Category Archives: Summer

Sour Cherry with Grand Marnier Creme Brulee

I recall having a traditional creme brûlée years ago and not liking it. I don’t remember where, just that this raved upon dessert tasted a bit like an eggy mess.  It turned me off completely.  Then, one Valentine’s Day, six years ago my dear sweet friend and old neighbor Allison brought Valentine desserts over to Ben and me.  Allison has this knack of having mismatched, yet whimsical, plates, bowls & cups and other trinkets in her home.  She converted me to forgoing paper napkins, due to her assortment of linen napkins I would find her using with her lunch, or serving me with a cookie on it.

There she was with two little black foiled containers filled with creme brulee sitting on one eclectic small plate; along with a cut out paper heart placed on those white paper doilies.  Allison and I shared the love of eating fine food and here she was sharing this delectable creamy treat with us. As she stood there describing her love of these specific creme brulees (from a local bakery), I stood there smiling with a very thankful heart.  What I didn’t tell her was what I was thinking, which was, “Oh, how incredibly thoughtful, but I don’t like creme brulee.  I won’t let Allison know.”  I placed the plate on the table and gave Allison a big thankful hug and said goodbye.

After I shut the door I said, “Ben, Allison brought over some dessert for us for Valentine’s Day,” to which he replied, “that’s nice.”  “Yes, it was, but do you know what she brought? (because Ben knew I wasn’t fond of creme brulee),” I said, “Creme Brulee!”  I recall Ben laughing at my predicament and then asked, “well, are you going to try it?”  Like any good foodie, regardless if past experience went awry, I responded with an astounding “Yes!”

I got two spoons and dipped my spoon to remove just a little bit.  And what I tasted was nothing like scrambled eggs mixed in cream.  It was simply heavenly.  All Ben heard was, “MMM, OHH!  Ben! (another bite) This is amazing!  You have to try this! (another bite) I could eat yours if you want!”  I was transformed.  So when my dear friend Talia was coming over for a little birthday celebration, I knew I needed to make her creme brulee.  Except, I wanted to put a spin on it by adding the sour cherry with Grand Marnier filling on the bottom.  I recommend ensuring that the creme is very cold while the brulee is warm when you serve–it’s the best way to eat it in my opinion (plus, did you know sweet is more pronounced when it is warmed up, so the cold creme doesn’t allow the sugar to become overbearing).  You’ll be sure to win over even the biggest anti-creme brulee person with this dessert.

A Year Ago: Spicy Caramel Popcorn

Sour Cherry Creme Brulee with Grand Marnier (printable recipe)

Keep the egg whites to use for another recipe. And if you stay tuned, I’ll share a Coconut Lime Macaroon recipe to utilize them.  If you don’t have a blow torch, then put your cooked & chilled creme brulee ramekins in 9×13 pan (or roasting pan) and fill it with ice, in order to keep the custards VERY cold.  Turn your broiler on and put your ramekins (with the sugar on top) sitting in the ice bath directly under the broiler for only 30 seconds.  Check the sugar (brulee) to ensure it doesn’t get too burnt.  If you need it to cook a bit more, then put it back in for another 15 seconds and continue until it reaches your desired burnt sugar liking.

Sour Cherry Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh/frozen sour cherries ( I used frozen sour cherries that were fresh in the summer)
  • 1-2 Tb raw honey
  • 1 Tb arrowroot powder
  • 2-4 Tb Grand Marnier

Creme Brulee Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup evaporated cane juice sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
  • 1 tsp Grand Marnier (optional)
  • 6 egg yolks, large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar for brulee part

Sour Cherry Filling:

Put all of the cherries, along with the juices into a heavy-bottomed saucepan (ensure there are no seeds in the cherries). Turn the heat to medium. If your cherries are frozen, wait before adding any of the other ingredients until the cherries are completely thawed. If your cherries are thawed or fresh, add 1 Tb of honey and allow to bubble, stirring occasionally. Keep it in this stage for about 10 minutes. You are working towards a nice filling consistency.

