. Apr 2, 2012

Saucy White Fish

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed blogging about food and telling stories about my personal life. It has, however, become a large obstacle in my desire to post at least twice a week. The thought of creating a story, theme and some clever words, leaves my butt cemented to the chair in protest. I believe it has to do with this wonderful change in life where I have very interesting, incredible and exciting things occurring every day. The thought of staring at a computer screen while my boy naps is always on the bottom of my list. It is not as though I haven’t been in the kitchen. Quite the contrast, I can seem to stay out of it. Even to sit down and write a little post about what exactly I am doing in that very kitchen. So today, I am going to share a recipe and commit to sharing at least two recipes a week.

The story may not be as clever, the pictures may not be as plentiful or in depth, yet I am sure that is not what has really mattered to anyone. What really matters is whether the food that comes out at the end is any good. Trust me, it is always good. The original recipe came from Olympia Seafood Company, a local seafood supplier. The woman actually just told me the bare bones while exchanging fish and money over the counter.

Set your oven for 380 degrees and line a baking dish with foil for easy clean-up later.  In a fry pan, sauté your onion, carrot, mushrooms and garlic in the olive oil until desired tenderness and set aside to cool for a few minutes.  Once it’s not blazing hot, stir the sour cream into the onion/garlic mixture.  Place the fish in the baking dish and pour the sour cream and onion mixture over the top, smoothing it out evenly.  Bake for about 18 minutes and then check for doneness. Enjoy!

RECIPE. Feb 28, 2012

Inspired Quinoa Bean Soup

I was lavished with food and gifts a few weeks ago by some incredible friends in Seattle. My husband was in Africa on a retreat for his job. He claims he worked but I have yet to see a photo to substantiate this claim. There were many photos, however, of the beach, food that made me drool and shorts. Lets get back to me and my son and the snow storm that ensued while he was away. Just before the storm, my son and I stayed with these women who I love dearly and who love my son dearly and that makes me swoon all over them in a somewhat inappropriate manner. The meals they prepared were magazine worthy and one dish in particular made me go back for at least four bowls.

It was a soup made of quinoa, kale, potatoes and love. It sang gently of comfort and health, and was exactly what we needed while my husband was so far away. I was not able to obtain the recipe from my friend but decided to get creative one night and make something as close as possible to what we had eaten but using only my own personal knowledge and “expertise”. I have to say, I really hit it out of the ball park with this one. I made enough to give to a friend and she raved and demanded the recipe. I fluffed my chest out appropriately and informed her it was actually my very own recipe. I may have strut a bit when I walked later that day, maybe.

Saute onion and carrots in oil over medium heat until softened. Add garlic cook another 30 seconds.

Add broth and beans and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook 30 minutes.

Add potatoes and rutabaga, cover and cook another 30 minutes.

Return to boil. Add quinoa, spices and greens, reduce heat, cover and simmer another 15-20 minutes or until quinoa is soft. Remove from heat and serve with thick, hearty bread.

I also added a bit of leftover shredded chicken that was in our fridge. I think it was a wonderful addition but not at all necessary.

RECIPE. Feb 11, 2012

Roasted Nuts & Mango Salad

I was invited over for dinner and asked to bring a salad. The main course was sweet potato and bean enchiladas. I know how to chop up vegetables and throw them together last minute, buy some dressing and call it a day. On this particular day, however, I had some extra time and a desire to roast nuts in a sweet and savory mix. I made this mix during Thanksgiving as a way to use all the extra pumpkin seeds I had from several huge pumpkins that were left over from Halloween. My nephews were around for the holiday and munched on the mix and begged me to send them some in the mail. Fast forward to several months and I finally decided I had put it off long enough. I wanted to mail my promise. I was thus inspired by the nut mix to make a sweet and spicy mango salad to accompany our dinner.

The nut mix takes no time at all and is incredibly delicious. A great way to snack with healthy intentions. The salad is also very quick and keeps well for at least 3 days once mixed (without the dressing). Heat the oven (or toaster oven) to 350°. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast them for 6 minutes or until they are fragrant and their color deepens slightly. In a medium-size bowl, stir together the spice mix.

In a saucepan, combine the glaze ingredients and bring them to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Stir in the toasted nuts and continue to stir until all the nuts are shiny and the liquid is gone, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Move the glazed nuts to a mixing bowl, sprinkle on the spice mix, and toss them well to coat. Spread the coated nuts on a cookie sheet and return them to the oven for another 4 minutes; check regularly to make sure they don’t burn. Remove and let cool. Makes 2 cups.

Mix together ingredients for dressing in a bottle with a lid. I use old salad dressing bottles. Shake well. Chop 1/2 cup of nuts. Place greens and mango in large salad bowl. Top with chopped nuts. You can dress the salad in the bowl or allow each person to dress it to their liking. The undressed salad will last longer as left overs in the fridge.

I wish I had remembered to take a photo of the final product but alas…I was far to busy consuming it. Enjoy!

RECIPE. Feb 3, 2012

Meat Veggie Burgers

This post will be short and sweet. I don’t have a lot to say. My soap box has been left for this surprising sunshine and I’m feeling like a nap could be a better way to spend my “free time” than writing a long post. These burgers are my own invention upon realizing I had extra ground meat and a desire to get more veggies into my son’s diet. It’s really not all that precise and you could make tons of substitutions. To say he enjoyed these would be so sadly inaccurate. He sucked them down so fast I could hardly remember whether I had put one on his plate or not. This action was coincided with lots of “mmmmm” sounds. This is a boy that will pull spinach out of his eggs….so the fact that he inhaled the greens in this burger just proves how delicious it must have been.

Mix together all ingredients until well incorporated. Shape into patties. Heat frying pan with a scant layer of oil. Fry on both sides about 5 minutes or until cooked all the way through. These could probably be baked as well at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes. I didn’t get a chance to try that out but I would love to hear if someone else does.

RECIPE. Jan 31, 2012

Fluffy Whole Wheat Pancakes

I love making pancakes on saturday mornings. It is usually the first day of the weekend for our family and it feels as though it signals a slowing down and soaking in of all that we cherish. Usually, that is time with one another, and for me, it also means more time for cooking and baking. My little guy, who really isn’t that little anymore, is increasingly interested in helping me in the kitchen. This last saturday we were sans my husband and I wasn’t about to let that stop our little tradition. I mixed together the dry ingredients, gave my 16 month old a whisk and away he went.  To say I was proud and possibly moved to tears is an understatement. It’s such a joy to have someone keeping me company in the kitchen, the fact that it is my son is a bonus.

I want to convey that while the pictures show him squatting on the floor, this is not required to obtain a replica of our product. I’m sure you knew that…but thought I would clarify for any hard core literals out there. This recipe is my own, which has been happening more and more lately. I keep forgetting to write down the ingredients and this does not bode well for a blog. I did remember this recipe and it’s ingredients so bonus points for me and lucky for you!

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined. Obtaining the assistance of a young child is not necessary but does make it more enjoyable. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, and then whisk in the remaining wet ingredients. If you want a smoother batter, let all ingredients soak for 5-10 minutes. Gradually pour the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients as you whisk them together until just combined. Do not over mix.

Bring a skillet to a medium heat, this takes about 4-5 minutes and it is essential to get the pan nice and hot before pouring your first pancake. Lightly oil the pan. When I say “lightly” I really mean it. Make it light folks…it makes a big difference. Pour 1/3 cup of batter into the pan. Allow bubbles to come through and the edges to lightly firm and then flip to cook the other side.

Our favorite topping is peanut butter and real maple syrup. Sometimes we splurge and put whipped cream on…ya know…when we are feeling really lucky.

RECIPE. Jan 28, 2012

Beets Me Chili

It’s been a long time. I could excuse myself for a number of reasons. Husband on a business trip for 10 days and I alone with the 16 month old boy. Worst winter storm in 20 years. Power outages. Possible insanity while all this occurred at once. If I were honest, however, it has just been a lack of inspiration and motivation. I haven’t really felt like cooking anything new or inspired by anything I have been reading in the cooking world. It may also be true that I have a really good set of “go-to” recipes that I find difficult to stray away from. Then my husband returned, the snow melted, the power was provided and a fire was lit under me. I went to a dinner party recently and someone mentioned putting beets in their chili.

Beets in chili? This I had to try. It also felt like a fairly easy gate way recipe to new and more exciting adventures. I put together my favorite chili recipe, with a few tweaks, and added some beets. Outcome? Tremendous. The beets add heart and earth to the chili without making it taste like…well…beets. I also decided to throw in some finely chopped greens to up the ante even more. I did learn, however, it is wise to either put everything in the slow cooker for the day so the beets get nice and tender or boil the beets until tender before adding them to the chili if you are short on time. Get adventurous, try this out. I swear your kids will adore it and only the redness of the chili will give away that there is anything different.

If using a slow cooker/ crock pot: Throw all ingredients in, turn to low and let go for 6-8 hours. Garnish with cheese and sour cream.

If using a traditional pot: Place diced beets in tall pot. Pour water in pot until beets are barely covered. Place pot on stove and bring to boil. Boil until beets are tender (15-40 minutes depending on size). Drain water and set beets aside. Sauté onion in oil until tender. Add garlic and sauté about 2 minutes more. Add beans, tomatoes, beets, chopped greens, smoked paprika, cooked ground meat and chili seasoning. Bring to boil. Let simmer 20-30 minutes. Add broth as necessary if chili becomes too thick. Garnish with sour cream and cheese. I also made vegan squash cornbread muffins to go with dinner.

RECIPE. Jan 6, 2012

Lamb Stew & Pie

There is a restaurant in Bellingham, Washington called Man Pies. It opened in the last few years, during the time our family was living in another part of the state. We often visit, however, and decided we had to try any food establishment with such a clever name. Turns out, we were about to get our socks and pants knocked off. The first pie I tried was stuffed with a lamb stew. It was so astounding I have never ordered anything else off the menu because I am so obsessed with the unique flavors married in this dish. I have had it in my mind to recreate this joyful experience at home but have not been handed the time or ingredients.

I assumed it would be easy to find a good recipe. I was wrong. It was nearly impossible. Most people use puff pastry for the top and this was just unacceptable to me. I will admit, it takes about an extra hour to make your own pie crust. It is so totally worth that hour of time. If you just absolutely cannot make the extra time, which I am well aware can happen, a store bought crust will do just fine. Even puff pastry would work but the oven temp and cooking time would be altered based on the package directions.

The dish is a meal all on it’s own and could easily feed 6-8 people. It also keeps very well, refrigerated, for at least a week or two. You can also make the crust way ahead of time and freeze for up to 6 months, just removing it the night before and putting it in the refrigerator to thaw. You can also make the filling of the pie a day ahead of time and refrigerate for up to 3 days, just reheat in a pot before putting inside of pie crust.


As a last ditch effort, this is also a fabulous lamb stew recipe. If you just have 30-45 minutes to make dinner then pick up some rolls or hearty bread at the store and whip up just the stew portion of this recipe. It will not fail you.

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Heat oil in large soup pot over medium-high heat and brown lamb meat (about 4-6 minutes on each side). Add garlic, onion, celery, carrots and potatoes and cook another 8-10 minutes or until vegetables have softened. Add tomatoes, broth, wine and spices and bay leaf and bring to boil.

Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove 1/4 cup liquid from stew and mix with arrowroot powder until blended. Add mixture back to stew pot, stir and simmer, uncovered, another 10-15 minutes or until stew has thickened. Add frozen peas. If making only the stew then stop here, and serve in bowls with bread.

While stew is simmering, roll out one pie crust and place in 9-10 inch pie pan. If you need more direction on how to roll out crust just look at link for pie crust in side bar. Cover and place in refrigerator. Roll out top of pie crust. If stew is still simmering, put top crust in refrigerator, covered. When stew is 5 minutes from complete, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Once stew is complete, remove pie pan from refrigerator, fill with stew and gently place second pie crust on top. Cut excess crust dough around pie pan and seal edges together with fork by gently pressing all the way around.

Brush top of crust with lightly beaten egg. Place pie in oven and let cook 45 minutes or until crust is browned. Let cool 30-60 minutes or overnight in refrigerator. Slice and serve.

RECIPE. Jan 1, 2012

Meatloaf Diet

The first day of the new year and my feature photo is a huge hunk of meat covered in bacon. Not necessarily what you might have in mind when this is the day most people begin to set goals for health and weight loss. I am not oblivious. This is incredibly intentional. I want to send a clear message about food and health. The contents of this meatloaf are local, seasonal and sustainably raised or produced. Each and every ingredient was purchased from the farmers market or food cooperative. While it may have more fat content and less vegetables than a conventional salad, it probably has far fewer harmful chemicals and additives and far more healthy omega 3 and 6, protein and beta carotene.

My message is not that meat is healthier than vegetables. The message is: there is a balance to everything, including food. It took me years to discover, when you put time and energy into carefully selecting your ingredients, it often does not matter what you are eating. What matters is how present you are when you are making and consuming your dish. The more you stay in the moment, the less it matters whether you are eating salad or meatloaf. If the ingredients are from local, sustainable sources then you can trust that your body is being nourished without being harmed. Remember, however, there is balance. Eating meatloaf every night is neither good for you or the world we live in.

We all try the best we can to follow “rules” for eating well. The struggle, however, is the “rules” are often changing. Hundreds of “experts” have conflicting opinions. Children, work, hobbies and life take a lot of time and energy. We cannot always succeed every single day to get the “correct” amount of food in each of our bodies. What we can do, however, is use a strong foundation for health by visiting local markets and food cooperatives. Even if we are making meatloaf instead of a green salad or vegetable soup, we can feel positive about the balance we are creating in our world and our lives. We are focusing less on what we are eating and focusing more on where it came from, how it was made and how we are going to eat it.

It was also incredibly inexpensive for the large amount the recipe produced. I could have easily fed 8-10 people and still had left overs. Meatloaf is not some delicate art form in the cooking world. It’s the comfort food for a busy family. While many dinners can be a battle to get down my toddlers throat, I knew this would be one he would eat and happily ask for more. I made a side of roasted vegetables to balance the dinner.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all meat loaf ingredients except meat and bacon in a large bowl until well combined and mushy. Mixture will fizz due to baking soda and vinegar. Let sit 10-15 minutes, then mix in meat until well combined. On an oiled pan, loosely form meat mix into loaf. Drape bacon over loaf and slide into middle rack of oven and bake 50-60 minutes or until thermometer reaches 170 when put in middle of loaf.

Combine ingredients for glaze in small pot and bring to boil for 1-2 minutes. Twenty minutes before meatloaf is done, pour glaze over evenly and return it to oven.

RECIPE. Dec 20, 2011

Simply Roasted Vegetables

One of my favorite things happened last weekend. I was casually introduced to a new vegetable. While picking out my familiar items such as beets and carrots, I happened to overhear the woman who was making her purchase. She was discussing what she was going to do with her produce and mentioned how rare it is to find the two vegetables she was looking for: rutabagas and turnips. We grew turnips in our garden last year…I was really grossed out when eating them raw. As I found out with my initial aversion to kale, it sometimes only takes the right recipe to bring out the greatness in a vegetable.

After a little more inquiry, I learned you can roast both these vegetables as easily as you might roast beets or carrots. I asked for a few small picks and happily hurried home to give both these vegetables a fighting chance. I had recently learned an incredible secret to roasting vegetables: sugar and high temperatures.

I swear to you, even your children will eat this, as long as they can get past the fact that it is a vegetable. If for some horrific reason, they refuse to eat it, you won’t even argue. You wan’t them to hate it because it just means more leftovers for you. You will want leftovers. Trust me.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut vegetables in chunks. Don’t be precise about this, just cut it about the size you would want to put into your mouth. A little rectangle or square.  Place in lipped oven proof pan, coat with sugar, salt, pepper and oil and roast for 30-45 minutes. Roast until they are tender and browning. The high temps bring out the natural sugars in the vegetables and the brown sugar gently caramelizes the top. This can be refrigerated and happily eaten as leftovers for days afterward.

RECIPE. Dec 16, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake Holiday

Hello there. It’s been a while. Not sure you remember me. I’m the one with the clever, seasonal blog that you have been checking every day for the past two weeks only to be disappointed and heavy hearted when you learn there is not a single new post. Two weeks. Two whole weeks have gone by without even a little peep from this lady that calls herself a “blogger”. Shameful. Shame on me. I will, however, happily pull the, “It’s the holidays” card and leave you embarrassed that you ever thought bad thoughts about me….you know you did.

Well I am about to make it up to you in a BIG way. A creamy, cheesy, sweet and addicting way. It’s not even my own recipe. I straight up stole it from this lady. Sorry Pioneer Woman. Your cheesecake recipe with it’s gingersnap crust and pumpkin goodness is just far to delicious to keep secret any longer. Seriously. I ate the whole thing by myself. I may have given a piece or two to friends but I ate at least half the damn thing in the matter of seven days and that, my friends, took some serious self restraint.

A dear friend of mine had made this a few weeks back and I had ordered her to save me a piece or our friendship would officially be over. I don’t mess around when it comes to food, especially cheesecake. She complied, somewhat grudgingly, I may add, and I wouldn’t blame her one bit. My first bite may or may not have been followed up by some very inappropriate groaning and moaning. This is the kind of shit you sell your first child, and maybe your second, just so you can get one more fix. I’m dead serious. It’s that good.

This recipe is in now way healthy or “good for you” but it is so very very “good for you”. If you make it and feel guilty about eating every single slice all by yourself, call me up and I will happily fly my ass across the country to join you in a slice of heaven and self pity. We could be best friends!

You should follow all the instructions on the original post and do not be afraid if your cake starts to rise and look a bit like a volcano exploding in your oven. It’s supposed to do that and it will return to a preferable shape once it has cooled off a bit. I would also highly recommend setting the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet because I found the butter from the crust would drip into the oven and made my kitchen so very smokey.

An insignificant price to pay for such a sinful treat. I also highly recommend inviting over as many friends as possible to help you consume this cake or you will easily be having “just one more bite” until you realize there are no more bites left to consume and your stomach feels a bit achy. The recipe recommends chilling the cake at least four hours or over night and I tried to push the limit and cool it exactly four hours. I believe this was a mistake. This is a dessert that should be made the day before and just gets better with age, as most things in this world.

The original recipe calls for caramel but my friend and I both felt this cake was rich enough on it’s own. Be your own judge but I would reserve the caramel for a topping, if at all.

RECIPE. Nov 29, 2011

Festive Quinoa Vegetable Hash

The photo to your left is neither remarkable nor very good but it reminds me of the holidays. Fuzzy, warm, soft and bursting with color. This is a comfort dish that is meant for indulging between those very heavy holiday meals. I wasn’t convinced this list of ingredients would mesh well together but I should never have worried when the word “caramelized” is involved. Take anything anyone hates and caramelize it. No shit. It’s unbelievable. Onions? Caramelized? Beets? Caramelized? Brussel Sprouts? Caramelized. It’s like a magic wand for picky eaters. I kid you not, caramelized should really equal “fucking awesome”.

I guess that wouldn’t be so appropriate as titles in cookbooks. Fucking Awesome Onion Pork Chops. So this recipe was great. It is also a complete meal without a scarp of meat due to the power grain, quinoa. I think it would be a favorite in any home as long as you could get them to take just one bite. That’s no small undertaking but I have faith in you!

This recipe comes from an equally wonderful cookbook. This is the first recipe I have tried but the suggestions and ideas for having a family dinner is truly inspiring and motivating. It reminds me that the dinner table is a sacred space for connecting with one another and since this reminder we have taken action to remove all distractions from that opportunity to connect.

During the cooking process is also a great opportunity for kids to connect with parents and the food they are eating. Studies show children are twice as likely to eat their dinner if they are involved in the process of making it. Even if this means dinner takes a bit longer to make, it can really make a huge difference in your child’s willingness to consume their food. Think how much energy you will save at the dinner table when they happily chow down their meal instead of refusing to eat.

All of these ingredients are fairly seasonal as well, which means they will taste better and be less expensive, even as organic options. I got a huge bag of vegetables at the farmers market last week that lasted us two weeks and it was $9.50. That included carrots, onions, kale, spinach and beets.

Slice yams/sweet potatoes 1/4-inch thick. Toss with salt and 1 Tbsp olive oil. Place in well-oiled, nonstick baking pan. Cover tightly with foil, put in cold oven (this is important because gradual rise in temperature will bring out flavors) and turn oven to 400 degrees. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until yams/potatoes are very soft. Remove foil and bake another 20 minutes or until caramelized (golden or amber on the edges, almost burnt).

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in medium pot and sauté onion. Add garlic, ginger, beets and curry powder/paste and sauté until sizzling and fragrant. Add greens and stir until wilted. Add quinoa to pot of greens along with 3 cups stock/water. Simmer, with lid, until all liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes). During this time DO NOT STIR THE POT. Quinoa is a grain that cooks by using up little pockets of water/air and stirring really screws with that process. To check if water has been absorbed just tilt the pot lightly and if water runs towards the edge then let it cook a bit longer.

Fluff quinoa with fork, season to taste. Add olive oil/butter and a squeeze of lemon. Put quinoa on platter, top with sweet potatoes and enjoy!

RECIPE. Nov 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Menu 2011

This menu is missing it’s lead character, the turkey. I do have an incredible roast chicken recipe that I’m sure will translate wonderfully for turkey. I have never, and have not volunteered for, the job of creating the lead role for Thanksgiving dinner. Just writing about how I have not taken on this task makes my heart start beating rapidly, in panic, not excitement. I love bringing the side dishes, pie, drinks, anything really, except the main dish. I really dislike cooking meat as a main dish in general. This is not because I dislike eating meat, oh no, I do love my local meat, a lot. I just don’t enjoy cooking the stuff.

This role is usually handed off to my husband and he happily accepts. He also happens to make an incredible dish anytime he is in charge so why mess with a good thing? I am thankful for his willingness and patience in this area and so many others. I am thankful someone else has always taken on the grand task of roasting the turkey so I can enjoy my holiday without a mild panic attack. I am thankful for so many things it would take way to much of your time. I am thankful for you, my readers. These are suggestions for bringing seasonal, local ingredients to your table without too much time or money. Enjoy.

Cheesy Kale Salad

Ranch, Beet, Avocado Salad

Roasted Beets

Quinoa Vegetable Stuffed Winter Squash

Quinoa Kale Zucchini Cheesy Gratin

Curried Carrot Coconut Soup

Whole Wheat Garlic Herb Rolls

Carrot “Pumpkin” Pie

Cranberry Ginger Apple Pie

Pear Ginger Apple Pie

Easy Cinnamon Rolls if you are still hungry the next morning. I hope everyone enjoys their holiday and many thanks to all those who read this blog. Food is such a vital and central role in connection during the holidays. Thank you for connecting.

