simplelittlespaces

Keeping things simple in a not so simple world


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extra special, extra simple

I am always looking for recipes that are nicer than your average chocolate chip cookie, nice enough to give as a gift, but are simple too. This is one of those recipes: cherry anise, chocolate-dipped biscotti.

(Note: my parents were here at Thanksgiving and gave us our Christmas gifts early. For me, that was a Kitchen Aid stand mixer – I promptly used it to make whipped cream for the Thanksgiving Dinner and have had a baking spree each weekend since. I will never use a hand blender again! This also means that I have a lot of baking recipes to share with you!)

The anise flavor here is subtle. Very light in the midst of the heavy, sweet cherry flavor. Make sure to get good dark or bittersweet chocolate – you will be able to tell the difference in the choice of chocolate. We made our own ground anise by grinding star anise in my spice grinder (coffee grinder) – it was much stronger than store-bought so I used less.

Cherry Anise, Chocolate-Dipped Biscotti

2 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free is what I used)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon ground anise (use more or less to taste)
1/2 cup dried, unsweetened cherries, chop finely
1/4-1/2 cup milk (of your choice)

2 cup chocolate chips or chocolate shavings
1/2 cup milk of your choice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In your mixer, blend the flour, baking powder, ground anise and brown sugar.
Add the egg and blend.
Add a small amount of milk while blending until the dough just begins to stick together and is somewhat smooth.

On a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, mold the dough into a rectangle about 1-2 inches thick.
Place in oven and bake until you see just a bit of golden brown at the edges.
Remove from oven and let cool for about ten minutes on the cookie sheet. Decrease oven temperature to 300 degrees. Then transfer the “cookie” to a wooden cutting board and slice – 1/4 to 1/2 thick.
Place each slice back on the parchment lined paper on one of the cut sides.
Bake until the bottom sides begin to crisp and turn a light golden brown color. Flip and repeat for the second side.

Remove from oven and let cool for five minutes on a rack. Do NOT discard the parchment paper!
In a saucepan on low heat, melt the chocolate in the milk. Remove from heat. Take one biscotti at a time and gently dip one long side into the chocolate and then lay chocolate side down on the parchment paper.
Place dipped biscotti in the fridge or freezer for the chocolate to harden. Eat or freeze!


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my favorite applesauce

I’m a huge fan of applesauce.  Many people no longer eat applesauce as adults, but I think you are missing out.  I love having a small bowl with my dinner…it is a bit of dessert and happiness all in one bowl.

I also use applesauce to bake.  But this recipe is not about that.  When I want applesauce for baking, I use my food mill.  Simply peel apples, quarter, boil in a small amount of water and then run through the mill – seeds and all.  The sauce is smooth and thin.

No, this is not that recipe.  This recipe actually starts in early October when we do our annual trip to an apple orchard with friends (and then an afternoon of food and fun in Princeton.)  Like most kids, mine get super enthusiastic about picking apples and we usually end up spending much more money than our friends or what is budgeted on apples.  Think: seventy-five dollars worth of apples.

Most years, we can barely make it through half the apples before I need to make sauce out of the soft apples.  This year, I only made two quart-sized jars.  My little girl loves her fruit!

The orchard we go to in Lawrenceville has a specific variety of apple that we love.  It is called Styman Winesap and is great for pretty much any which way you like apples – sauce, pies, plain eating, you name it.  But we also pick up a fair number of Granny Smiths because I love nothing better than a tart apple.

This recipe is both Granny Smiths and Winesaps.  It is tart with just a hint of sweetness.  It is rich with dark brown sugar and good Vietnamese cinnamon.  It is chunky, but with the perfect size chunks.  I do hope you will give it a try.

Applesauce

8 medium to large sized Granny Smith apples
6 medium to small sized Styman Winesap apples (substitute: golden delicious)
cinnamon
dark brown sugar

Peel the apples, remove stems and cut into large quarters.
Fill a very large stock pot (8-10 quart) with a cup and half of water.
Place the apples in the pot, cover and bring to a boil. Boil until apples are soft. This DOES NOT TAKE LONG! So keep an eye on them. If they boil too long, you will have mush!

Don’t drain, instead, use a spoon to transfer apples to a large mixing bowl. Don’t worry if you get a bit of the water in the bowl, just try not to have too much.

Add cinnamon to taste and 1/4 cup dark brown sugar. Using a potato masher, mash the apples until you get bite-sized pieces of apples. Yes, there will also be some completely mashed apples too.

Feel free to can the finish product or place in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to eight months.


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crackers

So you know those Trader Joe’s crackers – the raisin and rosemary ones – that cost a fortune for a teeny tiny box…well, I’ve found a homemade version.  It is based on a recipe from the Kitchn and is quite amazing. I’ve adapted the recipe to our gluten-free eating and reduced the sugar from the recipe, as well as a cup of other tweaks.

The recipe is easy and it is very simple to always have some on hand. I usually double or triple the recipe. The mini-loafs are frozen before slicing into crackers and baked again – so you can have the loafs ready in a pinch.

1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup pecans
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (or 1 tablespoon dry rosemary)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup pepitas or pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place cranberries in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover the bowl with a towel. Let sit until ready to add to the recipe.

Mix together the rest of the ingredients and then add cranberries, mixing thoroughly.

Scoop the dough into greased mini-loaf pans and bake until just lightly golden. Watch them carefully. The original recipe says to bake until golden brown, but I find that when I go to make the crackers they get too dark.
Let the mini-loafs cool and then place in a freezer proof container or baggies and freeze until ready to make the crackers.

When ready to make crackers:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Remove the mini-loafs from freezer but do not thaw.
Slice the loafs while still frozen. It makes is simpler to slice even, thin slices that don’t mush into nothing.
Place the crackers on an non-greased cookie sheet and bake until golden brown and crispy, flipping at least once to make sure the crackers are browned on each side.

Let the crackers cool before eating.

Crackers can be kept in an air-tight container for at least a week – if you don’t eat them all.


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our new favorite soup

There a number of things I look for in a meal – the right veggie to meat ratio (more veggies), the time it takes to cook, how it TASTES, and now that I have a child with a food texture issue who is also a bit picky (trust me, he really is not that picky compared to most children, but it seems that way because the rest of us eat pretty much everything) I look for a recipe to not include the elements he doesn’t like, unless they can be hidden.

Well, I found stumbled upon a version of the recipe below and it dawned on me that it meets all of the criteria. It was so EASY! It had BACON! I could hide the SQUASH! And it had a LOT OF VEGGIES!

I do hope you try this, it was so fantastic. We ate it for dinner, snack time, breakfast, lunch and still had a little leftover for lunch a second day later. It was filling but didn’t leave us uncomfortable (all those veggies!) It was a party in my mouth. I really loved the way the textures and tastes worked so well together.

Of course, you could easily make it vegan or at least vegetarian, but we really do love bacon around here.

autumn harvest soup

1 butternut or other squash, peeled and cubed
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme (or equivalent dried)
4-4.5 cups chicken or veggie broth
1 package bacon
3 cans pinto beans
1 cup kale, shredded
1 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 red peppers, finely chopped
1 cup corn kernels
1.5 cup kale or collard greens, sliced

Note: The bacon needs to get nice and crispy, then chopped finely. I did this in the oven and used some other bacon drippings reserved previously to saute my onion and garlic in. You could also fry up your bacon first and then use the left over drippings.

If you chopped everything ahead of time, the whole process goes real quick!

Heat 1 tablespoon oil (or drippings) in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion. When onion is just starting to brown, add the garlic and stir for about 1 minute. Add the squash, celery, and carrots, stirring to coat with the oil and then add 4 cups broth and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a high simmer until the squash is soft.
Remove the thyme sprigs.
Using a hand blender (food processor or regular blender work too!) puree the veggies.
Add in the beans, corn, peppers, and kale, mixing thoroughly and bring to a low boil. If the soup is too thick for your taste, add a bit more broth.
Mix in the bacon and serve.


