Tag Archives: Paleo friendly

Whole 30: Day 30 & Key Lime Pie Kamillebars

Well friends, today is day 30 of my 30 day challenge.  It is officially over at 12:01 am, but I will avoid any temptation of getting out of bed for a glass of wine.  These 30 days have been quite remarkable, in the physical yes, but even more in the emotional, mental & spiritual realm.  It’s interesting when I tell people about this challenge, because there have been typical responses.

  1. Eyes pop out of their head
  2. They realize their eyes popped out and try to compose their facial expression to a more subdued look.
  3. Nodding of the head (as in I cannot believe you are doing this to yourself).
  4. The response, “Wow, you must have a lot of willpower,”
  5. Or my other favorite response, “That’s amazing (but I wonder if they really think I’m nuts), but I couldn’t live without…FILL IN THE BLANK!”

As for willpower.  I guess if you asked my mom about me being a girl, if I had a strong will, she’d say yes.  If you asked Ben the same, he’d probably agree.  However, I think willpower is more about seeing the potential for something good and setting on the course to achieve it.  It’s making choices everyday because you see the end goal.  I make choices now as a mother to discipline my girls, in order for them to know of life’s consequences and how to have enough “willpower” to say no when faced with life’s bigger dilemmas (you know the ones that have catastrophic effects).

When I looked at myself in the mirror even three years ago, I didn’t see someone who was healthy or someone I wanted to be.  But when you hit a place in health decline, whether that’s being overweight, chronic health issues, lethargic, etc, you can easily get so trapped and wonder, “How did I get here?  And how do I get out?”  This goes for any challenge in life, it just happens to be nutrition & exercise for me.  And specifically, this 30 day challenge was a challenge; considering I love to bake and my shelves are overflowing with cookbooks.  Yet, when I see myself now compared to the girl who walked into Jogo August 4th for a basecamp fitness introduction (ached for days), I remind myself of her.  I see that girl and think, “that’s willpower, to get up at 5:30am to come workout, completely out of shape and all because she wanted better in life.”

Who would’ve thunk it?  Certainly not me, but I’m SO VERY THANKFUL for it.  In fact, it’s amazing how alive your taste buds are when you take away sugar for 30 days.  Dates are simply ethereal (and a bit dangerous) and figuring out how to make my own Larabars were even more so.  I first had a Key Lime Pie Larabar during the challenge, and I could have sworn there was cream cheese in it.  The ingredients simply said: dates, cashews, almonds, key lime concentrate.  I set out to do what any rational person would do…figure out how to make my own.  And they’re good, really good!  But, I’m warning you right now to only save a couple and share the rest, because 1. you’ll be sure to make friends that way and 2. you’re body will thank you later.

Key Lime Pie Kamillebars (printable recipe)

I have made these twice.  The first time they turned out better than the second time, merely because the nuts didn’t get finely chopped in the food processor.  I realized that the first round I used dates from Trader Joes, which were more dry.  I think more dried dates work better in this recipe.  While the second time I had these wonderful, soft dates from Costco.  Due to the dates being quite soft, they pureed before allowing all the nuts to puree.  So the pureed dates caused everything to stick without chopping.

Ingredients:

16 ounces dates (weight is based on dates with pits still in)

2 cups/225 grams raw cashews

1 1/8 cup/165 grams raw almonds

1 cup/80 grams unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 tsp pure lime oil

3-4 key limes, juice OR juice of 2 limes (the kind you find at the grocery store)

Directions: Place cashews, almonds, coconut, & pitted dates into the bowl of a food processor.  Process until the nuts are almost pureed, just not into a nut butter.  You may want to pulse a couple times.  Once the the nuts & dates are chopped well, add the lime juice & oil and pulse to combine.  You will want the mixture to be a bit sticky.  Taste to see if you need to add more lime juice.

Put in a 9×9 square pan, patting down evenly.  You can slice fairly soon after.  I cut mine into small squares; rather, than the traditional bar.  If left out they will dry a bit.  So cover them if you want to retain some moisture.

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Meaty Spaghetti Sauce on Spaghetti Squash

One of my favorite meals growing up was spaghetti.  And I can see why my mom made it fairly often.  It was quick, relatively easy and no one complained.  Sometimes when money was tight, she might buy that really horrible powdered spaghetti sauce mix (I believe it’s in between the taco seasoning and biscuits & gravy powdered mixes).  Talk about disappointment.  You walk into the kitchen to find noodles boiling in water, spaghetti sauce on another burner and soon it would dinner paradise.  Only to realize that my mom was trying to use chopped up olives & mushrooms to mask the taste of astronaut spaghetti sauce.

