My husband makes our 16 month old son sweet potato fries regularly for an afternoon snack and he gobbles them up faster than you can say hot potato. So when I was at the health food store the other day and saw Okinawan purple sweet potatoes and Japanese white sweet potatoes, I had to get them for an extra special, healthy, and colorful treat. Continue reading
I’m sorry to admit it but I fell deep into a cooking rut over the past several months. I’ve been on autopilot and turning over and over again to my tried and true meals. Enchiladas, huevos rancheros, chili, tamales, stir fry…same ol, same ol. I was feeling pretty uninspired. Until…a couple of months ago when I was given the opportunity to pilot a home delivery program for groceries. Total game changer. The act of sitting down to order my groceries online every weekend has led me to start meal planning more seriously and has inspired me to shake things up a bit. And seriously…shopping for groceries in my jammies instead of shopping with a toddler in a busy store on the weekend? Heck yes!
One of the fun new things I’ve been doing with my meal planning is picking a cookbook every week and choosing two or three recipes from it to try that week. A couple of weeks ago we had Berbere red lentil stew (fantastic!), pad thai, and red flannel hash from Cooking Light’s Global Kitchen and Lighten Up, America! cookbooks. Next week I’ll be moving onto Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen with BBQ tempeh and spicy smothered green cabbage on the menu. But this week I’m having a wonderful time reading and cooking from Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. On Sunday I made Balsamic Glazed Beets and this flavor packed pate. Tonight, my husband made the Three Sisters Stew with masa dumplings and spiced pumpkin seeds. It was a delicious departure from my normal soup repertoire.
This pate, one of my favorite new recipes, is great smeared on top of crisp crackers, pita crisps, or used as a dip for your favorite crudites. This is also a kid friendly recipe. My 15-month old waddled back into the kitchen several times to tug on my leg for another taste. Finally, it’s freezer friendly – perfect to pack away in little containers for snacks at work or on the go!
- 1 pound winter squash, such as pumpkin, acorn, butternut, or buttercup, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
- Coarse sea salt
- 1/2 cup dry-pack sun-dried tomatoes
- 4 and 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Freshly milled black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Toss squash chunks with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Evenly distribute squash onto a sheet pan and place in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes until you can easily pierce with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
- In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the tomatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and set aside for 10 minutes to soften.
- In a saute pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, until it softens and begins to brown. Add the walnuts, garlic, sage, and red pepper flakes and saute gently for 5-7 minutes, until the walnuts are fragrant.
- Drain the plumped tomatoes but save the liquid. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the sauteed vegetables and winter squash. Puree until creamy, adding the reserved tomato water if needed, until the desired consistency is reached.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm.
Happy Labor Day Weekend! It’s been a while, folks. And I’m sorry for that. But let me explain. In the last three months we have bought a house, sold a house, become a married couple, gone to Alaska on a honeymoon, and started to tackle a lifetime of projects on the 1870 farmhouse we moved to. And through it all, my belly has grown bigger and bigger (and along with it my emotions) as we prepare for the arrival of our first little one at the beginning of November. If I tried to take on anything else, I think you could just assume I’ve gone clinically insane.
And through it all, meals must be made and eaten, day in and day out. In fact, I’ve eaten a lot more and a lot more frequently as the months of pregnancy pass. But have I been stopping to snap photos, write recipes, and post about it? Not so much. When you have to eat every couple of hours, planning for, preparing, and packing food can start to feel like a chore rather than a passion.
Every once in a while though, I come across a dish that just hits all the cravings just right. This dish is one of them. Juicy watermelon, tangy feta, cooling cucumber, and peppery arugula drizzled with lime, honey, and vinegar. Sounds weird, right? Trust me on this one, take hold of the last bits of summer, and enjoy this salad.
If you are looking for last minute inspiration for salads to add to your Labor Day picnics, check out Cooking Light Magazine’s List of Great Summer Salads. In addition to their own version of watermelon and cucumber salad, you’ll find 35 other beautiful, simple salads to fill your picnic table and lighten your barbecue.
Ahhhh…it’s good to be back.
- 1/3 small seedless watermelon (about 6-8 cups), cut into ½ to 1 inch cubes
- 2 small Kirby, English, or other small cucumber with tender skin
- A few handfuls of arugula
- ¼ cup of basil, rolled up and sliced into skinny shreds
- A few pinches of coarse sea salt
- Juice of one lime
- 8 ounces of feta cheese, divided
- 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar (optional)
- 1 tsp honey (optional)
- Add cubed watermelon to a large bowl and gently mix in all ingredients through lime juice. Gently toss with half of the feta and crumble the rest on top.
- If adding white balsamic vinegar and honey, mix the two together with a fork or tiny whisk before drizzling on salad.
- Serve immediately! This salad, like many salads, do not hold up well overnight in the fridge.