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keeping it different

Usually, around mid-winter, we start to get stuck for recipes that are new and different. We want to stick to the season – not buy produce out of season.

Out of these doldrums, came this recipe. Now we use this recipe all winter to spike the taste buds.

Thai Roast Chicken and Veggies

1 chicken for roasting
beets
sweet potatoes
red onions
red chili peppers (if you like spice)
cilantro
5 tablespoons coconut milk
3 limes
1 green chili, minced
1 inch piece chopped ginger
2 garlic cloves
peanut oil (or very mild olive oil)
butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a bowl, mix together 3 tablespoons of softened butter with salt (take it easy if the butter is salted), pepper and some chopped cilantro.
Gently lift the skin of your chicken and spread this butter between the meat and skin of the chicken, focusing primarily on the breast of the chicken to keep it moist.
Squeeze 2 limes over the skin, placing the squeezed limes in the cavity of the chicken. Sprinkle the skin with salt and pepper.
Peel and cut the sweet potatoes in large chunks and the beets into wedges. Quarter the onion.
Place the veggies, with the chili peppers if using, in the bottom of your roasting pan and cover them with peanut oil, tossing them gently.
In a small bowl, combine minced garlic, ginger, minced green chili, chopped cilantro, 5 tablespoons coconut milk, 2 tablespoons oil, the zest of 1 lime and a small touch of brown sugar or agave to sweeten. Mix well. Spoon the paste over the veggies.
Place a roasting stand in your pan and place the chicken on the stand.
Put roasting pan in the oven.
Cook for 2 hours, stirring the veggies every 20 minutes or so to keep from sticking to the pan.
When chicken is cooked through, carve and serve.


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a new kind of potato salad

I have to admit, I love potatoes, but I hate the American version. Too much mayonnaise, too much mustard, pickles – no thank you!

So I’ve decided to share a “new kind” of potato salad. Of course, one of the simplest ways to mix up your potato salad is to simply use several different types of potatoes. If you live in an area that still has a farmer’s market or maybe you live by a store that carries several different types, try some of the various heirloom varieties.

Mustard-kale potato salad
Any Kale will work with this recipe, but I recommend lacinto as it is thicker and easier to shred. Not to mention, has a great bitter taste that blends really well with the mustard.

8-10 small potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
5-8 lacinto kale stems, shredded
lemon juice
chives, chopped
1 tablespoons high quality mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
garlic powder
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, boil potatoes until just tender. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a bowl, mix the lemon juice through balsamic vinegar. Pour dressing over the kale and massage the kale with your hands. (This is the best way to coat any type of kale with dressing.)
Add kale and dressing mixture to potatoes and mix thoroughly. Place in fridge for 3 hours or over night.


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a bit of busyness

Two years, almost, since I began working again.  Only recently have I felt that I am not overwhelmed with managing a household, children, garden and work.  I’m sure there are moments when I will feel overwhelmed again, but for now, I am taking a moment to breathe.  I am also willing to begin blogging again and hope to have some fun recipes to share with you.

I have to say that if I didn’t care so much about what my family ate, I’d probably have a bit more time on my hands.  But being intentional about food is time consuming – though, fun and rewarding at the same time.

Today, I’d like to share a simple healthy bar that we’ve been eating around here.  It freezes well and is filling for active kids on the go.  It is nut free (though you could add some nuts), gluten-free and vegan and so very yummy!

Banana Oat Bars

4 rip bananas, mashed
1 cup paw paw puree or applesauce
1 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 cup sweet white rice flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Mix the wet ingredients together and then add in dry, mixing well. Add in the oatmeal, coconut flakes, chocolate chips (and/or nuts). Mix.
Grease a 9×13 baking dish.
Spread mixture into pan evenly.
Bake until an inserted knife comes out clean.

Let cool and serve.


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winter and spring

The thing about winter in New Jersey is that it seems like forever.  While it gets cold in November, we usually don’t get snow until January, which makes one think that 2 months of winter can’t be that bad.  But, but, we get dumped on.  It’s never a gradual inch or two, it is two months of winter at its finest.  New Jersey roads can’t handle snow – the state is completely unprepared for it, the potholes never really get fixed from the previous year or the year before that, and schools have two-delays or snow days at the first “winter storm watch”.

Can you tell I am anxious for spring?

We are lucky.  By the second or third week of March, we have reasonable temperatures and large amount of snow is usually gone – at least most years.  This year happens to be one of those years.

My seeds are bought.  My garden is plotted out.  The kids were able to ride scooters.  And I can take a walk outdoors to feel sunshine on face that actually feels warm.

I think, however, that my body plays tricks on me.  I always think 50 degrees is much warmer than it actually is and so, I don’t always dress as warmly as I should.  So while the key lime pies I’ve been making are treating me to a taste of summer, I still end my days wanting a warm cup of tea.  Or maybe chai.

Below is my favorite basic chai recipe and new one, incorporating turmeric – a recent Western-world discovered superfood.    I keep a pot on the stove for a day or so – not even taking time to store it because it goes so quickly.  But it can be kept in the freezer or fridge – served warm or cold (in the coming summer days!)
It can easily be adjusted. My kids like less ginger, my partner, more anise. Make a batch and then adjust to your preferences.

Basic Chai

10 cups of water
3 cinnamon sticks
4-6 star anise
5 green cardamom pods, cracked
4 1-inch peeled pieces of ginger (organic preferably)
4-6 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
thin peel of half of a large orange – make sure not to include the pith (the white part)
6 black tea bags, preferably high quality (may use decaf)

Fill a pot with the water, the spices and orange peel. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, submerse tea bags and leave to soak for 8-10 minutes. Strain the liquid. Reheat to serve immediately. When ready to serve, add 3/4 cup of chai to 1/4 cup of warm milk. Sweeten with honey if desired.

Turmeric Chai****

10 cups of water
4 1-inch peeled pieces of ginger (preferably organic)
5-7 green cardamom pots, cracked
6 black peppercorns
4-6 star anise
1 3-inch piece of fresh turmeric root peeled (preferably organic)

Fill a pot with the water and all the spices but the turmeric. Grate the turmeric into the water using a large-size grater hole. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain the liquid. Reheat if serving immediately. To serve, use a 1:1 ratio of chai to milk – preferably coconut or almond milk.

****NOTE!: Turmeric is a root that is very dark orange in color. It does STAIN! I recommend using some sort of gloves when cutting and peeling. Also, turmeric is anti-inflammatory and has properties that can give some people a numbing sensation when consumed in large quantities or in a more potent recipe like above. You are not allergic to it. There is no known allergy to turmeric.
Turmeric can be found fresh at Whole Foods, Wegmans and most asian markets.


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vegan desserts

For some reason whenever I Google gluten-free lately, a whole bunch of vegan, gluten-free ideas come up. I have been going low dairy lately, but I love milk and butter, especially in desserts, so I was a bit hesitant to try anything vegan.

BUT, friends, do I have some treats for you! Not only are the following recipes vegan, they are raw and super simple…oh and tasty, did I mention tasty?

The following recipes call for the same crust – which is:

Vegan, gluten-free dessert crust
In your food processor, add the following:
8-10 pitted dates (depending on size)
1 cup nuts (almonds, walnuts and almonds, etc.)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Optional, depending on dessert: add a spice – cinnamon, cardamom, etc. or some cocoa powder. You could also use a nut butter in place of 1/2 the dates – add a tablespoon to two.

