Monthly Archives: May 2013

Road Trippin’ and Newfangled Carrots and Peas

Happy Memorial Day!  I’m thrilled for the extra day of this weekend.  It’s been a busy few weeks.  Today I want to share a great recipe I found in Cooking Light’s May issue for another use of pea shoots, which I featured last week in my pea shoot and beet salad.  The recipe I am sharing today is a carrot and pea shoot salad with spring onions and is the epitome of spring.

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But first, I want to tell you about a few of the BIG changes going on and some of the things we saw on the trip we just returned from.

One of the first BIG changes is that I will be going from working remotely in my home office to working at (gulp) an office five days a week.  I will be leaving my job as a research manager at a market research company and joining forces with Meijer’s Consumer Insights team.  I’ll be working on internal research to help improve the retailer and it’s brands.  Very exciting stuff.  My life will be much more structured but at the end of the day I’ll have more time each week because I’ll be going from a 50-60 hour workweek to a 40 hour workweek.

Another BIG thing is that Cooking Light added my profile to their Bloggers’ Connection site and I’m thrilled!  Check it out here.  You’ll notice that I’ve added the Cooking Light Bloggers’ Connection badge to my page and I’ll just be sharing with you all a couple of the things I read about in Cooking Light each month.  I have subscribed to Cooking Light for years and have shared their recipes with friends and family during those years.  Now I’ll be sharing some of them with you!

Now onto this trip.  We went on a tour of America’s Heartlands and into Colorado for two weeks.  It was an amazing trip.  Though I have flown into several of the towns we visited, I have never driven to them.  It was a wonderful experience to drive and see a sliver of Indiana, then lots of Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Denver.  Iowa was surprisingly beautiful, with rolling green hills spotted with black cows and windmills.  Did you know that Iowa gets 20% of all the energy in the state from wind?  They have committed to generating 40% of their energy from wind, a goal that may be achieved as early as 2015.  How cool is that?

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The first night, we stayed in a beautiful apartment full of antiques that is set up for traveling musicians.  It was right behind the stage at the Legion Arts Center in Cedar Rapids.  The Legion Arts Center is a wonderful building that showcases both artwork as well as some phenomenal musicians.  It is right across from the Newbo Market, a mini-Pike’s Place of sorts that was opened just 6 months ago.  In the morning, we had a great cup of coffee from the coffee shop on the first floor of the building and looked at art in our pajamas.  The folks in Cedar Rapids were so wonderful–one couple even called ahead and bought our lunch at a funky diner called the Bluebird Diner in Iowa City on our drive to Topeka.  It was an act of incredible hospitality and we are so grateful for it.  Drew had Huevos Epsteinos and I think it went down as one of his top ten meals…at least that’s what I gathered when he ate them with his eyes closed most of the time.  One of the few souvenirs we brought home was a bag of the Bluebird Coffee, which I think is worth special-ordering.

In Topeka, we hit up the Topeka Zoo, where I fed a baby giraffe!  We also saw gorillas, tigers, lions, black bears, eagles, and this photogenic flamingo.

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We also saw the Westboro Baptist Church compound (from the outside, of course).  There was a bright side to it–across the street from the compound, the organization Planting Peace purchased a house and painted every piece of siding a different color of the rainbow.  A member of the Westboro church was on a ladder looking over the fence and praying against the house but that didn’t take away from the delightful presence of this house that promotes peace, fights bullying, and helps with orphanages, de-worming, and rain forest conservation.  It’s wonderful to see this organization stand up for peace and this bold act gave me hope.

And then…the Rockies.  Oh my goodness…the Rockies.

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I had never driven in the mountains and I must have said “wow” every minute or two for the four hour drive from Denver to Carbondale.  This is the view when you get into Carbondale:

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Even though it was cold and sometimes snowy, the breathtaking views made me forget about having to bundle up!

