Ginger Carrot Soup

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I had to pop in and share this recipe!  I tossed it all together without much thought yesterday morning, but it turned out so good that I’m sure it will soon become one of our staple soups in my house!  The carrot base is cheap and the crockpot cooking makes it easy (although, I’ve included stove top directions that are very simple, as well).  I used chicken broth, as that is what I had on hand, but since this recipe is already dairy-free, it can be made vegan just by choosing vegetable broth!

This soup is super silky and feels rich.  The lemon juice at the very end adds brightness, while the curry powder and turmeric provide depth below that punch of ginger flavor.  The carrots add their own natural sweetness, making this the perfect soup for those gray, rainy autumn days!  Coming home to this soup after 12 hours of work and class was pure heaven!

I have had carrot soup on the brain since receiving two giant carrots in my Hungry Harvest Produce Delivery Box.  Seriously, they were each as tall as a wine bottle!  Hungry Harvest is a service that delivers recovered produce (fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go uneaten/be sent to the trash) to my door on a weekly basis.  The variety in the boxes forces me to get creative in my cooking and meal-planning, and I feel great knowing that I am helping to reduce food waste!  Those incredible carrots were rejected at the grocery store for being too big, and, without Hungry Harvest, would have ended up in a compost pile–or worse–a landfill.  The vegetables that I receive aren’t rotten–they could be too big, small, or “ugly”, or even have just been packaged or transported differently than the grocery stores requested.  I am absolutely a “happy customer” of Hungry Harvest, and I’m also a Hungry Harvest Ambassador.  If you would like to join me as a #hungryharvesthero and try your first HH box, you can follow this link: http://hgryhv.st/2hoYVUj and use the code “HERO5” for $5 off the box (that’s over 30% off!).  Full disclosure: If you choose to try a box through my link, I will get a discount on my next HH box as well!

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Ginger Carrot Soup

Prep time: 15 min | Cook time: 40+ min | Serves: 4

  • 6-8 carrots
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 inch fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 inch turmeric root*
  • 3 c. broth (chicken or veggie)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger, heaped
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, leveled
  • 1/2 tsp. curry powder, leveled
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1 lemon

*You can use 1 tsp. ground turmeric if you don’t have actual turmeric root (mine is stashed in my freezer from months ago when Hungry Harvest sent fresh turmeric in one of my produce boxes)

Place the top oven rack at the middle of the oven and set the oven to high broil.  Spread parchment paper over a pan.  Peel the carrots, onion, ginger, garlic, and turmeric (be careful, the turmeric will stain!  With this little root, I usually use a paring knife to peel it over the sink, so I’m not staining a cutting board.  If you need a surface, a small ceramic plate will usually hold it’s seal and won’t stain.) 

Spread all the peeled vegetables and aromatics in the pan and place in the oven.  Broil for about 10 minutes, or until the onions, garlic, and ginger are beginning to brown.  The carrots will soften, but won’t brown.

Tip all of the broiled vegetables into a crockpot.  Add the dry spices and the broth.  Set to cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.  Alternately, tip the vegetables into a sauce pot and add the spices and broth to the pot.  Bring to a boil, then cover and bring down to the barest simmer for 30 minutes, until a fork easily pierces the carrots.

Once finished, whether by crockpot or stovetop, add in about 1 cup of the coconut milk.  Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth right inside the cooking vessel, or carefully ladle into a blender.  If using a blender, only fill halfway to avoid the scalding liquid from escaping!  Puree in batches until smooth.  Strain the soup through a sieve, to pull out the thread-like ginger that will never get smooth.  Squeeze the juice from one whole lemon into the soup and stir to combine.  Serve hot, a little fresh cilantro is nice, too.

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How to Roll Sushi

Not exactly a recipe today, but more of a technique post.  But I do have a few sushi recipes, that can be shared here, now that I’m covering the basics!

