Tag Archives: quick recipe

Roasted Apples With Vanilla Bean Ice Cream And Apple Cider Sauce

DSC_0084

There is nothing that says fall in Michigan like a cold, juicy apple on a crisp autumn day.  And (in my opinion) no better place to enjoy this special treat than right here in Michigan.  Michigan apples have a flavor that is out of this world.  The comparison between a store-bought apple and an apple fresh from the orchards is like comparing store-bought tomatoes to one picked off your own tomato vine.  Just one bite and you are transported immediately to the gnarly tree it came from.  Eating apples this time of year makes me feel so grateful for fall.  Fall is one last hurrah.  A punctuation mark on summer.  And in Michigan, that punctuation mark isn’t any old period.  It is an exclamation point.

DSC_0120

We are fortunate to live in an area of the country that abounds with apple orchards.  Just yesterday we drove up to the Sparta area, a bit north of Grand Rapids, and checked out a couple of apple orchards. It was a cloudy day with patches of rain but when we made it out to the orchards, the sun had peeked through and it lit up the landscape.  Suddenly the reds on the trees were flaming, the pumpkins were bright orange orbs, the apples shone red-purple, and the rolling fields of dried corn stalks glowed golden under a deep blue sky.

Apple Orchard

My sweetie often jokes during his performances that Michigan apples are the only apples that have the all the vitamins and nutrients a body needs.  If you’re eating apples from anywhere else, you’re missing out.  He grew up picking apples with his whole family when the times were tough.  His dad would climb to the top of the tree, his mom would handle the middle, and he and his siblings would pick up the “drops”, the apples on the ground under the tree that are used to make apple cider.  True story.

DSC_0079

When I say cider, I’m talking about the real deal.  The kind that can only be found this time of year, freshly pressed, cloudy, sweet and tart.  This time of year, almost any gathering you go to offers cups of hot cider for guests.  It can be a special treat but I’m not the biggest fan of drinking hot beverages beyond coffee and tea.  But how could I walk past those gallons of apple cider?  Well…I couldn’t…so I had to figure out something to do with it.

DSC_0102

I came across an idea for an apple cider reduction.  And I am so glad I did.   All it takes is a big, heavy pot and some patience.  You basically just boil the cider down until it is 1/4 of the original volume.  I boiled 8 cups down to 2 cups over about an hour or so.

This reduction can be used in a myriad of ways.  You can make a vinaigrette with it (mix with olive oil, a splash of white balsamic vinegar, a dash of salt and pepper) or brush meat with it if you desire.  And if you really want to go all out, keep boiling the cider down from 8 cups to about 1 cup and you’ll get an even sweeter reduction, just begging to be poured on ice cream.

DSC_0046

And with that I present to you one of the easiest desserts I’ve made, roasted apples with vanilla bean ice cream, walnuts, and a cider reduction sauce.  For this, choose apples that will hold their shape in the oven.  I chose Cortland apples but Fuji, Jonathon, or Honey Crisp are all good choices.

DSC_0063

This dessert is so simple yet such a delicious way to enjoy the season’s best offerings.  If you are looking for other apple recipes, head over to Cooking Light–they have dozens of apple recipes, with some of the best here.  The apple upside-down cake looks amazing.

I’m planning to use some leftover roasted apples to make apple muffins with cream cheese frosting.  This recipe looks like a good place to start my brainstorming!

But for now, here is my simply delicious roasted apple recipe.

DSC_0067

Roasted Apples with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Apple Cider Sauce; Serves 4

  • 4 medium apples, cored and sliced into wedges
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp cane sugar
  • 2 cups good quality vanilla bean ice cream
  • 4 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider sauce (see below on how to make!)
  1. Make the apple cider sauce ahead of time (see below).
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 350°.  Spread the apple slices onto a large baking sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  Roast for 15-20 minutes, until soft but still maintaining their shape.  Go too far and you’ll have apple sauce wedges (which would still taste good so no worries!).
  3. Scoop apple wedges into four bowls.  Add 1/2 cup scoops of ice cream to the top, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon walnuts, and drizzle 1 tablespoon cider sauce on top of it all.  Dig in!