Process until the mixture sticks together well. If it doesn’t, you can add more dates or a bit of coconut oil. The mixture is a thick crust for a 8×8 pan, a thin crust for a 9×13 or moderate thickness for two pie plates. I recommend either greasing your pans with coconut oil before spreading or lining the dish with parchment paper for easy serving.

Avocado Pie
Prepare two pie dishes with the crust.

Rinse your processor and add the following, blending the ingredients together until smooth.

6 avocados (preferably ripe, but unripe will simply take longer to process smooth)
juice of 5 limes
juice of 4 lemons (add more or less lemon or lime to your citrus preference)
1/2 cup coconut oil
4 tablespoons honey or agave (to taste)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Once smooth, spread over crusts and place in freezer for 4-6 hours until frozen through.

Variation: substitute 2 large bananas for every 1 avocado.

Chocolate Nut Butter Banana Bars
Press crust above into a 9×13 dish.

In food processor, blend the following ingredients until smooth:
6-8 ripe bananas
1 cup nut butter (almond or peanut)
1 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons honey or agave, to taste

Spread over the crust and place in freezer for 1 hour.

In a saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of coconut oil until melted and add 4 ounces dark chocolate (I prefer a less sweet chocolate). Drizzle on the semi-frozen bars.
Freeze for an additional 2-3 hours until solid.

Pumpkin Banana Bars
I recommend using a bit of cocoa powder in the curst above for this recipe. Place the crust mixture in an 8×8 dish.

In your food processor, blend until smooth:

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2-3 ripe bananas
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons honey or agave

Spread the pumpkin mixture on crust and sprinkle with coconut flakes. Freeze for 2-4 hours until solid.


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seville arroz

This is one of my favorite recipes…a simple one pot. The original recipe calls for chicken and spicy sausage, but I find the spicy sausage enough. I recently made it for my birthday party and it was a hit. A bit of sweet and spicy…

Seville Arroz

1 to 1.5 lbs spicy sausage, preferably andouille or chorizo (Trader Joe’s makes a decent andouille); half length-wise and then cut into bite-sized 1/2 moons
1 vidalia onion, chopped
1 garlic clove minced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
2 cups brown rice
1 8 ounce can tomato puree
1 quart chicken broth
1 zest of 1/2 orange
1 orange cut into segments and the segments halved
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a heavy bottom pot. When hot, add the sausage and cook until just starting to brown. Remove sausage, add onions, garlic and peppers and cook until glistening and onions are transparent. Add the rice and stir until coated with the oils. Add sausage, tomato sauce and broth. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until rice is almost cooked through and liquid almost absorbed. Add the orange zest, orange segments and almonds, mix thoroughly. Serve when broth is absorbed completely.

Sprinkle with cilantro if desired.
Serve as a main course or like a risotto appetizer.


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not an ordinary chili

Over the years, I have tried a variety of chili recipes. I make a great vegan chili – dumping all sorts of veggies in. We tried a new coconut butternut squash chili for a Holiday party this past December. A killer meat chili with organic ground beef and lots of ancho chili pepper…

The types of beans, veggies, meats – it varies every time. I’m sure yours does to.

Today, I have a chili recipe that is about flavor. Forget the veggies and meat. This is about savoring the balanced blend of smokey and sweet and bitter. The mellow with the fresh and robust.

I hope you try this. It is VERY simple. But certainly does not taste so…

not an ordinary chili

1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 gloves garlic, minced
sunflower oil
2 15 ounce cans of black beans (3 cups black beans)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
30 ounce can tomato puree
3 cups vegetable broth
8 ounces good quality organic dark chocolate, in smallish pieces
2 tablespoons chili powder (ancho is preferred)
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon oregano
salt and pepper

In a large soup pot, heat the oil and add the onion and celery, cooking until just soft. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and golden.
Add the tomato paste, stirring until incorporated.
Add the beans and puree, mix well.
Add the broth and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.
Add the chocolate, stirring frequently until melted.
The consistency should be thick and saucy. The color should be a deep brown-red.
Add more chocolate if desired.

Leave to simmer…

In the meantime, make the cilantro pesto…

1 bunch of cilantro
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 cup walnuts
olive oil

In a food processor, add all the ingredients, drizzling with the olive oil. Pulse, adding more olive oil as needed.

Serve the chili with a dollop of pesto on top.

My kids inhaled this. It was a real hit!


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things i’m loving lately

My six-year old and I are going back to camp with these beauties.

This was a huge hit!

Love to try this new craft project after I finish this one for my partner.

Thinking about this for my daughter’s birthday.

Our most recent book club read. It was phenomenal!

As always, loving the earthy smell of Vetiver in the house!

Or, some Sweet Basil in an oil burner! (Not for use on body!)

Just a few!


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a tasty treat

I may have shared before, that we like bean popcorn.

Here is a new version to try!

italian style roasted chickpeas

3 cans chickpeas or 4 cups homemade, washed and dried
3 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil (I use Spanish – I love its fruity flavor!)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
red pepper flakes to taste
salt and pepper
dried oregano

Add all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Mix well and let sit to marinate for a minimum of 3 hours.
Heat oven to 300*
Place chickpeas on a baking sheet.
Bake for 45-60 minutes, checking every 10 minutes or so. They should be dark and crispy; basically dried.
Add to salads or eat like popcorn.


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spring in the air

Yes, I realize that we are having a spring snow. But I am in denial. Sometimes, mother nature is too much.

This lovely spring soup has brought us lovely spring goodness to our home and comfort to a dear friends. Our community gardener, someone who has become family to us, whose daughter is our sitter, sister and friend, passed away suddenly Monday. This soup was a small token in a time of hurt.

To spring and happier times…

carrot dill soup

4-6 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1-2 quarts vegetable broth
1 bunch of fresh dill, finely minced

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil until shimmering and add the vegetables, saute for 4 minutes or until onion is soft and golden.
Add the vegetable broth, bring to a boil and then simmer until the vegetables are soft.
Using a hand-blender, food processor or blender, puree the soup until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the dill.

Serve.


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special soup

Every so often I want a special soup. Something to serve for guests. Or to have something extra special for comfort.

This soup is based on a native american soup recipe. It may sound like a bizarre combination, but trust me, it is quite good.

toasted pecan soup with cheddar cheese

4 cups pecans
olive oil
1 onions chopped
1-2 quarts vegetable broth
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme sprigs, leaves removed (may use dry)
salt and pepper
good quality yellow cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400*. Place pecans on a cookie sheet and put cookie sheet in the oven. Bake for 5-7 minutes, checking frequently to make sure the pecans don’t burn. You want them just golden and hot. Let cool.

Crush the pecans into smallish chunks.
In a soup pot, heat some olive oil and add the chopped onion. Once soft, add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the pecans and thyme leaves.
Simmer for 20-30 minutes, until pecans are somewhat soft.
Using a blender, food processor or a hand-blender, puree the soup. Season to taste.

Serve warm with the shredded cheddar cheese. Or room temp without the cheese.


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stockpiling

Working means not so much time for things around the house. It also means I have to be super-organized. Running late means I have only 15 minutes to make dinner. And now, I have gone gluten-free as well as my spouse, so we are very limited on what we can order out.

And here is where the crazy weather has cooperated. I’ve had four snow days in the last two weeks. Days filled with stock piling. I have been able to peruse my cookbooks, menu-plan, plan ahead.

And to plan for the most important meal of the day…
Breakfast…what to do with breakfast. Everyone is in a hurry to get going, get out. One of our holiday gifts this year, was a waffle maker from my parents. But waffles! How are you suppose to do waffles on day when you have four people getting ready in one in bathroom, leaving the house at different times and headed in four different directions.