Sprinkle the arrowroot over the cherries and mix thoroughly. If the mixture is bubbling rapidly, turn the heat down, in order to avoid burning. You want it to simmer/bubble. The filling should start to set as you stir occasionally. Taste throughout to see where the filling sweetness is at. If you feel that the filling needs another tablespoon of honey, add it now. Once the filling has thickened (dip a metal spoon in the filling and it should coat it), add two tablespoon of Grand Marnier (I used 2 Tb). Adding more than two tablespoons will make the filling taste more boozy; however, once the filling is added to the ramekins and cooked with the creme, the Grand Marnier burns off a bit with just two tablespoons. Cook on stove top for an additional minute, then remove from heat to cool.

Creme Brulee Ingredients:

Combine the milk, cream, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until it reaches the boiling point. Set aside to steep until it cools down.

Preheat oven to 300 F, and adjust a rack slightly lower than center.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks & optional 1 tsp of Grand Marnier briefly. Add the cream mixture very slowly into the yolks, whisking well with each addition. Once blended, strain the mixture through a fine sieve. Put cherry filling into 8 or 9 (4-ounce) shallow ramekins (about 2 inches high) to cover bottom (about 2 tsp), then pour the custard mixture on top of the cherry filling, and bake them in a water bath for 35 to 45 minutes, until centers are softly set. “Remove from oven and cool in water bath until comfortable to handle. Cover the dishes and refrigerate for 2 hours. These can be stored for 1 or 2 days before serving.

To serve, sprinkle each top with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of brulee sugar and torch to caramelize. For thicker caramelized crunch, use more sugar.

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Spicy Coconut Green Bean & Sausage One Pot Wonder

 

We ate this at my in-laws house over Christmas and I loved it. If you were to step in my mother-in-law’s (Cherie) kitchen, she would be the first to boast of her ineptitude in the kitchen. However, I think she’s much harder on herself than anything. So I’m here to boast of her dish and give it special spot on my recipe wall of Fame. It’s simple, quick, tasty, you can forgo the small pan to toast the nuts and make it in one pot. Plus, it has cumin, fits our eating plan & did I mention tasty? Try it.

 

A Year Ago: Posole & Cinnamon-Almond Danish Rolls

Spicy Coconut Green Bean & Sausage One Pot Wonder (printable recipe)

My sweet mother-in-law made this for us while we were visiting during Christmas. I made a couple changes…mainly increasing the amount of cumin, because lime/cumin/pepper flakes are divine.

Ingredients:

1Tb olive oil or coconut oil

2 Tb blanched slivered almonds

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 Tb + 1 tsp ground cumin 1/2 tsp cumin seed

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp paprika

1/2 – 1 tsp red chili pepper

1 1/2 tsp sea salt

1 lb sausage (pastured-raised)

1 can coconut milk (full fat)

1 lb of trimmed green beans, or broccoli

Juice of 1 lime (or two if you like)

Directions: In a small saucepan, heat 1 Tb olive oil or coconut oil over low-medium heat. Add slivered blanched almonds and
toast. Constantly stirring the almonds to avoid burning (it doesn’t take long to toast). Transfer the almonds to a small bowl and set aside for later. In a large saucepan, add the remaining Tb of olive or coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onions, stirring until they get a bit soft. Add the garlic & stir (about 20 seconds). Add all spices, ground cumin, cumin seed, coriander, paprika, and red pepper chili flakes. Now, stir constantly for 30 seconds to 1 minute. The goal is to toast the cumin seeds and cook up the spices. It will get a bit dry and that’s okay–just keep stirring.

Add the sausage & salt to the pan and thoroughly stir the onion/garlic/spice mixture into the sausage. Continue stirring occasionally until the sausage is completely cooked. Pour the coconut milk in, stir. Add trimmed green beans and stir around. Turn the heat to low and cook uncovered for 5 minutes. Cover the pan and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes (depending on how soft you like your green beans). Squeeze fresh lime juice over it and stir. Add the toasted almonds and serve.


Roasted Chicken

This morning marks the beginning of week three of Lean & Green Challenge (via Jogo Crossfit Gym).  I must report that the lady writing on Paleo day two is quite different from the one writing in front of the computer today.  There are some areas that are still the same.  For instance, walking into the grocery store and seeing the lovely pastry bat it’s eyelashes at me is a bit tempting.  However, what’s most noticeable is my overall health.  It’s not just physical energy, but mental energy.  So when you hear that phrase, “you are what you eat;” well, I think there’s something to it.  My mental state seems to be at its peak.  I don’t want to attribute it all to how I’m eating, but I truly believe what I’m putting in is making a difference to thinking more clearly.