Since I know you have all been waiting with baited breath to hear what M picked for Valentine’s dinner…(haha)…surf and turf!  Perhaps a little traditional, but oh so delicious!  He grabbed some personal-sized sirloin steaks and a cluster of snow crab legs for each of us!  It was so, so good!  I think it’s actually been over a year since I had crab legs and I definitely will have to do some scrimping and scrounging of pennies and some careful sales watching so that we can have them again before this year is over!  I’ve admitted to my own recent conversion to seafood-appreciator on this blog before, but I had forgotten how much I like crab!  Especially the legs, because the insides and organs and gunk of blue crabs still grosses me out.  Plus I’m bad at picking those little legs.  Please give me those (somewhat) tidy clusters of snow crab legs!

Yummmmmm.  I thought about those crab legs and butter all day.  I also spent the day enjoying my Valentine’s gift of a brand new office chair!  It’s red, it’s sleek, it has any amount of support…perfection!  I’ve had a sad history of used and often-broken office chairs, though my latest model was doing just fine enough for me to stop complaining about my back pain (mostly).  But, M remembered and got me one and totally surprised me at work–enough to have me on the floor teary-laughing!  So I am very excited to adjust this exactly how I need it and improve my daily office life!

Anyways, I thought I would take advantage of the simple cucumber rolls in this week’s meal plans to take a few step-by-step photos to show how to roll sushi.  I’ll be honest: the thought of making sushi was on my list of Very Intimidating Cooking Things. (Side note: if you’ve been reading along for a while, you should be celebrating with me because you also realize that I have now tackled everything on that scary list!!!)  But then I finally did it and it really can be very not frightening and even almost easy, if you are kind to yourself!  The biggest impetus was honestly that sushi is so expensive!  It it so much cheaper to make at home, and if you are very, very nervous, then just start practicing with some veggies rolls that will cost you pennies!  But they look super fancy and taste delicious and still have that sushi magic of filling you up without much food actually being used…I still prefer the ease of keeping the seaweed on the outside of the rolls–still got all the right flavors in there!  Someday, perhaps, I’ll be brave enough to flip the rice to the outside!

Let’s get started!

First make your rice.  Be sure to use rice marked as “Sushi” or “Nishiki” rice!  Prepare according to the bag’s directions.  I usually bargain for about 3 sushi rolls-worth from 1 cup of uncooked sushi rice.  Remember, 1 cup uncooked is going to result in several cups of cooked rice!

After the rice has cooked and steamed according to the package directions, for every 1 cup of uncooked rice that you made, mix together 3 Tbsp rice vinegar + 1 Tbsp sugar + 2 tsp salt in a small bowl until the sugar and salt has dissolved (if I’m in a hurry, I’ll microwave this, since the warm liquid will dissolve the salt and sugar more quickly!)  Fluff the cooked rice with a fork, then pour over the vinegar mixture and mix gently, but well to distribute the flavor!   Continue to stir gently for 1-2 minutes more, to help the rice release steam and cool.  Cool the rice to room temperature.

Prep your sushi filling–thinly slice whatever you are putting in there: fish, veggies, etc.

Fill a bowl with water, grab your nori (seaweed sheets), put the filings and the rice beside you, and you are ready to go!

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Okay, so you do need to invest in a sushi mat.  I found them for a very reasonable price at my local grocery store–it came in a kit with a wooden spoon that can be used instead of the fork to stir the vinegar into the rice!  While it is possibly to roll sushi without a mat, it make it so much easier that it is definitely worth the investment!  Place the mat in front of you with the sticks running perpendicular to you.

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Put a sheet of nori on the mat.

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Dip your fingers in the water.  With WET hands, scoop two small handfuls of rice onto the nori.  Wet your fingers again and press the rice into a thin layer.  Leave about 1 inch of space at the far end of the nori, but make sure that the rice goes close to the other edges.  If your fingers are not wet enough, the rice will stick.  Keep dipping them in the water as needed.

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Lay your fillings on the near end of the nori sheet.  Try to make them even, across the whole sushi roll.

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Grasp the edge of the mat with your thumb and forefinger (with both hands, I just needed one hand to take the photo).  Use the rest of your fingers to press against the fillings.  Lift the sushi mat and begin to roll the edge of the nori sheet over the fillings as your middle, ring, and pinky fingers tuck the filling under the edge of the roll, like you would with a burrito. (Check out the technique next time you are at chipotle–they flip the tortilla over the filling and pull/tuck it back into the roll of the tortilla.  You are doing the same pull/tuck technique with your fingers!)