RECIPE. Nov 18, 2011

Pumpkin Curry Self Restraint

This is very close to the last in the series on what to do with a whole pumpkin. I started with a pumpkin roasting 101 and guts bread, moved on to making soup and now curry. This is one of those recipes where the quantity and type of vegetable really doesn’t matter all that much. I happened to have carrots, spinach and potatoes on hand so I threw it in with the mix. You can follow this recipe to the letter or add your own random vegetables looking sad and lonely in the drawer. This is the perfect recipe for shriveled carrots, droopy greens or that last bit of wrinkled onion you have yet to use from last weeks groceries. The flavor of the pumpkin is subtle and if you don’t have pumpkin, any squash will do.

Another note: If you don’t have time to roast your pumpkin or squash then throw it in early, with the carrots and let the whole thing simmer a little longer until it’s soft. I just so happen to be roasting pumpkin like crazy around here due to the three whole pumpkins staring me down. While this recipe was astounding, I think I may be done with pumpkin for at least a week.

I can now see that when people choose to eat what is in season, they eat so much that they become tired of the food until it is in season once again. The ability to restrain yourself from buying strawberries in December means they will taste just that much better in March and April. The fact that they won’t have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles just to get on your plate will also help satisfy your desire.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not at my best after I have traveled a while. I’m sure those strawberries aren’t much different. In terms of self restraint, I’m probably one of the worst. When I want a food item, I want it today, now, right this minute. I’m learning, however, sometimes it’s better to wait. While I may want a strawberry in the warmth of my heated home in the middle of December, I know it will not taste nearly as good and thus leave me unsatisfied, until I can pluck it from my own garden in April.

While I know that I can’t begin to wait for all things to come in season, I can choose to hold off on at least a few. This choice, helps me support my local farmers and decrease the amount of fuel and energy that will affect the planet for my son. It may just be a pint of strawberries in December, but it could mean one less farmer in my neighborhood gives up. One extra breath of fresh air for myself and my family. Just one. While I will always be far from perfect in any area of my life, I try to make at least one choice like this every day.

Heat 2 Tbsp oil in large pot. Add peanuts and sauté until roasted. Remove peanuts from pot and set aside. Sauté chicken breast in 2 Tbsp oil until no longer pink in the middle (about 5-8 min). Remove from pot. Sauté carrots, potato and onion in pot with more oil until softened. Add garlic and sauté another 2 minutes. Dump in can of coconut milk and add curry paste/powder.

Bring to boil. Turn down heat and let simmer about 10-15 minutes, covered, or until all vegetables are soft. Add pumpkin and spinach and simmer another 5 minutes. Serve in bowls and top with roasted peanuts. Enjoy this curry and your choice to eat in the season.

RECIPE. Nov 16, 2011

Pumpkin Soup

I began my series on pumpkin last week with a 101 on roasting the flesh and making bread from the guts. We continue with soup and later this week, I will feature a recipe for pumpkin curry and put up a suggested menu of recipes for a Thanksgiving meal. The recipe featured today, was actually my first introduction into the concept of local and seasonal foods. A few counselors met in the winter of 2007 to watch a training video for couples counseling. The person who hosted the event made us this soup on a very cold fall day. While we were all there for a training, conversation easily shifted to the food we were eating and the afternoon crept into the night.

Along with the recipe, she later emailed after we all raved about both, she began talking about her experience with local and seasonal foods. She was attempting to source her food and become as close to her farmers and products as possible. After reading a few of her adventures and experiences, I got curious and started educating myself. It’s amazing how little I knew.

Take those two carrots in the picture above. One is from our garden and the other from the co-op. Both are carrots but different varieties. Incredible how the selection of seed changes even the structure of a basic item like carrots. So this recipe is pretty special. It signifies a new beginning, warmth, comfort and friendship. I hope this blog and these recipes can do for you what this recipe started for me.

In a stockpot over medium heat, melt butter and saute carrot, onion, and apple for a few minutes, then stir in pumpkin and sage.  Saute until all are tender (I found I needed to add a little of the broth to moisten it). Add broth and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Puree all or half of the soup (I just pureed half and left in some chunks of carrot, apple, onion). Then add the cream and simmer for another 5 minutes—do not boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, although I found it was already delicious on its own!

RECIPE. Nov 11, 2011

Pumpkin Roasting 101 & Gut Bread

This is the first in a series on using a whole pumpkin. I mean the whole darn thing, well maybe except the skin. This is for all those who still have their little pumpkins lingering on their front door step long after the last fall leaf has turned yellow, orange, red and fallen to the ground. Am I the only one in this category? That’s embarrassing. To be honest, I didn’t even get a pumpkin for Halloween. We went to the pumpkin patch with my son the weekend before Halloween day and left with our hands empty. Out stomaches, however, were full of apple fritters and caramel apples. It was the real reason we went to the pumpkin patch. There may have been some motivation to take adorable photos, but the fritters were really our focus.

My mother was on her way to visit my sister the weekend after Halloween and noticed the farm stand she stopped at was giving away their pumpkins for free. She knows how much I love things that are free, especially food, and picked up a few for me. I had grand plans to use them right away but one weekend turned into the next and those orange globes were still staring me down. I had to admit, I was fairly intimidated. A whole pumpkin? What do you do with a whole pumpkin?

I took a deep breath and started doing what I always do when overwhelmed. I googled that shit. Turns out you can do a lot with a whole pumpkin. After poking around for a bit I got fairly excited. Then I stumbled on a recipe for bread you can make out of the guts of the pumpkin. I am the type of person to cut the mold off cheese or bread just so I don’t waste food. So the thought that I could make something edible out of a part of the pumpkin most people just toss out, was way too tempting to pass up.

With a focus, I found my drive and dove in knife first. The original recipe for the guts bread had way more sugar, eggs and white flour than I prefer, so I fiddled with it until I found my ideal recipe. Let me tell you, it’s incredible.

Before we jump ahead of ourselves, lets talk about what to do with the roasted flesh of the pumpkin. You can make a puree and freeze it or make pumpkin curry or pumpkin soup. I will have recipes for the last two in the next few posts. You can also just freeze the flesh as soon as it cools and let it thaw before using whole in recipes.

To roast pumpkin: preheat oven to 400. Cut whole pumpkin in half and then each half into several pieces.  Scrape out the insides, saving the seeds for roasting and the guts for bread. Place pumpkin on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive or canola oil, season with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven until tender but not falling apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool, peel skin off, and dice.

While the pumpkin is roasting, make bread. Preheat oven to 350 F or just turn it down once you remove the roasted pumpkin from the oven. Use your fingers and a pair of scissors to separate the pumpkin guts, making sure they’ll be able to mix well into the batter. Mix flax and chia with maple syrup and let sit for 15 minutes.

Combine flours, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and sugar in large mixing bowl. Add flax/chia mixture, applesauce and pumpkin guts. Stir until blended. Pour into two 9×5″ loaf pans. Bake 50-60 minutes. Cool slightly and take out of pans to let cool on a rack. I made this bread last night and one loaf is already demolished. So unbelievably good. As a bonus? The guts have the same nutritional value as the pumpkin flesh itself!

RECIPE. Nov 7, 2011

Squash Bean Burritos

There is this story about the creation of play-doh. When coal was the original heat source for homes, it often left black soot on wall paper. Play-doh was originally created to clean wall paper of the soot. When the industrial revolution, occurred, and people began relying on other forms of energy to heat their homes, the creator of play-doh thought his product was obsolete. His sister, a teacher, brought some of the play-doh to school to try with her children, as modeling clay was very firm and somewhat toxic for kids. Turns out, as you know, they loved it. So why the hell am I talking about play-doh on a cooking blog? When we think we may be headed for failure, often we just need a way to get new perspective to find success.

This happened the other night, when I was making dinner. I had found the recipe on her blog and was excited about the flavor combinations. It was Halloween, I knew we would be out late so I prepared many of the ingredients ahead of time. My son was dressed as Steve Jobs and we stayed downtown for the afternoon because he is so little and it was fun. We got home right around dinner time and as I began assembling the ingredients I realized, to my dismay, I had completely forgotten to make the rice. Key ingredient in my opinion.

My excitement quickly turned to self abuse and words like “stupid” and “idiot” flew out of my mouth. I was just a click away from dialing for sushi when I told myself to just stop, breathe, and think. Within a few moments, I realized I could make quinoa in just 15 minutes and it would have a much greater health profile than brown rice. As the recipe does not have much in the way of protein, it would also boost that number considerably. Success. Oh and it tasted damn good.

Preheat oven to 425F and line a large glass dish with tinfoil. Drizzle olive oil on squash and give a shake of salt and pepper. Coat with hands. Roast chopped butternut squash for 45 mins. or until tender. You can also buy frozen bags of cubed squash.

Heat burrito shell in microwave for 15 seconds. Top with beans, spices, squash, cheese, quinoa and other additional toppings of your choice. I added avocado and spinach. Wrap. The original recipe has you sauté it all with garlic and onions. I think this would also be a great idea. In the interest of time, I skipped this step.

Just in case you were curious. This is my son, as Steve Jobs.

RECIPE. Nov 3, 2011

Curry Carrot Coconut Soup

I’m torn. I am mourning the loss of daylight in the evening hours for a multitude of reasons. Cold season, long walks after dinner, playing with my son just before we do our bath time routine in the warmth of the sunlight, trips to the park to get out that last burst of energy and the natural light that makes my photos for this blog look decent. I am celebrating the coming of fall in just as many ways. The leaves changing color and falling to the ground; making the world burst with life, soups, cider and comfort food. While these photos are in no way my best work, the recipe is. I am ordering you to forget whatever ideas you had for dinner tonight and make this, now.

If you are plagued with a cold, even more reason. It is seriously quick, easy and just brimming with incredible flavors. The curry and cayenne will knock the snot right out of our sinuses. I was very pessimistic about this recipe but needed something warm, bright and easy to make this last week. I also happened to have all the ingredients on hand. I had canned soup as a back up but it was completely unnecessary. I’m actually fairly devastated I ate the last of it two days ago and already planning in making more this weekend.

Melt oil/butter in large saucepan over high heat. Cook onion, garlic, curry paste, cayenne, and salt until fragrant, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add carrots and broth, coconut milk and cook, covered, until carrots are very tender. Puree soup with immersion blender or regular blender until smooth. I left some carrot chunks as I like that in a soup. You can add yogurt, cilantro or nothing at all to finish it off.

RECIPE. Oct 30, 2011

Pecan Crusted Fish with Apple Salsa

I have long had an aversion to making fish. There has never, however, been an aversion to eating it. As a good friend would say, I can pound that stuff. Unfortunately, my consumption of said scaly friend has been limited to restaurants or trips to Mexico. It wasn’t until recently that I really started to feel like I was mastering this skill with enough precision that I could make it a regular spot on our weekly menu. While feeling particularly uninspired in the cooking arena last week, I took it up on myself to peruse my pile of recipes I have torn out of magazines. These recipes are torn with the intention that I will cook them for dinner that week, then inevitably, I wind up making this or this and the recipe goes into “the pile”.

I sorted through that pile with a mission and found several recipes that made me curious and salivate. Necessary requirements when in a cooking slump. This took very very little time or planning but did require a few ingredients you may not have on hand at home. I tell you it’s worth whatever extra trip you need to make to the store to make this happen in your house this week. The original recipe is a meal on its own but I also made coconut greens to add additional vegetables and taste.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Make crust: Whirl ingredients in food processor or blender until nuts are finely chopped.

Make fish: Brush fish with 3 Tbsp butter/coconut oil, pat nut mixture all over fish, and set on a greased baking sheet. Cook just until fish is opaque in center, 10-15 minutes. The thicker the fish, the longer it will cook. When it flakes easily when prodded a bit with a fork it is done.

Make salsa: Heat 3 Tbsp butter/oil in medium frying pan over medium-low heat, add shallots/onions and apple, and cook until slightly softened, about 2 minutes; remove from heat. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and remaining ingredients; stir into apple mixture.

Serve halibut with apple salsa and sprinkle with a little more thyme.

RECIPE. Oct 25, 2011

Freedom Vegetable Mix

Freedom. The word immediately sends me into a calm, peaceful state of being. Lets say it again. Freedom. I imagine open skies, silence and no expectations from anyone, including myself. Freedom. I also associate this word with my kitchen and cooking. Lately, however, the words tension, hurry, tired and impatience surround my kitchen. When this happens I pull everything I have out of my vegetable drawer and any leftovers that are still edible and begin scheming. I take a deep breath and just start cutting and frying until dinner is made. Sometimes it is more than a disaster, but often it is something easy and inspiring.

I never thought to share one of these “recipes” with any of you because, well, there is no science to any of it. Then I realized I wanted, more than anything, to share this idea of giving yourself permission to just cut, fry, spice and eat. No recipes, no measurements just you and the food sharing some time together.

At a time when the world seems to desire something indescribable but utopian, I feel the urge to join the movement in my own home. There is a safety and security in making a dish from a recipe that someone else has already figured out and it has it’s place in our lives. There is also so much to be said for experimenting, taking risks and doing something without knowing how much to put in, how long to cook it or how it will taste in the end. It helps you appreciate the process and not be so stuck to the outcome. I think we could all use a little dose of that these days.

Heat oil in skillet and add beets and carrots first and fry until softened (about 5-7 minutes). Add garlic, greens, potatoes/squash, grain, meat and spices and fry another 2-3 minutes. Place in bowls and top with avocado, salt and pepper. Enjoy the taste of freedom.

RECIPE. Oct 21, 2011

Easy Corn Chowder

Last year the corn from our community garden was sweet, firm and juicy. The addition of butter or salt would have been an insult to the natural flavors that just burst from each kernel. This year the stalks grew twice as tall but bore unsatisfying cobs. Dejected and downtrodden I came home with my ears and felt unsure. I couldn’t just throw all my hard work into the compost but I also couldn’t throw one more kernel down my throat. A week later a few fellow gardeners were singing praise about their corn chowder and I decided this was my golden ticket. After searching several recipes I adapted one that sounded just flat out interesting in process.

I had never even considered adding the cobs after they were stripped of kernels in order to thicken the soup. Pure genius. A natural thickening agent, better than cornstarch or arrowroot powder.  I am often drawn to a recipe because it just looks so damn good I have to taste the picture. This time, and many times, I am drawn to the science of the recipe even more. I often wonder if it really works or if some little joker is pulling my culinary leg.

No jokes here. It really works. Like a charm. So if you have some corn that just doesn’t taste quite right or your kids didn’t finish, then make this chowder. You could even use cobs that were eaten one night with frozen corn to complete the ingredient list. If you don’t have corn on the cob then just throw in frozen corn and a thickening agent such as arrowroot powder or cornstarch until you obtain your desired consistency. The squash is not necessary but adds a sweetness and additional thickness to the chowder that I loved. I put my squash in really early so it wouldn’t be hard but it ended up almost dissolving. I really liked it but I think I would also reserve some chunks to throw in at the end.

In a large saucepan, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add the carrot, squash and celery and cook for 4 or 5 more minutes. Reserve some squash for the end if you want chunks.

Break the corn cobs in half and add them to the saucepan. Add the milk and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. Make sure the heat is as low as can be and still maintain a gentle simmer (on our stove we had to use the “warm” setting) to prevent scalding the milk on the bottom of the pan.

Discard the cobs and the bay leaf. Raise the heat, add the potatoes, squash cubes (if you reserved some), 1 teaspoon of salt, fresh ground pepper to taste, bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes and squash are almost fork tender.

Raise the heat, add the corn kernels and the thyme or parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

RECIPE. Oct 18, 2011

Quinoa Kale Finger Food

I get these ideas in my head and until I follow through they circle around and around like a hamster in a ball. When I make quinoa there is always at least 2 cups left over that I try to throw into soup or salad to add extra protein to my diet. My son, however, is really interested in feeding himself and doesn’t take lightly to this mama trying to feed him a spoonful of quinoa. He wants to do it himself, which usually means it all ends up on the floor and maybe a single grain in his mouth. I wanted to up my chances of getting more goodness in his belly without taking away his independence. The trouble, however, was I couldn’t find a single recipe that made quinoa a finger food.

I found a few inspirations and made my own. I must say they turned out wonderfully. I would even serve them at a party as an appetizer as long as I added at least a teaspoon or more of additional spice.

The flax and potato act as the binders so they can be substituted for sweet potato, squash or yams. The flax and water can be substituted with 2 eggs or 4 egg yolks.

Each ball is a complete meal with vegetables, omega 3 and 6 in the flax seed and protein and grain in the quinoa. They freeze really well and reheat in a few seconds. I often use them as a to-go snack.

The only downfall is they can still crumble and get a bit messy when being consumed by a little person. I think next time I will add more water and flax so it doesn’t dry out when reheated.

Mix together flax seed and water and let sit for 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until blended well. Roll out in small balls with your hands. This will be a sticky process.

Bake in a 375F oven for 20 minutes, turning the balls over at 10 minutes. Should be a golden color and slightly crisp on the outside. Should make about 50-60 balls.


RECIPE. Oct 11, 2011

Red Roasted Soup

A very dear friend just moved to Texas and her absence has been felt. Before she left, however, she let me go through her pantry and take home anything I desired. It was going grocery shopping at your favorite store for free. She and I have very similar interests and priorities when it comes to making food for our family. So I was sent home with at least four very full bags of groceries and I very empty heart. It never occurred to me that when I opened my pantry and saw those items, I would suddenly feel as though she were standing right in the kitchen next to me. When I put what she gave us into our food I feel like some of that love in our friendship is mixed in. It’s only fitting then, that this soup is red as the heart and roasted like the state of Texas that she now occupies.

This soup also came at a time when our garden has been bursting with tomatoes that only stay ripe for so long. If you are not overwhelmed with tomato produce, like myself, then you can spend the money on fresh produce or just buy some canned roasted tomatoes. This recipe comes together in less than 30 minutes after the vegetables are roasted. I also found it was very easy to roast the vegetables during my sons afternoon nap and then dump it all into a pot for dinner and let simmer, blend and serve.

This post is one of the many in a series that I will be doing trying to only use what I have in my pantry or from our garden. Our cabinets are stuffed to the gills due to my friends generosity and this late harvest season. It is incredibly exciting to know that 80% of this meal came from the seeds we planted in the spring.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place onions in small baking pan lined with tin foil. Lightly drizzle with Olive Oil and season with salt and pepper. Place tomatoes on lined baking sheet or casserole dish (might need 2). Season with salt and pepper.

Peel back outer layer of skin of garlic bulb then carefully chop off very tip top section of bulb, leaving heads exposed. Place garlic bulb in medium sized sheet of tin foil, drizzle with olive oil and wrap tin foil around bulb, closing at center. Place in a small casserole dish. 

Roast all vegetables for about 30 minutes. When the onions are golden and lightly blackened on the edge, you can remove them. Continue roasting the garlic for about 60 minutes or so (check it after 45mins), and the tomatoes for about 1-2 hrs. Your oven times will vary though, so keep an eye on them!

Add 3 cups roasted tomatoes, 2 tbsp roasted garlic flesh, and all the onion into a large pot. Add coconut milk, tomato paste, and broth and stir well. Stir in the seasonings and spices to taste. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 5-10 minutes.

Carefully transfer into a blender, processor, or use an immersion blender and blend to desired texture. Serve immediately and garnish with reserved coconut milk, a sprinkle of garam masala, croutons/bread, and fresh black pepper. I topped it off with parsley pesto.

RECIPE. Oct 7, 2011

Vegan Parsley Pesto

I was hesitant to post a photo of the final product because, honestly, it looks pretty gross. I didn’t want you to be side tracked by the beast of it’s looks because the beauty of it’s taste must be sampled. This recipe came out of desperation when I finally confronted the huge sack of parsley growing in my vegetable drawer due to a great harvest every single week. I had put parsley in just about every dish we consume and I still hadn’t made even a nick in the towering bunch of green leaves. I had heard of making pesto from herbs other than basil and began looking for inspiration. I found some great ideas here and here and added my own flair with the pecans.

Toast sesame seeds until lightly browned under broiler on low and then throw all ingredients into a blender. I accidentally burnt mine and it still came out tasting great. Process for 30-60 seconds. This is actually a recipe for vegan parmesan cheese so enjoy it on spaghetti or on lasagna sometime as well.

Add parsley, pecans, “parmesan”, garlic, lemon juice and zest to a food processor.  If you do not have a processor, you can use a blender but I found it somewhat tricky and time consuming. Puree until pasty. With the machine running, add oil in a slow stream. 

Puree for another minute.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If using on pasta, reserve about 1/4 - 1/2 c. of pasta water to thin out the sauce.  Enjoy smile

I used the pesto right away on this dish and it turned out incredible. I just added quinoa and rice instead of sausage.

RECIPE. Sep 30, 2011

Birthday Maple Cupcakes with Avocado Frosting

My son turned one on Monday. I’m elated. I have very few “he is growing up so quick” feelings and many more “I’m so thrilled he is becoming a little person” feelings. We held his birthday party the week before at a local park and it was very low key. There were ribs, cornbread and cupcakes. Lots and lots of cupcakes. I haven’t had much time to express my artistic desires and was immediately intrigued by the idea of making a cake out of cupcakes. I’m fairly proud to say I succeeded. On his “real” birthday we celebrated at our in-laws with a low-key but phenomenal dinner. As with most events that are transitional in nature, I took some time to reflect on what I have learned in the last year as his mother.

Here is what I realized: I have no idea what I am doing and just admitting that makes me feel lighter than air. The longer I am a parent the less confident I feel about what is right or wrong in general and feel more confident about is right or wrong in parenting my son. I am closer at being the kind of person I always strived to be due to surviving some of the most difficult moments during his infancy.

I have the patience of the dali lama (okay…maybe not, but I am getting so close). One of the most difficult parts of being a parent, that no one warned me about, is feeling so utterly helpless at times. Most of my exhaustion or irritation comes from dealing with my own shit that being a parent triggers, rarely from actually parenting my son. I have not lost myself but found parts of myself I thought were lost forever. I laugh and cry and feel with depth I’ve only read about.

My compassion and non-judgement is authentic and sincere. It now comes from a place of understanding instead of sympathy. I never knew I could accomplish so much and give so much of myself every single damn day. I really underestimated my potential for tolerating distress. Nothing is black and white and very few things will truly scar them for life.

I am elated, overjoyed to spend another year parenting this adorable boy. I have to remind myself to stay present because I get so impatient to find out who he is and what is happening behind those beautiful brown eyes.

While I know you may raise your eyebrows at the frosting, you absolutely must give it a try. It will not peak or stay stiff like typical frostings but it is really phenomenal. I used a traditional buttercream frosting for the cupcakes in the picture, in order to get it to stand up like grass, but I so wish I could have used this recipe because it really complimented the cupcakes perfectly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. Whisk together milk and vinegar in a large bowl; set aside and allow to curdle for a few minutes.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice in to a separate bowl and mix. Whisk the maple syrup, avocado, brown sugar, oil, vanilla and maple extract into the milk mixture.

