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Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice Recipes

This has been one of those weeks of food when I think, "I should post this." But somehow the ingredients don't get measured, or it didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, or there was no time for a photo. So instead of giving you a single recipe with exact how-to's, I will share with you what I've been eating and hope it inspires you in some way.

For breakfast this morning I had oatmeal, but instead of the typical cranberries (or raisins) and walnuts I usually do, I switched it up and used dried sweet cherries and salted pumpkin seeds. Bring a cup of salted water to boil, add 1/2 cup of oats, reduce heat and simmer for about 5-7 minutes. Top with dried cherries, brown sugar, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, and a splash of milk if you like.

Last weekend I co-hosted a progressive dinner. My home welcomed the first course, and the second and third courses were at different homes in the neighborhood. My friend Candice and I made pomegranate fig dip paired with blue cheese and bread, along with mini latkes. Rave reviews all around. Candice also made a whole bunch of challah bread to go with the main course. I'm pretty sure she used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. We got to share in the bounty by keeping an extra loaf for ourselves, and it's been kind to us all week. A slice with butter as part of my breakfast. Leftover pomegranate fig dip and blue cheese grilled on challah bread. And this delicious peanut butter, banana, and chocolate toast on challah bread.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Quinoa

I'm back! I've missed you. My daughter Evelyn was born on October 20th, and since then I've been muddling through sleepy days and nights. And pulling food out of the freezer. And making familiar recipes that have already been posted on this blog. Thus the reasons for my rather long absence.

Having a child is much more demanding than I thought it would be, even after hearing other moms say it was hard. It just takes up so much time, and I don't even know where the time goes each day. Feeding, changing her, washing clothes, washing diapers, trying to get out on a walk while she sleeps, and on and on. I have been making a lot of rice and beans, pasta, and almond butter sandwiches. People have blessed us with lots of food that has filled our freezer and then our bellies. I have been baking and cooking from the new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and have been delighted with each thing I've tried.

Today I have a simple recipe that turned out better than I expected: Christmas Quinoa. It pretty much named itself when I realized the red sun dried tomatoes and green cilantro fit the season well. The roasted cauliflower on top is optional, but quite tasty. The key here is the feta. Find really good feta. My favorite is the sheep's milk feta from Trader Joe's. I think it's the best item they carry.

And now for the recipe. It's good to be back.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Perfect Black Beans

Black beans are one of my favorite comfort foods. They remind me of time spent in Latin America, and as one of the first meals I started cooking for myself that was successful. I used to make rice and beans all the time. In fact, I have a couple of previous posts up about black beans. I used to buy them in a can, and then I switched to dried beans, because they are cheaper and there is no worry of BPA. However, it was hit or miss for me to get soft, creamy beans out of dried beans. Sometimes they would be soft but separate, sometimes a little too hard still, but rarely the kind you can get from good Hispanic restaurants.

Recently I have had much more success. I made them last night, and could have eaten just a plate of these black beans. It's a two day process to get them this good. First you soak them for at least eight hours (I usually do it overnight). Then you drain the water and cover them with new water. Add salt, bring them to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to a low simmer. After about an hour, they will be soft. But! You can't stop there. If you drain all the water now, they will be pebbly, and not the nice creamy texture that makes them so delicious. If you plan to eat them later, dump all the beans and the water into a container and refrigerate them. When you are ready to cook them, saute the garlic and onions, then add the beans plus all the water and slow simmer them. The beans will absorb the extra water and turn out just perfectly.

Black beans are versatile. You can pair them with a bit of meat or stay all vegetarian. Serve them over rice, in soup, with a side of quesadillas (my favorite is sharp cheddar and crushed red pepper on whole grain tortillas), or put them in burritos or enchiladas. I usually cut up an avocado to have on the side. You can also do a pico de gallo (fresh salsa) to serve on top, or a dollop of sour cream. So many options.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Maple Latte

 It's autumn. There is a chill in the air. It's time for all things butternut, pumpkin, maple, apple, tea, and cozy. I've been longing for this season for a hot month here in Baltimore, where September is just a less intense version of summer. And, I'm due to have a baby any day.

During this pregnancy, I have left a job, started a business, organized and cleaned the entire house, and begun a new hobby (sewing). Now that the business is winding down at the end of the market season (to be continued in full next spring) I have a lot of time on my hands. The extra time has been wonderful for my nesting frenzy and getting ready for a baby. I have a crib, a carseat, a stroller, and all that jazz. I'm ready...or not. I look forward to a cozy fall and winter of bonding with my baby and being all snuggly. And drinking maple lattes, of course.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Preserving Tomatoes

I realize that most of you have probably turned your thoughts to cooler weather produce, like squash, but not so fast! There is still much of summer to be had, depending on where you live. I sit weekly at farmers markets selling my granola and admiring the beautiful tomatoes across the way. I wanted to figure out how to preserve them easily, without going to the trouble of canning.