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Keep rolling with the mat guiding the nori sheet until the edge of the nori goes entirely around the filling to meet the rice (I’m just lifting the mat to show you).

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You can release the mat once the filling is encased in the first part of the roll.  Keep  rolling until the rice is covered and only the edge of the nori remains.

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Use a little of the water to liberally wet down the edge of the nori wrap, all the way across.

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Roll all the way over.  The wet nori will stick to the roll.  Gently flip the roll over and press down the seam.  Place seam side down on the plate and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.

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When you are ready to slice, use a serrated meat or bread knife.  Wet the blade before every cut.  I usually chop my sushi into eight pieces, as that’s simplest.  I’ll cut the roll in half, then line up the two pieces side by side to cut those pieces in half again, and then those four pieces in half one more time.

And there you have it!  Homemade sushi!


A Quick Pumpkin Smoothie

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My breakfasts are pretty routine, but certainly driven by the season.  Summer=cold breakfast, winter=hot breakfast.  Fall and spring get a little muddled. While eggs of some kind are always an option (I think I ordered eggs and fries 90% of the times that we visited the after-9pm eatery on campus during my college years–no meal is better at 1am), but eggs do take a little bit more cook time.  This is mostly due to the fact that we do not own a toaster.  Since we freeze our GF bread, thawing and toasting is pretty much a requirement.  Also, the last thing I want to do is start off my morning with multiple dirty pans.  So eggs require shifts: toast, then bacon or sausage if we want, then eggs in the same pan; and these shifts take just a minute or two more than I can spare on most days.  Oatmeal can easily be changed up with different add-ins, keeping breakfast interesting.  I don’t often have cold cereal in the house, but if we have it, it works on the fly.  Though I almost always prefer a hot breakfast, I can sometimes manage a cold one if it is served alongside hot coffee.  I need something hot to eat/drink in the mornings, even in the blazing summer.  When I can manage a cold breakfast, yogurt and smoothies are my favorite.  I can occasionally pack some spinach into my smoothies, but my poor, little 5-year-old magic bullet blender has certainly seen better days.  Of late, I’m usually left with diced spinach in some fruit goop.  Not especially appetizing.  I have had great success with avocado and cucumber smoothies, but I haven’t taken the time to snap a photo.  Lately though, if I am looking for some vegetable matter blended into breakfast, it is coming in squash and sweet potato form.  I’ve already baked both into muffins.  When I can put the same with some milk, spices, grains, nuts, and seeds, and have it taste eerily like a dessert: game on.  This smoothie, just like every other pumpkin smoothie on the web, taste like pumpkin pie.  But, this has the award for being one of the only smoothies containing oats or nuts that I have found palatable.  I’m not big on graininess that usually accompanies these ingredients as they enter the smoothie realm.  Here, both ingredients contribute the “crust” flavor, and, when well-blended, boost the thick, creamy texture of this drink.

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Pumpkin Pie Smoothie 

Serves: 1 | Prep: 2-3 minutes | Cook: —

  • 1/2 c. pureed pumpkin, frozen*
  • 3/4 c. milk or yogurt (non-dairy is fine)**
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed
  • 1-2 tsp. chia seeds
  • 1-3 tsp honey, agave, sugar, maple syrup or molasses (my favorites here), to taste
  • 1-2 Tbsp. chopped pecans, optional
  • 2-4 Tbsp. GF rolled or instant oats, uncooked
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ginger, ground
  • dash turmeric***
  • dash salt
  • ice cubes*

*A frozen element creates that frothy delicious texture I’m looking for in smoothie.  If the pumpkin is frozen, you will not need the ice cubes.  Vice versa, add the ice if you pumpkin is refrigerated or at room temperature.

**Using yogurt will create a much thicker smoothie.  You may have to add some liquid (water or milk) to thin to your desired consistency.