Form a well in the dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients, stirring until large lumps are gone. Fill cupcake liners two-thirds the way. Bake 20-22 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

For the frosting: Peel and pit the soft avocados.  It’s important to use the ripest avocados you can get your hands on.  If the avocados have brown spots in the meat, avoid those spots when you scoop the meat into the bowl. Place the avocado meat into the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment or use a hand mixer.  Add lemon juice and whisk the avocado on medium speed, until slightly lightened in color and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the powdered sugar a little at a time and beat.  Add vanilla extract until combined.  If not using right away, store in the refrigerator.  Don’t worry.  It won’t turn brown!

RECIPE. Sep 27, 2011

Power Ball Motivation

It’s been eleven days since I last posted a recipe. I hang my head in shame as I admit this fact. This is the longest amount of time I have let lapse between posts, even since my son was born. Guess it gives you a good idea just how busy I have been. Except, I haven’t. Been busy that is. I’ve just been lazy. Lapping up the last days of summer that came after I waved my white flag and gave into fall. Just like that we had one last week of warmth, sunshine, blue skies and we made the most of it. There might have also been a birthday party to celebrate my son’s first year of life and our first year as parents. At said party, there also might have been the most amazing cupcake cake you have ever seen. You will see pictures, in due time.

Today, however, I am sharing a very popular recipe. I gave out a few samples to friends and family and they have been begging for the recipe. In order to keep my blog alive, I refused to share the recipe but agreed to inform them when I had posted it. That may or may not have been at least a week ago.

While I haven’t been as active posting, I have been very busy in the kitchen. Snapping photos, writing down teaspoons, cups and measurements to share with all of you who read what I have to write. So expect an increase in posts. I have an incredible recipe for maple cupcakes with avocado (yes you read that correctly) frosting, pickled green beans and healthy banana based chocolate cookies.

As I write, there are garlic, onions and tomatoes roasting in my oven, filling my house with the most intoxicating aroma. I will share this recipe as well. I promise not to be gone so long next time. If I am, just know I am enjoying the sunshine, my kitchen and my family.

Mix everything above in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Let chill in fridge for one hour. Once chilled, roll into balls. Store in airtight container in fridge for one week. Or freeze and thaw on counter.

RECIPE. Sep 16, 2011

Denial Lentil Chard Soup

These mornings are beginning to bite at my toes, sending goosebumps across my body when I crawl out of bed. I am in serious denial that summer is over as quickly as it began. This year in particular was scare of sunlight, flip flops and swimming. Just as my tank tops and shorts were getting comfortable, stretching their legs out in my closet, they are going to be stuffed back into a box, confined until the temperature spikes again. I had to ask my husband to hand me the blanket the other night and it felt like waiving my white flag of surrender. I still felt cocky about my denial as I continued to adorn flip flops, walk around the house barefoot and bring home a huge box of harvest every saturday.

Then, something terrible happened as I was looking for recipes for dinner the other night. Soup sounded perfect. I was craving hearty, warm and comforting. I was craving fall. Shit. Took me by surprise, whacked me over the head with a frying pan. I tried to fight it, staring at pictures of salads, wraps and pasta salad but the battle was over. I have officially given in and I’m not happy about it.

Heat oil in large, heavy saucepan or pot over medium heat. Add chicken and season with salt and pepper. Cook 4 minutes on each side. Add onion, cook, stirring frequently, until lightly golden, and chicken is lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Stir in curry. Add 4 cups broth and chard; increase heat and bring to boil, stirring until chard is wilted.

Stir in lentils and chickpeas. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 16-18 minutes, stirring twice, until lentils are tender. Remove from heat. Puree half of the soup in blender or use immersion blender. Stir in salt and warm over low heat for 2 minutes.

Serve soup topped with coconut milk yogurt or sour cream and parsley. I usually pair this with a hearty bread such as Rosemary Sea Salt.

RECIPE. Sep 12, 2011

Abundant Green Bean Stir Fry

One of my favorite experiences most recently, is riding my bike home from working at the community garden on Saturday mornings. My bike bag is tipsy with produce, causing me to wobble and my heart to explode with happiness. Until recently, the pickings have been slim and my gardening spirit a little crushed, downtrodden you could say. A cooler summer has finally given way to a warm few months. Suddenly, the garden is a forest of corn stalks, squash vines and bean tendrils snaking up iron gates. I usually bring home just enough to last me until harvest the following Saturday. The green beans, however, have been a challenge to get through, because my only method for cooking them is steaming.

Let me tell you, it doesn’t take long to get tired of steamed green beans. I could steam and freeze but I’m feeling adventurous and daring these days. I have been sleuthing the internet, trying to close the chapter on the great “How to use all these damn beans” mystery. It didn’t take me long to find several incredible recipes and I will be sharing them in the next few posts, just in case you also have an abundance of bean produce to use.

Place rice and water in a 1-quart saucepan, cover with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 35-40 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Let the pot stand, covered, for at least 10 minutes, and then let cool to room temperature.

In a wok or large sauté pan, heat the oil over high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned (about 8-10 minutes). Remove from pan, cool and slice into coins. Place onions, garlic, ginger, coriander, carrot, and green beans. Stir-fry until the vegetables are crisp-tender.

Add the coconut milk, soy sauce, and molasses to the wok, and bring to a boil. Add the sausage coins and simmer for 2 minutes. In a large bowl, mix the contents of the pan with the rice. Add the parsley and cashews.

In times of scarcity, abundance is cherished. When it feels as though we have so little, it important to focus on what is overflowing. The beans remind me to stop when I obsess about what I don’t have and focus on what is overflowing in my life. Laughter, smiles, love, time and beans.

RECIPE. Sep 9, 2011

Vegan Waffles

When the sun is hot and the days growing shorter, my time in the kitchen dwindles. I try to master anything quick, effortless and nutritious to keep our bellies full without compromising taste. Our home faces the east and as the sun sets, the house heats up and we quickly feel like fried chickens. This is not my favorite time of the day to try to get anywhere near to stove or oven. Mornings, however, are typically cool, pleasant and slow. The fast pace of the summer day has not yet got a hold of us and we are trying to savor the groggy, sleepy feeling. Sundays, especially, are to be cherished. It was on such a Sunday morning that I decided to make some waffles but was clueless about making vegan waffles.

I had also recently acquired a waffle iron from my mom, who had discarded it as an item from my grandmother and I was eager to use my new gadget. I quickly asked a good friend of mine, who I deem Queen of all Vegan Cooking and she told me she indeed had the best vegan waffle recipe. I didn’t have all the ingredients in her original post but was able to substitute what I did have with her guidance and my new found vegan cooking knowledge. There might have also been a bit of praying involved, might.

Mix flax with “buttermilk” and set aside 5 minutes. Grease waffle iron with earth balance and heat.  Add baking soda, oil, and sugar to flax mixture and mix until smooth. Add flour, baking soda and salt and beat until no lumps are left. Pour/spoon the batter into the waffle iron and cook until steaming stops and waffles are golden brown. I used about 1/2-3/4 cup batter for each waffle. I had never made waffles before so I just experimented with how much batter and how much time to get them to cook. I only later realized there is a light on the waffle iron that turns off when the waffle is done.

I topped mine with blueberry/raspberry jam, almond butter and pure maple syrup. I also love to add bananas. It was a perfect introduction to waffle making and I can’t wait to eat them again.

RECIPE. Sep 3, 2011

Aloo Gobi Confusion

We had some very good friends over for dinner last night. We got to talking about sustainability, veganism, vegetarianism and those dirty carnivores like myself. They are vegan and I eat meat. They agreed to eat shrimp that I was cooking in my spring rolls and I was clarifying if they made an exception for me or for seafood in general. They confessed they just don’t like to be rude when going out or going over to other peoples homes when food is made in their honor. The boundaries for what they will and won’t eat are still hazy, even for them.

We also talked about how the land is used, even for humanely raised cattle, pork, lamb and poultry could still be put to best use to feed a larger majority of people if used to grow grains, vegetables, etc.

That got me to thinking about whether or not I am really doing best by this earth and the people on it, we live on consuming meat, even the “good” kind. I love the stuff, don’t get me wrong, I worship bacon at times.

I just wonder whether I could meet my needs and the needs of my family without meat. Could I be a true vegan? I’m not sure. The conversation surely motivated me enough to do some more thinking about my eating habits. So this post is in honor of eating off the land, true vegan style. Give me your thoughts and opinions, get me educated and tell me how you wrestle with these questions.

Heat oil in a large pot on medium-high heat and add onion. Cook until softened, about 4 minutes, then stir in garlic and cumin. Continue to cook until onion begins to brown.

Stir in tomatoes and coconut and the coriander, salt, turmeric, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. Stir until mixture begins to boil, then put in the potatoes, cauliflower, and garbanzo beans. Blend well. Reduce heat to low and cover.

Simmer until the potatoes are tender, 45 minutes to an hour (this will depend on the size of the potato chunks). Sprinkle in the garam masala, stir, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

RECIPE. Aug 29, 2011

Roasted Beets in my Heart

I have been stating the obvious lately. It’s so beautiful in the summer. My soul gobbles up the warm sun and stores extra away for the winter. The vegetables we eat every day are grown by our own two hands. This last statement has really blown me away as I try to appreciate those things we usually take for granted. This little seed grows with nothing more than sunshine, water and soil into something I and my family can consume. It can be diced, sliced and mixed and brought to a one year old’s birthday or a summer potluck with friends. It can elicit genuine sighs of contentment and squeals of glee. This small seed brings so much joy. How fortunate we are to grow our own food or establish a relationship with those who grow it for us.

Think of what we are missing out on when we buy our food, blind to where it originates. This doesn’t mean to do so is terrible or evil but unfortunate, sad even. As I grow our own food and build strong relationships with those that provide what I cannot, I feel this connection to what I bring to the table and serve my family. This connection grounds me, helps me stay focused and reassures me in times of chaos.

I am reminded with one little seed, we can provide so much. Most recently, a man dropped by our house and asked if he could take apples off of our tree to make applesauce. This tree started with one little seed, soil, sun and water. I happily said, “Yes” and he brought back four jars of applesauce plus two jars of jam in exchange. This exchange was not formal or required but the relationship and connection we created from food right out of our front yard still amazes me.

It’s obvious to say that food connects us as much as it fuels us. This recipe was inspired by this blog and in the original post she talks about her relationship with her grandmother and beets. A love for a person connected to the taste and experience of food. This is what I love about cooking. This is why I write this blog.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Chop beets into chunks thin enough to roast quickly (about 1/4 inch). Chop greens and set aside. Toss beets with olive oil, salt and pepper in a pan with sides. Roast for about 10 minutes and mix them up a bit. Roast another 10 or 15 minutes.

About five minutes before beets are done, heat skillet with 1 Tbsp coconut oil and cook fish until it easily flakes apart when proded with fork (about 5-8 minutes on each side, depending on thickness). Once fish is cooked, set aside. Mince garlic and saute with greens in coconut oil, salt and pepper until wilted and bright green. Remove beets from oven and test with a fork. They should be very soft and have a bubbly skin.

Lay greens on center of plate, top with beets and then fish. Sprinkle coconut on top of dish. Savor.

RECIPE. Aug 26, 2011

Blueberry Pie with Coconut Oil Crust

I love a good experiment. I was even one of those weird kids in school that enjoyed dissecting frogs because I got to see how they worked. Probably not a popular thing to mention while also toting that this pie crust is vegan. I wish I could say I’ve changed, but I haven’t. I am fascinated by how things work. What makes them tick. I am in awe of life and everything in it. Some days that awareness and focus on the wonders of this life is dim. I’m overbooked, tired, running on fumes and trying to do too much with too little time. It’s at the end of days like those that I breathe, deeply, and promise myself that tomorrow I will focus on the little things. I will find what brings that joy and spice into my life. That’s when I begin to dabble in culinary adventures such as this pie.

A friend of mine had brought me an apple pie when my son was born that was delicious. I had never tried the recipe for her crust but decided to give it a shot when my craving for blueberry pie and my lack of butter coincided. I long ago decided I hated the idea of using shortening in pie crust so I went into a pie baking funk for a while. No butter, no shortening. What’s a girl to do?

The recipe she posted sounded like a great challenge so I went hands first and took several deep breaths. The outcome? I loved it. It is not your typical buttery crust but it was flaky, crisp and perfect with the sweet blueberries. I ate the whole pie and forgot to take a picture of each slice I ate, oops.

Sift flour into mixing bowl and cut in half the oil in until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Then cut in the other half of the oil until the mixture resembles peas. A spoonful at a time, add the water and mix with a fork until your dough has formed.

Split in half, wrap in waxed paper and place in the fridge for 5 minutes. Most crust recipes will recommend placing in the fridge for 30 minutes or more. Coconut oil tends to become rock solid when refrigerated and I found it impossible to roll out. So I recommend just a few minutes to harden just a bit then rolling out.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Mix together the filling ingredients. Roll out one of your dough halves to ¼” thick circle and place in bottom of pie pan, letting the edges hang over. Pour blueberry filling into pie.

Drop dollops of the 2 Tbsp butter over the filling. Roll out the remaining dough to ¼” thick circle, place on top, make steam vents in the middle, crimp or flute the edges. Brush top with water and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove pie from oven, change temp to 375 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes or until crust is browned.

RECIPE. Aug 22, 2011

Where Have You Bean Zucchini Muffins

Something has been really bothering me lately. It’s this idea that food has to be filled with processed chemicals or sugar to be any good. People don’t say this the way I just did, but it’s what is translated when I offer them a muffin, tell them it’s healthy and they crinkle their nose. Healthy is now a negative term? It is when it is used to describe food. We have been so overwhelmed with sugar, processed flours and additives that when something crosses our lips that lacks these attributes we feel like it’s lacking what we need for it to taste “good”. The more I cook with simple ingredients, removing unnecessary sugar or processed foods from our diet the more I notice the food I am consuming. The nuances leap out and for the first time I can taste what I have worked so hard to create.

Before I climb down from my soap box I must humble myself and admit I still enjoy the occasional Cheez-It or Lucky Charms. Occasional. I don’t believe what I am saying is about self righteous behavior or pointing fingers but a desperate call for balance. So I bring to you a recipe to ease anyone into the “healthy” eating. Something to put into their mouth that will nourish their bodies instead of just fill their stomachs.

I have made several attempts to create my own zucchini muffin recipe and keep it vegan. While each attempt is more delicious and full of healthy benefits, I think this one takes the cake. I had three inspiration sources and they came in the form of a potluck dish, a lot of zucchini and my favorite zucchini bread recipe. At a recent potluck a friend brought muffins made with beans. I researched this new invention and realized you can often substitute beans for oil/butter in most baked muffins/breads/brownies. Score!

The first time I attempted to make a vegan zucchini muffin, I was too intimidated to try to veganize her recipe. I wan’t to start with small steps, baby ones in fact. Over the last few months my confidence has improved and I am here to present you with the king kong of all zucchini muffin recipes. It has protein from the beans, Omega 3 and 6 from the flax seed, fiber from the flours and packed full of zucchini without any sugar. I think the curry powder gives it quite a kick but I would also love to try blueberries.

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Grease muffin tins. Mix together flour, cinnamon, curry powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium sized bowl. Mix together flax, and maple syrup and let sit 5 minutes. Add mashed beans and vanilla. Combine flour mixture with wet mixture, mixing only until ingredients combined. Fold in zucchini and pecans.

Bake in oven 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center. Allow to cool 5 minutes, remove from pan and continue cooling on rack. Makes 16-18. If you want to make bread, instead of muffins just change the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 40-50 minutes in a medium sized loaf pan.

I usually freeze the extra and let one thaw a few hours before eating or pop in the microwave for a few seconds. This is also a perfect snack for babies and children, especially if you want to sneak in those veggies.

RECIPE. Aug 15, 2011

Fruit Galette Anxiety

When people are invited over to our place for dinner I am simultaneously giddy and anxious. I want everything to taste unbelievable. Not just edible but inspiring. Yes. Inspiring. I want conversation to feel effortless and time to pass as fast as wine glasses are filled. You can imagine just how much I fret over what to serve. I often scour my favorite blogs, cook books and even my own recipes to find that perfect item. This time I was only in charge of dessert so my anxiety was down just a few notches. It was a potluck dinner and my husband was making smoked brisket. While walking to the market that morning we stumbled on some berries that were so unique i couldn’t help myself despite the crisper full of raspberries and strawberries at home.

These were yellow raspberries and a hybrid blackberry and marionberry. I can’t recall the name but it should be called “Delicious”. I happily paid for a flat and began scheming my contribution to the night. While at another potluck recently, I had coveted and consumed several pieces of a fruit tart by a fellow garden member. I immediately called her and requested the recipe and set to work.

I’m thrilled to report it didn’t take much work and the results were astounding. This is by far one of my favorite desserts of the summer. Sweet, tart, rich and flaky and paired perfectly with some vanilla ice cream. I beg you to make it. Don’t be intimidated by the crust. It’s incredibly easy and very forgiving. I am also happy to report that my anxiety melted like the ice cream on my plate as everyone dug into the food and conversed with ease. It was by far one of the most wonderful gatherings yet.

If you have a food processor: Pulse flour and salt to combine, scatter butter pieces over flour and pulse to small peas. 1 Tbsp water till dough together when pinched. If you do not have a food processor: Mix together flour and salt. Scatter butter pieces over flour and cut into butter with pastry cutter or fork until like sand. Add 1 Tbsp water and mix until dough comes together when pinched. It should look somewhat dry. I believe mine was a bit too wet.

Empty dough on work surface. Take small chunk of dough and place in front of you. Take heel of hand and press away from you creating a line of smeared dough. Gather dough and set aside. Complete with all of dough. This technique is called “Fraisage” and you can watch the video if you click on the link. Put into four inch disk for one hour.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough on sheet of parchment paper about 12 inches in diameter and 3/16 inch thick then refrigerate about 15 minutes. Mix together berries and sugar while dough is in fridge. Take dough out of fridge and mound filling in center, leaving about 2 1/2 inches on edge.

Fold over edges near fruit and press to secure. This direction was very tricky to me. If you take an edge and fold it over the fruit then press down on the edge it will create a semi-closed circle. This video demonstrates the technique really well. Brush dough with water and sprinkle with sugar and bake 50-55 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 10 min.

RECIPE. Aug 8, 2011

Raspberry Pecan Salad Manners

Everyone has something in their life that brings out their competitive, dark side. The side that cuts in line, shoves someone over for a Power Ranger action figure or leaps over a crowd to grab the last of whatever coveted item is being sold. My dark side emerges at potlucks. When it is announced that the food is open for consumption most people leisurely wander over and mingle as they take small portions, leaving enough for everyone else. While they socialize and consume their food, they are not obsessing about what the dishes they were not able to fit on their plate. They do not sit and try to balance two plates of food on their lap because they had to make sure they got both dessert and main dishes before they disappeared. I, however, do both of those. I love potlucks because I love food.

If buffets weren’t filled with such terrible food, I would eat at one every time we go out. I adore restaurants that have any sort of “can’t decide” dish with a little bit of everything. At my favorite ice cream place they even have an “Indecision scoop” so you can get two small scoops of different flavors. While I usually detest choices in every other area of my life, I love having a large variety of food I can consume in one sitting. I have no potluck manners.

If there is one cupcake and a small child and I are reaching for it, I would snatch it and not even consider sharing. I am a terrible person. If potlucks were events held at 6am I would be that person to show up at 11am the night before and camp out just to be first in line. Am I making myself clear? I really, really love to eat.

I also love the opportunity to see what someone else has done with ingredients I have used for other dishes in the past. I am smitten when exotic food combinations appear and cross my lips. Creating food is such an art and a potluck is like going to a show. I glean from others creative ideas and it inspires me for the next few weeks.

While I would quickly stick a fork in someones hand who tried to take food off my plate, I do love the social and spiritual purpose of a potluck. Sharing food with one another from your own kitchen and land. Filling one anothers belly’s and souls. Just don’t cut me in line or I might cut you.

These photos are from the community garden potluck I attended two weekends ago. I will post more pictures from another potluck we held at our house this last weekend. I am not just being a food tease. I am asking for recipes so I can post them here for all of you. Until then, enjoy the simple raspberry nut salad and salivate.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place pecans in pie tin and coat with butter/coconut oil and pumpkin pie spice. Roast in oven for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool. Chop.

Toss greens, raspberries, edible flowers and toasted pecans in bowl.

Mix together dressing ingredients in container. I wish I had exact amounts of each but I don’t. You use more oil and vinegar than any other ingredient. About 1/4 cup olive oil and balsamic and 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar. Then about 1 Tbsp mustard and sugar. Add about 1 tsp salt and pepper and shake. I would just serve dressing on side as the berries can get very runny with the dressing if kept together too long.

RECIPE. Aug 5, 2011

Molasses Blueberry Cake

Last Sunday our family got in the car and went on a mini road adventure to get blueberries. We had heard word that there was a local farm offering families the chance to pick 10 pounds of blueberries and take them home for free. Free? Blueberries? Sign me up. We expected laughter, we expected sunshine and we even expected a sense of accomplishment when walking back to the car with our 10 pounds of fresh free berries. What we didn’t expect, however, was the pure joy of watching our son pick fresh fruit right from the source. At first, he pounded fistfuls from the big blue bucket we were trying to fill. After removing the bucket from his reach, however, he turned toward the bush itself and without missing a beat plucked on right off and popped it in his mouth.

When you watch a child who cannot even speak reach out and obtain food from it’s direct source you realize just how innate it is in our nature to identify and obtain food. There is also something magical and mysterious about being out in an open field with the blue sky above and sun beating on your skin that is only intensified when you pull this little berry from a push and put it in your mouth.

I can only hope that the majority of my son’s experience with food is so direct and clear. I hope to watch him pull potatoes from the ground, split peas from their pod and dig carrots, radishes and beets from the dark earth. I want him to know where his food comes from, how it grows and how his actions contribute to his ability to feed his body, heart and soul.

While I am fairly confident he will be raised with numerous opportunities to participate in the growing and cultivating of food he puts in his belly, I also know he will crave or be exposed to food whose source and content is not nourishing but the result of industry and commercial interests and desires. I can only hope his body and his mind will eventually keep his interests rooted deep as the food he consumes.

When we arrived home with our 10 pounds of free blueberries I immediately froze a majority and then set to finding a recipe for our community garden potluck later that night. I searched one of my favorite sites and was excited about trying the combination of molasses and blueberries. The warning about this recipe is that it is heavy on the molasses, which I love, but understand it is not for everyone. Pair it with some ice cream or fresh whipped cream and I think it would be a crowd favorite. I personally, enjoyed it just as it was, topped with a little powdered sugar and warm from the oven.