Apple Cider Reduction Sauce

  • 8 cups (1/2 gallon jug) fresh-pressed apple cider
  1. Make the cider sauce ahead of time (you can make this up to a month ahead!).  Pour apple cider into a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low to simmer for at least an hour and up to two hours until the apple cider is reduced from 8 cups to 2.  You can keep this sauce in the fridge for a month and in the freezer for up to 6 months.
  2. To make the sauce even more condense, you can boil it down further until you have about 1 cup left from the original 8 cups.
  3. You’ll use just a bit for this recipe and can store the rest to use in a variety of dishes.

Cold Oats with Dried Fruit and Nuts

‘He looked at his watch, astonished how the months had fallen out of it.”  –The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

This summer has flown by in a happy, hectic whirl.  Amidst the excitement and busy-ness, there have been a few constants.  Warm, heavy evenings interrupted only by the crack of the bat and the roar of a crowd while listening to the Detroit Tigers on the radio.  Letting the dog out, then in, then out again.  The slow summer rhythm of the neighborhood, with neighbors spilling out on porches and long, spontaneous chats while walking the pup.  Drew’s wet waders slung over the white pipe railing of the back porch to dry, oozing tales of trout or simple tales of a good wade down a stream (“That’s why they call it fishing, not catching,” he reminds me).   The communion of friends sharing meals and stories under the twinkle fairy lights on our back patio.  Saturday mornings bumping into friends and talking with our farmers at the market.  The sweetness of a good night kiss shared.  Cold oatmeal for breakfast.

We have eaten cold oatmeal nearly every morning over the last four months.  And yet, each day I wake up looking forward to it in its many variations.  Soon the warm months will have moved on and we’ll be switching back to oatmeal in other forms, oat bran, cooked rolled oats, baked oats, oatmeal griddle cakes.

Cold oats can, and have, been enjoyed in our household in every which way.  On a Saturday morning in summertime, in a patch of sunlight on the back stoop, glasses still on, hair wild, eyelids heavy, one hand thumbing through a cooking magazine.  On a Tuesday morning, racing to get out the door to work, spoon in one hand, blow dryer in the other.  At the desk at work, typing with one hand, eating a greatly anticipated breakfast with the other.  At the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula at a campground, coffee bubbling in the percolator on the camp stove, a morning fire in the fire pit, reading the What’s U.P.? paper, a hodgepodge of odd news and Upper Peninsula real estate.  On a Sunday, listening to our BBC radio drama, The Archers, and drinking our pour-over coffees.

Cold oatmeal (aka Muesli) has been a constant in these moments over the warm spring and summer months.  It has been both a breakfast made for the simplicity and the quickness of it, and a breakfast made for the enjoyment of it.  Some of the best meals are the simplest and this is an excellent example.

Because oatmeal is such a constant in my life, it has become the unsung hero of my mornings.  I have not thought to post about cold oats until this post came about, opting to write about more savory, later-in-the-day meals instead.  But how could I not share this beloved meal with you?

Cold oatmeal can be made in a huge variety of ways, whatever suits your tastes or pantry at the moment.  The formula I usually follow is oats, almond milk, dried fruit, nuts, maple syrup.  Occasionally if the fruit is good I’ll stir in some fresh peaches, blueberries, raspberries, figs, or plums but usually I enjoy dried fruit, soaked in the oat mixture over night.