Whole peeled tomatoes are so convenient to use in many recipes, but I am reluctant to buy them canned because of the BPA linings. Although some companies are now using alternatives to BPA, I read recently that all canned tomato products are still lined with BPA because of the acidity in tomatoes.

I asked a farmer at the market what price I could get on a lot of tomatoes. "Would you be interested in seconds?" he asked. "Seconds" are tomatoes that are slightly bruised, too big, too small, or otherwise imperfect. They are great for sauces and soups, and by the looks of the ones he gave me, for any other recipe too. Guess how much I paid for 25 pounds of tomatoes? Ten bucks! It was amazing. Three big bags of lovely tomatoes, all for ten dollars.

I reserved about five pounds to use fresh, and processed the rest of the 20 pounds by flash boiling them, plunging them into ice water, and then peeling them. I could have gone on to can them in a hot water bath, but instead I weighed them out into 28 ounce portions (the size of a large can) and froze them in freezer bags. The whole process, including cleaning up and packaging, took just over an hour. Totally worth it. Now I can pull BPA-free tomatoes out of my freezer all winter. Twenty pounds yielded the equivalent of nine 28 oz. cans.

1) Here's how it works. Set up your station. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice and add water, leaving some room at the top. Set up a towel on the counter that you don't mind getting tomato on. Have a slotted spoon ready, or you can use a pasta insert.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

There is a coffee shop in Baltimore that has a lovely, charming, city atmosphere. They have nice things to buy, a bar with stools looking across the street at a beautiful cathedral, and plenty of people to watch. They are within walking distance from the central library, which always makes for a nice pairing of activities, and the staff is generally nice. However. I just don't love their menu. They have limited breakfast options, so-so pastries, and I can't say I've had too much lunch there. The coffee is good, but never wonderful. But they have the most amazing pain de mie raisin, which is a thick slice of white flour raisin bread grilled in a hearty amount of butter. It is divine.

I wanted to try and recreate it at home with less sugar and half whole grain flour. I've come close to succeeding, but it will never replace the dessert-like version with all white flour and tons of butter. This bread recipe is very easy, as far as bread recipes go. Have you ever made bread before? It can be intimidating. I remember the first time I tried, it seemed like an insurmountable goal. But it wasn't as hard as I thought. It is truly rewarding to pull fresh bread out of the oven and make the house smell amazing.

This basic bread recipe, adapted from Cooking Light, has only four ingredients, and one optional ingredient (cornmeal). To make it cinnamon raisin, I added three additional ingredients. The standard formula for making bread is as follows:

- Proof the yeast (5 minutes)
- Mix the dough (8 minutes)
- Place into oiled bowl and let rise (45-60 minutes)
- Punch dough down, roll out, sprinkle with filling (5 minutes)
- Roll dough into loaf and let rise until doubled (45 minutes)
- Bake (20 minutes)

It looks like a huge time commitment (and it is) but keep in mind that the total active time is about 20 minutes. The rest is waiting for the dough to rise and bake. Here is the recipe and step-by-step photos to help you on your way to successful homemade bread.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Adapted from Cooking Light
Makes two loaves
I like to do other baking simultaneously. The reason is that the oven is on for a while and churns out a bunch of products, which I can freeze, and the extra heat helps the bread to rise faster. It's not a requirement, but it prevents hour-plus rise times in a cold kitchen.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Birthday Omelets

For Justin's birthday breakfast on Sunday, I made omelets. I like how this photo shows both our similarities and differences. His breakfast is on the left, mine is on the right. I gave him the fuller cup of coffee because sometimes I get headaches from too much coffee, and I take my coffee with cream. He gets a three egg omelet, I get two eggs. He gets four strawberries, I didn't even eat the ones on my plate because I had been snacking on them while cooking (I need food right when I wake up, he can wait a bit). I take butter on my toast, he uses jam or peanut butter, even on this amazing fig-anise-walnut bread. Little differences that don't matter, but I like to observe them.

On the day before Justin's birthday we had planned to hike. It looked like thunderstorms for the afternoon, so we decided to swim together at the park pool. Then, after discovering that the forecast was not as bad as we thought, we went for our hike anyways. After three hours, I curled up in a meadow while Justin ran ahead to get the car and pick me up. This pregnant girl was very tired after! 