You freeze them, of course…

Using your favorite waffle recipe, make a large batch – double or triple. What you don’t eat immediately, freeze in a container – let cool to room temperature. If you freeze while they are still hot or warm, the moisture will make the waffles stick to each other when you freeze them which makes it difficult to separate. We break our waffles into fourths because the kids can’t eat whole waffles.
To re-heat, pull the waffles out of their packaging. Place on an unprepared cookie sheet. Place into a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees, flipping after about 6 minutes. Serve when heated thoroughly.


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crackers

Today was a crazy day, but I finally made crackers. I know, sounds crazy, that I have been waiting weeks for time to make crackers, but it just wasn’t happening. I had grander plans for today…many things I wanted to make, but circumstances worked against me and all I made was crackers.

But these crackers. Oh! These crackers. I have used this recipe before…based on the one from this lovely book.
It even has a gluten-free substitute for the original recipe. But I have been dying to modify it. I have wanted to add more substance than just brown rice flour.

Gluten-free crackers

2 cups Ancient Grain Blend
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup white rice flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2/3 cup ground flax seed
3/4 uncooked millet
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1/2 cup olive oil + 2 tablespoons
1/2 cup water + more

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Add olive oil and mix with fork. Slowly add the 1/2 cup of water (adding more if needed) until the dough is smooth.

On a clean surface, roll out the dough until about 1/4-1/8 inch thick. Cut into squares or use a cookie cutter for shapes. Place on a unprepared cookie sheet and place in a preheated oven at 350*.
Turn over about 6-10 minutes into the baking process.
Remove from oven when hard and crispy.

Other variations:
Add any type of seeds or ground nuts. Experiment with herbs – fresh or dried.


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soup to go

I’ve been having trouble figuring out what I want to do for lunch at work everyday. I am not overeager to spend money, but somehow we don’t have the fixings for a salad, or leftovers don’t sound good or they are eaten for breakfast and before you know it, I’m headed to Trader Joe’s to get something for work.

But this weekend I had a minor revelation.

I love a cup of soup during the winter…and my son has gotten sick of them – so we haven’t had as many, meaning we don’t have leftovers. Also, he is on an anti-squash kick…meaning we have three squash in the basement that would go to waste otherwise….

Now the true genius to the “Soup to go” is not the recipe, which you can find below and is very good, but rather the fact that I was smart enough to put the soup in small Ball jars. We kept a few in the fridge and froze a bunch more. I can simply pull them out and bring them with me, already “packaged.”
Can’t believe I didn’t think of this earlier!

Curried Triple Squash Soup
Note: You can use whatever type of squash you have on hand to make it sweeter or more savory as you like.

1 medium acorn squash, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 medium kabocha squash, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 cups vegetable broth
4-6 cups water
1 can coconut milk
2-3 tablespoons curry powder (depending on your taste)
3 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
salt and pepper to taste

In a large stockpot, heat the broth and add the squash, covering with water until all the squash is covered.
Add coconut milk and spices.
Bring to a boil, simmer until squash is soft.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Using a stick-blender or blender, puree the soup. Warning: if you puree with the soup while it is still hot, please be careful! I do not recommend it!

Fill as many small Ball jars or other small containers with soup. If freezing, leave enough room for expansion.


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vegan bean and farro stew

It is cold here. Very. And we are expecting a lot of snow. My amazing partner just made me a lovely hand-knit shawl (yes, he knits!) and so I thought I should reciprocate.

Note: Technically, farro is not gluten-free. But people with a basic gluten intolerance can sometimes eat it as it is an ancient grain that may not affect you in the same manner as regular wheat-gluten.

Vegan Bean and Farro Stew

2 cans red kidney beans – must be organic and low-sodium, if possible
2 cups farro
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped onion
small head of cauliflower, cut into tiny florets
2-3 cups kale, chopped small (think bite-sized)
5-6 cups of vegetable broth

In a large stock pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil (I used safflower) and sauté the onion for 1-2 minutes. Add celery and carrots and cook until just warm.
Open the cans of beans BUT do NOT drain and rinse. Instead, empty the entire contents of the beans into the pot. This is why the beans should be organic and low-sodium.
Add cauliflower, farro and broth. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
Add chopped kale. Continue simmering for another 20 minutes or until farro is finished.
Keep on eye on your pot. The farro will soak up liquid and it can end too thick. Add broth as needed.
Season with salt and pepper.

You could add herbs and spices, but I tell you, it was really flavorful with just the veggies and broth and allowed the farro flavor to really shine.
You could also sprinkle with cheese, but again, we really did not find that necessary.

This was the first vegetarian/vegan soup/dish that I have ever found to be truly close to warm comfort food.
We ate leftovers and it freezes really well!

Bon appetite!


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apple picking

We spent a lovely Saturday with several dear friends at an orchard.  In our enthusiasm to be at an orchard and our failure to contain our children’s excitement, we picked sixty dollars worth of apples!  Mainly Stayman Winesaps (our favorite!), granny smiths and some fujis.

Applesauce is, of course, planned.  So simple and easy to freeze.   An apple pie or two.

But our favorite, by far, is apple crisp.  I wanted to share some pictures, but it got eaten so fast…  Nice and warm, right out of the oven with a vanilla bean ice cream…   Maybe it should be called apple bliss….

&Apple Crisp;

4-5 pounds apples, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (we used Stayman Winesaps)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour (I used Pamela’s GF baking mix)
salt
1/2 cup butter, cold and cut into small cubes

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13 glass baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix well: apples, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and lemon juice. Place mixture in baking dish.

In another large bowl, mix oats, brown sugar, flour and a pinch of salt together. Using your hands or a fork, add the butter pieces and mix well together – crushing the cold butter in the flour mixture until it forms lumps.
Pour flour/butter mixture over the apples. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until golden and bubbly.
Serve hot with fresh vanilla bean ice cream.

*You can add small nut pieces to this if you want.
**Half the recipe if you wish to make a smaller sized portion.


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beginning again

I am sorry for my absence.  It has been quite a crazy time.  Most recently, I have begun working full-time, thus, my time is not always my own.  When I am home, every moment is devoted to the kids, you know, the two that until recently were the only thing that I focused on…

Anyway, school has started and with it comes cold season.  I have posted this once and I’ll probably post it again, it is the most amazing thing…

And this year, we’ve been adding a few cloves of garlic (you know, the organically grown ones from the garden gift I received for the holidays this year!)  Garlic boosts immunity and helps with getting rid of those icky germs.  Yes, that is technical medical language!

The Ultimate Cold Buster!

 


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using up not-so-good-looking produce


For whatever reason, there are always those vegetables that just don’t look so good. (Some farmers and grocers sell this produce at a reduced price to you!)
So what do you do with them?

Here’s one idea:

Chocolate zucchini banana bread with chocolate chips
Gluten-free, easily vegan (dairy-free!)
Makes a large 9×13 cake sized bread and 1 8×8 sized bread or three loaves. You can freeze this!

2 large zucchini, shredded
3-4 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup cocoa powder (to make vegan-use carob powder)
1 cup butter (to make vegan/dairy free, use all coconut oil!)
1 cup sugar or 1/2 cup agave
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 cup ancient grain blend
3 cups Pamela’s Gluten-free Baking Mix
(If you are not gf or if you would don’t want to mix flours, etc. just use 3 1/2 cups of whatever flour of your choice)
1 cup chocolate chips

Mix and place in a greased baking dish (see above). Bake at 350 degrees until done in middle.

Serve.

 

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great green tacos

Tacos are so simple to make.  And, contrary to what most people think, you can put pretty much anything you want in them.  This is one of my favorite vegan taco recipes that also happens to be raw.