One of the best things about this breakfast is that it is a huge time saver.  The night before, you simply put old-fashioned rolled oats into a jar or bowl, cover with just under twice as much plant-based or animal-based milk, any additions you want, and place back in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, you don’t need to lift a finger (or turn on the stove if the day is a hot one) to enjoy a filling and satisfying breakfast.  Convinced?  Follow the easiest-recipe-in-the-world below and you’ll be singing its praises too.

cold oats

Cold Oats With Dried Fruit and Nuts

  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 and 3/4 cup almond milk, soy milk, or cow’s milk
  • 3-4 dates, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup, optional (some folks are happy with the sweetness of the fruit without additional sweetener)
  1.  Mix all ingredients into a jar or bowl.
  2. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. Grab a spoon, stumble to the fridge, grab cold oats, and dig in.

Serves 2

Variations:

  • Substitute raisins, cranberries, dried plums, dried cherries, or any other favorite dried fruit.
  • Add fresh fruits when in season.  Blueberries, peaches, nectarines, prune plums, raspberries, blackberries…all are good options.
  • Cook up some apples with cinnamon and stir into the mix.
  • Substitute yogurt for some or all of the milk.
  • Experiment with raw pumpkin seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, or any other nuts you love.

 

Samaritans, The Gift of Food…and Fresh Spring Rolls With a Thai Dipping Sauce

image

A week and a half ago I met a remarkable woman whose work brought me to tears and who gave me a sense of hope in the kindness of others.  Shura Wallin, the founder of Green Valley Samaritans in Sahuarita, AZ, spoke to a small group of like-minded participants of a seminar discussion at the Circle Pines 75th Anniversary Celebration in Southwest Michigan.  A tiny woman with a huge heart, a big message, and a spitfire to boot, shared with us her stories of locating migrants who are found suffering and offering them first aid, food, and water to prevent them from dying in the desert as they cross the border and make their way toward Tucson.

Her stories were touching and she reminded me just how closely tied we are to others and how we can always find a common thread of understanding to carry us past differences of personality, religion, politics, and all other ‘issues’ that can stand in the way of finding common ground.  If we try, we can usually find a common thread despite our differences.

One of the reasons I love food and cooking so much is that it offers a common ground and shared experience.  Drop the politics and a group of people coming together over good food can come to coexist over the shared joy of food.

image

It is also the finest way I know to show someone you care for them.  For me, cooking healthy but tasty foods and sharing them with those I love is the simplest gesture of love I can offer.  I love having friends over to share a meal with us.  I love sending them home, bellies full and leftovers in hand to enjoy for lunch the next day.  To me, food is love.

Not too long ago (but long enough ago to make me feel like I’m behind on posting!) I whipped up these spring rolls when our friend, Natalia, had a canceled flight and ended up staying the night with us.  Although I’m sure she wasn’t thrilled about the canceled flight, I was overjoyed at the opportunity to have her for dinner.  It was a hot and sticky night that called for something fresh and cooling.  We had a wonderful night hanging out and I loved hearing Natalia and Drew share their new songs with each other. I felt lucky to share an unexpected meal with a very cool new friend.

This recipe is great because it satisfies those who eat gluten-free, vegans (without the sauce or with a modified sauce), and vegetarians, as well as meat eaters and picky eaters.  The fresh spring rolls seem to be a universally enjoyed dish, at least amongst the many friends I’ve served them to.

Fresh spring rolls can be concocted in a myriad of ways–this is just the way I do it most of the time.  Feel free to experiment or pick and choose various components from other recipes.  Here are a couple of others to pick and choose from:  Fresh Spring Rolls from Cooking Light (2004), Fresh Vegetable Rolls from Cooking Light (1999).

image

Fresh Spring Rolls With a Thai Dipping Sauce–Serves 4

Dipping Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oolek (garlic chili paste)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated carrot

Spring Rolls:

  • 12  (8-inch) round sheets rice paper
  • Head of butter lettuce (tender leaved lettuce)
  • 1 cup julienned carrots
  • 1 cup julienned cucumber
  • 1 cup shredded radishes
  • 1/2 cup basil and/or mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 block of extra firm tofu, drained and pressed for 1 hour (for instructions, click here), cut into fat matchsticks
  • 2 tablespoons tamari or high quality soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil or olive oil
  1. Add oil to a wok or skillet and heat until very hot.  Toss tofu into pan–you’ll need to keep an eye on it to avoid burning and toss with a spatula or spoon until browned.  Turn off the heat and dash the soy sauce onto the pan.  Toss tofu into sauce and let sit to cool for a bit before making the rolls.
  2. To prepare dipping sauce, combine all six ingredients.  Stir until sugar dissolves.   Let sit while making spring rolls.
  3. To make the spring rolls, put an inch or two of hot water in a wide, shallow dish with sides.  I sometimes clean out the sink and fill it with water if I can’t find a bowl right away.
  4. Place one rice paper sheet at a time into the water.  Let soften–it will take about 30 seconds.  Don’t soften too much or the sheet will fall apart–you’ll get the hang of it after a couple of tries.  Put rice paper sheet on clean counter or a large plate.  Put one piece of lettuce in the center of the sheet and top with carrots, cucumber, radishes, tofu, and some chopped herbs.  Fold one edge over the filling, then both sides, rolling as you go.  The rice paper will stick and form a seal.  Press the seam if it doesn’t automatically stick.  Put the spring roll on a platter, covering with a wet paper towel to keep from sticking.
  5. Repeat with remaining ingredients until you are out of either filling or papers.  Slice on a diagonal, arrange on a beautiful platter, and serve with dipping sauce.

Baked Squash Blossoms with Goat Cheese and Feta

DSC_0792

What a weekend. What a life! One year ago, my weekends primarily consisted of work, work, working on my house. Every weekend I’d have a list full of tasks to tackle: sweep, mop, dust, weed the garden, post a blog post, grocery shopping…..etc. etc. etc. My life has changed so much to one where productivity is not the ultimate goal. Don’t get me wrong…I value productivity and feel good about myself when I’m getting things done. I’m proud to be a hard worker. But it never seems to be enough. I never make it through my list and I always feel like I’ve failed because of it. I’m starting to learn that when the goals you set are unreasonable, you will always feel like you have failed. I recently started something new–now rather than focusing on how many things I have left on a list, I start a new list of what I have accomplished and that list never fails to make me feel better than the list of tasks yet to be done.

My life has changed so much in the last year. I still have the same old anxieties about productivity and accomplishment. But I now have someone who balances me out (most of the time). Last winter when we threw our first potluck together, we were so busy making food that I didn’t get around to mopping. I kept fretting about it and was getting pretty cranked up about it until Drew said something that stopped all of the nerves. He said, “you know…all of these friends are going to come tonight and when they leave, they will all talk about what a fun time they had. And I guarantee none of them will say that they had a fun time but it would have been more fun if only Aura mopped the floor.” Sigh. So simple. But left to my own devices, I’d never have gone down that train of thought. Thank goodness for my voice of reason. Lucky girl.

This weekend was such a far cry from weekends of old! Drew and I crammed in about every fun thing we could think of. It all started with a long walk downtown with the pup after dinner on Friday. Our walks are always wonderful meanders through downtown with no agenda and no idea of when we’ll get home. We are so proud to live in the city of Grand Rapids and proud to see all of the progress made here in the last several years. Grand Rapids has so much to offer…an incredible sculpture park, a small but beautiful zoo, the largest art competition in the world, award winning restaurants and breweries, a great baseball field for the Tiger’s farm team, live outdoor music for free almost any night in the summer, two brilliant farmer’s markets…I could go on.

imageThis weekend Grand Rapids got even cooler with the introduction of Movies in the Park at Ah-Nab-Awen park. We stumbled upon this new treasure on our walk Friday night. We were so surprised and thrilled to see a 20-some foot inflatable screen set up in the park with the city lights as a backdrop and about 700 residents watching Princess Bride on chairs and blankets. It was so wonderful to see and made our hearts swell with happiness. We are looking forward to the 16th when we can watch Back to the Future (and come armed this time with popcorn, root beer, the pup, and lots of friends!). Way to go, Grand Rapids! image