***I am working on sneaking more turmeric into my diet in every possible way–so whenever a recipe calls for ginger, I add a dash or two of turmeric as well.

Add ingredients to blender in order listed.  Blend well, pulsing several times then blending for 1-3 minutes until smooth.  If intolerant to oats, replace with additional half Tablespoon of flax seed and additional teaspoon chia seed.   Blend well, then allow smoothie to rest for 5 minutes, then blend again for 30 seconds.  The flax seed and chia seeds will help to thicken the smoothie without oats.


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A Weekend, A Wedding, and Chocolate “Surprise” Muffins

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We had a whirlwind weekend in NC full of laughs, though not much relaxation–at least in terms of catching up on sleep.  We did, however, catch up with many friends, partake in piles of wedding crafts, and (at least on my part) eat our weight in Carolina barbecue and sweet tea.  I actually had a bit of a sugar crash on the first day, since I’m rarely imbibing anything beyond coffee, hot tea, water, and cider these days.  One too many glasses of sweet tea, perhaps.  On Friday, we spent the day preparing for the wedding, and I slipped off to get mani-pedis with the bridal party ladies in the afternoon.  The salon was fairly busy, but spacious enough that even though we waited for almost an hour before nail preparations began, we spent that hour in the massage pedicure chairs.  Fine by me!  Take your time, sir, and let me adjust this kneading cycle up to my shoulders…  We were all saved when M’s mum arrived late Friday night.  While the rest of us were slowly turning punchy, she immediately went into event planner mode, and was the fresh set of eyes that we needed.  She and I, exempt from wedding party duties on Saturday, were tasked with transferring everything over to the venue and doing the final venue check before the wedding party’s arrival.

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(This basket is made out of chopsticks! Pretty fun, isn’t it?)

After a quick stop back at the hotel to change, it was time for the main event.  I can honestly say that this was one of the most enjoyable weddings that I’ve attended.  There was lovely attention to detail throughout the beautiful venue, and the blend of hand-crafted and rented decorations came together seamlessly.  The bride and groom had clearly done their research, and several elements of the ceremony and reception were new to me.  They had a ring-warming, where the rings were passed in a small bottle through the hands of the attendees, to allow for blessings, prayers, and good wishes before the rings were exchanged.  They also filled a bottle with different colors of sand–while I had seen this before, it was the perfect opportunity to incorporate their son into the ceremony.  He had his own color to add in with his mother and father’s.   The bride and groom’s young son also provided some beautiful (when he carefully got up from his seat mid-ceremony to pick the fallen leaves off Mommy’s train) and hysterical (wrestling with his cousin on the dance floor) moments throughout the day.  He was impeccably behaved, a trooper through the whole long party (especially considering he missed his nap).  M and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  I had such a good time that my phone stayed in my purse the whole time, and M’s hardly touched his, either.  So, unfortunately, I don’t have any photos from the wedding.  M’s mum snapped a few of us, though I will have to track those down from her.  We really should get better at taking pictures together!

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On Sunday, we took our time getting home.  After breakfast with the entire bridal party, we headed over to show M’s mum Saxapahaw, since we knew she would love it even more than we did.  The old mill and warehouses have been converted into a Performance Venue, complete with Coffee Shop by day-Bar by night refreshments,  a small outdoor amphitheater space, and gallery.  The short row of establishments continues: a charter school, a rental/sales company for the apartments built in the converted warehouse, and a general store.  The general store is a lovely little place full of local/organic vegetables, fruit, meat and dairy products, locally made soaps and lotions and crafts, and tons of hard to find products: specialty beers, gluten-free brands, homeopathic remedies.  It also has a short-order kitchen and seating area that dishes up specialty sandwiches and breakfast items–most of which can be made gluten-free.  The duck fat homefries first tempted us into ordering (anyone else mildly obsessed with the Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives where Guy Fieri visits the beer place serving duck-fat fries topped with pulled duck meat and duck jus?  Or is it just me?).  But M caught sight of a special: “Coconut Milk Braised Pork Shoulder Sandwich with rice wine cucumbers, manchego cheese, basil, sriracha & soy sauce”.   A not below the menu said all sandwiches could be made with gluten-free bread, but we faltered at the soy sauce.  Just as he was settling on the roast beef sandwich that I was ordering, we saw the bottle of soy sauce on the counter.  The cooks were using Organic, Gluten-free Tamari as the soy sauce for everyone.  I can hardly express my gratitude when restaurants take these precautions as well as proving that “gluten-free” doesn’t have to mean a loss in flavor.  A few more questions settled the issue–the sandwich was definitely gluten-free….  Oh man, you guys!  This was sandwich heaven.  My roast beef, while delicious, absolutely paled in comparison.  A slow braised in coconut milk infused the barest touch of creaminess and flavor into the pork, melting in your mouth amidst the crisp bite of lightly-pickled cucumbers and red onions, rounded out by the traditional flavors in the herbs, tamari, and sriracha.  It was unbelieveable!  I went back up to the specials board to snap a picture, so I would have the base of ingredients for recreating this sandwich, and it was already sold out!  M must have snatched up the last of the pork.  Lucky, lucky man.  The homefries were quite tasty as well.