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That night, we ate at a wonderful new restaurant called Town. (with a period) and had a great experience sitting at the community table and getting to know a few folks.  Their clams were excellent as well as the roasted carrots and cauliflower.

East of Carbondale, I had my first fly-fishing experience in the world-famous Frying Pan River.  Standing in the water with the current pressing against my waders and looking at the incredible red rock cliffs that surrounded us, I started tearing up with the joy of being in such a beautiful place.  My weepy moment passed quickly, though, because a rainbow trout came up to my leg and used my boot as a break from the current for about a half hour, joined by three of his pals for several minutes at a time.  I learned how to cast, watch the strike indicator, and mend my line that day, all while staring down at my feet off and on to look at the pretty rainbows swimming by me.

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The drive from Carbondale to Westcliffe on Highway 24 was incredible.  The terrain seemed to change every five minutes.  Rocky and desert-like at one turn, snow-covered pines the next.  My favorite view on that drive was the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a mountain range that is almost 250 miles long.

Mountain Range

Over the next weekend, we went fishing in the Colorado River where I got a great casting lesson from Shaggy, the awesome shaggy-bearded best friend of my sweetie.

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And then in the Blue River, Drew’s other buddy, Romano, taught me more about casting, mending the line, and setting the hook.  And all of that coaching paid off!  I caught my first trout by myself!  The boys were so proud of me when they saw me mending  my line, watching the strike indicator (bobber), setting the hook, and reeling the fish in.  It’s catch and release out there, and that’s what we would do anyway, so no trout for dinner.

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It was incredibly hard to leave the mountains behind to drive back to Michigan but we had much to do upon our return.

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After just a couple of days of being home my poor sweetie had a major surgery on Friday to correct a nerve-related motility disorder called Achalasia.  The muscle between his stomach and esophagus was clenched so tight that most food could not make it through the tiny tube.  It’s been such an irony that the boyfriend of a foodie/food blogger like me could not eat most foods for several months.  But the surgery was so successful and slowly we are introducing foods back in.  In a couple of weeks he will be able to eat everything I am eating, which will just be so wonderful.

On Saturday, I ran home to let the pup out and decided to stop at the Farmer’s Market on the way home.  I was in the mood for more pea shoots, one of my favorite spring vegetables.  I made a pea shoot and yellow beet salad a couple of weeks ago and loved it.  On the trip, I thumbed through the May issue of Cooking Light Magazine and found another pea shoot recipe to add to the repertoire.

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This recipe was quick, just what I needed for my quick break, and delicious to boot.  I had to use big carrots because there were no carrots ready at the farmer’s market so I just cut them on an angle for a nice presentation.  The spring onions soaked up the sugar/vinegar glaze and were marvelous.  I may just cook up more spring onions with a little sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper to mix into quinoa or spoon over crusty bread.  Mmmmm!

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Stay tuned for more recipes from Cooking Light Magazine–I’m going to make a healthier version of biscuits soon once my honey can eat them.  I’m picturing them with some fresh local butter and creamed honey……!  But I am getting ahead of myself.  I hope you enjoy this great springy peas and carrots recipe as much as I did!

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Newfangled Peas and Carrots from Cooking Light Magazine; May 2013 Issue

4 servings of ¾ cup each; about 30 minutes total, 15 minutes hands-on

  • 6 cups water
  • 12 ounces baby carrots
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups vertically sliced spring onion, white parts only (about 9 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 cups pea tendrils or watercress
  1. Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add carrots; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain; rinse under cold water. Rub carrot peels off with a clean, dry kitchen towel.
  2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes or until slightly tender. Add carrots, sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper; cook 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves and carrots are thoroughly heated. Stir in tarragon. Top with pea tendrils.