On Sunday we headed out to Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, one of the U.S.’s top 10 places to visit. It was incredible. Although I’ve been indoors to see the plants and art inside, this was my first time in the outdoor sculpture park and I was blown away. Here are a few of my favorites.

image

image

image

image

image

Ahhhh….the weekend is over but the memories remain.  One way to preserve those memories is by sharing a dish we made after shopping at the Fulton Farmer’s Market.  One of the rarest and most exciting finds this time of year are squash blossoms.  These pretty flowers make their appearance at the same time we start seeing an abundance of zucchini fruit lined up at stall after stall.  Only one farmer at the Fulton Market carries these pretty flowers (The Barry Patch) and I have a hard time passing them up.  They are very fragile and will not keep long so I recommend buying only when you plan to use them that day.

DSC_0852

When I was a kid my mom would batter and fry these blossoms but being health conscious I prefer to bake them.  I set out on a search for baked squash blossom ideas.  After a quick search, I found some stuffed squash blossom bruschetta from Cooking Light’s June 2005 issue. I didn’t have everything the recipe called for so I came up with a version using cows milk feta, goat cheese, and fresh herbs. This recipe results in a crisy exterior and warm, rich interior…and a taste that is not masked by the heaviness of oil. And so beautiful!  A perfect way to cap off a perfect weekend.  Hands down, this has become a new favorite summertime dish.

DSC_0867

Baked Squash Blossoms with Feta and Goat Cheese

  • 1/2 cup goat cheese at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup cow’s milk feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 eggs, divided
  • ⅓ cup chopped basil and/or parsley
  • Salt
  • 12 squash blossoms, if attached to baby squash, leave squash attached.
  • ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Mix together cheeses, 1 lightly beaten egg, and herbs. Season with salt.
  3. Put the remaining 2 eggs in a bowl and whisk. Put the panko breadcrumbs in another bowl.
  4. Carefully spoon filling into each squash blossom and twist loosely at the end to close.
  5. Dip each stuffed squash blossom in egg, then breadcrumbs, and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.
  7. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Quinoa Salad with Corn, Black Bean, Avocado, and a Chipotle-Lime Dressing

DSC_0500

Wow wow wow….this summer is flying by!  July is drawing to a close and I have barely caught my breath.  But it’s been such a good summer…I dare say the it may be best I’ve had.  I’ve gone for many summer walks, the temperatures have been wonderful other than one intense week of 90’s, my pears are growing like crazy on the tree in my yard, we’ve gone trout fishing (catch and release) in some gorgeous Michigan rivers, and we have had some wonderful dinners with friends.  It’s pretty magical to sit outside on the patio until the sky is dark and the fireflies come out.

Ferry

It has been a summer of music!  We’ve taken the ferry to Manitowac, WI for Acoustic Fest (photos above!) and enjoyed Buttermilk Jamboree, NorEaster Festival, and Roots on the River.  I have met so many incredible people at these festivals and feel so invigorated by these new friendships.

Grand Rapids

My work has begun to feel more routine and I really enjoy getting to know my coworkers.  I’ve flown around on the corporate plane doing research in stores in Indianapolis, Michigan, and Ohio and feel like I’m making a difference for a company I believe in.  Yes, things are turning up.

Wheeler

I’m really excited to share the good news that Grand Rapids Magazine plans to publish an article about me in their October issue this year.  I’ve been interviewed for content and in two days a great local photographer is going to do a photo shoot with me!  I can’t tell you how excited I am!  I’ve never had a photo shoot before!  Wish me luck!

Tosebo Montage

A couple of weeks ago, I whipped up this quinoa salad after having one at our friend’s camp, the Tosebo Camp For Boys, over the fourth of July weekend.  The salad is very healthy and has the perfect combination of textures and flavors; crunchy, soft, sweet, and spicy.  It was the perfect meal for hot days when I stayed far, far away from the stove.  This is a great dish for potlucks, one dish dinners, and lunch and is easily adaptable to your taste preferences.  Enjoy!