Happy spring….errrrr….whatever it is. Today is March 25 and we had whiteout conditions for parts of the day. Nevertheless, I have some faith, due to thirty two years of walking this earth, that one day soon the sun will shine, the snow will melt, the crocuses and daffodils will force their way through the thawing ground, and it will be spring at last. Continue reading
I have a interesting quality that I haven’t mentioned on my blog up to this point. I guess I haven’t mentioned it because it’s something I’ve always had so don’t think about it often. But Drew mentions it to friends from time to time and I feel a bit like a carnival act. I have a memory like an elephant when it comes to food. The meal we ate on our first date? Ancho lentil tacos, barramundi cod tacos, a tea, and a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting. Our meal at the Vierling Tavern? Cajun Blackened Lake Superior White Fish with wild rice pilaf and green beans, finished off with a piece of key lime pie. My birthday meal four years ago? Cedar planked salmon vesuvio. Anyway, you get the point. I remember my meals. The good and the bad.
In the summer of 2006, I had recently begun subscribing to Cooking Light Magazine. One of the first recipes I dog eared and cooked was this golden beet salad. I made it for my packed lunch to eat during a work day on my summer gardening job. That summer I was home from graduate school and was working with my friend, June Moon, in the gardens she designed and maintains around town. That day, we sat at the patio table near the pool at a client’s house (my favorite part of his place was the English garden June had designed for his wife before she passed) and enjoyed this salad. I remember that moment every time I eat this salad. I remember the feeling of friendship. I remember the hot summer day and dipping our feet in the pool to cool off. I remember the feeling of working hard and looking forward to the best part of the day; taking a break to put our feet up and share lunch with a dear friend. I’m grateful for such a good food memory because it is so often tied to memories of where I was, who I was with, and how I was feeling at the moment.
Cooking Light’s recipe for this salad calls for roasting the beets and I can attest that it is a delicious way to prepare the beets–they develop a depth and sweetness that other methods don’t draw out. But when I’m in a bit more of a rush, I opt to boil the beets until just-tender. It takes less time and still yields great results. I also add copious amounts of chopped dill (adding some chopped fresh mint to the mix tastes great too!) because I love it.
Be careful when toasting the pine nuts. It is easy to go from toasted to burned before you know it!
For Cooking Light’s original recipe, click here!
- 3 large golden beets
- 3/4 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion (about 1 small)
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- ½ cup chopped fresh dill
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 450°.
- Scrub beets with vegetable scrub brush. Cut off any “hairs” growing out of the beets. Cut off tops of beets and slice lengthwise into ¼ inch slices.
- Place slices into a pot and cover with water. Salt water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer until tender, about 15-20 minutes.
- When tender (but not mushy!), drain and rinse with cold water. Drain thoroughly. Combine beets, onion, and remaining ingredients in a bowl, stirring gently.
- This also tastes quite nice with some crumbled goat cheese or served on top of some quinoa or rice as a more substantial dish.
I really grappled with what I should title this post. Why, you ask? Well….this dish is based on tofu. Now, I know a good number of people. And if there is one thing I know, it’s that they probably don’t all agree on the topic of tofu. Some eat tofu, some eat it if they have to, some would never let it pass their lips, and some tried it and don’t like it. It’s a pretty polarizing ingredient to be sure so I hesitate to call it out from the get-go, afraid it will turn off the fussy eaters among us.
Christmas is closer than you think. That’s the message behind several of the ads that have been airing from the company I work for as a consumer insights specialist. The ads are really cute and funny and a reminder that we’d better hurry up and get ready for the holidays because they are right around the corner.
I need little reminding about the passage of time. All I need to do is look at our kitty, who suddenly became a teenaged kitty and I’m immediately aware of how quickly time passes.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner! As someone who is always thinking of her next meal, I couldn’t be more excited about the holiday. As most folks do, I have some favorite dishes that have always been traditional in my family. Homemade cranberry sauce. Cornbread dressing. Whole wheat bread dressing. I can’t wait to have these items on my plate. Over the years I’ve also updated some classics and they have bumped out the traditional dishes. The last couple of years I’ve been making a sweet potato puree with coconut milk, thanks to the recipe in Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen. A few years ago I updated green been casserole for a simple version of steamed green beans with pickled sweet and sour onions and a maple dressing. Love!! This year I plan to add Brussels sprouts to the table and came up with a new favorite way to eat them.
It is fall in my neck of the woods and I am so very happy about it! I’m trying to enjoy it as much as possible. That means a walk in the woods at the Blandford Nature Center today. Being outside in the woods with sunshine filtering through the orange and yellow leaves was so good for my soul. Continue reading
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.
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).
Fresh Spring Rolls With a Thai Dipping Sauce–Serves 4
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- To prepare dipping sauce, combine all six ingredients. Stir until sugar dissolves. Let sit while making spring rolls.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.