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Too good to stop and wait for photo set-ups!

We purchased some local steaks, local beef stock, real fermented pickles (!), and (to M’s delight) a pound of local, European-style butter.  I am so glad I remembered to bring a small cooler with us.  The meat and stock were frozen solid, enough to keep it all cold for our drive back home.  I broke out the stock the next day to make a riff on pho, while the butter emerges at nearly every breakfast.  That weekend was the last of the sunshine–we have had pouring rain all week.  M and I celebrated our anniversary yesterday, but that will come in another post as my very first attempt at a restaurant review!

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I first tested this muffin recipe a few weeks ago and immediately fell in love with the deep chocolate flavor paired with the knowledge that a healthy dose of vegetables were included.  I made it again right before we left, and this batch truly powered me through the weekend.  A muffin and my homemade granola made a meal out of the motel’s grab-and-go breakfast bar, where there wasn’t much beyond yogurt for us to eat amidst the cinnamon rolls, biscuits, and gravy.  I brought them over to the bride’s house for morning wedding preparations, where the muffins were kid-tested and -approved by the four year old of the house.  A variety of fruit and vegetable combinations replace the oil in this recipe (and are the “surprise” part), while whole grains, flax, and the option of nut flours round out these little chocolate powerhouses.  While I use a combo of eggs and flax seed, the eggs can certainly be replaced to make this muffins vegan.

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Chocolate “Surprise” Muffins

Serves: about 12 | Prep: 20 minutes | Cook: 25 minutes

  • 1/2 c. almond meal (can replace with additional 1/3 c. of buckwheat flour for nut-free)
  • 1/3 c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c. mashed pumpkin or mashed sweet potato or applesauce
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed
  • 2 “flax eggs” (1 Tbsp ground flax seed+3 Tbsp boiling water per egg)*
  • 2 eggs*
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. grated carrots or grated sweet potato or grated zucchini
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips (Milk, Dark, White…optional)
  • 1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

*Can replace eggs with flax eggs for a total of 4 “flax eggs” OR can replace “flax eggs” for a total of 4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Mix up flax eggs and allow to gel.  Set paper liners in muffin tin and spray liners lightly with cooking oil to grease.

In a large bowl, combine almond meal, buckwheat flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and cocoa powder until thoroughly mixed.  In a small bowl, stir together mashed pumpkin/sweet potato/applesauce with water, additional flax, eggs, flax egg mixture, vanilla, and grated vegetable.  Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients.  Stir in optional mix ins.  Scoop batter into lined muffin tin and bake for 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out mostly clean (a few clinging crumbs are okay).

Allow muffins to cool completely on baking rack.  Store, tightly sealed, on the counter for up to two days or in freezer for several months.  Thaw or warm before eating.