DSC_0517

Quinoa Salad with Corn, Black Beans, Avocado, and a Chipotle-Lime Dressing; Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup multi-colored quinoa (red, black, white)–or any color
  • 2 cups water
  • 1.5 cups black beans (I cook my own but you can use canned)
  • 1.5 cups corn kernels, frozen or fresh
  • 1/2 roasted red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green onion, chopped (or you may use red onion, finely diced)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1/2 avocado, cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put quinoa and water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Immediately turn down to a low simmer and cover.  Simmer the quinoa in the water until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  I’d check it as it cooks–sometimes I feel that the water absorbs better than other times and I’ve burnt it from time to time!
  2. Mix the quinoa, black beans, corn, red pepper, onion, and cilantro in a large bowl.
  3. Mix the oil, lime juice, chipotle, adobo sauce, cumin, agave nectar, and salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss.  Serve topped with more cilantro and cubed avocado.

 

Radishes In Browned Butter and Lemon: A Lesson in Change

Chive Blossoms

Wow…I had the craziest dream.  I went on a two week vacation through several states, came back to hold my sweeties hand through a major surgery and recovery, started a new corporate job, threw a large birthday/recovery party, and went to two music festivals, all in just over a month.

Wait a minute….I’m pinching my arm…and I can feel it.  It must not be a dream after all.  So why do I feel so out of it?  I’m the kind of girl who likes routines.  I mow the lawn on Saturday.  I eat oatmeal every morning and have one cup of coffee.  I go to yoga 4 days a week (well…errrr…until my neat little life flipped upside down and all around a month ago).  I eat my veggies.  I know exactly how long it takes me to eat breakfast, drink coffee, take a shower, put on makeup, and blow dry my hair (one hour and 10 minutes).

In one short month I have gone from working from home for five years to working in an office five days a week, eight to five.  I have gone from jeans and tees to high heels, slacks, and non-iron fitted shirts, equipped with a badge that gets me in and out of the building.  I have gone from cooking lunches when I wanted to eat (and taking photos of them) to brown bagging it from noon to one each day.  Home office to cubicle.

I’ll admit, at first I was VERY skeptical.  I believe I even yelled over my shoulder one angry morning early-transition (not enjoying the new 6:15 wake-up time), “I am not convinced!!!”  Yeah, I can be a real drama queen when I want to be.

But you know what?  I had a change…a big ‘tude change.  I decided on my seventh day of work that I could make this as hard as I wanted or as easy as I wanted.  And from henceforth and ever more I have been quite pleasantly surprised at how well adapted I have become.  I bought a daylight lamp for my cubicle.  I had some fun ordering a new wardrobe online and feel pretty darned smart in my fancy new clothes.  I love my new coworkers and have discovered after taking a dISC analysis that I am a “i”, which means that I am the social butterfly, like interacting with coworkers, and bring energy to a team.  I’m beginning to think that working with people (in-person) is really good for me.

And the most wonderful thing of late is that I have watched my sweetie go from sick and not able to eat a month ago to healthy, energetic, and happy.  We have gone for two bike rides, many walks, and have started to enjoy cooking together again now that food is not a battle.  It really brings tears to my eyes that he can finally enjoy my cooking again and that we can enjoy our time in the kitchen together.  When we started dating he said that there was no place he would rather be in the whole world than with me in the kitchen.  Sold!  I knew we’d be just fine from there on out.  And fine we are.

Radishes

We recently went to the farmer’s market and found some beautiful radishes.  Reds, purples, and whites, all bundled together.  Radishes are so beautiful to me.  I’m not sure what the history of radishes is but to me, they symbolize life and renewal.  Their peppery bite makes me feel alive and their emergence at the farmer’s market makes me think of spring and fresh starts.

Radishes in Blue Bowl

In celebration of fresh starts, I wanted to share this recipe with you.  I found this in the April issue of Cooking Light Magazine and knew I would like it.  My favorite way to eat radishes is with some fresh butter and flaked sea salt so this browned butter version appealed to me.  This recipe is also only 42 calories for 3/4 cup!  Not half bad.