It’s interesting when you think of the various methods people deal with stress & anxiety.  There are those that I know who attempt to drown out the noises by numbing the pain with drugs.  I’ve always thought, “well, at least I don’t do that,” but there is something to be said about what I have used to numb the pain.  I never thought I used food as a “way out,” but on Saturday, it seemed like the advise I had given my friend of being mindful, drinking some tea, etc, didn’t cut it.  As I’ve briefly mentioned before here, we’ve dealt with various difficulties with our oldest.  In front of her, there are many obstacles (in terms of developmental delays) most of which, she has no idea; however, as her mama, I’m fully aware of them.  On Saturday we received a letter from a visit we had with a genetic researcher/doctor.  It didn’t leave me with warm fuzzies either, but more of that pit feeling.  You know the pit.  It appears to be an unconquerable wall standing in front of you, and if you look at this way, then that’s what it will be.

It was in that moment, as my stomach turned with that unwelcome old friend “anxiety,” that I wanted a mocha, or something sweet to deal with that moment.  But alas, I knew it was my will versus the wall, and I wasn’t going to let it conquer me.  It didn’t and I found that my soul needed time to be creative.  To let out tears of the unknown, talk with God about it, paint (something I haven’t done in a while) and create, and I found my soul (and stomach) was the better for it.  I’m learning a lot about myself (and my jeans have also noticed–in a good way).  One of those things is my renewed love of cooking, while baking takes a backseat.  This roasted chicken is one of them.  It will definitely earn you a couple of “ooos” & “awws” in the kitchen, while not taking much time standing in the kitchen.  Again, thanks for reading and sharing with me in this journey.  I’m certain that I’m not the only one with that unconquerable wall staring at me, but I’m certain you too can conquer it.

 

A Year Ago: Traditions

Roasted Chicken (printable recipe)

I love roasted chicken, because it appears that you’ve been slaving in the kitchen much longer than you actually did.  Plus, take the carcass and turn it into chicken broth.

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
bundle of fresh thyme
coconut oil
3 strips quality bacon

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425.  Have ready a dutch oven.  Take your chicken and remove all the insides, clip any nails still attached and rinse with cool water.  Pat dry the outside & inside of the bird.  Be generous in sprinkling salt inside the cavity of the bird, along with ground pepper.  Rub coconut oil on the outside of the bird on the breasts, along with under the breast skin.  Sprinkle salt & pepper under the breast skin & on top of the breast.

Put the bundle of thyme inside the cavity.  Place your whole bird in the dutch oven.  By using a dutch oven, you will not have to deal with trussing the chicken.  Take the wings and tuck them behind the back of the chicken.  Now with a pair of kitchen shears, snip an opening on the fat portion near the birds downside (butt) on both sides, in order to tuck the drumstick ends through the holes (consult picture).


Place the three strips of bacon across the breast and put into the oven, cook for 20-25 minutes.  After 20-25 minutes, remove the bacon and turn down the heat to 350.  Baste the chicken.  Cook for an additional 25-35 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 165 (poke it between the drumstick & breast).

Once it hits 165, remove from oven.  If you want to make gravy using the drippings go ahead.  Serve it up & enjoy.  Be sure to use the carcass for some great stock.


Paleo Week 2: Harvest Salad

I told myself that I would not have any obligation to post everyday during this 30 day challenge, and I’m glad about it.  I went to a conference this past weekend (Friday & Saturday) in Seattle.  I was pleasantly surprised, because my expectations were very low.  I went prepared, while carrying around my little strawberry tote bag everywhere, which was loaded with Paleo supplies (celery sticks, nuts, apple slices, hazelnut butter, etc).  I also discovered that club soda is not nearly as awful when your taste buds have been devoid of sugar.  In fact, the soda water was AMAZING!

It also must be said that I still miss chocolate, red wine, and ice cream doesn’t sound too bad.  However, despite those non-L&G foods, I think I could see making this as part of our lifestyle.  Not necessarily 100%, but in the high percentages.  I will let you know about next week, because I’m told that come third week–your body feels better than good.  The downside to the challenge during this second week is how my performance at the gym has been low.  When running–my legs feel like lead.  When lifting–my arms feel like noodles.  I’m hoping week three will be better than good.