Sweet & Smokey Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

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We have finally had a much-needed, relaxing weekend here.  With my company’s weekend classes starting next Saturday, I know it is probably our last ‘official’ (that is Saturday-Sunday) weekend off, but I’d even be happy with a few more instances of Sunday-Monday or Monday-Tuesday freedom–some kind of weekend-type spread, wherever it might occur during the week. Again, working in the arts and entertainment industries keep M and I on strange schedules.  But M actually had both Saturday and Sunday off, and, aside from a brief Saturday morning shift, I was free as well.  After sleeping in (to a glorious 8:30 AM…oh, adulthood) M spent Saturday on a day-long bachelor party for his friend–go-carts, skeet shooting, bars, steaks, and beer pong with the boys.  Punc and I headed over to visit my mother and let Punc get some energy out by playing with my mom’s dogs.  I didn’t do much beyond chat with my mother (and visit her baby turtles–head over to my Instagram to see them! –>), but it was lovely to simply sit and do nothing for a while. I did go through my great-grandmother’s recipe box for ideas for a new project of mine.  I will hopefully have more news on that soon!

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Today, after another lie-in, M and I walked Punc and I actually climbed back into bed after my shower for another nap–guess I needed a bit more catch-up for my sleep bank!  M and I went to an oyster roast with his coworkers and I came home with a bag full of apples from our friend’s parents’ farm.  They’d pushed a full milk crate onto him and his roommates, but I was happy to take a pound or two off their hands!  I will probably bake a few into something sweet, but I think most are destined to become apple butter…which will then probably find its way into a baked good. Now, I’ve banished myself upstairs while M watches the Breaking Bad finale.  I’m lagging in season two, simply for lack of time.  Usually, he will wait and watch it online on his iPad after I’ve gone to bed, but I figured the end should be on a real television.

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M and I are going down to North Carolina this week for the wedding.  I am stocking up on NookBooks and hoping M will have as brilliant of a find as our last road trip’s The Bone Season for our audiobook.  We’ll be gone from Thursday to Sunday.  While he has a host of wedding party duties, I’m hoping I can get some serious relaxation in before we hit the race of Fall: Fall/Winter = holidays and Holidays = a lot of work in all of our jobs.  Hopefully I can squeeze in another post before we go and maybe I’ll find something inspiring over the weekend!

Today, I have a delectable recipe for Tomatillo Salsa that has been waiting quite patiently for some time.  My recipes are stacking up–pumpkin smoothies, several variations of the softest peasant bread imaginable, and even some veggie-packed muffins are waiting for their turn on this blog.  This salsa is perfect: though I am desperately clinging to tomatoes as summer comes to a close, I’ve been seeing tomatillos everywhere, still going strong.  Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of all of the vegetables, and can help prevent the watery taste that can sometimes come with tomatillos.  If you are looking for something a bit different to top your chips, give this salsa a try!

 

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Sweet & Smokey Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Serves: 8-10* | Prep time: 15 min. | Cook time: 30 min

  • 1 pint tomatillos (about 5-6 large, or 10-15 small or medium)
  • 1 small green bell pepper
  • 1 large poblano pepper
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion
  • 4-8 garlic cloves, peeled (to taste–I used 7)
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers** (optional)
  • 1/2 c. packed cilantro
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. good olive oil
  • salt & black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Shuck the tomatillos by firmly grasping the stem and twisting.  The stem and papery skin should be easily removed.  Roughly chop tomatillos, all peppers (de-vein and de-seed jalapeños for less heat, leave some or all veins and seeds in for more heat), and onion.  Mix vegetables and garlic and spread in single layer over a parchment paper-lined, lightly oiled baking sheet.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  Roast for 30 minutes, until vegetables are soft.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Add roasted vegetables to a blender or food processor with cilantro, lime juice, sugar, olive oil, and additional salt and pepper.  Pulse to desired consistency.  If necessary, stir in more salt and pepper with a spoon, so as not to further liquify.  Chill at least 30 minutes before serving, or store tightly sealed in refrigerator for up to a week.

*As a dip.  If using to cover enchiladas, etc this should spread over 4-6 servings.  Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

**I did not include any jalapeños in the photos above–the salsa was incredibly mild, allowing the roasted sweetness and smoke to shine through.  The jalapeños are used to directly influence your preferred heat level.