I also made Justin salty caramel ice cream that turned out alright, but a little sweet for my taste. And, I cleaned out his closet. When I told him cleaning out his closet was part of his birthday gift, he looked really happy. "Really?" I asked. "Are you as excited as I am?" Oh yes, he assured me, his small closet had been getting out of control for quite a while, and it will be nice to have an organized closet before school starts. I love to organize, and after I finished I proudly showed him his new and improved closet. He was pleased, though not so much as me. Sometimes I open his closet door just to admire how everything is in its place.

Do you like to make omelets for breakfast? Or even lunch or dinner? They are satisfying for any meal. And you can use up bits of vegetables, half cut onions, nubs of cheese, anything you have. I love them, as I love most egg dishes. This time around, I used golden cherry tomatoes from our garden and paired it with goat cheese. I minced onion and sauteed that first, then combined it with the egg. To top it off, I sprinkled fresh basil on top.

Instead of giving you an actual recipe for these omelets, I'm going to give you tips on how to make a great omelet, and then list winning flavor combinations.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I'm In Business!

It has been a long, uncertain road, but earlier this week, I launched my business. Rising Up Bakery exists. Can you believe it? I can't.

Granted, that does not mean it's successful yet. One step at a time. However, it is started, and that has to come before any success.

I sold at two markets this week, one in Northeast Baltimore (Lauraville) and the other close to my house at Druid Hill Park. In spending many hours at farmers markets, sitting at my table with my wares, I came to identify different types of customers. There's the "please don't look at me I'm not interested" type that walks briskly by and avoids eye contact. There's the "I pity you so I will try a sample, but no way will I buy anything" (this is the kind I least like). Also the "I'm interested, but don't want you to know I'm interested, because I don't want to buy anything" customer, who also tries to avoid eye contact. Then, my favorite, the "I'm interested, and I'm moving my hands toward my pockets/purse because I'm going to make a purchase."

The very first person who wandered over to my table was a man who looked like he was on drugs, or coming off them. He was muttering to himself and looked rather distressed. He came over, twice. The second time I asked how he was doing in a loud voice, and he peered at me through his fingers. "Not great," he said, as if that were obvious. He won't buy anything, I thought to myself. Then, much to my astonishment, he grabbed a bag of honey squares and said, "These look good. I'll buy a bag." (!) He peeled a five off of a roll of bills and handed it to me. I was so surprised that I forgot to give him a dollar back in change. He didn't notice, but walked away, pulled out a honey square, and ate it. You just never know.

I was all set to sell granola, but people like the honey squares better, which are like little energy bars made of honey, peanut butter, carob powder, raisins, nuts, and seeds. I will have to triple how much I make next week. The granola was not as successful as I'd hoped, but maybe the more samples I put out, the more people will consider buying it. If not, then I will change my focus to healthy snacks like the honey squares.

Day two at a different market brought a different clientele. It was set in a park, so the atmosphere was more fun, and people seemed more willing to buy. Granola sold really well, as did the ginger-fig-walnut trail mix. A demographic that surprised me is that a lot of men like granola. It seemed like more men than women bought it. One man bought the Sweet and Salty (apricot pistachio) granola and was all excited. Ten minutes later, he walks by with his kids, eating it straight out of the bag. "Man, this is gooooood! I'm about to eat this whole thing."

There are many people I have to thank for helping me get in business. I have had a lot of support along the way, and it looks like it will continue. Mainly, my husband Justin supported my decision to start a business, and did not think I was crazy when I quit my job and no longer had an income (I still don't. It will take quite a while to make a profit).

I took a fabulous business class through Women Entrepreneurs of Baltimore (WEB) that equipped me to write a business plan and get started. I found a church, St. Mark's on the Hill, that was willing to provide an affordable kitchen for me to bake out of. And, my friend Gloria of Gloria Shin Designs designed a beautiful logo for my business, and put up with me and my details-minded brain.

Here is my very bare bones, needs a lot of work, website. I will add more to it and may even change the design, but just in case you wanted to know: risingupbakery.com.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cooking with the Mayor

What's that? The mayor? Yes, we had a cooking date Thursday evening. Surreal, right?

It all started with the Whitelock Community Farm, which is an urban farm a block from my house that I am involved with. For the past two years, the bountiful produce has been sold on weekends right at the farm. This year was the start of a small CSA (community supported agriculture) and expanding to another market in Baltimore. Last week, however, marked the kick-off of selling produce at a corner store in the neighborhood that is mostly frequented for sugary desserts, salty snacks, and high-fructose corn syrup laden beverages. The few canned goods it carries are dusty on the shelves.