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan (or equivalent). In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a small bowl whisk together the cider vinegar with 3 tablespoons of the milk. In another bowl whisk the molasses with the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk. Whisk the cider vinegar mixture into the molasses mixture, then whisk in the flax. Let stand five minutes. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until just barely combined. Stir in the coconut oil/butter. Toss the blueberries with 1 teaspoon of flour and fold them into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes and then serve sprinkled with powdered sugar, whipped cream or ice cream.

RECIPE. Aug 2, 2011

Quick Curried Mustard Greens

Our harvest baskets are finally starting to fill. Hours at the garden are flying by with plenty of pea picking, green cutting and squashing slashing. I’m elated. The spring has drug on far to long into my precious summer and I’ve been patiently waiting for the fruits of our labor to start paying off. Selfishly, I’ve been waiting for those rare mustard greens I raved about in this post. Then this winter, I found this recipe and just about leapt out of my chair in glee. Little did I know it would be another 6 months before I would have enough mustard greens to even give the recipe a shot. I was also not aware of how low my motivation to buy ingredients would be when I finally had enough mustards to try the recipe. I looked around a bit more and found this recipe and made a few tweaks.

Someday I would like to try to original recipe I found as it seems to be more authentic in flavors and ingredients. Most recently, however, I have been trying to use what I have available while still spicing up our dinner menu. The second recipe came close and I only made a few adjustments to account for what I had available at home.

It’s terrific. It has that kick of mustard similar to eating a bite of dijon with the sweet and mellow flavor of the coconut to smooth out your palate. I loved it and so did my husband. This will definitely be a regular dish as long as those mustard greens keep flowing from the garden.

Heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onion saute until golden-edged and beginning to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger powder and saute for a minute more. Add the curry paste and red chile flakes. Stir until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the mustard greens and stir for a minute or two until they are wilted. Add the coconut milk, shredded coconut, and a pinch of sea salt, and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Cover and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the greens are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

RECIPE. Jul 26, 2011

Savoring Each Bite Garden Burger

My mother recently offered to buy me a Vita-mIx. No occasion or special event. She had just purchased one for herself and after making me my tenth smoothie in one week she kindly asked if I wanted my own. At first I jumped at the chance. I couldn’t wait. I was so excited. At the time I was also making my own baby food in puree form so it sounded wonderful. It was also great timing because my own blender/food processor had just blew a gasket one day while making pureed carrots and now I was unable to make my own baby food. Unfortunately, the deal my mom got was going to take a few months to return and in the meantime she gave me her old blender so I could continue being a hippy mom. After some reflection, I got back to her and turned down the offer.

I have also had friends ask why I don’t have a fancy Kitchen Aid mixer due to all the baking/cooking I do. Or at least a Cuisinart food processor for god’s sake. I guess at the end of the day my answer is I like to keep things simple. While these tools may make the task of baking or cooking easier or quicker, that is not necessarily a goal of mine. In fact, the thing I LIKE about cooking or baking is the time and energy it takes to put together something delicious to eat.

Let me be clear. I’m not saying I never use appliances. The microwave and I are best friends, as well as the toaster and oven. We often have late night keggers where we get all hopped up on too much yeast and love and sing loudly. Not really, but it would be awfully fun. As I mentioned, I also have a blender. On certain days, I am grateful for a can of soup as dinner. A few days ago, however, that was not my mood at all. I wanted to chop and toast and feel food between my fingers. I had been salivating over some veggie burgers posted on my favorite site. The recipe was time intensive but made enough that they could be frozen for quick dinners later. It sounded like the perfect task.

She recommended using a food processor at several junctures in the directions and while my blender makes an excellent substitute I refrained for three reasons. 1) I was not in the mood to use machines to help me cook, 2) My son was sleeping upstairs and the blender is very loud, and 3) The only time I have to cook, uninterrupted, is when he is sleeping. I had made my own black beans the day before and put them in the fridge. I was out of bread crumbs so I made my own, as mentioned on the side bar. I grated the carrots with my hand and cheese grater.

There are just those days that I want to savor each moment. I want silence and connection with the food I am cooking. It’s a very serious form of meditation and relaxation and I don’t want some machine bleeping or blaring or whizzing to interrupt my zen. So this post is a toast to savoring time. Savoring moments. Savoring each slice, grate, chop or churn you do by hand. It’s a salute, a tribute to silence while cooking. Savoring each bite as it passes your lips.

Preheat oven to 350F (if baking). In a large skillet, sauté onions and garlic in 1/2 tbsp oil. Mix your flax egg together in a small bowl and set aside for at least 10 mins while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Place all ingredients (except spices and salt) into a large mixing bowl and stir very well. Now, add seasonings and salt to taste. With slightly wet hands, shape dough into patties. Pack dough tightly as this will help it stick together. I made 8 medium patties.

Cooking methods: You can fry the burgers in a bit of oil on a skillet over medium heat for about 3 minutes on each side. If baking in the oven, bake for 30-36 mins (15-18 minutes on each side) at 350F, until golden and crisp. For the BBQ, pre-bake the burgers for about 15 minutes in oven before placing on a pre-heated grill until golden and crisp on each side.

RECIPE. Jul 23, 2011

Vegan Gluten Free Chocolate Surprise

Last weekend, while it rained and rained on our broken souls, the cooperative at my garden shook some musical instruments in a desperate last attempt to call the sun out to play. As the week drug on, it seemed as though all our efforts had been lost and our last bit of hope was flittering away like Glenda the Good Witch in Wizard of Oz. I’m sure most of us wouldn’t have been upset if a house had even fallen on us. It’s been a fall like summer and while I love the fall, I’m not ready to bundle up with my mug of hot cocoa. I am, however, grateful that we are not in the middle of an intense heat wave. The temp spikes above 80 degrees and my little guy starts to melt. Then yesterday, I woke up and the sun was coming through the windows and the birds were chirping and I almost chirped back.

I had been wearing flip flops and shorts in protest for the last week, refusing to let the weather dictate my need to bare skin. Yesterday, I wore those items without getting drenched, slipping on the sidewalk or walking home with goosebumps. Yesterday our summer began. Finally.

Last Sunday, however, while it was still a raining mess, we had planned to have several people over to watch fireworks that are put on during a local event in our town. I was so excited I found a new recipe at the blog I stalk, bought all the ingredients and made it ahead of time, imagining everyone biting in and commenting on how incredible it tasted. Unfortunately, we were rained out. Determined not to be put out by a rain out I brought my goods to a mom’s group I attend on Monday mornings and got a proper ego boosting. Then I gave them the news, the big surprise I had wanted to drop at our fireworks shindig. It had a secret ingredient. Avocado.

It is also vegan and gluten free. Most were shocked but didn’t shy from having another bite or three. Even my little sister, who detests avocado’s polished off the remainder of the torte. I enjoyed it but felt it was missing some pizzaz. I would add some cayenne, pumpkin pie spice or even orange peel next time to give it a kick.

It is also very important to carefully pick your avocado. Make it not to soft but not to hard. Too soft and it will taste of avocado. Too hard and it won’t be smooth enough in texture. Honestly, my favorite part was the crust. I could have eaten it all by itself. The recipe calls for a food processor but I was able to easily use my blender.

Oil a 7-10 inch springform pan and line it with a circle of parchment paper. In a food processor, pulse the pecans until crumbly. Be careful not to over process them as you still want them a bit chunky. Now add in the rest of the crust ingredients and pulse until just mixed. Scoop mixture onto prepared pan and press down firmly and evenly with slightly wet fingers or a spatula. Pop into freezer to set while making the mousse.

Place all mousse ingredients (except chocolate chips) into food processor. Process until smooth. In a small bowl, melt your chocolate chips in the microwave and scoop melted chocolate into food processor mixture. Process until smooth. Remove crust from freezer and scoop this mousse on top of crust. Smooth out as much as possible and then place in the freezer for 2 hours to firm.

Once firm, remove from freezer and allow to sit on the counter for about 5-10 minutes before serving chilled. Place leftover torte in the freezer wrapped and placed in a seal container. Note that this torte should be served chilled as it gets soft at room temperature.

Unfortunately I did not remember to snap a shot of this torte once it was sliced. Guess you will just have to make it to find out. I did, however, manage to snap a shot of my son as I was trying to put the torte together. He looks just a tad upset that he doesn’t get any and I don’t blame him.

RECIPE. Jul 18, 2011

Vegan Squash Cornbread Muffins

I recently wrote that cornbread was just an excuse to slather honey and butter on something and eat it. I must admit I love the delectable combination of salty rich butter mixed with sweet sticky honey. I must use every bit of will power, which isn’t much, that has been given to this body to not dash into the kitchen, pull out a muffin, press 30 seconds on the microwave and slather and consume. Just writing about pairing those to items makes my stomach smile. This post is not about honey or butter, as sad as that is for me to say. It’s about making something that you can use as an excuse to consume those two together. This particular recipe was attempted due to an overabundance of baked butternut squash and a personal flaw that does not allow me to throw out food.

I knew the squash was quickly approaching a throw out date and I had incorporated so much of it into dinners we were all tired of the taste. Then I stumbled upon this recipe and I was saved. It’s incredibly simple once you have prepared the squash. It usually takes me less than 30 minutes to put everything together and then another 25 to bake.

While I had been making the recipe as written, with butter and eggs, I decided to try to make a vegan version so my son could eat them. I also promised to share my favorite side dish to my most recent post. That salty salad with this sweet bread keeps me happily full for hours and hours.

This recipe uses a blender but if you mash the squash then you can really just mix everything together without the blender. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil muffin tins or line with paper muffin cups. Mix cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt together in large bowl. Set aside.

Put mashed squash or yam in blender with water (this can be food for 6 month or older baby) and blend until smooth. Add oil, maple syrup and ground flax. Pulse a few times to blend.  Let sit 3-5 minutes. This allows the flax the soak in the wet ingredients and act as an egg replacement.

Add wet ingredients to dry mixture and mix with a minimum of strokes. Fill muffin cups full with batter. Decorate top of each muffin with a few pumpkin seeds.

Bake 25-30 minutes. Top of muffin with crack slightly when done.

Slather with honey and butter and consume happily.

RECIPE. Jul 15, 2011

A Kale Salad Obsession

Last year, the first year I joined our community garden, I was handed a large bunch of green leaves that looked like lettuce on steroids. I happen to have a large ego and hate to admit when I am completely in the dark about something food related. I quickly stuck it in my box with all the other familiar vegetables and vowed to google it. When I arrived home, however, I felt even more confident that I could just treat these greens like lettuce and quickly whipped up a salad. To my horror they were bitter, rough, thick and completely inedible. I took my bloated ego down a few notches and used google and my favorite recipe blogs to find out what to do with this mystery vegetable. I took to sauteing them in stir fry’s or baking them as they became deliciously sweet and wonderful when softened.

A year passes and I puff out my chest as I walk through the garden this year, confident I know the majority of items we are trying to grow. While happily sharing recipes one day with a fellow gardener, I was shocked to hear she used Kale in salads. She was kind enough to share her secrets despite my upturned “gross” face. Not wanting to miss out on some exciting culinary adventure, I gave her suggests a whirl and I haven’t stopped consuming this salad for lunch for the past two weeks. In fact, I typically shudder at the idea of sharing a lame salad recipe.

Guess I just couldn’t help myself. When I know I have something so delicious I don’t want to keep it to myself. I want to share the joy and excitement and maybe open a few worlds just as mine has been opened by others. The nutritional benefit of this dish is outstanding. Kale is one of the most incredible leafy greens that you can consume for your health. It is an anti-inflammitory, has antioxidant properties and is chock full of Vitamin K, C and Calcium. I am only skimming the surface of it’s long list of health benefits.

There is a trick to this salad other than mixing all the ingredients together. You have to let everything sit for 15 minutes. That time allows the salt, olive oil and vinegar to break down some of the bitter and rough nature of the kale to make it oh so amazing. It is also important that you discard the tough inner stem of the kale and only eat the leafy part. The stem is what makes it taste most bitter.

Place all ingredients in large bowl and mix thoroughly. Let sit for 15 minutes and then consume. This makes enough for one hungry person or two as a side dish to a main course. I love this as my lunch with a side of squash cornbread muffins. That recipe I will share next week.

RECIPE. Jul 8, 2011

Red Bean Saffron Rice

We love to host BBQ’s at our house, especially ever since my husband acquired his beloved smoker. Every summer we have that smoker going at least once or twice a week. We have been gone so much this summer, however, that the invitations for others to join us has been lacking. When we are home, we just want to be together as a family. This post is not about our anti-social qualities. It is about a friend, one who we do not see nearly enough of and her incredible red beans and rice. It sounds like a simple dish and it really is. Yet the first time I bit into home made heaven, I begged for more and then begged for the recipe. It has been almost a year since she handed over her ingredients and I have yet to re-create this obsession in a bowl. Why?

Lets just say when I eat beans then my son eats beans and infants don’t like gas. The thing is, he is growing up and so is his gut. This is cause for celebration and my first order of business was beans and rice. I decided to add my own flair and the saffron was such a damn good idea. That’s right, I’m patting myself on the back. I deserve it.

The ingredients are simple, the time is minimal and the result leaves you speechless because you can’t stop shoving in the mouthfuls. I give exact measurements but please ignore them and experiment. The ratio of beans and rice is all that must stay consistent. Otherwise, go nuts.

Boil beans in enough water to cover/ submerge. When beans are starting to get tender (about 60-90 minutes) but not super tender, heat generous amounts of olive oil or lard in a large pan on medium high heat and brown sausage. Add onion for 5-7 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and saffron and saute another 2-3 minutes. Add sausage, onion and garlic mixture to bean pot.

Bring to a rolling boil, add herbs de provence, bay leaf, smoked paprika and worceshire sauce. Then lower heat to medium or medium low and let simmer uncovered until beans are tender, let keep simmiring uncovered until beans thicken naturally. Stirring occasionally. You want it to be thick but not super thick, like a loose gravy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Total cooking time shouldnt be more than 3 hours. Serve over cooked brown rice.

RECIPE. Jul 5, 2011

Rhubarb Strawberry Light Crisp

Our fourth of July weekend began in Whistler and ended in Olympia. We traveled for hours in the car with our angel of a child to celebrate the union of two incredible people. I happened to be maid of honor and thus was in charge of keeping the bride from running like mad in her adorable Converse All Stars. I succeeded, they were married and all ended with a kiss. The highlight of the weekend, however, was observing the celebration of Canada Day. Not unlike the merriment of Fourth of July, there was a parade, people in silly costumes (including a mounty on stilts) and fireworks. While my son was not able to sleep through the high school band playing outside our hotel window, he did manage to sleep soundly through the 20 minutes of fireworks.

In celebration of this new cultural experience that features red and white, I am using some fresh rhubarb, strawberries and coconut in a light crisp. The original recipe was obtained from a friend of mine after I visited her for a kiddie play date and consumed a large portion of her husbands rhubarb crisp. I requested the recipe with plans to make it both vegan and lighter on the sugar and fat. I succeeded but next time I think I would use a different substitute for the egg because this didn’t fluff up like the one she served me. Nonetheless, it’s incredibly delicious and perfect for these days when the heat keeps you far from the stove.

Butter a 8x8 dish. In bowl combine fruit with water, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and vanilla. Put fruit mixture on bottom of 8x8 dish. In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, coconut and baking powder. Add the beaten egg and mix well with a fork or your fingertips until the flour is dampened and in small clumps. Scatter the flour mixture over the fruit. Drizzle the melted butter/coconut oil evenly over the top. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Serve warm (or cold!) with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

RECIPE. Jun 28, 2011

Humble Garlic Herb Wheat Rolls

Over the last nine months I have learned so much about life through the exhausting trials and unbelievable joys as a parent. I am not terribly familiar with infants or the caring of them so my son was such an awakening for me about the humble nature of humanity. I have never felt more vulnerable, elated, exhausted, confused, terrified and in awe. Though I’ve learned more than I ever thought possible, the lesson that is most poignant for me is about control. It is a superpower that must be used wisely. It must be harnessed and applied appropriately with careful thought and consideration. Control has always given me a sense of peace, reassurance in a chaotic life. It has also been extremely limiting. I knew when I decided to bring children into my life I would learn how to live life without exerting so much control.

I didn’t realize I would be forced to give it all away. Yet is has to be the best thing that has ever happened to my personal growth. I have fine tuned my ability to apply control and know when it is appropriate and helpful and when it is just an attempt avoid what is really happening. I hope one day I can thank my son for all he is teaching me about myself and life. I have never been more present, focused and engaged. When I gave up control I also gave up all the worry that comes along. I live for this moment, each moment and it’s really inspiring.

I have also been taking this attitude into the kitchen and it’s such a reward. I started my blog writing about my deep fear of yeast, water and flour and the unpredictable nature of the three as they combine. After conquering bread and bagels I’ve gotten quite daring in the bread department. I’m a sucker for a great nutritious quick bread but when I saw the recipe for whole wheat rolls on Heidi’s site I knew I had my next baking challenge.

They were much easier than I thought and only took three hours from start to finish including rising and baking time. I use a bulk yeast from the co-op that I swear is my secret weapon in all bread baking. I also use a wheat flour that has 12-15% gluten from Fairhaven Bread mill that comes in bulk at the co-op. These two ingredients: a great yeast and a wheat flour high in gluten are key ingredients to successful bread baking. The recipe makes 24 rolls but could easily be cut in half. I usually just make the whole recipe and freeze the leftovers for subsequent meals.

Dissolve yeast in water. Add brown sugar, oil, honey, salt, garlic and herbs and 1 1/2 cups whole what flour. Mix well. Stir in remaining whole wheat flour and enough flour to make a stiff dough.

Knead on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise about 1 1/2 hours. Divide into 3 equal pieces. Shape into balls. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll each ball into a 10-inch circle. Spread with 1/3 butter (hs note: I used melted butter). Sprinkle with nuts if desired. Cut each circle into 8 wedges (like pizza slices). To shape rolls, begin at wide end of wedge and roll toward point. Place on greased baking sheet.

Cover and let rise 20-30 minutes. Brush with beaten egg. Bake in 375F oven for 12-15 minutes. Brush with milk or margarine while still warm. These are incredibly delicious and you can easily consume 2-3 without missing a beat. I call it baked good blackout. Enjoy.

RECIPE. Jun 24, 2011

Coconut Green with Envy Cod

I have quite a few cooking blogs I follow on a regular basis to give me inspiration, motivation and excitement about cooking the next meal for myself and my family. While I look forward to every new post, eagerly anticipating their next new idea or inventive creation, I am also incredibly envious. A vast majority of my posts are just new twists on an already existing recipe, often from one or more of these blogs. I know I am still learning but I still don’t think I have what it takes to create a recipe out of thin air. I really enjoy taking something someone else has created and tweaking it to fit my needs then sharing the results. Does this make me a cooking cheater? A dishonest food blogger? An average mother and wife trying to disguise myself as some sort of foodie? I don’t think so. I think the reason I love to alter the creations of others to make something entirely new is because it is a way of feeling connected to these other people out there making, eating and writing about food.

It is the highest form of flattery when someone wants to share something you have created, as long as they give you credit. This particular post came from 101cookbooks. I love the way she organizes her recipes by several different categories such as seasons, ingredients or even type of meal. I usually find recipes using her ingredients categorization. This time I had asparagus to use and stumbled on this recipe. While it didn’t call for fish I thought it would be an excellent accompaniment and increase the status from side to main dish.

I’ve made it three times so far because it is really just that good. If I don’t have asparagus on hand then I use another vegetable such as peas, carrots or zucchini. I love a mix of spinach and kale for the greens because it gives such a nutritional boost without ruining the flavor. I think the secret is mashing the garlic and onion together and sprinkling with toasted coconut at the end. This will please even the pickiest of eaters despite the fact that it is a small list of ingredients and it only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish. It is also a minimal amount of time over a stove when summer is just beginning to heat up and keep us all far from the kitchen.

Prep the fish by slicing the fillet in half and sprinkling with salt, pepper and turmeric. Feel free to experiment with other spices as well. Place the shallot/onion and garlic on a cutting board, sprinkle with the salt, and chop/mash everything into a paste. Or use a motor and pestle. Heat the oil in your largest skillet over medium heat. Add the seeds, cover with a lid, and let them toast a bit. Remove the lid, stir in the red pepper flakes and let cook for a minute.

Place fish in skillet and let fry about 4-5 minutes on each side or until it flakes when probed by a fork. Remove fish and set aside. Stir in the asparagus if you’re using it, let cook roughly another minute, then stir in the garlic-shallot paste and all of the spinach.

Keep stirring until the spinach starts collapsing a bit, and brightens up - barely any time at all - perhaps a minute. Add fish back into skillet for just a moment to reheat the remove pan from heat and serve. Finish with a sprinkle of coconut.

RECIPE. Jun 21, 2011

Rhubarb Banana Coconut Bread

I have so many different hobbies and interests I need at least another three of me to actually follow through on all the grand ideas I’ve compiled in my head. The surprise that I was able to narrow my interest to writing a food blog just blows me away. My follow through is down right remarkable considering the incredible obstacles of life and my lack of focus most recently. I really detest starting projects but would happily come in on something that has already begun and work on it until the end. At which point I would fall into a deep despair because that just means another project must be started. Just the tip of the ice burg of interests are nutrition, photography, horseback riding, exercise, child development, anxiety treatment, photo editing, yoga, cooking, baking and gardening.

I somehow manage to find time to pursue most of these interests but not to the degree and depth I desire.I somehow manage to find time to pursue most of these interests but not to the degree and depth I desire. At first, this was incredibly sad and disappointing. Especially with the birth of my son, my free time and energy to pursue these interests is extremely limited. When I do have the time I am typically exhausted or just wanting to cuddle with my husband. When I do have the energy I am typically pouring it into my son. Then I realized I could break down each interest into small, obtainable sized goals.

Each week I try to learn a new recipe. Each day I try to incorporate a new food into our diet. Every month I try to read a new article, blog post or book about something I’m interested in outside of motherhood. Every day I go for a walk and once a week I play softball to fulfill that need for exercise. I’m learning this is my ideal life. A buffet of interests pursued in chunks small enough that I get satiated without leaving stuffed. It’s really perfect. Today’s recipe is a result of excess rhubarb in our community garden and my interest in learning new ways to cook with the fruit. It is currently in season and often grows as quickly as zucchini without much tending or primping.

While cooking I was consuming my new favorite beverage, Kombucha. Olympia makes a brand called “Magic” that totes itself as the “Champagne of Kombucha” and it certainly is. This incredible drink is touted as a health elixir to improve digestion, remove toxins from the body and give you extra energy. It does contain some alcohol content because it is made from fermented yeast. I would highly recommend anyone give it a try.