Catching up with Almond Flour Scones

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It has been over a month since I last posted, in spite of my best intentions.  My summer camp, as mentioned, ate up a considerable portion of each day.  With our move, M and I are further away from this job, so that meant that we were up by 5:30am every morning to walk Punc, pack lunches, and get ready to leave the house by 6:30.  We usually didn’t get home until 5:00 or 5:30pm, and by then, quite truthfully, it took all of my remaining energy to put together some semblance of dinner, then shower, and sleep.  On the very first day of camp, I came home and simply couldn’t move for four hours.  I adore my job, especially the summers, but it takes constant energy.  After twelve hours of acting, blocking, stretching, singing, dancing, planning, memorizing, and leading; it was an achievement to keep my eyes open until 10:00pm.

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We have one week left, but I can confidently say that this summer was the best one yet.  We had truly outstanding staff and equally outstanding students.  I have spoken about teaching before, touching briefly on how inspiring my students are to me, and how teenage culture is played out before me only a few years after I left it, myself.  I always feel as though I learn as much from my students as they (hopefully) do from me, and this year, as always, I had several particularly inspiring students.  I will not go into details–the privacy of my students is the most important thing–but I can say that, a physically exhausting as camp has been, I know after a few days of proper sleep, all of this inspiration will have me refreshed and ready to dive into our fall classes.

scone pile

I did manage to have a few adventures in the kitchen, mostly inspired by our farmer’s market finds.  I hope to share those adventures soon–just one more week of camp (and my birthday) to get through before the schedule returns to normal!

With all of my early mornings, filled with harried lunch-packing (though I tried my best to pack the night before, so much of our sliced veggies and fruits or sandwiches, etc would have suffered from sitting overnight, leaving me with some prep every morning) and even quicker breakfasts, it was important for me to find something quick, portable, and protein-packed.  Our camp has a nut-free policy, but I rely so much on the handy protein of nut products that I often found myself searching to pack them into my breakfasts, and then thoroughly washing my hands upon arrival.  These scones, with their tantalizing mix of whole-grain flours and almond meal, were the perfect fit for my breakfast bill.  The scones are exceedingly flexible in terms of add-ins–I made another batch of white-chocolate blueberry scones, as well as cherry pecan, using the same recipe.  Those eluded photographs, but I do have my first batch of blueberry lemon spice scones to show off.  These scones freeze beautifully.  I was able to grab a few, microwave for ten seconds for a quick thaw, and then carry them to eat in the car on the way into work.  These scones are easily vegan.
scone duo

Almond Flour Scones

Serves: 8 | Prep time: 15 min |Cook time: 10-15 minutes

  • 1 1/4 c. almond meal
  • 3/4 c. oat flour, teff flour, or additional almond meal (and any mixture therein of the three)
  • 2 Tbsp. corn starch (or potato starch)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 Tbsp. boiling water
  • 1 Tbsp. flax seed (ground)
  • 2 Tbsp. milk of choice
  • 2 Tbsp. honey or agave (granulated sugar may be used, but you must add an additional Tbsp of milk)
  • dash salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or citrus juice, for citrus scones)
  • up to 1 Tbsp spices or zest of choice, optional
  • up to 1 c. of add-ins (dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, fresh fruit, etc), optional*

*If only one type of add-in, I usually ended up using only 1/2-3/4 c.  If using two types, I used up to 1/2 c. of each.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Combine boiling water and ground flax seed in a small bowl, stir together well and allow to rest, thicken, and gel for several minutes.  Combine almond meal, flours, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, and any spices (if using) in a large bowl, stir until thoroughly mixed.  Combine milk, vanilla/juice, and honey and any zest (if using) in small bowl.   Add liquids, plus the gelled flax mixture, to the dry mix and stir until fully incorporated.  Stir in choices of add-ins*.

*For the scones pictured, I stir 1 tsp of cinnamon into the dry mixture, 2 tsp. of lemon zest and 1 tsp of lemon juice into the milk and honey mixture, and 3/4 c. of dried blueberries into the dough.