I made the tacos below with my son in mind.  He loves bitter greens and this was a great way to “hide” them for my daughter who is not so fond of them. It is also a way to boost your greens intake. Spinach has a lot of nutrients, but nothing in comparison with chard and beet greens.

Swiss Chard and Beet Green tacos with nectarine salsa

1 bunch swiss chard, chopped roughly
1 bunch beet greens, chopped roughly
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
An oil that can be used at high temps (I used sunflower.)
cumin
garlic
salt

In a sauté pan, heat one tablespoon oil; once hot, add the onion and cook until just golden. Add the greens and cook down. Add the seasonings, mixing well.
I served mine in corn tortillas with a sprinkle of goat cheese but you could certainly omit the cheese.

For salsa:
I made this to counter the bitter greens. And to please my sweet-loving daughter. We ate it on the side.

2 nectarines, cut into very small pieces
1 cup corn (I used frozen that I simply thawed)
1 can black beans, rinsed

Mix all ingredients together. Add 1 tablespoons lime juice, a sprinkle of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder. Mix and serve.


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bountiful basil

We are home!  It is good to be home.  We spent all our time yesterday, getting ready for the week to come, including a few trips to the garden. The weeds had overrun a bit…

With the bounty beginning to pour from our garden and the market, we are beginning to swim in produce.  I am certainly not going to complain, this is my favorite time of the year.  The garlic is drying!  The tomatoes and peppers, well, I have a favorite recipe to share with you later in the week!  The kale is being consumed in as many ways as there are pieces of kale!  We  have a big bucket of fingerling potatoes from our neighbor and a large head of fennel (which my son keeps sneaking the fronds from!)

And Basil.  One of my favorites.  I plan to share several recipes over the next week or so that include basil.  But for now…

Thai Basil Grapefruit Lime Cocktail
(Recipe makes two-three cocktails)

5-6 Thai basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 finger full liquor – (I used vodka because rum gives me a headache, but you could use rum or gin too!)
1 1/2 cup grapefruit juice

Add basil and lime juice to a mortar and pestle and grind away.

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To really concentrate the flavors, refrigerate for 2-5 hours.
Mix a small amount of basil lime concentrate with grapefruit juice.  (Adjust taste accordingly.)
Add vodka and serve.

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greetings from Nashville

Hello Readers!

Yes, as you can tell from the title of this post, we are in Nashville – for two weeks!  I love exploring a new city and Nashville has certainly not disappointed.

The kids and I have had several adventures over the last week.  Maybe when they are older they would enjoy things like the Country Music Hall Fame, but right now, they are focused on parks and playgrounds and pools.  We had a bit of fun at the Nashville Zoo yesterday and plan to head to the Adventure Science Center and Bicentennial Park over the next week, amongst other things.

What I did not realize about Nashville, is that it is a foodie town!  Great restaurants, of all different types and often clumped together so if you stay in one area, you can try many without having to drive all over the city.

Some favorites!

1.  Best Coffee (and I’m not a coffee drinker!) at Hot & Cold.  They also have great ice cream and las paletas (popsicles).  I am also very much impressed with their variety of teas and the different blends they offer.

2.  Great pizza!  New York style, thin crust pizza, Pizza Perfect is great!  An amazing blend of spices in the sauce with just the right amount of cheese.  While not close to my favorite pizza, Fricano’s in Michigan, it is truly good.  (Fricano’s stands alone.  It is like no other pizza in the world!)

3.  Best Thai I have had in a very long time at The Smiling Elephant.  And they do their best to make it healthy.  (It is also great that it is reasonably priced!)


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gluten-free, garden fresh tabbouleh

I love tabbouleh.  I love its freshness, its lemony zing and parsley…oh, I love parsley.  As always, I am looking for ways to make it more healthy.  And as we eat gluten-free, I’m looking for other grains that give a comparable texture to the traditional wheat bulgher.  I think I’ve figured it out…

Gluten-free, vegetable tabbouleh

1 large bunch of kale, chopped into bite-sized pieces (remove stems before chopping)
1 large bunch of parsley, (curly or flat) chopped into small pieces
1 pepper finely chopped
1 cucumber, seeded, peeled and chopped finely (I even seed english cucumbers)
1 and 1/2 cups cooked millet
1 tomato chopped finely

Mix ingredients. Remember, traditional tabbouleh is dominantly herbs, not grain, so keep the millet on the lighter side.
You can also add chopped mint, which is traditional. I didn’t have any, but do love it.

Drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, a small pinch of kosher or sea salt and black pepper and sprinkle with a generous helping of sumac. Sumac is a dried berry found in the Middle East. It has a tart lemony flavor. I get mine at Whole Foods.
Start with a small amount of the dressing, mix and add more if necessary. You don’t want your kale dripping with oil.


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loving

Things I’m loving lately…

-Trader Joe’s Greek Apricot Mango Yogurt

-Kale from the garden (fresh kale, shredded golden beets and purple carrots, drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice and sprinkle of sumac)

-My next embroidery project, for my husband’s office, here and this one, here, for a friend

-Excited to try this

-My daughter is drooling over this

-Awaiting the arrival of my new bag

-Scouting out Nashville for parks, restaurants and coffee shops for our two week vacation.  I love exploring a new city!


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avocado dressings

As a way to boost flavor and add nutrients, these two dressings are amazing.  One sweet, one savory and both so very perfect in their own way.

Savory avocado dressing – Avocado pesto
This recipe is really simple! Homemade pesto is much better than store bought. I make mine vegan, without parmesan and sometimes with walnuts or almonds instead of pine nuts.

Half one avocado and add it to a blender or food processor with 1/4 to 1/2 cup pesto (depending on how strong). Blend.
We served this over a bed of millet with lentils and lightly sautéed zucchini and kale.  But it would be good with anything – including pasta.

Another variation would be to make a coriander pesto version:  In a food processor, blend a bunch of cilantro with 1/2 cup almonds, olive oil and a small amount of jalapeno.  Mix the pesto with an avocado.

Sweet avocado dressing

In a food processor or blender, mix:
1 avocado
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2-3 tablespoons lime juice
2-3 tablespoons grape fruit juice
Touch of agave, if needed

Adjust the dressing liquid to preferred consistency.

We served this over a bed of arugula with roasted red and golden beets. I found this a bit on the sweet side. While it was good with the beets, I would have preferred it to be on a salad with more savory items. But if you like sweet on sweet, I highly recommend it. And so do my kids, who totally inhaled it!

This would also be awesome on ice cream!


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red summer bliss

Our master gardener friend and neighbor has red currant bushes; about six of them. And if he gets to them before the birds do, these lovely red fruit make a lovely jam. This year, he allowed my daughter and I to pick a bucket.

Combing the internet for a simple jam recipe, I came across this gem.

I added a bit less sugar (about 3/4 cup to every kilo). And I did not have nearly as much jam because we had a lot less berries. But this was quite fantastic. Best of All? It was really simple and really quick. No messing with gelatin or canning. Just simple red berry bliss!

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Chinese Chicken Salad

It is humid here and hot.  Full-on summer, especially now that it is July.   Cooking is not my favorite thing to do in the heat.

Enter:  Chinese Chicken Salad

1 large head of cabbage, shredded
a large bunch of snow peas, cut in half
4-5 plums
Shredded chicken, about 2 cups (hint: buy a rotisserie chicken at the store or used TJ’s organic canned chicken.)
Alternatively, you could use some flavored tofu.

Mix together.

In a jar, mix together 1/4 cup grapefruit juice, 1 tablespoons sesame seed oil, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar and a pinch of salt. Pour over salad, mix and serve.

I like the plums and grapefruit option instead of oranges and juice. They are less sweet and make the perfect pairing to the snow peas and chicken.