I was interested in using the rhubarb to make bread but didn’t want to do the typical strawberry-rhubarb combination. After glancing through a few of my favorite cooking blogs I stumbled on a recipe for cherry banana bread that could easily incorporate the rhubarb in place of the cherry. It also had no refined sugar or flour. Bonus. The real test would be the taste factor. Not to worry, it was delicious. Moist, sweet, light with some density and gobbled up by the members of the garden within minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Take the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt, spices, chia seeds) and whisk in a large bowl. In a small cup, place 5 tbsp of coconut butter/oil in the microwave for just 10-15 seconds to warm. In a medium sized bowl, mash 3 bananas. Add coconut butter/oil, maple syrup and a majority of the rhubarb (reserve some as garnish) and mix very well, making sure to break up the clumps of coconut butter/oil.

Take the banana you set aside and chop into 1 inch chunks. Stir into the wet ingredients. Now add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until the flour is incorporated. Pour the batter into a pre-greased loaf pan. Sprinkle with reserved rhubarb and shredded coconut. Bake for 60-70 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

RECIPE. Jun 18, 2011

Sweet Vegan Corn Bread

Tomorrow will be the first father’s day for my husband and I couldn’t be more excited to celebrate his incredible work these last 9 months as a papa. His devotion, patience, humor, persistence and humility inspires me daily. We will be traveling to Port Townsend to celebrate with a slice of mouth watering Waterfront Pizza. Last weekend, however, my husband made the most incredible beef brisket in his smoker and we all drooled copious amounts. It was hands down the best brisket I have ever had. I must clarify that I am not a fan of brisket, at least until last Sunday. I find it is often to dry, tasteless and lacking the sweet flavor of pork. This brisket, however, was none of those things.

We procured the meat from Oakland Bay and it tasted like candy. Sweet, moist, and every bite leaving you begging for more. It was only appropriate to accompany such a treat with cornbread and salad. Previous attempts at vegan cornbread have been unsuccessful. It was boring, dry and lacking a sweet kick that I associate with cornbread.

My favorite nonvegan recipe is full of dairy and yet I was dreaming of eating that sweet, moist bread while the brisket smoked on the porch. I have grown considerably in my vegan baking since my first cornbread attempt and decided to give it another shot. I even decided to cut the sugar and white flour to increase the health profile. It was a blessed day because it was incredible. Topped with a little butter and honey, the whole meal was one we wished we could have repeated as soon as we finished.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat 8 inch square pan with oil or cooking spray.

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the ground flax seed, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer the ground flax seed in the water for 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt until well-combined. Add the ground flax seed mixture, maple syrup, soy milk, and canola/coconut oil to the flour mixture. Beat just until smooth (do not overbeat.)

Turn into prepared baking pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

RECIPE. Jun 14, 2011

Apple Brussel Pork Fry

There were brussel sprouts large, bright green and beautiful at the co-op the other day and they happened to be on sale. I grabbed a pound just because I couldn’t resist such gorgeous produce. Then I got home and pondered what I was going to do with such a find. This often happens. I do enjoy planning a menu each week but what really gets my culinary genius flowing is the challenging of taking one ingredient and finding a way to make a meal. I guess I would have been pretty good at Iron Chef. It also helps motivate me when I’m in a rut and focus my time and attention when I have thousands of recipes I want to try. Even more enjoyable is when I only have an hour to make said dinner and all I have in hand is a pound of some key ingredient.

This week is was brussel sprouts. They are often given such a bad rap, I believe because they are incorrectly cooked and served. They are often steamed until they are mushy balls of bleck and soaked in butter and spices and served as a side dish. Brussels don’t deserve such abuse. They are like tiny, sweet, zesty cabbages that can be the highlight of any main dish.  They are also so unbelievably healthy for you. So just give them a shot, they deserve it.

Soak the apples in a bowl filled with water and the juice of one lemon. Cook pork in large hot skillet with a bit of salt and a splash of oil. Saute until golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, wait a few seconds, now stir in the maple syrup, and cook another 30 seconds or so. Drain the apples, and add them to the skillet, cooking for another minute. Scrape the apple and pork mixture out onto a plate and set aside while you cook the brussels sprouts.

In the same pan (no need to wash), add a touch more oil, another pinch of salt, and dial the heat up to medium-high. When the pan is nice and hot stir in the shredded brussels sprouts and asparagus. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring a couple times (but not too often) until you get some golden bits, and the rest of the sprouts are bright and delicious.

Stir the apple mixture back into the skillet alongside the brussels sprouts 1/2 of the pecans- gently stir to combine. Remove from heat and enjoy immediately sprinkled with the remaining pecans. Eat immediately to enjoy best flavors of the dish. This is not a dish that should sit around for long.

RECIPE. Jun 10, 2011

It Still Spring Pea Asparagus Avocado Pasta

It still feels like spring around here and it’s the beginning of June. In fact, right now, at this very moment I write, it is grey skies and overcast and probably in the middle 50’s. All I have to say is “WTF?!” I want to wear flip flops, sun dresses and coat my little boy from head to toe in sun screen. I want to run his little naked butt through the fountain and hear his squeals of delight in chorus with all the other kids getting drenched in the sun. I am throwing an adult temper tantrum and cursing the skies. I am so completely over this grey cloud that has become our daily forecast. The worst part is the weather throws out these days that are just one big tease. A clear blue 70 degree day followed by a rain shower of reality the next.

Even in our community garden we are beginning to harvest produce, happily lingering to pull weeds as the sun warms our backs only to return the following week dressed in rain coats and frowns.If you are reading this from a place that is eternally sunny, then screw you. I’m clearly jealous. The only bright light in these grey days are the meals I make for our family. I’ve been trying to use seasonal produce, especially focusing on goods from our garden. This recipe was obtained from and was both so delicious and quick. It is also a spin off of another favorite recipe of mine.

Use your fingers to fluff up the leftover pasta a bit, so its not clumpy or stuck together. Set aside. In a small bowl crack the eggs and beat them really well with a pinch of salt.

In a big skillet melt the oil and butter over medium high heat. If you’re using a vegetable that might take longer to cook than others, add those to the pan - for example, asparagus or broccoli. Add a couple pinches of salt, stir, cover, and cook for a couple minutes. Until the vegetables are bright, and just cooked.

Now stir in anything that just needs a quick flash of cooking - in this case pea greens, but chopped greens would go in at this point if you’re using those. Stir, and cook just until tender - a minute or so. Pull about 1/3 of the vegetables out of the pan and set them aside.

Now, add the pasta to the skillet, and toss well. Once the pasta is hot, turn down the heat, wait a moment, then quickly stir in the eggs. Stir well, then cover the pan, remove from heat, and let everything sit for a minute. Uncover, give everything another toss, the egg should be cooked through. Taste, and adjust the seasoning before dividing between two plates. Top with the reserved vegetables, cooked pork, cheese and some chopped avocado.

RECIPE. Jun 4, 2011

Fried Chickpea Cake Salad

I’m fried. My brain, my skin and my heart. Due to a set of odd circumstances and personal choice I’ve gone without enough sleep several days in a row so my brain is slow, like molasses. The sun has finally and I do mean finally, come shining through in all it’s glory and like a ravenous beast I’m soaking up every single second of time outside that doesn’t include an umbrella or five layers. Thus my skin is burnt and smelling like fresh air and an embarrassing amount of sunscreen. My heart…oh that story is simple. My son is teething and it burns my heart, fries it into charred flesh to see him in pain. Can’t imagine how hard that must be. So it seems to be very fitting that I write today about fried chickpea cakes surrounded by mounds of greens and topped with hearty dressing.

This whole recipe is incredibly simple and other than the time you wait for the garbanzo mixture to chill (1-2 hours) it takes about 30 minutes. You can even make the cakes two days ahead of time and fry them on the day you serve the recipe. Not sure what to do with the leftover flour? Check out this recipe for sweet potato falafels.

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in large, wide pot over medium heat. Cook onion, stirring often, until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add broth and heat until simmering. Sprinkle with chickpea flour and yeast, whisking until smooth.

Transfer mixture to a food processor. Puree until as smooth as baby food. Stir in thyme, fava leaves and salt. Pour into a greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Lay sheet of plastic wrap on top and use your hand to level mixture. Chill until cold, at least 1.5 hours or up to two days.

Invert cake onto a cutting board. Cut into 12 squares, then cut each square again diagonally to make 24 triangles.

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown triangles, turning once, 8 minutes total; add oil as needed. Set on 6 plates.

Make salad: Toss arugula, fennel fronds, parsley, and half the vinaigrette in a bowl. Spoon salad over chickpea triangles and serve remaining dressing on the side.

RECIPE. May 30, 2011

Coconut Parchment Cod Focus

I was recently listening to a podcast my husband enjoys. They were discussing the importance of priorities in life. The point the host made that stuck with me most was that you can only have as many priorities as you have hands. If you think you have more you are either crazy or lying. His point was that you can only have two priorities in each area of your life. Business, family, friendship, etc. Then today was Memorial Day, a day of respect and remembrance. It also happens to be a day off for a majority of people. It happened to be sunny outside, an anomaly lately where we live, so I took my son and the dog for a walk.

While walking I noticed people on walks, in their garages sanding, sawing, building or just sitting. People were at the park, on their way to a friends house with food in hand and smiling.This got me thinking. I bet these are the things these people wish they could do everyday.

Yet if you asked then what their priorities in life were, I bet they wouldn’t list off anything in that list. Why is it that we wait for a day off, a bonus day, a day with no expectations or commitments to do what we really love? Why do we wait?

There are so many very understandable and responsible answers to that question. In fact, I’m just as guilty. Yet today got me really thinking about my reasons, my excuses for why I don’t just do what I love more often.

When I get to the core of my reasons they are all wrapped up in fear. Fear that something won’t get done, bills won’t get paid, others will be disappointed in me or it is a waste of time. So I’m looking at that fear, weighing my responsibilities and re-evaluating my priorities. I’ll let you know how it all goes.

This recipe is a perfect example of overcoming fear and setting priorities. I have been wanting to tackle fish for a long while, always putting it off even though it was incredible important for me to learn.

I am absolutely terrified of cooking the stuff but I enjoy eating it. When I saw this recipe in the latest Sunset magazine I thought it looked less intimidating and I felt somewhat capable. Plus, lets be honest, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In small bowl, whisk curry paste, gradually adding coconut milk. Transfer 1/2 cup sauce to another bowl. Set bowls aside. Toast almonds in small saucepan over medium heat until golden. Stir in rice, reserved 1/2 cup sauce, 1/2 cup water, coconut and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until rice is tender about 35-45 minutes.

Season cod with remaining 1/4 tsp salt and pepper while rice cooks. Cut 4 pieces of parchment, each 12x14 inches. Set fillet in center and mound asparagus and peas on top. For each packet, bring to opposite sides over ingredients and fold several times to seal.

I had some trouble getting a good seal but it didn’t need to be air tight. Bring other sides up and fold. Place packets, folded sides up, on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until fish is just opaque, 15-30 minutes.

Microwave remaining 1/4 cup sauce to warm. Divide rice among 4 plates and top each with fish and vegetables from packet, discarding extra liquid. Drizzle sauce over dishes and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

RECIPE. May 26, 2011

Not Compromising Granola Bars

Trying to put wholesome, natural, homemade food in my body and mother an eight month old can be an Olympic sport most days. I am often so consumed with this adorable little boy and the making of his food that I often overlook feeding myself until my stomach protests and loudly. There are also days that we have quite the busy social schedule and fitting in a meal, especially one made by my own two hands and full of nutrition, is nothing short of a miracle. Lately, I have been looking for ways to keep quick snacks on hand for those moments when I just need to fill my belly but I don’t want to short change my soul. Due to my blog stalking status at this site, I discovered a new recipe for the most incredible, easy and addicting granola bars.

The foundation of this recipe enables you to add dried fruit, other nuts, seeds and any other goodies that strike your fancy. The bars are softer than they look in pictures, resembling more of a cookie than a crispy bar. Each ingredient is full of powerful and wholesome nutrition. I would eat one bar topped with peanut butter and bananas for breakfast or grab one for a quick snack. It feels good to have something that fits my values, my time and my energy without compromising my soul or the health of my body.

{toast oats and nuts}

Preheat the oven to 350˚F with the rack in the middle. Lay peanuts and oats in a 9 x 13″ baking dish in a single layer. Bake for about 10 minutes until lightly toasted and golden brown. Set aside and let cool a bit.

{granola bars}

Keep the oven set to 350˚F. Line the 9 x 13″ baking dish with parchment paper. Heat up peanut butter and mashed bananas in microwave or over the stove and stir well to combine. Let cool a few minutes. In a medium bowl combine the oats, peanuts, coconut, flax meal, cinnamon, carob/chocolate chips, 1 tsp salt and banana mixture.

Fold in the pretzels. Taste granola and add any sweetener if desired. Spread the mixture evenly into the pan and top with 1 tsp remaining sea salt. Bake for about 25-30 minutes. Your granola bars are done when the top is golden brown and the edges are a bit crispy.

Let them cool so they are easy to handle, gently transfer to a cutting surface removing parchment paper and cut with a serrated knife or pizza cutter.

RECIPE. May 22, 2011

Butter Me Up Porkchop

So many of my friends are having babies. While I enjoy holding these bundles of love and life as much as anyone, I really love cooking for the mothers even more. A friend of mine recently inquired if I truly enjoyed this task of making meals for new moms and I emphatically nodded my head and smiled, really big. The truth is, I absolutely love it. The joy of cooking, in my opinion, is a three tiered process. First, I enjoy handling really good food. The kind you have grown yourself or you have purchased with pride from a local farmer or store. I love the slicing, dicing and mixing of this food, really connecting me with the power of life. Second, I love to eat good food. It not only fills my belly but nourishes my soul. Lastly, and most important, I love to feed others to fill their bellies and nourish their souls.

As a new mother, I can appreciate when someone takes the time and energy to create a meal and bring it for your consumption. In the first few weeks of my sons life I was so appreciative of those who gave their time to bring us meals so we could focus solely on loving and adoring our new son. So when I get the opportunity to spoil and dote on another new mom, I leap at the chance. I don’t just fix her a meal, I make her and her family a feast. I take requests and fulfill to best of my ability. This recipe went to one new mother and the next time I saw her she begged for the recipe. So here it is.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place walnuts on baking sheet and toast for 5-10 minutes or until golden and set aside. Heat oil in large ovenproof frying pan over medium-high heat. Rub pork chops with salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and cook until golden brown on one side, about 5-10 minutes. Transfer pork to plate.

Add 2 Tbsp broth, vinegar, brown sugar and 1/4 tsp pepper to pan and simmer 1 minute. Add shallots, squash, sage and greens to pan. Cook until greens are wilted, mixing occasionally.

Put frying pan in oven and bake, uncovered, until squash is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and fit pork, browned side up, between vegetables. Drizzle remaining broth over mixture and sprinkle walnuts on top.

Return to oven and bake, uncovered, until vegetables begin to turn golden and pork is cooked through, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven and place on plates.

RECIPE. May 18, 2011

Broccoli Pepper Bacon Pizza

I was inspired to make this recipe because I had all the ingredients on hand and a recent issue of Sunset magazine had featured a pizza topped with broccoli rabe, mozzarella and yellow pepper. It also suggested making the dough in a skillet instead of the oven and I quickly nixed that idea due to my great success with my pizza stone. If you make the dough ahead of time this recipe takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. It’s incredibly delicious, cheap and very basic. It is also one of the prettiest things I have ever seen. I was troubled to top it all with cheese and stick it in the oven because all I wanted to do was stare at the gorgeous colors and appreciate the vibrancy of life that burst from the mingling of these vegetables.

Maybe I’m just a tad bit of a foodie and an obsessive photography but I appreciate such natural beauty. It made it challenging to devour this beautiful masterpiece but on first bite my conscious was clear as my belly rumbled for more.

Combine all of the crust ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or mix in an electric mixer. After you’ve combined all of the ingredients, set the dough aside to rest for 5 minutes. Stir again for 3 to 5 minutes, adding more water or flour if necessary. Generally speaking, you want the dough to be wetter and stickier than your typical bread dough. It should be dry enough that it holds together and pulls away from the side of the bowl when you mix it, but it doesn’t need to be dry enough to knead by hand.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Place each one into an oiled freezer bag. I just squirt a couple of sprays of spray oil into the bag. You can also brush the outside of the dough with olive oil and then place it into the bag. All that matters is that you be able to get the dough out of the bag later. If you aren’t going to bake them that day, you can throw the bags into the freezer. They’ll stay good in there for at least a month. The evening before you intend to bake them, move the frozen dough balls to the refrigerator to thaw. If you intend to bake them later that day, place the bagged dough balls in the refrigerator. Remove them from the fridge and let them warm to room temperature an hour or two before you intend to bake them.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees when ready to bake pizza. Place pizza stone in oven while it heats. If you don’t have a pizza stone just use a lined baking pan but do not place in oven while it heats. If using pizza stone, cut piece of parchment paper a little longer than your stone. Pull dough from corners by hand until it is in round or rectangular shape and place on parchment paper. The parchment paper allows easy transfer on and off your stone. No matter how hard I try mine always turns out more rectangular. If using lined baking pan just place dough directly on pan. For more detailed instructions on shaping the dough go here.

Place peppers on pizza first, followed by bacon and then broccoli and cheese. I used half cows mozzarella for my husband and half daiya mozzarella for me. Place in oven for 5-10 minutes, watching carefully until cheese is melted to your liking. I like mine a bit golden. Allow to cool for five minutes and then slice.

RECIPE. May 12, 2011

Wholesome Carrot Bread

I was recently listening to a talk given by Tara Brach regarding recognizing true wellness in your life. She told a hilarious story about a father who was angry about something that had happened and while gardening was being grumpy with his five year old daughter. After a few minutes of his behavior his daughter said the following, “Daddy, do you notice since turning five I haven’t whined?”. Her father replied, “Yes honey, why?”. She replied, “Because I told myself after I turned five I wouldn’t whine anymore and it’s the hardest thing I have ever done but if I can do it you can stop being so grumpy”. Tara went on to say that this man was the father of Positive Psychology and this is the day this man realized the power of intention.

Intention is a powerful tool to wield when presented with the weeds of the past that keep popping up all over the place no matter how hard or often you try to get ride of them. I love being reminded of this power because I often get wrapped up in the outcome of change instead of the process. The results instead of what happens in between. Intention is a way of thinking, energy that you focus on in your life as a way of increasing happiness and presence. Intention is how you stay grounded and remind yourself about what is most important. Intention is a quick reminder, a repetition of where you want to focus your time and attention.

So I’ve decided to start setting intentions for my day, possible repeating the same one over and over in an attempt to remind myself of what is most important in my life to focus my time, energy and attention. So how is this related to carrot bread? It really isn’t. I just had thoughts to share and a recipe that rocks that I found at my favorite cooking blog. So have a heaping slice of this delicious bread and decide where you want to focus your time, energy and attention.

Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease the sides of pan with coconut oil and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the grated carrot, ground flax, pure maple syrup, almond milk, oil, vanilla, vinegar, and lemon zest. Set aside for at least two minutes while you gather the dry ingredients.

In another large sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder & soda, and salt. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just combined (a few dry spots may remain). Fold in the raisins and chopped walnuts.

Pour into prepared pan, sprinkle with crystallized ginger and bake at 350F for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and then transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool completely.

Drizzle on lemon glaze just before serving. Serves eight 1” slices. May be frozen.

RECIPE. May 9, 2011

Reuban Desperation

The boy hadn’t slept all night and thought taking a nap was a big joke. This mama was tired, exhausted really and ready to crawl into bed, pull up the covers and never come out. Then there was the subject of dinner. On a day like this, there is no inspiration or energy. The bones are tired, muscles weak and the brain running circles, trying to problem solve the unsolvable…a sleepless baby. It was on a day like this I managed to get an hour to myself while he actually slept and took the time to salivate over food blogs and try to find motivation amongst the cupcakes, oatmeal, soups and quinoa. It was here that I found my saving grace. A meal that is so delicious and full of comfort but incredibly easy and most ingredients I had on hand.

From start to finish this sandwich takes about 15-20 minutes. Ingredients are simple and if you don’t have them already, they are fairly cheap. The key is the avocado and the sauce. I was doubtful about the mix of saurkraut and avocado but it was unbelievable.

Spread butter on one side of bread, place in non-stick skillet. Layer bread with Thousand Island, sauerkraut, cheese and turn heat low to medium.  Spread butter on one side of second slice of bread and place in pan.

Layer with thousand island, meat and diced avocado.  Put slices together to make full sandwich, some ingredients may slip out but thats okay.  Cook till bread browns on both sides, flipping once or twice. Serve with salad or home made potato fries. Consume heartily and make in desperate times.

RECIPE. May 6, 2011

Filling the Void Gingerbread Cupcakes

I visit this place a shameful number of times between Thursday and Saturday night. To say I have a cupcake obsession would be putting it lightly. I think my sons college savings just might end up in the form of fluffy cake topped with sugary icing and placed directly in my mouth. During this time of incredible stress and my limited diet due to my son’s sensitive stomach, I have turned to these clouds of fluff and sugar as my way of treating myself and relaxing. The only vice I have other than drinking wine and beer. As I mentioned before, this habit is fairly expensive.

While I might consider pawning many of my possession to continue my addiction, I have been desperately trying to clone their methods. The thing is, they’re masters at their craft and whatever I bake is just never quite as good as theirs.

Until I obtained “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World” from a good friend, who took pity on my pour cupcake addicted soul. I’ve made vanilla, green tea and now gingerbread. The recipe I am posting is not exactly the same as what is printed in their book but it is very close.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners. Mine are reusable and aren’t they adorable? Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Whisk oil, molasses, maple syrup, soy milk, yogurt and lemon zest in separate bowl.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix just until smooth. Fold in crystallized ginger. Fill cupcake liners two-thirds full and bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

I used this recipe for the frosting and it was a perfect match. You could also do a lemon buttercream.

RECIPE. May 3, 2011

Celebration Menu

A few weekends ago I got the privilege of hosting a baby shower for a very dear friend of mine. My bestie, partner in crime, life partner, other spouse or however you want to label our very close connection. Our husbands regularly joke that we were made for one another. Despite my move three hours away about three years ago, we have remained close and check in regularly. Doesn’t mean I don’t miss how easy it used to be to just call her up and go for a walk or a run or even sit down to a meal together on a regular basis.

I was fairly nervous about this venture because I consider party planning a weak spot in my array of abilities and skills. In the past, I was even quite the Scrooge about such events. It was all selfishness and lack of understanding about the incredible ritual that surrounds showers and parties.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant and others showered my husband and I with love that I began to really understand just how incredible it can be to be adored and loved. It was also a very poignant moment in my pregnancy as I realized that this person in my belly was real because other people thought he was real.

This was the first time I had the opportunity to help throw a shower, after I had been humbled by my own and I had so much fun. I was in charge of food and it was all a hit. We played games, opened gifts and just adored my friend and her growing belly. So what was on the menu?