To give my mom credit, she did make a killer lasagna (thanks mom).  And she wasn’t a ‘horrible’ cook or anything, it’s just that I may have branched out a bit more (does anyone else find it interesting that spices were a novelty in the 80s home?).  Well, this Spaghetti Meat Sauce is good.  And when I say meat sauce, I mean, MEAT SAUCE.  I’m not talking about skimpy amounts of beef where the ratio between tomato sauce & meat is more like a “flavored” meat sauce.  I’m not talking about Ragu.  I’m talking about meat being the main ingredient.  At the end of this meal you won’t find yourself saying, “Where’s the beef?”  The 80s is gone my friends, so retire your lemon pepper, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, dressing in a bottle for Iceburg lettuce salad (in case you still have it in your cupboard).  Enjoy the first time ever–picture tutorial!

Clean Spaghetti Squash pricked with a fork all over--ready for destination oven.

 

Cooked for an hour in the oven at 350. Sliced in half, remove the seeds, and scrap with a fork to produce "noodles."

 

Meet the carrots, no need to peel.

 

Yes blurry, but do you see my fingers curved inward--do this!

 

Using the curved fingers to hold the carrot (above pic) and holding the knife with the other hand. Thinly slice off a side, turn it over to slice another. Until all sides are sliced.

Until it looks similar to a Lincoln Log.

 

Now cut them into four smaller logs, like so.

 

Get them lined up, ready for a small dice.

They should look something like this, but no one will judge if they're not.

 

Oh those cute little diced carrots.

 

Celery. Start the cut here and keep rocking it to get more julienne-like cuts. Then small dice.

Meet Mr. Onion who will only make you cry.

 

Once again, pay attention to finger positioning to avoid chopping your finger off. Cut off the top portion, not the scraggly root portion.

After slicing it in half and keeping the root intact. Put one hand on top.

 

With the edge of the chef knife, begin to make a slice at the bottom of the onion. Use your hand on top to help it through if need be.

As you can see, I've created three slices, which will give me four layers. And notice the knife has not come in contact with the root.

 

Here's a front shot of the sliced onion, now for the vertical slices.

Vertical slices. Use the tip of your chef knife to do this.

 

 

Now it's time to cut it into a small dice.

 

I poured about 2 Tb olive oil in my dutch oven over medium heat. After heated a bit, I added the mirepoix.

Skipped a couple steps, but do you blame me--I was hungry.

Dinner is served.

A Year Ago: Roasting a Chicken or Cleaning the Carpet

Meat Sauce with Spaghetti Squash (printable recipe)

I’m a big fan of meat sauce, not so much meatballs, but give me meat sauce and I’m a happy woman.  However, I rarely make it for my family, because of the pasta noodles.  This is a perfect little compromise in my book and my girls don’t care anyway, because they’ll eat just the meat sauce (my kind of girls).

Ingredients:

1 spaghetti squash

2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, small dice
2 carrots, small dice
1 celery stick, small dice
1 tsp sea salt
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 Tb tomato paste
3 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped up small (not oil packed)
1 lb grass-fed hamburger beef
1 lb pastured pork sausage (no flavoring, but you could if you want)
2 cans (14 oz ea) diced tomatoes
2 (more) Tb tomato paste
2 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 350.  Once it’s heated, place a sheet of aluminum foil on the middle rack and place your cleaned spaghetti squash on top.  Bake for 1 hour.

Mirepoix: There are two types of mirepoix’s.  The one I’m using is the traditional mirepoix, which is simply a mixture of diced carrots, onions, & celery.  I am choosing extra virgin olive oil instead of butter to cook it.  Do a small dice on each of the vegetables.  Add the olive oil to your heavy duty pot and turn heat to medium.  Give it a minute to heat up, then add the vegetables.  Stirring and avoid burning or adding color at all to your onions.  After it’s been cooking for 1 minute or so, add the salt.  Stir and cook for an additional 4 minutes, or till the onions are soft.