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going garlic

This past winter holiday, we received a lovely card with a picture of a garden plot full of garlic and the caption, “Ajo up the Wajo!”  (Ajo is Spanish for garlic.)  This card was announcing a very sweet gift of a plot of garlic.  Can I just say that this was the best holiday present ever?!?!?!


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Well, that lovely plot has flourished!  And this week we harvested some of the scapes.

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These lovely plants have all the flavor of garlic and are great for pesto.  I made a large batch, freezing two jars and keeping the other for a recipe I hope to share with you tomorrow.

Garlic Scape Pesto

The amount of pesto you make depends on how many scapes you have. I recommend about 6-8 for one good jar.
You should be able to purchase scapes at your local farmer’s market.

6-8 garlic scapes, cut into large pieces
1/8 cup olive oil
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup nuts – pine, almond or walnuts

In a food processor, process all ingredients together, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides. Adjust ingredients as needed.
Store in a glass jar. Freeze for up to eight months.

Serving suggestions:
Use like basil pesto on pasta.
Mix with eggs or in a frittata.

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rhubarb strawberry soup

The end of rhubarb season is upon us.  It is truly such a short season.  Though, many grocery stores do sell frozen rhubarb, it is not quite the same.

A favorite rhubarb treat of ours is rhubarb strawberry soup. It is nice on its own, as a breakfast treat or a great replacement for strawberry shortcake.

Rhubarb Strawberry Soup
It is important to use organic apple juice. Half of all pesticides used on produce are for apples because they attract so many pests and diseases. Also, a lot of those pesticides contain arsenic.

1 large bundle rhubarb cut (about 2-3 cups)
1 large container strawberries, cored and sliced (32 ounces)
1 jug organic apple juice (64 ounces)
1 large or 2 small cinnamon sticks

In a large stock pot, place the juice, rhubarb and strawberries. Bring to a boil and add cinnamon sticks. Reduce to a simmer and cook until somewhat thickened (about 15-20 minutes). The rhubarb will literally melt and the strawberries will become very mushy. Remove cinnamon stick(s). Puree in a blender or with a hand/stick blender.
Chill and serve.

Serving options:
Serve with sour cream or creme fraiche.
Pour over biscuits for a strawberry/rhubarb shortcake.
Add some silken tofu just before blending for a boost of protein and serve for breakfast.

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breakfast salad

I regret to say that I did not take any pictures of this lovely salad.  Everyone was so hungry after a trip to the pool, it was inhaled too quickly to  take pictures.  It is a salad perfect for brunch or a quick dinner after a dip in the pool.

Breakfast Salad

1/2 package of bacon, fried to a crisp and cut into tiny pieces
1-2 eggs per person, poached
Mache salad greens (also known as lamb’s lettuce)
Balsamic vinaigrette

Place a large handful of mache on each place with a sprinkle of bacon and 1 or 2 poached eggs. Drizzle some balsamic and freshly ground pepper, serve.

As an addition, some nice crisp asparagus would be a nice addition to this salad.


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salad and sangria

Tonight’s dinner was magnificent.  Truly exceptional.  I have to share it with you, because everyone was happy.  Even the daughter who doesn’t like bitter greens.

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Salad Sicilia
Based on this recipe.

1 head radicchio, sliced
1 head chicory, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 head of fennel, thinly sliced
1 large handful of arugula
2 large oranges, cut into segments (save the remnants for dressing)
1 granny smith apple, thinly sliced and julienned
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Mix ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl.
For dressing: squeeze the remnants of the orange and add a splash of grapefruit juice. (While we like the sweetness of fruit juice that cuts through the bitter greens, the grapefruit juice keeps the dressing from becoming too sweet.) Add a touch of olive oil, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper.
Serve.

We prefer to keep the dressing separate from the salad because the recipe makes so much salad (we have lunch tomorrow!) that if we were to put the dressing on the salad it would make it soggy.

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Our new favorite cheese
Oh what would I do without Trader Joe’s!
Their Toscano with Black Pepper is amazing! I like it with Trader Joe’s rasin rosemary crisps.

Instant Sangria
And to top off an amazing dinner, we need an amazing drink.

In a blender mix 1 cup organic strawberries (de-stemmed and cored) and 1/2 cup blueberries with a splash of triple sec, simple syrup and a dash of cardamom. Mix with wine. Serve.

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garden and herbs update

Today I wanted to share with you an update on our garden and herbs. Lots of pictures, little text.
Gardening is hard work, but very rewarding. The kids get a huge thrill watching the little green shoots struggle to the surface.
Nothing tastes sweeter than the plants that you have grown and labored over. Whether you use them simply or in gourmet fusion combinations, they are a delight. I hope that this update inspires you to try some gardening on your own.

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This year I planted several varieties of basil: lime, lemon, purple, Thai and lettuce leaf.  All were planted in containers, but I also planted Thai and lettuce leaf as seedlings to be planted in the garden.  One can never have too much pesto…


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Coriander (cilantro)

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This is the same chive plant I have had for 6 years.  It just continues to grow.  We use it most often for eggs with goat cheese.

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Container garden is great for greens.  In this case, swiss chard.  Unfortunately, our son accidentally tipped the pot when the plants were still young and we lost several.  I will get more seeds and plant them after these are harvested.

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More basil.

DSC01445Sage (same plant for 4 years).  This year I am going to try making a sage pesto.  More basil and some thyme.

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Broccoli, carrots (yellow), peppers, leeks and strawberries.

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Broccoli

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Spring veggies:  Snap peas (several batches harvest already!), golden beets, purple carrots (variety dragon), red beets.

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Golden beets and carrots

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Oh, these beautiful carrots!

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Red beets

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Mounds of cucumbers (two varieties), golden and green zucchini (planted 2 days ago!)

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Garlic!  And yes, we’ve already delved into the scapes!


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shrooms

My little girl’s favorite vegetables are mushrooms and brussel sprouts. (I must have done something right!)
Last year, we were blessed with a master gardener, who just happens to be our neighbor and friend,that planted some shiitake mushrooms. His mushrooms were the size of a small dinner plate. I have never seen shiitake’s that size!

Not a proud momma moment, but my daughter and I fought over them. I mean, literally, took stabs at each other with our forks-they were so good.

On Sunday, during a trip to a farmer’s market nearby, I was able to pick up some shiitakes. Not the size of our neighbors but a whole quart! That should mean we shouldn’t have to fight over them…no promises.

Sauteed Mushrooms

Remove the stems from your shiitakes.
Slice thinly.
In a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons butter (homemade is best, see here.)
When butter is melted and just starting to bubble, add mushrooms and just a pinch of salt.
Sauté until golden.
Serve.

While we enjoy them plain, we also like to eat them over toast spread with butter.

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getting kids to eat salad

Okay, so from the title of this post, you may be thinking that I have some miracle trick to get my kids to eat salad.  Let me be clear, I do not.  Salad is a tough.

Our daughter has never really loved it.  She will eat it when that is all that is served, but she will do her utmost to get the smallest serving possible.

Our son, on the other, loves salad.  And the more bitter the greens the better.  Kale, arugula, dandelion, chicory, endive, collards….you name it, he’ll eat it.  Now, mushrooms-he picks them out of everything he hates them so much.

My grandmother had a salad she’d make as a kid that I used to inhale.  It had iceberg (they only “greens” most midwesterners eat), bananas and apples and a whole lot of sweet mayo dressing.  I used to eat that stuff…

I thought about that salad the other day and realized that it wasn’t the sweetness but the fruit that made me want to eat it. So, I have found that the best way to get your kids to eat salad is to add fruit.  Any fruit.
Last night at a BBQ with some friends, I took mixed greens, topped them with cut grapes and strawberries and served a white balsamic dressing on the side. The salad was eaten by all four kids (and four adults.)