This salad is probably my go to salad.  My friend Jessica fell in love with it that she went out to get the ingredients that day.  And you can easily make it Paleo by nixing the blue cheese (just make sure the cranberries don’t have sugar with them).

A Year Ago: Roasting Pumpkin

Harvest Salad (printable recipe)

Ingredients:

Head of lettuce (romaine, red leaf, green leaf), washed, dried, & torn into bite sized pieces

1 apple (Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp, whatever you want–just not Red Delicious)

1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, chopped

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, Roquefort

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 Tb mustard (regular or dijon)

1 tsp dried basil (crunch it in your hands to release the oils)

Directions:  Pretty straightforward, put the washed/torn lettuce into a big bowl.  Sprinkle the nuts, dried cranberries, & blue cheese on the lettuce.

In a bowl or glass measuring cup, add extra virgin olive oil & balsamic vinegar.  Add the mustard and whisk together.  It should start to combine.  Add the basil.  No need to pour all of it on the salad, but start small and mix to combine.  If you need a bit more, then add it:)


Paleo Day 2: Spinach Salad with sauteed shiitakes & subdued garlic

If only garlic started with an “S” then I’d have won for alliteration.  It’s only day two and at this rate, not sure if posting everyday for the next 28 days is possible; however, let’s give it a shot (not going to try too many firsts here).  Last Wednesday at my little gym, my coach Emilie led the “chalktalk” on this upcoming “Lean & Green Challenge,” where she laid out the ground rules, fears & ideas to rally the troops in to complete the mission.  Challenge: “no grains, dairy, sugars, legumes for 30 days.”  Well, that’s not TOO bad–right?!

But it got me thinking about the various people who have gone Paleo and never looked back.  Their phrases were sung to the melody of “the hills are alive.”  And the thing is, they didn’t have those looks that you can easily call out in a crowd as a bluff.  They really were holding an ace high straight flush and want to lead as many people to the goods who will willingly follow.  So, just in case you’re not following, after the 30 days, they didn’t want to go back.  They didn’t want to go back to gluten-filled goodness, rice cakes (oops how did that get there), cream in their coffee, or a place where the beer flows like wine.  Mostly, people didn’t want to go back to the gluten, because it affected their systems; however, seeing as half of my recipes here consist of that little beauty–I can’t help but get a little sad. To think of Christmas without having Vetekrans, a blustery Autumn weekend having Pumpkin Pecan Scones, or enjoying a getaway with my friends with Homemade Oreos.  Seriously, never again (insert sad face).

As for day two–it’s close to over and I should be reporting to sleep duty.  What I do know is this morning Ben did wake up to “nutty wife syndrome” (didn’t say it wasn’t coming), tonight was easier than last, and maybe, just maybe I won’t miss all of the said above items and long for this simple Spinach Salad (one can dream right).  Sweet dreams friends!

A Year Ago: Pear, Apple, Cranberry Crisp

Spinach Salad with sautéed Shiitakes & Subdued Garlic (printable recipe)

Ingredients:

A whole bunch of washed, dried spinach (preferably pre-washed)

8 oz shiitake mushrooms, stems cut off and sliced

1-2 Tb almond oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tb olive oil

salt

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

freshly ground pepper

Directions: In a large bowl, put your spinach in it.  In a medium saute pan and on medium heat, heat almond oil.  Add the mushrooms and stir occasionally.  Once they have gotten nice & sautéed, then add a pinch of salt.  Put sautéed mushrooms atop the spinach.

With the same pan, add the olive oil (on medium-low heat) and add your minced garlic.  Stir around and keep all the garlic simmering in the oil.  You DO NOT want it to brown.  Your simply simmering out the garlic to soften both texture & flavor (1 -1 1/2 minutes).  Add a pinch of salt to garlic.  Empty onto the mushroom & spinach.

Spread out the thinly sliced mushrooms atop.  Drizzle a bit more olive oil (not too much) & grind some pepper.