Dump the dough onto the lined baking sheet and shaped into 1 large or 2 small round circle(s).  Cut each circle into eight triangles, but do not separate the triangles.  Bake for 9-12 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from oven, recut at the lines, but, again, do not separate scones.  Allow to cool.  Store in a tightly sealed container on the counter for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to one month.

If you would like glaze the scones, wait until completely cool, then mix 1/2 c. powdered sugar (with up to 1 tsp. spices) with 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 2 Tbsp. water or citrus juice.  Drizzle over cooled scones and allow to harden.

 

 


Berry-Lemon Syrup

lemon berry pancakes top

I hope everyone had a beautiful Mother’s Day weekend!  I finished up our last showcase on Saturday, which went perfectly smoothly, and now has me calm and collected for the six weeks of prep work and school classes remaining before summer camp.  Sunday was nice an simple, with the mum and the mom (and the brother and friends) coming over for a barbecue.  I marinated some Buttermilk-Dijon Chicken and then passed it over to M to grill with some quick-rubbed ribs and asparagus while I baked a vegetable gratin and beautiful little pots de cremes that surprised even me with their simplicity.  Both will soon be appearing on the blog sooooon!  I did not take pictures on Mother’s Day, but that just mean I will have to make both recipes again!  Such a shame! (Once again, I am longing for a sarcasm font).

lemon berry pancakes close

Spring has been fickle here.  Since we didn’t get any snow until March, I can’t say that I’m surprise that we’ve been switching from torrential downpours, to gusty gray chills, to sticky, hot humidity over the past two weeks.  The only reliable feat of weather was that, when we had to load or unload props and set pieces, the rain would begin.  Usually in earnest.  Ugh.

But the past two days have been sweltering, in spite of the storm warnings.   I think that now, in May, spring may finally have arrived, just in time to shift to summer (I’m knocking on the table right now).  And I have finally let go of the warming soups and squash dishes of winter.  I’m embracing zucchini, craving berries, peaches, and bright green salads.  Though M and I are pretty firmly into a bacon-and-eggs breakfast rut (I’m now out of fruit and yogurt  and can’t bring myself to make oatmeal on warm mornings), when I had the extra time to spare I threw together some doctored-up GF Bisquick pancakes.  But only after the batter was mixed, did I remember that we had no syrup in the house.  We still don’t…it’s one of the those strange pantry essentials that always get missed when making the grocery list.

lemon berry syrup jar 2

But we did have berries and lemons, and I figured I could whip up something without much trouble.  I happen to love pancakes, especially GF Bisquick’s (I’m withholding my raving for the moment), plain, but I know that I may be in the minority there.  Plus, when I have a morning to make pancakes, I’m practically going all out.  This berry-lemon syrup really is just fruit steeped in a simple syrup.  Crushing the fruit releases some juices, but the boiling and simmering really infuses the flavors.  I set my batch simmering and was able to cook my pancake batter in the 15-20 minute simmer time.  A quick strain and a stir was all that was left separating this fruity syrup from soft, warm pancakes.  Try this for breakfast, it’ll definitely give your day a good start!

lemon berry pancake bite 2

Berry-Lemon Syrup

  • 2 c. mixed berries*
  • Juice + zest of 1 large lemon (2-4 tbsp juice, up to 1 Tbsp of zest)
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 3/4 c. sugar (agave/honey would be fine, just needs more reducing time)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

*I used a mix of blueberries and strawberries, but any combo, or even just 2 cups of one kind of berry, should work just fine.

Use a potato masher or a fork to mash the berries in a medium sauce pan.  Add water, stir well and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Boil for five minutes.  Add in sugar, stir until dissolved.  Stir in lemon zest.  Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to med-low to simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Strain fruit from syrup.  If a thicker consistency is desired, return syrup to pot and continue to reduce until desired consistency is reached.  Remove syrup from heat, stir in lemon juice and vanilla extract into syrup.  Serve warm.

This syrup will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks.  Try it on pancakes, oatmeal, yogurt, ice cream–anything you can think of!  I also reserved my strained fruit pulp to add to smoothies, but you can discard the pulp, if you wish.