We had a popcorn bar with recipes obtained from The Kitchen Sink.

Chile Pea Puffs from 101 Cookbooks.

Lentil Goat Cheese Crostini from 101 Cookbooks.

A vegetable platter with a three cilantro mix from Trader Joes.

Cream Cheese Frosted Carrot Cupcakes from Pure Hunger.

Finally, Chocolate cupcakes stuffed with peanut butter and topped with Chocolate Ganache from Cupcake Bakeshop. Needless to say, we all ate very well and my friend went home with plenty of leftovers.

RECIPE. Apr 30, 2011

Honey Roasted Parsnips, Sweet Mashed Potatoes & BBQ Porkchops

You will notice over the next few weeks that this site is changing in new and wonderful ways. I’ve been accumulating ideas over the last year that my husband has recently made time to implement. In no short part, I’m sure, because he is tired of my endless whining about all the ideas I have that I can’t make happen without changing the site. There will be new categories for recipes, a way to print out recipes without photos, videos and a way to search the site to find what you need quickly. I couldn’t be more thrilled and eager. So be patient, as I’m trying to be and make this meal in the meantime. This is a favorite go-to meal on Sundays because it’s warm, delicious and fairly quick. It also happens that we have quite a bit of pork in our freezer and the chops are simply unbelievable.

My husband is typically in charge of the cooking of the meat as it has never been something I have been interested in accomplishing or learning. In fact, after he bought a smoker I just gave up on ever having to learn anything about cooking, bbq or grilling meat and the lack of knowledge means when we eat meat, he gets to cook. I am usually in charge of the side dishes and I firmly believe you can’t have pork chops without a thick helping of mashed potatoes and a side of vegetables. When I saw this recipe for honey roasted parsnips I was intrigued. It was simple, only had five ingredients and sounded wonderful as a side to pork chops. It also happens to be a root vegetable that is in season right now.

Pre-heat ove to 400 degrees. Peel and cut parsnips into about 3-inch-long by 1-inch-thick sticks. In large baking dish, mix parsnips with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for about 30 min, turning once or twice, removing when golden and cooked through. Mix sesame oil and honey together and toss parsnips in mixture until covered. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and return to oven for 10 minutes.

I asked my husband how he cooks his pork chops and he replied, “I don’t know, I do it different every time”. I asked for his favorite method and this is what he provided for me: Rinse the pork in cold water, dry and baste in Stubb’s BBQ Baste. Then season with pepper and seasoning salt, and set it in flour to coat. Next, move meat to a skillet until brown—maybe five minutes per side. At the same time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Then in a baking dish, prepare a thin layer of broth, BBQ marinade and BBQ sauce. When the meat is done in the skillet, set it in the dish and bake in oven for 20 minutes. Pull out the baking dish, flip the meat over, add BBQ sauce to the top side of the meat, cover the dish with foil and bake for 10 or 15 minutes more.

While the parsnips and meat are cooking I usually boil potatoes in water for 15-20 minutes or until soft then drain water and add milk, butter, salt and pepper. If I want a kick I add once minced garlic clove or some curry powder.

RECIPE. Apr 25, 2011

Asian Swiss Chard Soup

The weather around here has been a tease. This last week the sun came out and shook it’s hips around, showed a little skin and then ran behind the clouds to produce more rain. I love the Pacific Northwest but I’m at the point in the season where I have had enough of the wet stuff. I want my shorts, flip flops and sunscreen weather back. This weekend we mowed the lawn, dressed our son in his first shorts, hat and t-shirt and plopped him in the freshly cut grass where he happily explored for a good hour. We walked all around town as the big event, that only happens twice a year, was in full throttle and hundreds of people were doing the same. We ate BBQ, got sunburned and got dressed with only one instead of three layers of clothing.

Alas, it was such a tease and the prediction for the next few weeks doesn’t look hopeful. I’m thankful we had time off to enjoy the glorious orb in the sky but I’m sad to have to turn on our heat again this morning. It also means a break from bratwurst, saurkraut and home made french fries and a return to warm, comforting soup. In an effort to maintain some belief in the return of spring and stay utilize what is in season, I ran across this chard soup that was sitting in my mail box.

This recipe comes from a recipe exchange I participated in a while ago. While running through my list, I landed on this because I had just purchased a huge bunch of chard and was looking for inspiration. This recipe makes an unbelievable amount of soup, easily feeding 8-10 people, so feel free to half or even quarter the original.

In a large soup pot, over medium low heat, cook leeks and garlic in oil. Separate stalks/ribs from leaves of chard.  Add chard stalks to garlic and leeks, reserving leaves for later.  Cook for 8 to 10 minutes.

Add 9 cups of water to pot.  Increase heat and bring to a boil.  Add carrots, then reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Bring a separate pot of water to boil and cook until tender for about 3-4 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Set aside.

Coarsely chop chard and add to soup along with edamame (no need to thaw if frozen).  Cook until wilted. Increase heat and bring liquid to boil.  Remove 1 cup of liquid and swirl into a bowl with miso.  Set aside.

Add meat to pot and heat thoroughly, about 2 minutes.  Add noodles and stir in miso.

RECIPE. Apr 20, 2011

Quinoa Herb Bragging Bread

I danced. Not the skip and click your heels Dorothy from Wizard of Oz kind of dance. No. This was a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Dancing in the Rain sort of celebration. It took place in my kitchen and leaked into the living room and sun room and eventually all the way up the stairs and back down. During this giddy moment I also managed to hum a tune and shout “I did it” about ten times. This was followed by “I am so bad ass” about another ten times. Why all the fan fare? I made bread. Oh yes, this girl. Not only did I make bread but it was unbelievably moist, flavorful and I did not even touch an electric mixer in the process. The bonus? It’s chock full of protein and whole wheat goodness without any sugar or preservatives. The down side? It takes three days total.

Uh oh. Did I lose you? I hope not because this bread is worth every second of time. The best part is that it doesn’t really take much actual time. It’s just a lot of waiting after mixing or kneading. The trick is to start with good yeast and flour. I purchased both of mine at the bulk section of my local co-op. I have had an itch for bread baking for months but no motivation to follow through.

It is a precise, delicate and often frustrating process. I have attempted bread several times and never have I been successful in any way. A good friend even told me she wanted to make bread recently and I lent her my “Artesian bread in five minutes a day” cookbook because I haven’t opened the thing since I bought it. Throw a six month old baby who loves to be attached to his mama all the time and it starts to feel like bread making won’t happen for another few years.

Then I opened “Feeding the Whole Family” for at least the one-hundredth time and was inspired. The recipe is taken from a variation off their whole grain bread. It tastes like a whole wheat bread but less dense and with more of a garlic kick. It makes two loaves and smells heavenly while baking.

The recipe calls for making a “starter” 12-24 hours before you even begin kneading or baking. I learned that this process increases the moistness and flavor of the bread so I let it sit for the full 24 hours. It also increases the likelihood of success and is especially important when making whole wheat based breads because they can be very dry and dense.

Blend quinoa and water in blender or food processor until creamy; pour into a large mixing bowl. Mix in oil, salt and yeast. Add enough flour to make the mixture look like thick-cooked cereal. Cover the bowl wiht plastic wrap or a damp towel and leave for 12-24 hours at room temperature. Once the dough is fermented, it can be refrigerated for up to a week before using.

After 12-24 hours add sweetener to dough and stir. Stir in whole wheat flour. As you add the white/whole wheat flour, the mixture will be too difficult to stir. Knead it by hand in the bowl and continue to add white/whole wheat flour. I used 1 cup white and 2 cups whole wheat.

When dough is less sticky, transfer to floured surface and knead 10-15 minutes, or until dough is soft and springy, but not too sticky. A good friend, who is a bread baking expert, told me it is better if it is too sticky than too dry so don’t overdo it on the flour.

Wash and dry mixing bowl and oil it. Place dough in bowl, cover, and let rise in warm place (65-70 degrees or hotter) for 1.5-2 hours. It is very important that the dough rise in a warm place. I believe my problem with failed bread in the past was that the house was way to cold.

I usually want to make bread in the winter, go figure. If it is a cool day you can let the dough rise longer, up to three hours. To make the loaves, lightly oil 2 loaf pans. I used two different size pans and it worked great. Divide dough in half. Punch down and shape the dough using the following instructions.

Flatten half of the dough into a square on your working surface. Press all of the air out of the dough by vigorously slapping the dough with the palms of both hands.

Fold the flattened dough into a triangle and press it down again. Fold two corners into the center and press again. Fold the top point into the body of the dough and press it down again.

Pick up the dough with both hands and begin rolling it into itself. This stretches the outside of the dough and creates a tight roll with no air pockets. Seal the seam by flattening it with the heel of your hand. Shape the dough into a nice loaf and place in the pan seam side down. Repeat punching down and shaping the other half of the dough.

Mix water, syrup, butter and salt in small cup or bowl and coat the top of each loaf with this mixture. I used all of it, re-coating the bread several times. Cover and let rise in pans for 45-60 minutes or until loaves have doubled in size. Test the bread for readiness if you press the dough and it wants to stay in, but still has a little spring then it’s ready. I had to be somewhere for a few hours and the bread go to rise for three hours. I think it made a huge difference so don’t be a stickler about time but make sure you just let it keep rising until it reaches the pictured height.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake 45-60 minutes. Bread will come out of pans after five minutes of cooling. Do not remove before it has a chance to cool a bit. Let cool 30 minutes before slicing.

Those holes indicate it is well done…I had to brag a little more.

RECIPE. Apr 17, 2011

Mac ‘n Cheese Craving

I was yearning for the warm, gooey, rich and creamy taste of macaroni and cheese. I have also been dying for a slice of thick, sweet cheesecake and the tart, sharpness of blue cheese in my salad. While the latter two felt like impossible hurdles, the first felt like a decent challenge. During the height of my desire I happened to stumble on an incredible recipe that looked like it didn’t take too much time, energy or money and promised to deliver that creamy familiar comfort food straight into my mouth. I’ll skip to the end and tell you I was shocked by the power of nutritional yeast. Until this day it had been brought into daylight from the spice cupboard only to flavor my popcorn every so slightly. I’m ashamed to admit I did not realize it’s incredible transformative power.

You may be asking, “What the heck is nutritional yeast?!” Wikipedia says, “It is a source of protein and vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins and is a complete protein. It is also naturally low in fat and sodium and it is free of sugar, dairy, and gluten.” So it’s actually fairly incredible and cheap. As I write this post I am already craving this dish all over again and plan on making it this week for dinner. The sauce makes enough to easily feed 6-8 people and I ate the leftovers happily for lunch for about a week. I added ham and next time I think I will add broccoli or peas. I loved the dish even better the next day after sitting in the fridge.

The recipe was taken from my current favorite vegan cooking blog. She continues to blow me away with her creative and delicious dishes. I open my browser to complete a task, see a new post and get completely lost in her site for at least 20-60 minutes before I go back to my original task. She is what I aspire to be and I hope to someday have that kind of genius in the kitchen.

Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet.  In a bowl, season chopped squash with some oil (~1 tsp) and kosher salt (couple pinches) and stir. Add to baking sheet and roast in oven for 40 minutes, flipping once half way through baking.

Assemble your cheeze sauce ingredients (cashews, non-dairy milk, garlic, lemon, salt, nutritional yeast, pepper, mustard, seasonings) and add just the cashews to food processor. I love how colorful it is! Process until a fine crumb forms similar to corn meal. Now add in the rest of the cheese sauce ingredients and process until smooth. Leave the sauce in the processor as you will be adding the squash.

Cook your pasta according to package directions. When squash is finished roasting, add it to the food processor and blend it with the cheese sauce until smooth. Adjust to taste. The sauce will thicken up with time. If at any point the sauce becomes too thick, you can add a bit of milk to thin it out.

Drain and rinse pasta with cold water. Now add the pasta back into the same pot and add your desired amount of cheeze sauce on top. Stir well. Add in any desired mix-ins like peas or broccoli and re-heat in the pot. Store any leftover sauce in the fridge and use within a few days.

My husband brought home this beer from a co-worker who was sharing his favorite brew. I drank the whole thing like it was water. Great beer, especially in compliment with this dish.

RECIPE. Apr 11, 2011

Banana Bread Determination

I’ve become emboldened in the baking department recently. Equipped with a vast array of knowledge that I have accrued over time and the ability to phone a friend if I need to hit the jackpot, I’ve felt less timid about messing around with trusted baked goods. Most recently I have had a deep craving for banana bread. I even purchased very ripe bananas just to let them sit out another week so I could make bread. Usually a person just looks over at their fruit bowl only to realize their bananas have gone bad and then must do a made dash to make good use of them before they turn completely sour. I, on the other hand, intentionally let my bananas get brown and rotted in anticipation of my next adventure.

My first attempt at tweaking a recipe occurred with zucchini muffins and while I was pleased with the results I was a bit of a coward in the substitution department. I didn’t want to royally screw up and have a flat or mushy bread. I have a pet peeve about wasting food and even if it came out terrible I would have to consume it rather than throw it out.

This time, however, I was empowered by my success and decided to significantly up the anti. I wanted to take a banana bread recipe that had already been veganized and increase the healthy flour and decrease the amount of cane sugar and butter fat. I also did not want to sacrifice taste, moisture or complexity of ingredients. You can see the original recipe in the link provided on the side bar.

Upon a friends baking advice I swapped out the 1 cup sugar for 3/4 cup maple syrup, as this is the conversion for substitution for these two ingredients. I then wanted to add chia instead of egg, as the chia helps bring out the flavors of what you are baking while maintaining moisture. I completely omitted the butter with just 1/4 cup canola oil. I could have used 1/2 cup oil as an even replacement for the butter but I had already replaced sugar (dry ingredient) with maple syrup (wet ingredient) so I needed to decrease my wet ingredients to avoid a sloppy mess of bread.

I used a combination of regular whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour because whole wheat flour provides density while the whole wheat white flour provides softness and allows more moisture. The substitution for carob chips is just due to my inability to consume chocolate at this time or else there would be no substitution.

In reflection, I would have omitted the water completely and increased the oil to 1/2 cup or even added another banana and kept the oil at 1/4 cup. I was very pleased with the results but it could have been a bit more moist and lacked just a tad bit of buttery flavor. The candied ginger may seem like an odd ingredient but I beg you not even consider making this recipe without it. In fact, it will be a staple in any banana bread I bake from now on.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with butter or cooking spray, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl combine maple syrup, canola oil, chia seeds and water. In a separate bowl, mash bananas; then mix with milk.

In another separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add flour mixture to maple syrup mixture in three parts, alternating with banana-milk mixture in two parts, stirring by hand until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips, ginger and optional nuts.

Turn batter into loaf pan, smoothing top with the back of a spoon, and bake for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for a few minutes; then remove bread from pan and cool on a wire rack.

RECIPE. Apr 7, 2011

Sweet Curry Casserole

Sometimes as I’m putting together a dish all I can think is that it is going to be one big effing disaster. During the time it took to slice and dice the ingredients for this dish, I was convinced the flavors were going to taste like one giant turd. I may have just committed foodie blog suicide by comparing a dish to a giant turd but that is honestly what I was afraid would happen. You read the ingredient list of apples, chickpeas, onion and curry spices and you can’t help but feel a fearful lump in your throat. So I’m slicing and chopping, roasting and mixing and praying to the domestic goddess in the sky that this dish turn out decent and not resemble anything turd-like. I’m happy to report it was phenomenal.

Which just shows I still have so much to learn about paring tastes, textures and flavors. It was sweet, creamy and followed the perfect profile for comfort food without any of the guilt.I was feeling adventurous and the book I found it in, Vive le Vegan!, has been a no fail trusted sidekick over and over. So in a leap of faith I grabbed all the ingredients and went for it. It also helped that I had just purchased a case of chickpeas at Costco and had some fresh collards that I wanted to add to a recipe just like this. The collards are the first produce from the garden this season and I’m so thrilled to be bringing home such fresh, home grown produce again. In the spirit of too many canned chickpeas and fresh produce I flew straight in the face of fear and came out with a happy belly.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large, deep casserole dish, combine all ingredients.Stir until well combined. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.

Stir through, cover, and bake for another 30-40 minutes, until all vegetables are tender. Serve with a hearty bread.

RECIPE. Apr 1, 2011

Ham Lentil Shepards Pie

While I will eagerly tell anyone who cares how much I despise cake, I have a very public love affair with pie. In our town there was recently a Pie Tasting contest sponsored by our local bakers guild. I was determined to go. Put it on the calendar, cleared the schedule and made sure I knew when and where it was happening. Then my son decided to take an epic three hour nap and we missed the whole gig. I was crushed, heartbroken, unconsolable for at least 24 hours. Then I realized there would be next year and many many county fairs in between. I also happen to have a father-in-law who makes one killer marionberry pie. When I saw this recipe, all I could think was it was an excuse to have pie for dinner. Pie as a main course…why had I not thought of this genius idea earlier?

While not lined with a crisp, buttery crust and filled with a gooey jam inside, this pie still takes the cake. Salty ham, soft lentils topped with warm, buttery mashed potatoes spiced with just the right amount of mustard, salt and pepper. A friend recently made something similar but used purple potatoes. It was incredibly cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and cut potatoes in halves or quarters, depending on size. Steam or boil potatoes until they are fairly soft, drain.

Mash potatoes to desired smoothness (I like mine lumpy) then add margarine and vegan cream cheese. I know the cream cheese bit sounds gross but it actually acts as a sour cream and tastes amazing. Stir in mustard and seasonings.

Rinse lentils, cover with plenty of cold water in large saucepan and bring to boil. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until lentils are soft. Drain.

In large saucepan, heat oil and cook onion and garlic for about 5 minutes or until soft. Stir in diced ham and cook five more minutes.

Tip in chopped tomatoes and mix well. Cover pan and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with thyme and pepper. Pour in large baking dish. Cover with whole grain mustard mashed potatoes and smooth down with a fork.

Put into oven and cook for about 25 minutes until golden brown. Broil top if needed to make crisp golden brown.

RECIPE. Mar 30, 2011

Midnight Red Bean Chili Presence

I adore Nikki McClure. If you have never heard of her, that’s just a shame and you must rectify this ignorance immediately by visiting the online Olympia store. She makes posters, books and most recently a cookbook that I salivated over for months until a good friend just mailed me a copy for no good reason other than she saw it and thought of me. The book is less about recipes and more about the process of cooking and sharing food. Nikki has little pictures that go with each recipe and a whimsical or thoughtful paragraph that makes you stop and think before just mixing together ingredients and inhaling. In many ways its how I hope to be in life, careful, thoughtful, pausing to enjoy each moment and be present.

At the very end of the book is a recipe for Midnight Morning Biscuits. They looked so simple and the description to make them at midnight, as the rest of the world sleeps and eat them while still warm, was just too tempting for me to pass up. The directions also call for you to use only your hands to mix and knead. What a perfect way to be completely involved in the process. Raw, pure, human power to make something edible. While I did not make them at midnight, I decided I had to find a soup to go with the biscuits so I had an excuse to make them. In one of my favorite cookbooks “Feeding the Whole Family” I found just what I was looking for in a red bean chili. Add the quinoa and you even have a complete meal with protein. The biscuits were wonderful and such a joy to make as I reminded myself to breathe, relax and stay present.

Place beans in a large pot with 2 cups of water and 1 tsp cumin; bring to boil then cover and simmer over low heat for 50-60 minutes. Heat oil in 4 quart pot on medium heat. Add onion, 1 tsp salt, garlic, green pepper, 1 tsp cumin and rest of spices. Saute for 5-10 minutes. Add quinoa, corn, tomato sauce and 1 cup of water and stir then simmer for 20 minutes.

Add cooked beans and second tsp of salt; simmer another 10 minutes. Top each bowl with grated cheese and sour cream if desired. For babies 10 months and older you can serve plain, cooked, mashed beans or puree some extra cooked corn with water.

For biscuits: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix together flour, salt and baking powder in large bowl. Mix butter into flour by rubbing and crumbling with your fingers until you have pea sized crumbs. Stir in milk. Add topping of choice (I use sea salt and rosemary). Knead lightly and pat dough flat. Cut into circles (I take the top of a jam jar, place it on the dough and cut around it) place on baking sheet, and let sit for 15 min. Bake for 12 min or until golden. I freeze the extra and thaw them for additional meals.

RECIPE. Mar 25, 2011

Zucchini Muffin Quest Success

There is pride in this recipe. Personal pride. The wizardry that must occur to create a vegan recipe astounds me. I called upon some trusted advisors, consulted my favorite vegan blog and even emailed both of them in order to attempt the most courageous act in the kitchen to date. Tweaking a recipe for a baked good. Cooking allows for constant revision in the moment. Adding dashes here, additional vegetables, spices or broth without batting an eye at the outcome. It’s a process that is familiar, comfortable and natural for me. Altering recipes for baked goods, however, is always such a daunting task. In this instance, I was determined to find a recipe for zucchini bread that was vegan, did not include gobs of sugar or fat, included chia seeds and did not taste of cardboard. A difficult task for sure but I’m confident I succeeded.

There was a lot of nail biting and wine drinking as the muffins baked in the oven. Constant checking to make sure they were rising and fluffy as muffins should. When I was assured they looked appropriate, I eagerly sliced one open to make sure they didn’t taste like cardboard. The exact opposite my friends. Warm, soft, sweet and ever faintly tasting of zucchini and cranberry. These muffins were and are a requirement in my morning routine. Adding a slice of butter just polishes off an already ideal experience.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a muffin pan with oil or place paper or silicone liners in tins. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, mix wet ingredients and stir to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir just until combined. Do not over-stir. Spoon into muffin cups, dividing batter equally among the cups. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes.

RECIPE. Mar 21, 2011

Creamy Avocado Spaghetti

There are staples in every household, recipes we fall back on when nothing else inspires us in the kitchen. When I was reviewing my recipes posted thus far, I was shocked to discover I have left out a staple in our house. It is such a regular, in fact, it was the first page of our cookbook I made as favors for our wedding. It’s my favorite quick crowd pleaser and family meal. This is a recipe that can be ready in 20-30 minutes or less. It is creamy, fully of nutritional value and tastes like an alfredo with an avocado twist. I discovered this recipe on the back of a box of spaghetti a few years ago, and couldn’t resist at least trying such an odd dish.

Over time I have made it my own, changing a few ingredients and methods to increase the ease and decrease the overwhelming onion taste that occurred in my first try. So I hope you give it a shot. I hope by now, you can trust that I won’t steer you in the wrong direction when it comes to food.The original recipe just instructs you to toss all the ingredients into a blender and then pour onto cooked spaghetti. As mentioned above, I found it to be much to heavy on the onion flavor. So I decided to try sauteing the onion and garlic before adding it to the rest of the ingredients in the blender. I also tend to top it off with shrimp cooked in garlic and a few freshly chopped tomatoes. For kids, I call it green spaghetti sauce and make it something fun to eat.