Paleo Day 1: Pistachio Crusted Salmon

Before we had children, I participated in the South Beach diet with Ben.  The premise is removing grains, some fruit carbs, white potatoes & sugars.  You take everything out the first two weeks, then add in some other items the third week.  I’m not really one for going on diets, but I was game for this one for Ben’s sake (not his Lemonade Cleanse though).  The first day was fine.  I had eggs, some veggies, and probably chicken for dinner.  The next day took a turn for the worse.  This is where that little old friend called “drama” sneaks its way into my head and clouds any clarity or logic.

I called up Ben sobbing the second morning saying something along the lines, “I can’t do it.  If I eat eggs I’m going to puke.  Seriously, I can’t do this anymore–what can I eat?  I can’t…”  Drama is my middle name and I will never live this down, as Ben has already said today that he is expecting a call tomorrow with “nutty wife syndrome.”

Today hasn’t been too bad of day one Paleo.  The hardest is when there are multiple child meltdowns, the comfort of an Americano with cream or a latte is not an option, while I keep pressing on towards the goal.  Reminds me of the Apostle Paul, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Granted, Paul was talking about something a bit different from restraining oneself from sugars, grains & dairy; but, I think it’s the connection of seeing the end goal (whatever it might be).  Right now I’m choosing to embrace this challenge (hopefully without so much drama like before) and I think tonight’s dinner proved a gold.

Pistachio Crusted Salmon with sautéed Shallot & Fennel (printable recipe)

Ingredients:

2 lbs Coho Salmon

mustard

2 cups shelled pistachios

sea salt & ground pepper

4 Tb olive oil

2 shallots, thinly sliced

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

Directions:  Preheat oven to 375.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Ground pistachios in food processor until nicely ground.  Put your salmon skin side down.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Put a thin layer of mustard all over the salmon.  Cover with ground pistachios.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Just before the salmon is done, add olive oil to saute pan and turn to medium heat.  Saute shallots, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Add the fennel and keep mixing it up a bit.  It’s okay to have some of it brown & get a bit crispy on some of the pieces.

Put some of the shallot/fennel atop a good portion of pistachio salmon.


The Family Meal (Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup)

There is so much research showing how important it is to eat together for meals.  I understand that eating every meal together is not completely feasible, so maybe it’s making a goal for one meal a day.  Granted, I don’t have teenagers or any after school sports during this stage of life.  However, I think I hold it so dear, because growing up we didn’t have regular “check-in” time during a meal (meaning every member of the family sat together).   I love how Ben regularly asks the girls, “Girls, I forgot to ask (insert enthusiasm), what was your favorite part of the day?”  Tayers will routinely announce, “OH..HUCK! (as in a character from Strawberry Shortcake).”  But you know, it’s not about dinner being intricate or fanciful; rather, it’s simply about being present to feed both the body & soul.

I wish you could come into our home to share a meal with us, because contrary to mislead beliefs, we rarely have exquisite platings.  Typically, it’s fairly humble and sometimes a flop (with a very humble husband still eating it).  If there’s something I want to impart to you in the kitchen is take risks, expand upon what you know, but do it with little steps.  And if there’s another thing I want to impart is take advantage of what the farmers are growing, because it most likely tastes REALLY good.

Tomatoes.  They’re still abounding here in western WA and you don’t want to pass them up.  My girls love tomatoes, as do I, and we all love a good tomato soup.  Growing up I hated tomato soup, because you only found in a white & red can labeled Campbell’s (Could it get any worse?).  So in my infinite 8 year old wisdom, I deduced that all tomato soup was evil (as were those sad little Circus Peanut Candies).  Then, I grew up and tried a different tomato soup, come to realize I had it partially wrong.  Not all tomato soups are created equal (I was right about the Campbell’s brand).  This tomato soup is fairly straightforward & easy.  You won’t see if featured on 30 minute meals, due to the roasting time alone, but well worth it.  You can choose to serve it a la rustic (less smooth & without pressing it through a sieve) or a bit more refined (pressing it through a sieve), but it’s entirely up to you.  Whatever you do, I hope you sit down, give thanks for even the simplest of meals, breathe in deep for this moment you’re given, and do with those people you love most:)

One Year Ago: Day One & Two of Culinary Intensive Course

Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup (printable recipe)

Please don’t be afraid of salt here.  Salt is like the focus button on a camera, it is there to enhance the flavor.  A tomato in season is going to be great; however, when you add a bit of salt to it…it’s WOW factor increases exponentially.  Use however, much water you think you need to create the consistency, which suits your fancy.