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Pea Shoot, Sunflower Sprout, and Yellow Beet Salad with Goat Cheese

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“The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things:  of shoes and ships and sealing-wax.  Of cabbages and kings.  And why the sea is boiling hot.  And whether pigs have wings.” –Lewis Carroll

I’ve had this quote stuck in my head all day because I keep thinking, “the time has come, the time has come!”  The farmer’s market has returned and along with it, the excitement of seeing the produce parade, unfolding week by week.  Last week the most exciting finds at the market (for me) were pea shoots and sunflower sprouts.  This week, asparagus.  I wait all year for asparagus and am giddy when I see it make its brief appearance, standing at attention all down the rows of the market.  Alas, I am in Denver this week (well, not alas–I get to learn fly fishing in the mountains–can’t beat that!) and am missing out on the first appearance of asparagus at the market.  But lest I get ahead of myself…let’s talk about pea shoots.  And sunflower sprouts.  And last but not least, for a tour of my local farmer’s market, click here and I’ll show you around my beloved Fulton Street Farmer’s Market.

Sunflower Sprouts

Sunflower Sprouts

Before we went to the farmer’s market on opening day, May 4, I was imagining what we might find.  It was a cold and long winter so our produce in Michigan got a slow start.  Radishes, asparagus, pea shoots, leeks…all popped into my head.  We didn’t find radishes or asparagus last week but found pea shoots!  And sunflower sprouts!  I knew exactly what to do with these two wonderful spring vegetables.  This salad seemed the perfect thing to make and it allowed me to experiment with sauteing pea shoots.  This salad has both raw and sautéed pea shoots, some sunflower sprouts, yellow beets, radishes, and crumbled goat cheese.  Finished with a light honey-mustard vinaigrette, this salad was the essence of spring.

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Spring Pea Shoot Salad with Sunflower Sprouts, Yellow Beets, and Goat Cheese; serves 1

  • 1 medium yellow beet, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2-3 oz bag of pea shoots
  • 1/3 cup sunflower sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Peel the beet and slice from top to bottom into thin wedges.  Place in a saucepan with water to cover and a dash of sea salt.  Bring to boil then turn heat down to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until beets have softened but are not mushy.  They should still have a little bite to them.  Drain in a colander and let cool.
  2. Split pea shoots in half.  Arrange half of the pea shoots in a salad bowl—I like to use a shallow bowl to showcase the salad…much prettier that way!  Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet or wok.  Add the other half of the pea shoots to the pan and saute briefly, just until wilted.  Add the wilted pea shoots to the raw pea shoots in your salad bowl.  Add the sunflower sprouts to the pea shoots and toss.  Arrange the beet wedges amongst the greens and sprinkle the goat cheese on top of the salad. 
  3. Mix the mustard and honey together in a small bowl until combined.  Slowly drizzle the oil into the honey-mustard mixture.  Add the vinegar slowly then whisk to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle a little vinaigrette over the salad (there will still be vinaigrette left over for more salads).  Sit down and welcome spring with this simple salad.

Berry Almond Skillet Cake With a Side of Good News

Happy spring, everyone!  Spring has finally arrived here in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Spring is my favorite season.  It is a time of renewal, fresh starts, and an emergence of life and beauty long-forgotten and buried under layers of snow.  This winter was a particularly long one so this spring is unfolding as the most beautiful I can recall.  To wake up hearing birdsong is an incredible thing but it is even more incredible to walk outside and be surrounded by green grass, flowering cherry, pear, and magnolia trees, tulips, daffodils, myrtle and phlox.  My favorites are the tulips surrounding my house and scattered in vases throughout my house.