Add the finely diced garlic to the mirepoix and stir constantly for 30 seconds.  Now add the first round of 2 Tb tomato paste.  Mix completely with the mirepoix and cook for 1 minute.  Add the chopped up sun dried tomatoes.  Stir an additional 20 seconds.  Now add both meats.  Stir the mirepoix/tomato mixture all into the meats, until thoroughly incorporated.  Stir occasionally to evenly cook the meat.  Once the meat is mostly cooked (small to little traces of pink left), add the diced tomatoes and stir around.  Turn the heat to low/simmer.

Add the bay leaf.  Place the oregano in your hand and grind it up in your hand to release the oils in it.  Now add it to the pot.  Add the remainder 2 Tb tomato paste & stir around. Cover and allow to simmer for anywhere between 20 minutes to 1 hour.  If you have it on simmer for longer than 30 minutes, check on it periodically and stir.  Season with salt & pepper before serving.

Your squash should be able to be sliced without any give.  Scoop out the seeds.  Get a medium bowl ready.  With a fork, scrap the squash and you will begin to see it turn into miniature spaghetti “noodles.”  Put the spaghetti squash into the bowl.  Serve the squash and top with your meat sauce.

Serves: 8-10


Thankful with Sweet Potato Goodness (& so much more)

The words that penetrated my soul the most, “my sons were hungry and the only thing I could give them was water.” This was part of a guest speaker’s story. She was a small Honduran woman, measuring a mere 4 feet and 9 inches, but she made up for it with tremendous heart & conviction. Her name, Danubia Orellana Lopez, and she is apart of the Agros village of Brisas del Volcan.

Danubia was the speaker at the Agros International fundraiser dinner Ben and I attended at the end of October.  It seemed fitting that we attended just days before we plunged into doing this 30 day challenge.  Agros is an amazing organization, who seeks to empower people in Central America & Mexico through micro loans to purchase land.  Many of these people, like Danubia, lived in the slums and had to wake up at 2:30 am to walk 2 hours to get to the farm (to which she & her husband worked for someone else), work an 18 hour day and only get paid $.40 a day.  She recalls the times when payday arrived and the owner of the land wasn’t there to pay her & her husband.  Those were the days when all she could offer her children was water to fill their bellies.  She also recalled a time at the age of 14, when her mother only had 3 eggs to feed the 14 kids….I am truly blessed.

I can’t imagine that world.  To feel absolutely defenseless and unable to give your children a basic necessity.  Agros seeks to extend both physical means to these people who are willing to work REALLY hard to till their land; but, also give them emotional/spiritual means.  They come in to teach the people how to cultivate the land, how to educate themselves, how to make financial deals, etc.  What Agros does, is tell these people like Danubia, that if they are willing to want something more, then they can have it.  More importantly, what Agros does & says to them, “You are worth it!  You have value!”

Danubia spoke of telling her mother that she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up.  Her mother said, “Danubia, people like us don’t dream, because our hearts just get broken.”  After Agros came in to empower Danubia, her family & community, she and other women worked together to make the men realize that they are just as important & valuable as them.  And you know what, after the women worked just as hard, the men realized that these women, their women, had dignity & value.

When I think about what Evangitality means–this is it.  This is the global representation of it.  It’s finding value, dignity & worth in each individual, because they are created in God’s image.  It’s empowering them by giving them a hand up, and not a hand out.  It’s not entitlement, because there are many people who choose to stay in slums so they can keep their TV or refrigerator.  Instead, it’s for the people who want something more, who want to dream.  Life without dreams isn’t a life worth living, and Danubia knew this.

Walking back to the hotel that night, I told Ben, “You know, the poor in America aren’t that poor.  They still get assistance.  They’re not putting their children to bed without food.”  It has made me more thankful than ever.  And that’s why I give thanks before my meals.  I thank God that I have more than enough to fill my family’s bellies.  So when I’ve been cranky during this 3o day challenge, or hear people whining about, “Oh, I ONLY get meat, vegetables, limited fruit & nuts, and eggs,” I’m reminded of Danubia’s words, “my sons were hungry and the only thing I could give them was water.”  Oh how I have nothing to complain about, and everything to give thanks about.

I’m thankful for simple meals too.  So simple it seems almost too good to be true.

A Year Ago: Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Sea Salted Caramel Frosting &   Oatmeal Carmelitas

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Goodness (printable recipe)

This is for one sweet potato, but you could easily increase the amount and play with the ingredients.  If you’re not a cinnamon fan, sub some nutmeg (but go easy on it) or add some smoked paprika.