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until softened. Cook spaghetti. Place avocado, onion, sugar, garlic, lemon juice, one diced tomato and olive oil in blender and process until smooth. Pour sauce over spaghetti and then top with favorite meat, tomatoes and shredded parmesan cheese. Or enjoy naked! The sauce…don’t eat it naked…or do…I won’t know.

RECIPE. Mar 18, 2011

Montana Gold Tea Cupcakes

I only got one of these unbelievable cupcakes before I discovered my son was wildly sensitive to the orange peels in the tea and thus not another bite for this mama. To say I was devastated might be an over reaction first world problem but I’m not ashamed to admit it. I was devastated. I was even clever enough to frost them with some Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting. I’m serious, they were more than noteworthy. A subtle orange and cinnamon flavor to the cake with a powerful spiced punch from the frosting. I wanted to die and eat five more. So promise me you’ll make them and think of me as you take each bite. Wishing I could enjoy their luscious goodness. I might sink into a mild foodie depression before I finish this post.

The bonus about these mini heaven cakes is that they are completely vegan and the recipe is courtesy of a very very talented friend and vegan chef. Her blog is incredible and I have serious bloggers envy regarding her posts. She is the only reason I have been able to maintain some sanity while living a dairy free life. I worship both her and these amazing cupcakes.

In small saucepan, heat soymilk over low heat. Steep the tea in the soymilk for about ten minutes. This should reduce to 1 cup. Chill in fridge until cool then strain out loose tea or remove tea bags (I just left mine in the fridge overnight). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the soymilk tea in a medium mixing bowl and add apple cider vinegar to the soymilk and whip briskly with a fork. Set to the side for ten minutes so it can curdle. After it curdles, mix the soymilk, oil and sugar together and whisk until smooth. Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients ¼ cup at a time and whisk until batter is smooth and all ingredients have been incorporated. Scoop ¼ cup batter into cupcake pan and bake for 18-20 minutes. Let completely cool and lightly frost.

I was easily able to freeze the cupcakes before frosting and after they thawed I noticed they were even more moist then when they had just finished baking. I store them in the freezer and then thaw one at a time, frost and consume greedily. I also licked the batter bowl absolutely clean. A bonus about vegan cooking is you never have to worry about consuming raw eggs.

RECIPE. Mar 14, 2011

Hummus Quinoa Casserole

I know better than to judge a book by it’s cover. I’m a self proclaimed nerd and this is just a mistake you never make when you have an undying adoration for reading. I’ve transferred this moral code into the kitchen and life. While a recipe may sound ridiculous, ingredients like curry and chocolate, your taste buds could be shocked by the outrageous combination. When I read ingredients for this particular dish I was skeptical but adventurous. I can’t say it was love at first bite but it quickly became my favorite leftover. It made way more than I imagined and when we finished I wondered how it would all get consumed.

There was nothing to worry about. I must admit this casserole gets better and better as each day passes. The hummus blends and saturates in the spiced vegetables and it all blends together beautifully. I added pork for personal taste to the recipe but there is plenty of protein in this dish without the meat and it’s completely dairy free.

This dish can easily feed a whole family or several guests. You can substitute different vegetables you have on hand for any or all the recommended. It takes hardly any time and can even been prepared beforehand and just cooked 30 minutes before everyone needs to eat. I served it with some hearty bread and a spinach salad.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In large casserole dish, toss vegetables with olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. Bake in oven for 15-18 minutes, until golden in spots. Place roasted vegetables in separate bowl.

Spread cooked quinoa evenly over bottom. Drop spoonfuls of hummus over quinoa and lightly spread to distribute evenly without breaking up layers.

Place roasted veggies over hummus. Layer cooked pork over veggies. Bake 20-25 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with fresh herbs. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

RECIPE. Mar 11, 2011

A Hummus Surprise

I hope my words do justice to this dish that demands more than one helping because my camera won’t. Halfway through cooking, the battery life ended and I was far too horrified to even consider taking pictures with my camera phone. It’s a long lesson in humility lately. I used to be the woman who always had her battery powered and couldn’t imagine what would ever get in the way of being on top of all the little details in life. Laundry, groceries, shower, sweeping, dishes…all done in a timely manner. Now, I feel like I won the lottery if even half of those gets accomplished. Safe to say charging my battery was not on the top of my mental to-do list.

I was tempted to not even post the recipe without enough process pictures. Then I thought it was a perfect opportunity to be vulnerable and imperfect in public. Why is this a desirable activity? It helps remind me that sometimes it doesn’t have to be in the right package to impress anyone. Sometimes all it takes is a great recommendation and a killer sympathy story.

What I do have, should at least wet your appetite, and if not then maybe the mystery will entice you. If photos or mystery just isn’t enough, then let me tell you that this dish tastes exactly like the version with dairy, except it has not a lick of the stuff. Impressed yet? No? How about I say that it is incredibly inexpensive and a meal you can make in a pinch?

Heat oil in saucepan on medium high heat, add onions, garlic and saute for 5 min. Add diced bacon, cook for 2 min. Add mushrooms and cook for 4 min at slightly higher heat. Set aside while you cook pasta (al dente).

Immediately toss pasta in with mushroom and bacon mixture, return to low heat, add hummus, mustard, egg yolks and half parsley and season with salt and pepper. Stir pasta well over low heat for several minutes to cook yolks, although not too hot or they will curdle. Sprinkle remaining parsley.

RECIPE. Mar 8, 2011

Pumpkin Gingerbread Disappears

I’m incredibly sick. The kind of sick where you should be laying in bed doing nothing but breathing and hoping that goes okay. I certainly should not be putting up a blog post but I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t wait to share this amazing recipe. It was honestly the only thing that sounded even remotely good during these last few days. While I have not been able to consume this last loaf I baked, opting for mild soups and noodles, I easily and heartily consumed the first loaf in a little under five days. This took great restraint, a will of steel really. While sick, this last loaf baked and filled the house with warmth and comfort. The smell of ginger, cinnamon and pumpkin soothing my irritable body.

Of course I completely stole another recipe from my new favorite vegan cooking blog. I think I might be just a tad obsessed. I’m incredibly glad she posts only once a day or I might actually spend more time on her site than facebook and that’s an embarrassing amount of time. I did make some changes to her recipe, which she got from Fat Free Vegan.

My first attempt, I made it exactly as written in her post. The second time around I decided to fiddle with the flour, omit the nuts and change up the frosting which was to buttery for my personal taste. I used whole wheat pastry flour the second time around and due to the low protein content it was not nearly dense enough. Although it turned out like a bread pudding, no complaints from me.

It was also the first debut of my brand new can opener. I’ve been giddy about this little device since we ordered it and it showed up on our door step. I swear the old can opener has been around since I first moved into my dorm in college. I’m sure you know the story. Old, rusty, doesn’t really “open” cans leaving you frustrated, banging the lid in desperation to get it open. Well this one is incredibly cool. Not only is it red but it leaves no serrated edges, opening the can along the glue seal. I might just have a mild crush.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a regular sized loaf pan with parchment paper and lightly oil on top. Toast the walnuts on a baking sheet for about 10-12 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and set aside. Combine the following ingredients (pumpkin, maple syrup, sugar, coconut oil, molasses, chia egg) in a medium-sized mixing bowl and blend well. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

Add the wet mixture to the dry, and stir well. Pour the batter into the pan, smooth out with wet spoon, and bake for 50-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing from pan. While it is baking, make your spiced buttercream frosting (see below). Serves eight 1-inch slices.

Whip butter and cream cheese with a mixer until smooth. Add half of the powdered sugar and blend well, stopping to scrape the side of bowl as needed. Add in the vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and almond milk (if needed). Mix well. Add in the remaining powdered sugar and blend for several minutes, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl. Once the Gingerbread has fully cooled, spread on the icing using a wet spatula.

I also opted to leave the bread out on the counter without the icing and leave the icing in the fridge. When I was ready for a slice I would just spread some icing on a slice and savor and before I knew it, it had disappeared.

RECIPE. Mar 4, 2011

Caramelized Onion, Lentil and Rice

I believe caramelized onions are natures real candy. Like an onion ring without all the fried batter to induce guilt. Onions and I were not friend, in fact we were sworn enemies, while I was growing up. The taste to powerful, smelly and overwhelming to enjoy. Not to mention the breath that wouldn’t quit. I felt no love loss and easily avoided this vegetable for the majority of my childhood. When I grew up and began cooking I got curious about the world caramel and onion being put in the same sentence. I happen to have a child like curiosity for the world and well, it got the best of me and I had to try it out.

All I have to say is thank goodness I am curious and open to new tastes. The overpowering taste of onion was tamed with salt, pepper and sweetness. When I learned how simple the process was, I began immediately incorporating this delight in many dishes. Panini’s, pizza’s and now, indian food.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in 4 quart pot and add rice and lentils. Saute until nicely coated. Add bay leaf, water and 1 tsp of salt and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer 45 minutes, covered.

Heat remaining olive oil in skillet on medium to low heat. Add onions, bell pepper and 1 tsp salt and saute. When onions begin to soften, add garlic and spices. Cook until onions and pepper is golden and have begun to caramelize.

When all water is absorbed from rice and lentils, remove from heat and take out bay leaf. Serve rice and lentils topped with caramelized onions and peppers and dollop of yogurt. I used soy cream cheese as a dairy substitute because it is thick and hearty. Could also use daiya mozzarella cheese substitute.

This recipe is also perfect for making ahead of time. You could cook lentils and rice the night before or earlier in the day and then all you have to prepare is the onions and pepper. The whole dish could easily be prepared the night before or earlier in the day and reheated without any loss in taste.

For babies 10 months and older: Puree some of the lentil-rice mixture before adding onions and spices.

RECIPE. Feb 28, 2011

Sweet Potato Oatmeal Crisp

I made this early this week as a “dessert” and convinced myself it was healthy enough to have for breakfast. I mean, it is, right? Well, if not, I really don’t care because it was just too good not to consume immediately every morning. I have a few cooking blogs I really love but they have fallen to the side since my diet has been altered. I know what it takes to change recipes so that I can eat them, but sometimes it just takes way to much work and I work hard enough. While I was with some girls at lunch, one mentioned this blog and I took a curious look. My energy and excitement for cooking was renewed.

This lady has it all figured out and I’m a devoted follower from now on. She makes vegan food with a very healthy spin. If you didn’t know, vegan does not equal healthy, it just means there is no animal products. This does not mean you cannot consume incredible amounts of junk food and sugar on a vegan diet, you can. So it was so exciting to find a blogger who is catering to both my nutritional needs. The bonus? She posts nearly every day. Score one for me. So I may just be taking quite a few recipes from her blog and reposting them, I hope she doesn’t mind. I hope she is flattered to have such a devoted fan.

One of the key ingredients to this dish, and several of her dishes is chia seed. Yes, as in Chia Pet. Unbeknownst to many of us, this little seed packs a powerful nutritional punch, enough to knock you into shape. This seed balances blood sugar, contains Omega 3’s, is a complete protein, keeps you feeling full longer, has anti-oxidents, can replace almost half the butter in most recipes and is high in calcium. To think we were just trying to put green grass hair on little ceramic animals, shameful. You better believe I’m about to find out a lot more about this little magic seed and how to incorporate it in as many dishes as possible. Here is a little more info on how to add this seed to your own recipes.

Preheat oven to 350F. Bring several cups of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add in the peeled and chopped sweet potato. Cook over medium heat, for about 5 minutes, until fork tender. Drain and set aside. Give the pot a quick rinse and then add in the oats, milk, and chia seeds. Whisk well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low-medium and cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently.

With a potato masher, mash in the cooked sweet potato and the banana into the pot. I left some chunks for texture. Now stir in the cinnamon, maple syrup, nutmeg, and salt to taste. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Cook on low for another few minutes. Make the crunchy pecan topping by mixing together the pecans, flour, Earth Balance (or butter), and brown sugar with a fork. until very clumpy. Pour the oatmeal into 8x8 dish and spread out evenly. Now sprinkle on the pecan topping.

Transfer the oats to a casserole dish (8inch/4cup or whatever you have!) and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, at 350F. After 20 minutes, set oven to BROIL and broil on low for a couple minutes, watching very closely so you do not burn the topping. Remove from oven and serve. Feel free to put in fridge and reheat in the morning for an incredible breakfast. I topped it off with some rice milk, granola and ground flax seed.

RECIPE. Feb 24, 2011

A Curry Obsession

I’ve been planning a weekly menu for our family to help increase the speed of grocery shopping, as is needed when your five month old has the patience of, well, a five month old. The weekly menu has also been a way for me to look forward to cooking in the week without the dread of five o’clock approaching and I begin the “what should I make tonight” frantic search online and through cookbooks only to settle on something I’ve made over and over because it’s fast, easy and great. While taking pictures for these meals I began noticing that curry was sneaking it’s way into every weekly meal. While I could fool myself into thinking that red curry is oh SO different from curry and spinach with eggs, it’s really the same basic foundation with some new decorations again.

So over the last few weeks I have had my share of curries and while they all had their own excitement and spot on my taste buds, this recipe from a good friend wins the award for fast, east, cheap and perfectly warm, cozy and screaming of comfort food. She really provided a solid foundation for curry without all the bells and whistles that can sometimes complicate such a simple dish.

I believe the key to success is not what ingredients you choose but the quality of those ingredients. You have to have a terrific curry powder/paste, fresh vegetables, solid stock and great coconut milk. I used a local curry paste, as featured in the picture with vegetable broth from Pacific Natural Foods and coconut milk from Thai Kitchen.

It makes enough to feed a couple of families or just one really big one. Leftovers are always incredible as the spices, coconut and broth have been able to blend and merge overnight. I serve it with some brown basmati rice and a big loaf of bread. I’m a little obsessed with carbs as well I guess.

Saute the pork and set aside. Dice tofu into squares and saute until golden and also set aside.  I always add about 1/2 tsp of cumin and curry powder to the meat and tofu while cooking.Remove outer stalks of lemongrass, then finely chopped the inner leaves. Saute this for several minutes until soft in some oil. Add the garlic and curry paste and cook until fragrant.

Add the meat back to the pan and pour in the milk - stir to mix evenly. Add veggies and cook a few minutes. Add chicken broth to desired consistency.

RECIPE. Feb 21, 2011

Burly Breakfast Pancakes

I have a food obsession. I’m obsessed with consuming really good food. I want to know where my food is being grown, or in the case of meat, raised. I want to know whether the innate goodness of what I am about to put into my body has been messed with to make it somehow “better” than it’s original form. Currently, I am also limited in the items I can consume due to dietary restrictions. All this put together means going out to eat is rarely a very enjoyable adventure. I feel like the customers from the episode of Portlandia who ask incredibly personal questions about where their chicken has come from. It’s all very funny, except I’m really that interested. This also means I may be perceived by others as “picky” or “high maintenance” when it comes to food.

Well, I want to know when we became so uninterested in what goes into our bodies. I want to know why it feels as though I’m the weird one when I want to know whether the meat I am being served is jacked up with hormones and chemicals. When did our culture shift to such passiveness about caring for ourselves? I’m appalled at what passes for food in my own hometown, especially by some of the local businesses. Our farmers market, for example, doesn’t even have food vendors that sell local food from the farmers themselves. All I have to say to this is WTF?

I seem to have climbed the never ending ladder on the tallest soap box today. Guess it’s just coming from a place of frustration. When I want to go out and have some incredibly good food from a business I know shares my values I am sad to say the list is very very short. Maybe I need to move to a city but I can’t help but think that the capital of this state would have more than a few food joints that won’t roll their eyes when you ask whether they have whole wheat bread for your sandwich.

It’s times like this I’m so thankful I can cook for myself or I’m not sure what I would be putting in my body everyday. I might be just a bit of a control freak when it comes to food but if I’m going to control anything I’m pleased it’s this part of my life. I honor my body, mind and spirit and my paying attention to what I consume, I practice what I believe. So munch on these thoughts over breakfast, pancakes perhaps, and see if you can ever eat the boxed stuff again. This particular recipe is taken from a friends cooking blog and I adjusted the ingredients to make it dairy free. So it’s actually vegan as the flax seeds and water are the egg substitute.

Mix flaxseed meal and water together in medium mixing bowl. Let sit five minutes. Add mashed banana and olive oil and stir well. Add oats, ten grain, corn meal, nutritional yeast, coconut, orange juice and yogurt. Mix these ingredients well, then add milk and mix again.

Stir in flour plus baking powder and dash salt. Let batter rest while pan heats over low heat. Lightly oil pan, and spoon out cakes that are ~ 3-4 inches diameter. Bigger cakes will be harder to flip, as these are moist and tender. When small bubble holes form on the tops, flip your cakes. When bottoms are golden brown, serve them up hot! Top with your favorite pancake toppings.

These cakes are packed with incredible ingredients that are unbelievably healthy. Savor in your own health.

RECIPE. Feb 16, 2011

Apple-Parsnip Bisque

I hate to say this recipe was a major fail when really it boils down to a difference in taste preference. This bisque is a perfect bisque and quick to boot. It was, however, too sweet and not enough savory for my tastes. I also felt it was lacking some substance which is really the description of a bisque. Its supposed to be creamy and smooth, no lumps or bumps. It makes sense that the lady who loves large lumps in her mashed potatoes wouldn’t be all that thrilled with a creamy soup. Guess I like things messy. That’s just my humble opinion. That said, its incredibly easy to prepare ahead of time and whip up right as everyone gets ready for dinner.

If anyone can share their ideas on how to improve this soup, to increase the savory or heat, please share.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In 11x17 inch pan with edge, toss together apples, parsnips, sweet potatoes, onion, oil, salt and pepper. Arrange evenly, place in lower third of oven and roast for about 45 minutes, stirring vegetables and rotating pan every 15 minutes. When everything is tender and nicely browned, remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

If you do not have immersion blender then place roasted vegetables, sage, thyme and rice milk into blender in batches and puree until smooth and then transfer to pot. If you do have immersion blender then place all ingredients in pot and blend until smooth.

Simmer gently in pot for 15 minutes. Serve with spicy biscuits or hearty bread.

RECIPE. Feb 4, 2011

Spinach Egg Curry

I’ve been somewhat dishonest with myself in the cooking arena. I like to consider myself a chef, an expert in the making and eating of food. Yet, in reality, I’m a cook. I follow recipes, know very little about what to substitute in order to get a different result, especially when baking, and often add my own twist to a foundation someone has already laid out. In some ways, I claim to be an architect of food but I’m really just an interior designer. I believe the purpose of this blog has been for me to share my favorite recipes with all of you, takes some beautiful pictures and learn more about cooking along the way.

I’m hoping that in a few years I will be able to truthfully refer to myself as something of a chef. I will be able to conjure up my own images of dishes to share without needing a foundation to build from first. I guess I’d like to be both the architect and the designer but that takes some time. This dish taught me a lot about assumptions,especially my own, when it comes to pairing food. Spinach and eggs are good, but the curry threw me. I was hesitant but decided to educate myself at the risk of failure and I was so unbelievably surprised.

This recipe comes from a cookbook given to me by some friends and I gotta say it made a great first impression with this recipe. I chose to add ground pork and only boiled two eggs because it was just my husband and I eating. I made some brown basmati rice and we could stop murmuring “mmmm” all through dinner. This could easily be made with full fat coconut milk but the reduced fat does not take away from the taste experience in the least bit.

They recommend gently steaming the spinach but I didn’t and the dish turned out just fine. Heat oil in frying pan and saute onion and garlic for about 5 minutes until soft. Add mustard seeds and powdered spices and cook, stirring well, for another five minutes.

Next, mix in stock and coconut milk and bring to boil. Stir in spinach and season, heat through and keep warm.

Remove shells from egg, cut in half. Put scoop of rice in bowl, top with spinach curry, pork and halved boiled egg.

RECIPE. Feb 1, 2011

A Pot of Vegetables

While I don’t necessarily have all the time in the world to be spending in the kitchen lately, I savor the time I do get and spend lavishly. One of my favorite kitchen activities is actually not the cooking of products but the chopping, measuring and prepping. It’s part of the reason I absolutely adore soups. The very simple task of dicing, cubing, slicing and chopping is my personal form of meditation. My thoughts are whisked away by the beat of the knife thudding over and over again on the cutting board as it slices through each item and hits bottom. I become personally tickled when measuring spices, the colors brightening my mood in this dull grey weather.

I also love to learn about new produce and ways of pairing tastes like chipotle in brownies or nutmeg in a savory dish. While I become easily overwhelmed at the task of taking on too many new projects or products, I feel confident in tackling just one new skill or item at a time.

Thus, I learned a little about parsnips, frankly, I learned what they are and that they taste incredibly delicious. The foundation of the soup was familiar to me, the parsnip was the only new produce item. It tasted similar to a potato and got me thinking about the possibility of parsnip fries. Curious if others have good uses for parsnips that I’m not aware of.

Melt ghee or olive oil in 4 quart pot on medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft. Add all spices and saute a few minutes more.

Add potatoes, parsnip, celery, carrot, lentils and water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 50-60 minutes.

When lentils are creamy, stir in salt. Serve stew garnished with yogurt or dairy alternative or nothing at all. I used tofutti cream cheese….I know sounds gross but it made the soup creamy.

RECIPE. Jan 27, 2011

A Salad for the Boys

Salad is not a main dish in our house. Not due to my lack of creativity but due to my husbands dire need for what he calls “substance” and salad does not meet his requirements. Then I stumbled upon a salad recipe that called for eggs, bacon and avocado. It sounded like a BLAT without the bread. Sign me up and let me try to pass it off as a main course. I am sure the ingredients seem ordinary and uninventive but I have eaten this for the last five days straight for lunch. It’s salty, hearty and packed with just enough vegetables to make you believe you are balancing out the eggs and bacon. Maybe.

It is a quick meal, fairly inexpensive and the meat can easily be left out or substituted with “fake” meat. While soups have warmed our bellies most of these cold nights, this meal had just the right mix of comfort and nutrition to fill our bellies without leaving us rolling off our chairs. It’s also a quiet reminder that spring is not to far away. Regular salads from the garden, fresh vegetables and days of sunshine feel just close enough to touch. This salad is the perfect transitional meal from winter to spring.

If you are not clear on how to hard boil an egg then fill a pot with water, place eggs in pot, put pot on stove and bring to boiling. Remove pot from heat, cover and set aside for 10 min. Peel eggs under cool running water. Split ingredients into two large bowls, top with favorite salad dressing and consume!