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This spring has been one of change and fresh starts for me.  I have been so busy lately and am working really hard to find time to blog about all of the dishes I have been making.  For every five dishes I make, one makes it to the blog.  One of these days I’ll take a blogging vacation, plop myself in a beautiful locale, and catch up on my posts….!  Luckily, the things that are keeping me busy outside of my busy work schedule are all positive things.  Moving the sweetie into my house has been a huge change and learning experience for me.  Turns out, I got used to living alone but I am looking forward to getting un-used to it and love the new comforts of home that he brings.  I just bought my first pair of waders and am going to learn how to fly fish on our drive out to Colorado next week!  On the food side, lately I have been making many more connections with the local food community and I am loving every minute of it.  Over the last few months I have created a Back to Basics series for the Grand Rapids Cooking School and Uptown Kitchen, have begun a Meatless Monday feature on Dr. Mary MD’s blog, was invited to participate in a Green Market Expo, and starting this week, will begin contributing a “Spotlight on Produce” series for the Uptown Kitchen blog and for The Rapidian, our hyper-local Grand Rapids news and culture source.  Each week I will shop at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market and feature a recipe about one of the in-season vegetables or fruits sold by our local farmers.  Very exciting stuff!

And now…for the BIG NEWS.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, on Friday I received the most exciting email.  Cooking Light invited me to become one of their bloggers for the Cooking Light Bloggers Connection. Let’s just say, I was so excited that I squealed when I read the email.  And I am so thrilled that this hobby of mine has been noticed by one of my favorite publications and will be shared with a wider audience moving forward!  I will be adding a Cooking Light Blogger badge to my site and a couple of times a month, will be letting you all know about a recipe or featured article on the Cooking Light website.  I have been a subscriber to Cooking Light for about ten years and have really enjoyed seeing them grow and become the fresh and exciting publication they are today so am really excited to share some of their recipes and features with you moving forward.  Cooking Light may also ask me to provide tips and articles to them for publication on their website (which would be SO COOL).  My profile will be added to the Cooking Light Bloggers Connection page in the next week or so and I’ll share that when it becomes live.

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To celebrate this exciting news, I baked a cake.  But first I have to tell you about another form of spring renewal.  My handy guy spent a couple of days restoring two cast iron skillets to their original glory (everything deserves a second chance, he said).  One was rusty and long lost in the basement.  The other was caked with years and years of build-up and was getting bumpy and flaky.  He devised an experiment, using electrolysis to remove the build up then expertly blued then cured them.  For a couple of days it looked like we were up to no good in the back yard, with a battery charger hooked to a metal plate submerged in a large rubber tub.  I’ll share the details with you all soon and there is even a video of this awesome process that I’ll share some other time.  The skillets turned out beautifully and work better than any other pans I own.  We are a 4 cast-iron skillet and 2 cast-iron dutch oven household now, with another on the way.

Okay…did I lose you when I started talking about the science of restoring cast iron?  Back to the food.

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I have been coming up with any excuse to use these skillets lately.  Growing up, we made cornbread in our skillets about once a week and I’ve never made it any other way since.  With that memory in mind, and wanting to celebrate cast iron and change, I set about making a sweeter cake with blackberries, blueberries, and almonds.

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Both blackberries and blueberries are out of season so I used frozen blueberries and bought some organic blackberries from the grocery store.  In honor of Cooking Light, I made this cake using a couple of my tricks to reduce fat:  apple sauce and sour cream. This cake came together in minutes, filled the house with amazingly delightful scents, and turned out dense, moist, and just sweet enough to feel decadent.  As it turns out, it tastes even better eaten as a snack in the middle of an afternoon of fly fishing (or so I am told).

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I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.  Thanks for your support and for being wonderful friends and followers.

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Berry Almond Skillet Cake

Makes 8 generous servings

  • 1 1/8 cup of all purpose, unbleached flour
  • 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of almond meal
  • 2 teaspoons of aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon of butter to oil the skillet
  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 5 oz container of blackberries
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, almond meal, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: buttermilk, eggs, lemon juice, melted butter, sour cream, apple sauce, and almond extract.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix to combine.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to a 10-inch cast iron skillet and place on a burner at medium heat until the butter is melted and the pan is hot. Swirl the butter to coat the skillet, then pour in the batter.
  5. Scatter berries and sliced almonds on top and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  6. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or at room temperature with your morning coffee for an extra-special treat.

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