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato

1 tsp coconut oil

dash sea salt

2 Tb pecans

sprinkle cinnamon

Directions: Bake a sweet potato on 350 for 30 minutes or so (check a source, I’m that person who pops it in and doesn’t worry about it).  Do this the day before if you’re having it for breakfast.  Remove the skin and cut up the sweet potato into chunks.

Heat up coconut oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Add the sweet potato & salt.  Stir around letting it get a bit golden, about 3 minutes.  Add some chopped pecans & a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Cook for an additional 1 minute or so.  Serve and enjoy!


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 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.


Coconut Ginger Butternut Squash Soup

Starting Monday, Ben & I will be joining our gym’s call to partake in the “Lean & Green Challenge.”  Before I divulge into what it entails, let me say that I can already imagine the expression on your face as you continue reading.  And I’m actually looking forward to it (in some respects).  It is a Paleo eating style, which means we will be eating as Paleolithic people.  You got that? Okay, well, it means we only eat lean meats, vegetables, limited fruit, nuts & seeds and good fats (olive oil, coconut oil, nut oils, nut butters, etc).  That means we will not be eating any grains (containing gluten and gluten-free), dairy, sugars, or legumes (yes peanuts are a part of that).

I, of course, prefaced it with what we can eat, because most people upon hearing what we can’t eat automatically ask, “Well, what CAN you eat?”  The next question, “Kamille, why are you doing this?  What does this mean with baking?” Good question!  Ben and I have been looking at our Family Mission (reading this great book) and our top priority is getting our family healthy.  Ben joined Jogo in March, me in August, my mental health turned for the worse and we want more from life. Friends & co-Jogomates have testified the goodness of doing Paleo.  How aches, pains, intestinal problems, weight around the gut, etc went away after following a Paleo food lifestyle (Robb Wolf), along with regular cardio-exercise.  So really, I would have to ask myself, “Why wouldn’t I join the “L&G Challenge?”

And about baking…well, to be quite honest, I haven’t really wanted to bake much these days.  Maybe it’s a mixture of exercise, lack of time, demands of family?  And maybe I’m just burnt out.  What I am excited about is loving my family in these next 30 days by preparing & cooking food that will be good to their body, help me menu plan (for once anyway) and most likely have a tighter rein on the food budget.  Plus, we have a 1/2 a cow in our deep freezer, so here’s to using it.  One of my recipes is this soup, which puts a twist on an Autumn classic.  The coconut is subtle enough, which is why I didn’t use a whole can (but you certainly could) and plays on the creaminess known to the butternut squash.  The ginger adds bite & spice to make it come a bit alive.  Stay tuned as our family embarks on this adventure, and hopefully share a recipe or two:)

A Year Ago:  Simple MealsJuxtaposition

Coconut Ginger Butternut Squash Soup (printable recipe)

If you want to substitute the water for warm chicken broth, go right ahead, because it would add a greater depth of flavor to it.

Ingredients:

2 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 small onion, roughly cut into large dice

extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt

1/2 cup coconut milk

3-5 cups water

2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp finely grated ginger

Garnish options: olive oil, kosher salt, red pepper chili flakes, cilantro

Directions: Preheat oven to 425.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place butternut squash & onion on parchment paper.  Drizzle with olive oil, mix around with hands, sprinkle a bit of salt on top.  Roast for about 30-35 minutes, check the squash (a fork should pierce right through).

Add the roasted squash & onions in batches to the blender.  Add 1/4 cup coconut milk and about 1/2 cup of water.  Put a towel on top of the lid to avoid getting burnt by the steam.  Blend until completely pureed.  You most likely will need to add more water along the way.  Continue doing this, until all the squash/onion mixture is pureed; as well as, the coconut milk is gone.

Transfer the puree to a large pot and bring up to medium heat.  Add more water, 1/2 cup portion at a time, until you get the consistency you prefer.  Add ground ginger & freshly grated ginger (using a microplane zester).  Add salt to taste.  If you need a bit of acid, then squeeze in the juice of 1/2 a lime–taste and if you think it needs the other 1/2–go ahead and add it.

Ladle into bowl, drizzle a bit of olive oil on top, along with red pepper chili flakes, some cilantro and a pinch of coarse salt.


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.