RECIPE. Jan 21, 2011

Make Some Space Stew

I recently reorganized my cupboards to make cooking a much easier and quicker process. I also wanted to reuse some glass containers I had cleaned and saved to store my bulk goods. It feels good to get rid of the things you don’t need or use to make room for space. Yes, that’s right, I didn’t say for more things I said space. We undervalue the importance of space, rest, pausing in our lives. The giving away and getting rid of the physical and mental clutter that keeps our days busy with doing nothing or eating nothing that fills our bodies and souls. Uh oh, I think I just found myself on a soapbox. Before I get down I encourage you to take some time to make room for space in your life. Whether it be just one extra breath, a moment where you really take in your surroundings or look your loved one straight in the eye and see them, really see them.

Lilly Tomlin said,“The fast track to peace is to slow down”. It’s true. This stew fits right in with this message. While it can be prepared fairly quickly, enjoy each step of the process, take in all the colors and textures. Challenge yourself to be present as you cook and eat. Tell me how it goes.

In large pot, over medium heat, heat oil. Add celery, onion, carrot, salt and pepper and stir through. Add mustard seeds, curry paste, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon. Stir through, cover, and let cook 6-8 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients. Stir through and increase heat to high to bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 15-20 minutes.

For thinner consistency, add a little extra water. Remove bay leaves, and season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

RECIPE. Jan 18, 2011

Some Power Bars

I’m sure you’ve heard me pledge here over and over that it is my sole purpose in life to figure out how to make all the goodies I buy in the store. I was reading a story recently about a woman who has two boys (7,9) and a husband who only contribute one bag of trash to the earth a year. While this is just slightly overwhelming a task with a newborn and my husbands job change, I was inspired. One bag of trash? Whoa. Evidently she makes a majority of their treats, even those that the family can take on the go. So I’ve had this recipe from another magazine sitting around for the last few months. It sounded incredibly easy and very healthy. Did I mention they are also gluten and dairy free?

A few of the ingredients are somewhat pricey but if you buy in bulk, you can make these bars over and over again without losing sleep over how much trash you are contributing to the world. I also admit it looks a bit like something you might use to wrap around your bird feeder in the winter, but I promise you it’s incredibly good. Who ever said eating like a bird was such a bad thing anyhow? The incredible bonus was the whole thing only took me about 40 minutes from start to finish. The longest part of the recipe is toasting the walnuts and sesame seeds. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to make these?

Preheat oven to 325. Line 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper. Spread walnuts on rimmed baking sheet and toast for 15 min or until golden brown. Remove from oven, place in bowl and set aside until cool to the touch. Repeat process with sesame seeds, toasting about 10 minutes, watching carefully as they can burn easily. Remove from oven and let sit on tray until cool to the touch. Transfer sesame seeds to a bowl.

Place walnuts and cherries into food processor and process until formed into a sticky ball. Add nut and fruit mixture to sesame seeds. Add salt, coconut oil and agave. Mix, using hands, until well combined.

Press into prepared baking pan, forming layer about 1/2 inch thick. Refrigerate until completely cool, about 1 hour. Cut into squares and gobble up.

RECIPE. Jan 15, 2011

Vegan Brownies are Good?

I have to be honest. When I heard the word “vegan” my taste buds didn’t jump up and do the happy dance. I didn’t get excited or even twitch a muscle to move in the direction of the food described. My interaction with vegan food has not been spectacular. It seems tasteless, boring and feels like food poser. It says it’s food but it’s really not. Due to my own recent personal circumstances where dairy and chocolate have been removed from my diet, I have had to embrace veganism with a side hug until now. With the introduction of this recipe and another I will post soon, I want to run up at full speed and give veganism a big ol’ bear hug, squeezing the wind out of it’s brilliance.

It actually tastes really incredible if you get the right book and talk to the right people. In fact, vegan cooking is exactly the same as cooking food in any other context. You have to know the right ingredients and put them together correctly to obtain a delightful dish. I’m also learning so much about food and healthier alternatives to things I typically use to cook or bake. In this recipe, arrowroot powder is called for in order to provide a thickening agent for the brownies. I had never heard of this substance so after some searching I found it is an appropriate direct substitute for cornstarch, is derived directly from a plant and does not have any of the chemicals used to process corn starch. It is a tad more expensive but not astronomical. To learn a bit more about the direct applications of arrowroot powder go here. It is superior to most thickening agents except when making a dairy based sauce.

I have also been introduced to carob chips. These are naturally sweetened grain based chips that can be used in substitute for chocolate. It contains no diary or chocolate and is sweeter than chocolate. It does not taste the same but is a great substitute in baking. For more information about carob go here.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, sugar, chocolate chips and salt. In separate bowl, combine arrowroot with several Tbsp of the milk, stirring until smooth. Add remaining milk and other wet ingredients and stir until combine. Add wet mixture to the dry and stir through for 1/2 minute or so. Pour evenly into lightly oiled 8x8 baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, remove from oven and cool. Cut into squares once cooled.

Makes very fudgy brownies. I enjoyed with some soy vanilla yogurt and fruit.

RECIPE. Jan 11, 2011

Tofu Curry Squash Stew

It’s snowing outside. Right now. I was supposed to be on my way to pick up my mom from the airport. She just returned from a trip to her home in Mexico and she landed in snow. Great welcome I guess. I am terrified to drive in the white powder but I actually really enjoy how beautiful it makes the world look. Clean, crisp, smooth. I also love the quiet stillness that seems to echo across the day when it snows. Everyone takes it as a signal to stay in, turn up the heat and look one another in the eye. It is also a terrific reason to cook up a large pot of steaming, wholesome stew. So I have just the recipe for your day home tomorrow or sometime this month. All I insist is you make it and soon.

While the ingredient list may seem intimidating, the directions and ease of this recipe is not. A lot of the prep work such as slicing and cubing vegetables can be done the night before or even hours before you start cooking. From start to finish the recipe takes me about one hour. If I do prep work ahead of time it takes less than 30 minutes. I must also note that I did not know how far to slice a leek. Turns out you start at the bottom and slice until you hit the firm green stems on top and discard those. So you really only slice about half the vegetable.

I pair this soup with brown rice and some dinner rolls. I usually decrease the amount of curry powder or curry paste so it isn’t as spicy. If you like heat then you can increase one or both. As is the recipe makes a soup with some kick but not overwhelmingly hot. I usually get all the ingredients ready in bowls right next to the soup pot before I start cooking. This speeds up the cooking process and makes everything effortless.

Heat 2 Tbsp peanut oil in soup pot. Add leeks and saute about 3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute more. Add curry powder, curry paste, sugar, and soy sauce. Stir well, scraping pot.

Add 3 cups water or vegetable stock, coconut milk, squash and salt. Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer, covered for 15 minutes or until squash is tender.

Saute tofu in remaining peanut oil until browned. As a note, it is very important to purchase firm or extra firm tofu for this recipe. You can also cut the tofu down the middle horizontally and place paper towels under the halves to drain it of extra water. This helps the tofu crisp up much better when browning in oil.

Serve soup over rice with tofu, cilantro and nuts sprinkled on top. If you would like to toast the peanuts for extra flavor just chop them then add them to the frying pan before browning the tofu. Saute for about 3-5 min or until they look golden and remove from pan and place in bowl. Enjoy!

RECIPE. Jan 6, 2011

Apple Cranberry Ginger Pie

This creation happened because I misheard my sister when she informed me that my mom had purchased a cranberry apple pie. She had actually said my mom was adding cranberries to an apple pie but I wasn’t really listening. The minute the words “apple” and “cranberry” were out of her mouth I believe I had to wipe the drool off my face. Cranberries and apples in a pie? Sounded exquisitely delicious. It is also the second time cranberries have been the primary photo on this blog. Maybe I am slightly in love with the deep red color these berries bring to the table. My sister came over to help me make this creation for a few friends who were coming over for dinner. While making the filling I discovered I had crystalized ginger and couldn’t resist adding this to the mix.

On reflection, I might have cooked the filling a bit before putting it in the pie crust as it wasn’t as solid as I like a pie filling to be. It was more like a fruit crumble but it really didn’t matter how it looked because it tasted incredible. I finished it off with a dollop of maple yogurt and could have easily eaten the whole pie myself if my friends hadn’t been around to help.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together apples, cranberries, sugar, molasses, corn starch, vanilla, ground ginger, cinnamon and crystalized ginger. Pour into pie crust.

Mix together ingredients for crumble and place on top of apple/cranberry mixture.

Place pie in oven for 45-60 minutes or until crumble is golden brown. Allow pie to cool for at least four hours or overnight.

Top with ice cream, maple yogurt or coconut yogurt and enjoy!

RECIPE. Jan 4, 2011

Apple Squash Stew

I should be cleaning, sleeping, reading or finding a recipe for dinner tonight. Yet all I want to do is celebrate one year writing this blog. It’s officially been one year as of Jan 1, 2011 that I began writing recipes and taking pictures to make you all drool. When I look back on all the photos over the last year I’m ashamed to admit there are more food photos than there are of my son. He is only three months old so I guess I have some time to catch him up. The particular recipe I am about to share is from Simple in Season. The ingredients were so curious I had to take a leap and experiment. I wasn’t sure if I was going to end up with dinner or dessert and was willing to give this a big fail card as the likelihood that it would be a success seemed slim.

I was so pleasantly surprised by the results that it reminded me of the feelings I had about beginning this blog. Hesitant, unsure, excited, adventurous, naive and full of passion. I stand here one year later so thrilled that I’ve maintained the blog and furthered my love and education about food. I can honestly say I have stayed true to my commitment to eat and buy local ever since making that declaration on my blog.

This part of the season is particularly hard, however, because the cooperative garden is resting and the farmers market has closed up until April. I wistfully look back at the pictures of produce and cannot wait for the next growing season. In the meantime, I am scouring my recipe books for dairy free, seasonal recipes with ingredients I can get at the co-op. This particular recipe hit the spot and doesn’t even need the pork to pull off it’s magic. It’s simple, inexpensive and incredibly good. I matched it with sweet potato walnut rolls and just about died and went to heaven.

Melt butter in a large saucepan. I have begun adding coconut oil due to it’s incredible health benefits (coconut is a superpower ingredient) and deciding to cut most butter out of my diet. If you want to know more about the power of coconut go here. Add pork, onion and garlic. Saute until meat is no longer pink.

Add broth, salt, rosemary, sage and bay leaf. Cover and simmer, 20 minutes. Add squash and apples and simmer uncovered until they are tender, about 20 min. Discard bay leaf.

If there is something you would like to see on this blog in 2011, just leave a comment below and I’ll get to your request. Thanks for following me this last year, I hope we can celebrate again in 2012.

RECIPE. Dec 30, 2010

Let’s Take Five

The new year is approaching and I’m sure that means several resolutions to “not” do many things that you wish to “not” repeat in the new year. I say, lets take five minutes, right now. Yes, just stop your multitasking and take five minutes to consider what you want to accomplish, what you would like to repeat, what you look forward to finding in the new year. Let’s dig deep out of the negative whole we’ve dug ourselves and focus on what we want our lives to become, given the strengths we have now. Is this sounding to Pollyanna for you? What if I sweetened the deal with a recipe for homemade candy bars that taste very much like Take Five? Would you contemplate my proposal a little more seriously while shoving the whole pan in your mouth?

I had an inspiration to create these incredible bars when my husband became obsessed with their salty, sweet attraction years ago. I was too intimidated at the time to attempt replicating something that seemed so complex. Fast forward to a year into this blog and I’ve gained some courage and wisdom in the cooking arena. WHile my taste buds were highly pleased by the replication, the presentation and ability to eat the bars was fairly unimpressed. Next time I think I will attempt to make the chocolate layer with butter and chocolate, like a ganache and crush the pretzels into finer bits to create a firmer texture. I would also recommend either buying a very firm caramel or making your own so it firms up appropriately in the layers. Mine was much too runny and the chocolate topping was overwhelmingly sweet. While not a complete failure in my book, I will look forward to making the changes I mentioned. If you try any of those alterations, let me know how it goes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine pretzels & butter in the bottom of a 8x8 non stick pan & bake for 9 minutes (or until pretzels begin to brown slightly). Meanwhile, combine peanut butter, powdered sugar & salt over double boiler or in microwave for one minute until mixture is smooth.

Pour the peanut butter over the pretzels & spread carefully until evenly covered. Chill for an hour or until peanut butter has hardened.

Next, whisk (constantly) the evaporated milk & eggs in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat until it thickens (do NOT boil). Place chopped chocolate in a medium sized bowl & slowly add in the hot milk mixture. Stir until chocolate is melted & smooth.

Chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours or until the chocolate layer has had time to cool & firm up.

RECIPE. Dec 27, 2010

Curry Squash Soup

You might just start seeing an unprecedented amount of squash recipes on this blog. It’s all due to the wonderful harvest from our community garden back in September that led to our basement being a storage place for some twenty plus delicata and butternut squash. I’m not complaining in the least bit. I love the stuff, adore it actually. It stores well, keeps forever, is inexpensive to buy or grow and tastes like dessert for dinner. The thought of spicing up this sweet dish with some curry sounded too tempting to avoid. The added bonus that the recipe included not a scratch of dairy was also a draw as this writer is currently avoiding the stuff like the plague. A certain little boy appears to get very fussy when mama drinks cows products.

So the search for a non-dairy diet has begun and this recipe just seemed like a glowing orb of hope in the depression that occurs after handing over my beloved dairy addiction. For those animal lovers out there it is also meat free, what a bonus. I was incredibly surprised by how wonderful it tasted and the gobs of healthy ingredients while very quick and time forgiving it was to make. I’m sure it will be another favorite among the family.

In large soup pot, heat oil and saute onion, squash and garlic until onion is tender (about 3 min). Add spices and cook, stirring for 30 seconds.

Add 2 cups broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15-20 min or until squash is tender.

Add coconut milk and stir to mix. Transfer about half the soup to food processor or use immersion blender to blend about half the soup, leaving some chunks. Add 1/2 cup broth if needed to thin (I didn’t).

Add chickpeas and spinach and cook for about 2 min until spinach is just wilted. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot. I served with some brown rice or dinner rolls.

RECIPE. Dec 21, 2010

A Carrot Disguised as Pumpkin Pie

I feel honesty is the most important virtue in a relationship. Unless you are cooking and then all bets are off. I steer clear of obvious deception in my personal life but I gobble up any opportunity to trick those who consume my food. Not in any harmful or vindictive manner but in a way that pleasantly surprises others. The most recent opportunity at deception was far to wonderful to pass up. My mother is typically not able to enjoy pumpkin pie with the rest of the family for the holiday season as she is very allergic to pumpkin. She recently tried this recipe, due to the generosity of two wonderful gentlemen that she knows, and was delightfully surprised. They were kind enough to share their family recipe and she immediately handed it over to me, raised an eyebrow, and we set out to deceive our family.

We were unbelievably successful. The best guesses anyone had about the contents of the pie were that it was pumpkin or some other squash. I can also say the actual making of the pie was incredibly cheap and easy.

While this is the exact recipe I was given, I substituted many of the spices for 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp ginger. In the future, I would use fresh spices and add about 1/4-1/2 tsp more of each, but I also love a spicy pie. If you think I’m pulling the wool over your eyes with this recipe, just give it a try, it won’t hurt, at least not too much.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Boil carrots in water for 6-10 min or until very soft.

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Transfer mixture into pie crust.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove pie from oven, decrease temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 35-45 minutes or until puffed into a dome.

Allow pie to cool about 30 minutes and transfer to refrigerator. Consume with whipped creme and after everyone has finished their last bite, slyly ask if they noticed anything different.

RECIPE. Dec 17, 2010

Rosemary Sea Salt Shortbread

Shortly after having my son I was given the gift of good food from many friends and family. Each meal was a wonderful opportunity to introduce this new life to all those so close to our family. Their sharing of food was such a symbolic gesture of love, support and commitment to nourishing our growing family. Several members from the garden I belong to also provided us with meals. Once or twice someone left wine or cookies as a extra special treat for my husband and I to enjoy. Ok lets me honest, for me to enjoy. While there were many highlights, there was a particular cookie that humbled my cooking intuition.

Rosemary, sea salt and shortbread did not sound like a very welcoming combination but I had to give it a good try and was so overjoyed I ventured into that rabbit hole. It is a very savory and addicting sweet addition to your holiday cookie repertoire. I was lucky enough to also be recently gifted sea salt infused with rosemary and citrus. I substituted this infusion for the rosemary and salt required in the recipe. It was a bit of a mistake as I found the cookies to be a bit too salty. I hope with a few more tweaks I will have replicated those wonderful gifts from a very special time in our life.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Stir together butter, sugar and salt. Fold in rosemary. If using a salt infusion, like myself, use 2 tsp salt mixture. Mix in half the flour, then add remaining flour and combine.

Press into an 8-inch square pan, then sprinkle with a little extra rosemary and salt for a pretty top. Use fork to pierce dough at 1-inch intervals. Bake until lightly golden around the edges, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven and immediately cut into triangles. Cool for about five minutes, then promptly remove shortbread from pan using offset spatula or fork.

RECIPE. Dec 14, 2010

Cranberry Inspiration

I have to be honest. A large part of the reason I decided to feature this recipe, other than it’s deliciousness, is the cranberries covered in sugar just seemed so, well, festive. While I have a few favorite recipe books, I rarely pick one up that peaks my interest anymore. While trying to bake and cook within the season and obtain most of my ingredients from as local sources as possible, it limits my interest in dishes that require exotic ingredients. While I have not written these recipes off entirely, I want to dedicate the bulk of my kitchen time to cooking seasonly. Surprisingly, it’s difficult to find a really good book that gives seasonal recipes that are clear, simple and inspiring.

A friend had recommended a book a month ago and then proceeded to cook a recipe out of this book and invited our family over for dinner. On first bite I was sold on discovering the rest of the book and we did a cookbook exchange right then and there.This recipe caught my eye as I’ve been craving cranberries since seeing this post at but I was interested in decreasing the amount of butter and sugar. While perusing this new book “Simply in Season” I found several recipes that got me all geared up to spend some serious time in the kitchen and this was one of them. I have to give the book back soon but I won’t go long without obtaining my own copy.

Preheat oven 350 degrees.Combine and spread cranberries and sugar over bottom of greased 8x8 pan. Sprinkle walnuts over cranberries. Cream together butter and sugar with electric mixer. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in separate bowl then add to creamed mixture, mixing well. Drop batter by large spoonfuls over cranberry mixture. Bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. I topped it with a little maple yogurt and fell in love. Enjoy!

RECIPE. Dec 9, 2010

Nuts about Sugar

I have two very different peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipes to share with you. One is loaded with sugar but requires no flour or butter. The other is a healthier version but loaded with flavor and a secret ingredient. I often struggle in my own baking whether to go all out when making sweet treats or try to scale back in favor of a healthy snack. I tend to find a balanced approach in most cases but have often been stuck when wanting to take a favorite recipe and make a “healthier” version. While creativity and spontaneity are rewarded in cooking, baking usually requires rigid adherence to a balance of moisture, sweetness, dry ingredients, yeasts and ingredients that make it all rise or thicken. I happen to be much more tentative when messing around with baking recipes.

So I did a little research and discovered some interesting news about how to reduce sugar in baking goods. For a quick 101 go here. The bottom line: You can generally reduce sugar in baked goods by 1/4 to 1/3 without compromising the texture, ability to rise or moisture. The only change will be a slight decrease in sweetness. Now there are some exceptions to this general rule but it’s so uncommon that you can feel free to apply to the majority of your recipes without worry. I decreased the sugar in the recipe on the side bar from 1 cup to 3/4 cup with no disasters. The recipes you should not mess with sugar amounts are the following: yeast products, pickles, jellies and most candies.

You will notice that Heidi ( substitutes maple syrup and olive oil for butter and sugar but has a lot more flour in the recipe. The added moisture is compensated for by the increase in dry ingredients. This is a great trick, much harder to master and find the right portions, for substituting sugar for fluid sweetener.

When making breads, muffins or other “cake-like” baked goods that call for fruits you can often decrease the sugar by 1/2 as long as your fruit is sufficiently sweet such as a very ripe banana or sweet variety of apple. Just compensate for the decrease in dry goods with 1/4 more flour.

It’s also a fictional belief that brown sugar is better for you than white. Most brown sugar sold in the United States is just white sugar with molasses added. While the molasses adds an iron content, it is not a “better” sugar. Neither is agave or most artificial sweeteners. The only “better” substitutes for sugar are maple syrup and honey but they still contains similar properties to white sugar in that they are a glucose. The reason they are considered “better” is because they are released into your bloodstream and body at a much slower rate and thus does not have a significant effect on your mood or hunger in the same way as white sugar.

Now for the recipe. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, mix peanut butter with sugar, baking soda and egg. Stir in chocolate chips. Roll Tbsp of dough on cookie sheet and press with fork on top to get cross hatches. Bake for 15 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cool on wire rack. These cookies were crunchy and sweet. For a softer cookie, try Heidi’s recipe Peanut Butter Cookies” title=“here”>here.

RECIPE. Dec 3, 2010

A Stew to Remember

While wallowing in a cooking funk recently, I stumbled upon an incredible recipe that combined three ingredients I happened to have stored from our community garden. There is nothing more exciting than using ingredients you already have in bounty. I was also challenged to cook a vegetarian dish for a breastfeeding mama and wanted to make something memorable. As an extra precaution I also wanted the dish to be vegan just in case babe was sensitive to dairy products. As if those qualifications were not enough, I needed a recipe that only took me an hour at the most so I could make it while my own babe slept. Fortunately, Cynthia Lair had just the recipe and it was a huge success.

This was the first time I was honored to cook for others since my son was born and I couldn’t wait to host. I was particularly excited to share such meaningful food with a family I knew would appreciate the story and history of the food I was cooking. This stew is hearty, healthy, vegan and gives just a little kick that a soft sock in the mouth instead of a sucker punch. It’s quick, easy, inexpensive and feeds many. I served it with rosemary sea salt bread from our local bakery and a merlot. It’s perfect and is as memorable as the night we shared with our friends.

Place beans, 2 cups of stock and 1 tsp of cumin in pot: bring to boil. Cover and simmer until beans are tender (50-60 min) or pressure-cook (45min). Heat 4 quart pot to medium, add oil and saute the remaining cumin, italian seasoning and cinnamon for about 30 seconds.

Add onion, salt and garlic; saute until onion is soft (5 min). Add squash, tomatoes and chili powder, bring to a simmer and cook until squash is soft (about 20 min). Add 1/2 cup to 1 cup stock if mixture is dry.

Add cooked beans and corn; simmer until corn is tender. Adjust seasoning to your taste. Serve hot with grated cheese for garnish.

Cynthia reports the stew is called “Three Sisters Stew” because the bean, corn and squash were grown harmoniously in the same space by Native Americans. I believe this dish can bring great harmony to your home. Enjoy.

For babes 6 months and older: Reserve peeled squash cubes, steam well and puree
For babes 10 months and older: Reserve some cooked beans before adding to stew and puree with steamed squash cubes. Serve beans in small amounts.