I didn’t use my radishes immediately so I had to cut off the greens when they were no longer fresh.  In their place, I shredded baby collard greens from the farmer’s market and they were a fantastic substitute.

Radishes In Skillet

Cooking Light has a bunch of great radish recipes.  If you are looking for inspiration, check them out here.  In this dish, the radishes are blanched then sauteed in butter with lemon and radish greens.  Most people haven’t had cooked radishes so I like to surprise and ‘bend the rules’ with dishes like this (I like to roast them too).  I hope you can embrace change in your life, whether it’s from Tom’s to heels or trying cooked radishes for the first time.

Radishes in Browned Butter and Lemon

Radishes in Browned Butter and Lemon; Cooking Light, April 2013

  • 3 cups radishes, halved lengthwise, with root and 1-inch stem left on
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup torn radish leaves (or another green such as collards, turnip greens, or kale if the radishes don’t have their tops)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add radishes to pan; cook 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain.
  2. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add radishes to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until butter is browned and fragrant. Add rind, juice, and salt; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat; stir in radish leaves and pepper.

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.

DSC_0054

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?

iows

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.

flamingo

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.

Mountains

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:

carbondale

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

trees

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.

frying pan


098

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.

941421_10152847079355445_1305750985_n 947281_10152847080010445_1669161898_n

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.

947257_10152849556760445_493866512_n (1)

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

cliffs

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.

DSC_0057

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!

DSC_0035 DSC_0025 DSC_0018

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!

DSC_0072 - Copy

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.

DSC_0072 - Copy

 

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

007

“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.

017

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.

Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Cashew Chutney

Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Cashew Chutney

Well, it’s been a little while!  I’ve been busy, busy, busy.  This past weekend I had a Dinner With Aura booth at the Grand Rapids Public Library’s Green Market Expo.  It was so much fun!  I sold some granola and biscotti, raffled off Super Natural Everyday, and met so many awesome people who were interested in eating healthier.  Several folks mentioned that they were simply trying to reduce the amount of meat they ate, replacing a few meals a week with vegetarian options.  That got me so excited.  I truly believe that small changes add up.  It can be really intimidating to be expected to change everything about your eating habits.  Eating is such a personal and habitual experience so I believe that tackling one change at a time is the key to long-lasting change.  I met a lovely woman who wanted to start by eating vegan three days a week.  I’m so excited to hear how that goes for her and excited to see what new foods she will discover in the process.

175

I’ve also been busy moving my honey into my house.  Having lived alone for three and a half years, this has been a big change!  We are in the process of merging our things and getting into a routine.  I’m excited to see what the future holds for us.

This weekend was so busy that I just ate really simple dishes.  I was cooking for myself this weekend so things were back to my usual one person meals, quinoa with sauteed kale, zucchini, carrots, etc.  I really don’t mind eating like that most of the time but it is fun to have someone to cook for and I tend to make more substantial meals when I’m not on my own.

010

Today, I was so happy that at about 7:00 I finally had time to cook up the recipe for the Food Matters Project.  I was even more happy that it is finally spring and we have daylight at 7:00!  This dish was so easy to put together and so tasty.  All I can say is thank you for the awesome pick, Jess!  Once again, I had a hard time imagining what this salad would end up looking and tasting like.  The result was such a pleasant surprise.  It had so many flavors I love all in one bowl.  I modified the dish somewhat, adding quinoa, radishes, and peanut to the mix.  The chickpeas and quinoa provide protein and the nuts provide healthy fats.  This salad is a great main dish meal.  If you are looking for something a little different and very, very easy, try this!  You won’t be disappointed.  If you want the original recipe, head over to Jess’s site.  And to see the variations everyone came up with, head over to the FMP website.