Tonight’s salad, however, is a bit more on the gourmet side, but I think that the kids will like it none the less as it includes some of their favorite ingredients.

Lettuce and Watermelon

1 head butter lettuce (also called Boston, Bibb or Boston Bibb)
1 cup diced watermelon (small pieces)
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
vinaigrette of your choice (I mixed white wine vinegar and spanish olive oil.  I really liked the simplicity that allowed the watermelon and cheese to shine.)

Gently wash and tear your lettuce.
Toss the lettuce with watermelon and cheese.
Lightly sprinkle on vinaigrette. Serve.

The inspiration for this recipe was a meal that my spouse and I had several years ago. The orignal version was a champagne vinaigrette.

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sharing

I feel I must apologize for my absence here.  Life has become a bit more complicated recently.  I have begun a part-time, temporary job to help bring some extra income in.  (We have grand plans for next summer!) With this new adjustment and the craziness that the end of a school year brings, things have been a bit overwhelming.  I am hoping that I can take some time this weekend to catch up on some things, including this blog.

In the meantime, I’d like to share some things from the interconnected world wide web with you…

-A dear friend is leaving us for her home in Ireland soon.  Her good-bye party is Monday and I plan on serving some Sangria.  I hope to share the recipe with you soon.  But in the meantime, Smitten Kitchen has some lovely ideas here.  Or this lovely version here.

-Our favorite summer pizza, found here,  has been used many times this year already.  But I just found this great idea too!

-Dug into this summer time favorite a couple of times too!

-Recently stumbled on this lovely website for CSA’s and farmer’s markets. Plan to use it in the near future.

-Just finished this book for book club (in 4 four hours!) and cannot recommend it enough!
Hope you are enjoying the summer (or in our case, rainy and cool) weather!

 


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decadence

You deserve something special.  Something unique.  Something truly extraordinary.

And do I have something special for you.

Chocolate cherry ‘sicles 

2 cups pitted cherries (fresh or frozen)
3 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup fruit juice (cherry is good, but orange juice would work too)
1/4 cup milk of your choice (optional, you could add all juice)
sweetener to taste

In a blender, blend all the ingredients but sweetener together until mixture is smooth and thick; you may need to add more liquid if the mixture is too thick. You may wish to add a bit of honey or agave depending on how sweet your cherries are.
Place mixture in popsicle mold. I have small and medium molds. These are the ones I used for this recipe.
Freeze for 12 hours.
Enjoy!


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veggies in the middle

In an attempt to eat more vegetables, (getting ready for garden produce!) dinner this evening was inspired by this lovely cookbook.

While it could have been served with rice, quinoa or couscous, we ate it alone and filled ourselves up quite nicely.
I like most of my vegetables cooked but to still have a bit of crunch. That is how I cooked the peppers and zucchini here (they are also healthier this way!). You can cook them to your own taste.

Balsamic vegetables

1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dried or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 red pepper sliced
1 medium zucchini halved, sliced into half moon slices 1/4 inch thick
1 onion halved and sliced
1 lb. cremini mushrooms halved or quartered, depending on size
2 garlic cloves, minced

In a small bowl, mix together broth, vinegar and thyme. Set aside

In a sauté pan, heat about a tablespoon of oil and add peppers. Cook until not quite your preferred state. (They will be cooked more later.)
Set peppers aside.
Add zucchini to pan with a small pinch of kosher salt and cook, adding more oil to pan if needed. Cook until not quite your preferred state. (They will be cooked more later.)
Remove zucchini from pan.
If needed, add more oil and then add onions and mushrooms with a small pinch of kosher salt to pan. Cook until just browned and starting to soften.
Add garlic and cook for about a minute more.
Add the peppers, zucchini and broth mixture.
Cook until liquid is just starting to thicken.
Serve.

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strawberry season

We are well into strawberry season here.  Berries are fruits that I only purchase organic because the skin on them is so thin that chemicals can permeate it too easily and because they cannot be properly scrubbed.

With that said, Trader Joe’s has had organic strawberries on sale for the past two weeks.  Sometimes, I get there when the shipment is fresh and I can get 4 or 5 containers at a time.  Other times, the strawberries look a bit old and sad.
I was wondering what to do with these sad strawberries when I realized that with this hot weather we have had (yes, the a/c had to go on last week!), I should make ice cream.

Strawberry ice cream

1 quart of strawberries (they can be old!), cored and sliced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup of milk
2 cups heavy cream
honey

In a bowl, mix the strawberries with lemon juice and sugar. Place in the fridge for at least two hours.

Mix together milk and heavy cream, add about 2 tablespoons of honey (to taste). Add the juice from the macerated strawberries, mix.

Add milk mixture to ice cream maker.
When ice cream is starting to thicken, add the strawberries.
Ice cream is finished when it is really thick.
Freeze. Eat when hard.


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inspiration

Today’s dinner was inspired by this lovely post.

I wish I could have found a poblano at Trader Joe’s and a vidalia because I would have included them in the pizza.  I also wish I would have thought to grill the zucchini I bought because that would have been nice too.

Gluten-free southwest pizza

Corn tortillas
1 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cup black beans
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
1 cup goat cheese
paprika
chili powder
arugula
cilantro

In a bowl, mix together the creme fraiche and goat cheese. Add some paprika and chili powder to taste.

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Place tortillas on a baking sheet. Spread with goat cheese mixture.
Sprinkle tortillas with corn and black beans.

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Place the prepared tortillas in oven beneath broiler.
Cook until just crisp on the edges.

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Add cilantro and arugula.
Serve.

Note: When using tortillas for a pizza base, do not overload them. The tortillas tend to get soggy if you add to many toppings and they do not hold up like regular pizza crust. Also, watch them under the broiler because the edges can get too dark very quickly.

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some recent finds

This Memorial Day has dawned a perfect spring day.  Sunny, in the 70’s and after a brief stop at Trader Joe’s, the kids and I are headed to a state park for a hike and a picnic lunch.

Today, I’d like to share some recent finds from this inter-connected web.

1.  We do not have many lilac trees here.  Lilacs are my most favorite flower and so this lovely post  makes me want to search for a bouquet for my table.

2.  REALLY want to try this lovely thing for dinner soon!

3.  Starting to plan summer lessons and projects for the kids.  No, we do not homeschool, but during the summer, we need things to do and I love to learn as much as the kids.  Here are some activities I’ve been thinking about.

4.  Planning a trip to this lovely bird sanctuary.  My favorite is the albino robin they have.  We often end our trip with a stop at the Great Swamp for a bird watching session.

5.  Thinking about pampering myself using this.

6.  Next we grill, I hope to have garden fresh beets for this lovely thing.

7.  Lastly, I’d like to end one of my weeks with one of these.


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spring quinoa salad

The heat wave continues.  But inspired by a trip to Trader Joe’s that delivered some great spring produce, I have a lovely salad to share with you.  It is simple and quick and just what was needed on this tropical day.

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Quinoa spring salad
This recipe is dairy and gluten-free.

4 ripe apricots, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch asparagus, rinsed and chopped into bite-size pieces
1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, chopped into bite-size pieces
2 cups cooked quinoa (I usually cook several cups and freeze what I am not using for another day.)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (I did not have any for my salad, but would put it in if I had.)
olive oil
lemon juice

In a sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil (I used coconut). Add the asparagus and snap peas and a pinch of salt. Cook for 2-4 minutes until just warm and glossy.
Place vegetables in a large serving bowl. Add apricots, cilantro, asparagus and snap peas.
Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.
Mix well and serve.

Other ingredient ideas: avocado, dried apricots, substitute apricot nectar for the lemon juice.