3 lbs heirloom tomatoes
Handful of sungold tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
sprinkle of unrefined granulated sugar
sprinkle of kosher salt

2 tsp unrefined sugar, evaporated cane juice
1 tsp kosher salt
1-1 1/2 cups water
freshly grated parmesan cheese
crack of fresh ground pepper
light drizzle of olive oil

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400.  Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Cut heirlooms into quarter slices, while leaving the sungolds as is and put on tray.  Quarter the red bell pepper & place on sheet as well.  Drizzle the olive oil over the nightshades (tomato & peppers fall in the nightshade family), then sprinkle with salt & sugar.  Roast for an hour.

Transfer everything, even the oil, to a food processor.  Process until smooth (45 seconds to 1 minute).  Taking a fine meshed sieve or food mill, pour some of the pureed mixture through to strain the seeds & skin pulp.  Take the strained soup mixture and add 1/3 cup at a time to create the right consistency for you.  I used 1 cup of water.  Then, added a little bit more sugar & salt to make the tomato flavor pop.  Heat on the stove top.  Garnish with freshly grated parmesan, cracked pepper, & light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.


Peach Pico de Gallo

The trees around here tell me that Autumn is on the move.  However, in Bellingham it is known that summer doesn’t fully start until the Fourth of July and sticks around till end of September.  Today would prove otherwise.  But, I’m not letting it get to me and trying to make up for so much lost time in the kitchen this summer.  Peaches, nectarines, apples & plums are in abundance.  In fact, you can still get strawberries, blueberries & raspberries at Joe’s Garden (oh how I love thee).  Not to mention the nightshade vegetable/fruit family abounding everywhere.

And since we’re leaving to Vegas this week for my sister-in-law’s wedding, I needed to do something with the tomatoes & peaches before I left.  A peach pico de gallo sounded wonderful.  I think it was two summers back we would buy this mango-peach salsa from Costco & simply loved it.  It was more on the sweet side, not as much spice, but perfect for grilled chicken, salmon or even better…scrambled eggs.  My version is less sweet and it tastes like a pico de gallo should–fresh.  You can up the spice factor however you like.  It takes me to the beaches of Mazatlan where my grandpa lives, except this time I’m older and can drink a beer with it.  Enjoy!

P.S. We got our camera in the mail this week (must use the word “our,” as I’ve already said “my” once–OOPS!) & I love it!

A Year Ago: Sour Lemon Scones

Peach Pico de Gallo (printable recipe)

Ingredients:

1 medium sweet onion, diced

1 large red pepper, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, minced (the heat is in the inner white spine, so you can remove that to make it less hot)

6 hothouse tomatoes (Joe’s Garden), diced

1 1/2-2 lbs peaches, chopped & skinned

pinch of salt

juice of one lime

Optional: If you want more heat, add more jalapenos.

Directions: This is relatively easy to make.  The work is done with a sharp chef knife, cutting board and bowl.  Cut, dice, chop, etc and put it into the bowl.  Mix together, taste for flavoring & add more of what you think you need.  Eat with chips, serve on eggs, chicken, salmon, fish tacos, cod, halibut.  Add a mango if you like.


Beet Salad Done Right!!

I’ve been suffering from a bit of writer’s block.  In college when it came time to write my history papers I would fumble & fumble with the introduction.  And that’s how it’s been feeling when I sit down to write a new post.  I can’t seem to find just the right words to begin.  But, in a way, it’s exactly how life is going in the here & now.  Take breakfast for instance.  It’s 8:00 and I’m actually showered & ready, so breakfast should be a snap.  Not quite.  When I came downstairs I found my “risen bread” to be not so risen, but quite fallen.  I didn’t want to waste it, so I began thinking what I could do instead.