025

Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Cashew Chutney;adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 small dried hot red chile or ¼ tsp of red chili flakes
  • 1/3 cup cashews (raw are fine)
  • ¼ cup peanuts
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
  • 1 and ½ cups quinoa
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mangoes (can also use apricots)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 radishes, cut into matchsticks
  1. To make chutney:  In a small, dry skillet, combine cumin seeds, chili, cashews, and peanuts. Heat over medium heat, shaking pan frequently for 3 to 5 minutes or until everything colors slightly and becomes fragrant.
  2. Transfer to blender or food processor. Add garlic and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Process, stopping machine to scrape down sides if necessary, until finely ground but not as smooth as peanut butter.
  3. To assemble salad: In a salad bowl, toss chickpeas, quinoa, and fruit with chutney. Add lime juice and a little oil if needed to help bring everything together. Stir in cilantro and radishes. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.  Enjoy!!!

Baked Polenta With Garlicky Mushrooms and Delicata Squash

DSC_0126

Sorry for the technical issues, everyone!  You should be able to access this post now.

Welcome to another Food Matters Monday!  This dish is a spin on Mark Bittman’s Polenta with Garlicky Mushrooms.  The recipe this week was chosen by Sandra at Meadows Cooks.  She made her polenta cakes in the shape of hearts–adorable!  I made mine without any wine (subbed Sherry Vinegar) and added some roasted delicata squash for a heartier dish.  I also made this dish a second time, adding heavy whipping cream and a little cream cheese to the mushrooms.  And while it wasn’t nearly as healthy, boy was it good!

Polenta is such a versatile food–if you haven’t made it before, I highly recommending giving it a try.  It tastes good topped with any number of foods.  You can do a cream sauce, a marinara with cheese and veggies or meat, a nice eggplant sauce, a chickpea curry, pesto…the possibilities go on and on!  Polenta is basically just cornmeal cooked up, pressed into a pan and chilled, and then cut into shapes and pan-fried or baked.  Let me know if you end up making this dish or a variation–I would love to hear from you!

DSC_0120

Polenta Cakes with Garlicky Mushrooms and Delicata Squash;

Makes: 4 to 8 servings;  Time: 3 hours, mostly unattended

  • 1 cup coarse cornmeal
  • Salt
  • ½ cup 2% milk (or use water)
  • Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 pound mushrooms, preferably an assortment, sliced (I used baby bella mushrooms this time)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/8 cup Sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic, or more to taste
  • 1 delicata squash, seeded and sliced
  1. Put the cornmeal and a large pinch of salt in a medium saucepan; slowly whisk in 2 and ½ cups water and the milk to make a lump-free slurry. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring almost to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and bubble gently, whisking frequently, until thick, 10 to 15 minutes. If the mixture becomes too thick, whisk in a bit more water; you want the consistency to be like thick oatmeal. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary and plenty of black pepper.
  2. Grease a large baking sheet with some of the oil while the polenta is still hot, pour it onto the sheet and use a spatula to spread it out evenly at least ½ inch thick. Brush the top lightly with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the polenta until it sets up, about 2 hours (or up to a day).
  3. Heat the oven to 400°F.  Lightly spray or drizzle a baking pan with olive oil and lay squash onto the baking sheet, taking care not to overlap. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and roast, about 20-30 minutes, flipping each piece halfway through.
  4. Lower the heat in the oven to 375°F. Grease a clean large baking sheet with some of the oil. When the polenta is set, cut it into at least 12 squares or diamonds or use a round cookie cutter to make disks. Put the cakes on the baking sheet, brush with a bit more oil, and bake until they are warmed through and the edges begin to brown (the outside should be nice and toasted while the inside should stay soft), 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, put the 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the mushrooms and thyme and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and dried out a bit, about 10 minutes. Add the Sherry Vinegar and let it bubble away for a couple of minutes; turn the heat to medium-low and add the garlic.  Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve a spoonful of mushrooms and a few pieces of squash on top of each polenta cake.  I served mine on a bed of mizuna–love mizuna!