 

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refreshing summer snack

Here in North Jersey, we have had a blast of summer weather.  80’s and humid.  The kids have played in the sprinkler several times in the last day or so.
And with this fabulous heat (yes, that is sarcasm!), I have lost a bit of my gumption to cook. This happens every time it heats up.
So I turn to salads, the grill and my crock-pot.

Today’s salad was a bit basic. Not that that is a bad thing, but I needed something to zest up dinner. To keep the family interested. Something to tango the taste buds. (I’ll stop now.)

This recipe (if you can call it a recipe, it is really so very simple), came from my lovely friend Jen. It is light and refreshing with a bit of zip. And great for hot and humid summery (or summer-like) days.

Cucumber-lime salad

1 cucumber
lime juice
chili powder

Slice the cucumber, sprinkle with lime juice and chili powder to taste.
Seriously, that is it!

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rainy morning activity

This week is suppose to be warm, almost summer like.  But this morning dawned a shady grey as the clouds from yesterday’s rainstorm finish passing through.  So before things clear up, we have created an art gallery in our home. We placed each piece to her specifications and then labeled them all with her choice of name.  We will keep it up throughout the week, as I am sure my daughter will drag all of our neighbors through the house this week.

Here’s a tour:

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A Study of Paw Prints

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The Slithering Snake Field

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Everything in the Whole Wide World Scientist

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The Sweating Day with the Fruit Mix

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Crowned Royalty

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The Fluffy Sparkle House

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The Purple Princess

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The Green Bow

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Mrs. P and Luna Walk on Valentine’s Day

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Pretty Flowers and Polka Dots

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Luna finding Mrs. P on Flower Island

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Belle and the Glorious Flowers

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The Rainbow and Beautiful Flower

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Caroline and Luna go to see the Diamond

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ABC’s and 123’s

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The Magician Who Put Sparkles in Outer Space


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two girls on a rainy afternoon

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While the boys were off to play at a birthday party, my daughter and I spent a cool rainy afternoon coloring, playing card games and baking.  My daughter’s favorite cookies are peanut butter chocolate chip.  I have tried many recipes for these, most being fine, none exceptional.

That is, until yesterday.  Oh my!  This is the ultimate recipe.  Light and airy, crumbly with just the right amount of chew…oh yes, these will be gone soon. Not exactly healthy, but a great treat on a wet, rainy and cool Sunday afternoon.  I may even have to say that these are my favorite cookies!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter
2 cups Pamela’s All-Purpose Gluten-free Baking Mix
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 egg
1 cup chocolate chips

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together all ingredients except chocolate chips. Once mixed, add chocolate chips.
Using a regular sized spoon to scoop the batter, place scoop on an un-greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to drying rack to finish cooling.

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some thoughts on acupuncture

My history with acupuncture begins with our desire to have a baby.  Like many people, I was faced with infertility issues.  I was diagnosed with PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome) about 1 1/2 years into our journey to get pregnant.   While I do have cystic ovaries and an abnormal cycle, many things about PCOS did not apply to me.  Most people with PCOS tend to be heavily over-weight, excessively hairy and poor skin.  They may also exhibit signs of diabetes.
There are all types of infertility treatments and doctors out there. Our first doctor was all about trying to get us pregnant in the shortest time possible. I tried two different treatments – Clomid and a diabetes drug. Neither worked and the reaction to the drugs were horrible.
At that point, I tried a different doctor. She took a slower approach and was thorough, but eventually she referred me to another specialist.
After I was diagnosed and had tried several methods, I realized that I had no idea about the drugs or treatments being used on me or that were recommended. None of them seemed healthy. And I realized a very important thing…

…how was I going to have a healthy baby if I or what I was doing to my body not healthy?
I do not doubt at all, that for some people, there are no other options but some of the more extreme versions of infertility treatments. I am the last person that will pass judgement on someone in the agonizing struggle to get pregnant. But for me, knowing what was wrong with my body, and finding healthy ways to fix it were the most important goals. If I would have needed more help than what direction I choose, I cannot say I would not have taken it, but for me, I wanted to exhaust every option that I could control first.
I wanted to be healthy so that I could have a healthy baby.

It was at about this time, that a dear friend suggested acupuncture and I came across a lovely book called, The Infertility Cure by Randine Lewis. This is what I had been looking for. I started to look for acupuncturists and found a certified acupuncturist who was also a Native American healer and had done workshops with Randine Lewis.
On a strict diet, excercise, regime of herbs and weekly sessions, it took us four months to get pregnant.

This was my first experience with acupuncture.

The second experience begin last year at this time. I was in the midst of recurring kidney infections and had just begun getting migraines regularly, related to my cycle. While my kidney issue was due to stenosis after I damaged my urethra during childbirth and needed to be mended by a western physician, it was my acupuncturist that fixed my frequent urination, my constant headaches, my migraines, regulated my cycle, increased my energy and gave me back my overall wellness. It is thanks to him I continue to return when I feel out of sorts, out of balance.

Acupuncture works. It is not a cure-all, but a good acupuncturist is worth his or her weight in gold. They work with the body’s natural state to tune it, to make it work at optimum.
Acupuncture does not hurt; the needles are so small you often do not even feel them going in.
Acupuncture treats numerous aliments without invasive procedures or unknown medicines.

For those of you looking for a healthy, effective way to find balance or deal with a particular issue, I highly recommend trying acupuncture as a non-invasive way to help.

For those interested in the North Jersey area, my acupuncturist is Ni-Fei Hsieh. You can find his website here: http://www.cmharmony.net/practitioner.html


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super special spring soda

I hope you were not too anxious awaiting this gem.  And it truly is a gem.

Loosely based on the recipe found in this amazing cookbook

Rhubarb Ginger Soda

2 pounds fresh rhubarb
8 cups water
3 tablespoons lime juice
4 tablespoons peeled and chopped ginger
1/2 cup white sugar

In a large pot, combine the rhubarb and water. Bring to a boil.

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Let simmer for 20 minutes. Rhubarb will fall apart.

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Add ginger pieces, lime juice and sugar. Continue on simmer for another 10-15 minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken into a syrup.

Remove from heat. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Store in a glass container.

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To serve:

-Add about 1/2 cup rhubarb syrup to 3/4 cup seltzer water or club soda. You may need to experiment here with how strong and sweet you like your soda.
-Mix rhubarb syrup, gin and club soda for an adult twist.


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happy mother’s day

Like many mothers across the States, I enjoyed a very spoiled mother’s day.  It was quiet and calm…peaceful really.

After a simple, early lunch and a bit of a rest, we headed to a farm stand where I found some fresh-picked rhubarb.  I’ve mentioned before my love affair with rhubarb and my grandmother’s indulgence for this amazing ruby-red plant.
I bought two bunches and used one to bake a pie while our fabulous dinner was being made.

Today, I’d like to share three things with you.

First, I’d like to re-share my grandmother’s rhubarb pie recipe, here. This is the recipe I used yesterday, with these two modifications: I used 1/2 cup brown sugar-it really allowed the natural tartness of the rhubarb to shine through. I also used cardamom instead of nutmeg which made the pie have a much more refreshing taste to it than the warming taste of nutmeg.

Second, thanks to some very dear friends, we are now using the BEST store-bought dressing, Annie’s Shiitake and Sesame Dressing. I’m not sure I would have tried it without Hannah and Craig because I usually make my own, but this is quite phenomenal. I made an arugula salad with roasted beets and goat cheese (something I’ve done before, but Hannah and Craig reminded me of, that’s what friends are for, well one of many things… ). I certainly recommend trying this lovely dressing the next time you need an addition to your salad.

Lastly, I want to share with you an amazing rhubarb recipe tomorrow…so stay tuned.