Then, insert two little girls under the age of four asking for, “Mama, can you put Shortcake Swing on?” Me: “Yes! (still looking baffled at my dough).  And since I didn’t move in .milliseconds I was asked the same question again.  Then, Tayers needed her boots on like sissy.  Oh, but my hands were sticky, so go and wash, help with said boots, then back to dou…oh wait, there’s dirt all over the floor.  Find broom.  Another question asked of me.  Me wondering if I had something I was doing in the kitchen.  By the time I got back the dough was sticking to the board.  Eventually, I made a sad excuse for a breakfast pizza (eggs cooking on top, dough a bit soggy [because it was intended for bread in the first place]); however, the girls didn’t seem to mind.

Oh, what I also forgot to mention was the time when we finally ate…oh about 9:15.  Because what ensued from the time I started to the time I finished, well, I have no clue at this point in the afternoon.  I do know that I lost my marbles at one time with a bit more boisterous mama (some call it shouting) saying, “I need to think!  Out of the kitchen…get out of the kitchen!”  I think I was the one who needed an immediate time out and my apologies & reminding myself in front of the girls how we are to “use our words.”  That’s what my introductions to posts feel like.  My life at present is like the first time I learned to drive stick, a whole bunch of jerking stops not knowing how (or if I should) to begin again.

But you know, I find a bit of solace amidst of all this (granted, it’s almost 8 hours later).  As I was picking up the toys, hats, shoes from the floor for the umpteenth time I thought of the people without kids (whether it be the barren, the empty nester, etc) and how this mere “inconvenience” is full of life.  Our home is full of non-stop chatting, laughter, cries, music, movement & breaths.  The silence is more than appreciated & needed, but there’s something about that little voice after nap, which gladly says, “Hi Mama!”  There’s something about it all that I wish I could stuff it into a bottle so it never fades.  It’s contentment in these little things, that makes a Monday feel like a Friday.  This little salad does just that.  The acidity from the marinated beets, sweet licorice blend from the fennel, and the creaminess from the avocado.  You could eat it by itself or put it on top of salad greens.

A Year Ago: Superlative Chocolate Chip Cookies & Cabbage-Apple Salad

Beet, Fennel, & Avocado Salad

This salad can be eaten without salad greens, or with.  I found a good washed kind from my Farmer’s Market (had kale, mustard greens, herbs, bibb lettuce).  Be sure you don’t throw out your beet greens.  You can either saute them up with a little minced garlic, olive oil & salt for later.  Or, chop them up to use as part of your salad greens for this here salad.

(printable recipe)

Ingredients:

1 bunch of beets (if you can get a variety sold at a Farmer’s Market–that would be optimal)

4-5 small fennel bulbs (or 2 big ones)

2 ripe avocados

Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Kosher Salt or Sea Salt

Olive oil

Mixed Greens

Directions:  Chop the beet greens off (save them for later use by steaming or cut up & put as part of your salad).  Scrub the beets, but no need to peel them.  Thinly slice them using a mandoline.  Put them in a bowl and pour enough raw apple cider vinegar to cover them.  Allow them to marinate for minimum 2 hours.  Once your beets have marinated (I marinated mine for 3 1/2 hours), drain them & if you want to barely rinse them, go ahead.

Slice the fennel with the mandoline (think thin as well).  Put them in a ice water bath, then transfer them to a salad spinner to get the water out.  The ice water bath shrinks the fennel, allowing it to be crunchy.

Transfer the beets & fennel into a bowl.  Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top, sprinkle with salt & cubed avocados as well.  Lightly mix with your hands.  Place a portion on top of mixed salad greens.  Drizzle with a little bit more olive oil and you’re good to go.


Bulgur, Arugula & Baby Artichoke Salad

I heard my oldest saying, “Mama, I need to go pee!”  I helped her undress from the said leotard that she “needed” to wear as she quickly went about her business to promptly stand up to announce, “Okay mama, let’s go see Miss Jill!”  Miss Jill is her physical therapist (PT) she’s been seeing a couple of times as we are on the waiting list.  How do I put it?  She absolutely loves her “exercises” she does with Miss Jill (a.k.a. gym time).  Isn’t it amazing how exercise is “play & fun” to a child, while it’s “work” to the majority of the population over 18.

As I mentioned in my previous post about joining Jogo (which actually means play), I’ve been amazed at all the body parts being worked, thoughts circulating: “I can’t do that,” when I can and how what I’m doing strengthens core muscles that V is in need of strengthening, as well.  I read this snippet by a Crossfit trainer (who is certified to teach Kids Crossfit) and it made me smile.  When I hear from Jill that V is accepting various movements and shows great signs of improvement; as well as, read articles about individuals who use what seems like “work” to me–is extremely beneficial for people who deal with a myriad of special needs–I’m beyond grateful.  It’s amazing how exercise is so much more than looking good in swimsuits, or fitting in smaller clothing, or feeling affirmed by Hollywood’s standards.  When I look at my little girl, it’s allowing her a chance to function with others, manipulate common objects we, with full functioning central nervous systems, take for granted (using a fork, zipping, drawing, etc).

Then, I think about heaven.  I see people with physical disabilities.  There is this young man who has some mental disability in town, but loves dancing.  You’ll see him at the local events with music dancing to his rhythm.  I smile and I see him in heaven dancing with full range of motion, no inability–just complete freedom.  I know our daughter’s disabilities really are minute compared to others, but I delight in seeing her blossom through PT & I delight in knowing that someday, God’s redemptive love will transcend it all (not just her, but all of us).  So in this here & now, we try to bring acts of God’s redemptive love to others.  I see Jill doing that for our daughter.  I see our good friends the Pells (whom I’ll talk more about in a later post) who, like many, adopted their son from Ethiopia.  If my eyes are open a bit bigger, then I see it in so many places.

And as you either experience through giving or receiving this redemptive love, maybe you can do it around a shared meal of this wonderful salad.  It’s great even the next day.  Ben after eating it said, “by looking at it you think, this is healthy.  And, when you taste it you know it’s healthy, but not in a bad way,” which in a simple way is—it’s healthy without lacking flavor.

Bulgur, Arugula, & Baby Artichoke Salad (printable recipe)

You could easily put some toasted walnuts with this salad.  If you don’t have walnut oil, then just use olive oil.  I really like the addition of preserved lemons, but you can easily substitute lemon zest.  Canned artichoke hearts would work fine, but I would plead with you to make use of baby artichokes if they’re available in your area.  And this would easily work as a main dish salad & perfect for gatherings.

Ingredients:

4 cups water
2 cups medium grind bulgur
6 baby artichokes
2 medium carrots
1 small onion, thinly sliced in crescent-like shape
1-2 lemons
2 Tb chopped preserved lemons or 3-4 Tb of fresh lemon zest
olive oil
walnut oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Artichokes: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper & set aside.  Baby artichokes don’t have all that choke part like the big ones, so cut off the stems, along with a 1/4 inch of the bottom.  Cut off 1/4-1/2 inch off tops.  Quarter the artichokes and remove the outer leaves, until you see the leaves that don’t have any green on them (don’t worry too much if the tops are a bit green).  Put them in a bowl and squeeze with lemon to prevent browning as you prepare the rest.  Put all the prepared artichokes on the lined baking sheet with the insides facing up, drizzle with olive oil so they’re coated and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Roast for 20 minutes or so, check for doneness.  Once finished, transfer to a dish leaving the parchment lined sheet available for further roasting.  Increase heat to 415 degrees.

Bulgur:While the artichokes are roasting, bring 4 cups of water to a boil.  Once the water hits a boil, add your bulgur; stir & cover.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat & drain excess water.  Using a fine-mesh sieve, cool with cold water and gently squeeze out excess water.  Transfer to a serving bowl.

Onions: Slice onions in half with the root attached to both ends of your halves.  Then, with a chef knife, thinly slice with the grain into crescent shapes (don’t cut on the part as if you were making half onion rings).  Place on used parchment sheet and roast for 7-10 minutes.  Do not use any oil.  Once done, transfer to a bowl.

Carrots: Peel carrots, then shave them into long, thin slices.  Put on parchment lined sheet and toast for about 2 minutes.

Arugula: Remove stem part, wash & spin out excess water.  Cut into large chunks.

Putting it altogether: If you want to slice the roasted artichokes in half you can.  Remove the outer leaf if it’s too tough.  Add the chokes to the cooked bulgur.  Add the arugula & carrots.  Mix together with tongs.  Add minced preserved lemon or lemon zest.  Drizzle with walnut oil (about 2-3 Tb) & squeeze juice from lemon.  Combine with tongs.  Add a bit more oil to taste, along with salt & pepper.  Top with onions & serve.