This is a partnership and pilot program with Johns Hopkins University (read more in this article), with the goal being to deliver real food to low income neighborhoods and make it accessible. Selling the produce every day at the corner store helps make it easier for people to get fresh vegetables, especially if they don't have a car to go to the grocery store in another neighborhood. Even with a rather comprehensive bus system in Baltimore, it's difficult to lug a bunch of grocery bags back without a car.

Which brings me to cooking with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. As we planned this kick-off event, which would involve the farm, Hopkins, the city, and various other bigwigs, we decided to showcase how tasty Whitelock vegetables are. Board members volunteered to make various recipes, such as dips and quiches, so people could sample the produce. I volunteered to do a cooking demonstration using farm produce. Innocent, right?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Plum Pancakes

How is your summer going? I have been gallivanting around Michigan, visiting friends in New York City, and starting my business. Michigan held family, beach, a wedding, and cooler weather. New York City had incredible bagels, lots of good food, long-lost friends, and humidity. And my business? Oh yes, it is in its beginning stages. I registered for sole proprietor of Rising Up Bakery, found a commercial kitchen to bake out of, and lined up a couple of farmers markets to sell granola at. It has been a slow process of permits, fees, and setting up the framework of my business, but I'm hoping to start selling in two weeks.

Fun at Lake Michigan
It's stone fruit season, friends. Peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums. I love to eat a perfectly ripe peach that falls right off the pit. Apricots are lovely in tarts, and plums are great fresh, sauteed with honey, or in pancakes. Red plums showed up quite nicely in these pancakes, and I imagine they would be great in muffins too. On a recent Saturday morning, I woke up knowing exactly what I wanted for breakfast. I pulled out my Good to the Grain book by Kim Boyce and turned to the oatmeal pancake recipe. The recipe calls for oat flour which, if you don't have, you can grind up plain oats in a blender or food processor to make some.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Walnut Sponge Cake

While racking my brain for a light, summery dessert to bring to a dinner last week, I turned to one of my trusted baking books: Pure Dessert. The author, Alice Medrich, divides up the chapters based on different flavors, such as the flavors of honey and sugar, the flavors of chocolate, the flavors of nuts and grains, etc. It’s genius. Instead of poring over the index, I just turn to a chapter of a flavor I’m feeling. I knew I did not want to do chocolate, since it was so hot outside and chocolate can be a little rich. Cream and butter would have been nice with the right kind of fruit, but I did not have the right kind of fruit. My eye fell upon this walnut sponge cake that I had been wanting to make since buying this book. 

Generally, I am not a fan of sponge cake. They can be a little like Styrofoam without much taste. I had a feeling, though, that this cake would be different. The ground walnuts add moisture and flavor in a way that creates a light yet indulgent dessert. When topped with freshly whipped cream and blackberries, it becomes more special. For a dairy free version, you can also just dust with powdered sugar, or eat it as is. The cake will keep for three days, or longer if it is sealed well in the refrigerator. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Kale with Pappardelle and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Do you ever get a paper delivered to you that you never signed up for, and it has maybe one article of interest and a bunch of ads for the rest of it? Apparently, whoever lived in our house before us signed up for the Baltimore Sun Extra, and we still get it two and a half years later. Usually the cover story is about a local restaurant. Sometimes it features an in-season ingredient. Most of the time I just recycle it without even looking at it. 

This time around, the featured vegetable was kale. I discovered my love of kale about three years ago when Justin and I signed up for our first CSA (community supported agriculture). To be honest, I had never eaten kale before then (or collards or kohlrabi or quite a few other items). The Sun Extra featured a few recipes with kale, and this one with sun-dried tomatoes caught my eye. 

This dish has gotten much favor in our normal rotation of meals. I made it two weeks ago, then a week ago, then Justin made it for meal share. We love it. It’s simple, but it does take some prep. Don’t skimp on the 10 cloves of garlic; it really adds to the flavor. And the anchovies? You can’t taste them directly, but they are crucial for creating the deep, savory flavor that makes this dish what it is. If you cannot find pappardelle pasta, you can substitute an egg fettuccini, but it really is best with pappardelle. The noodles are so chewy and tasty. 

One batch of this pasta feeds me and Justin with some leftovers, or you can feed four and add a side dish. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hearty Country Bread

Sometimes it is the little things in life that delight me. Actually, a lot of the time. It is rare that big, grand events happen to us most of the time, but if you are on the lookout, there are countless little things that come along to brighten your day. Especially if you are a do-it-yourself type, like me.

Take, for example, the past few days. First it was a purchase from Ingaldsby farm stand when I was home visiting my parents. A wooden basket with "Les Fleurs" stenciled on it. I didn't have room in my bag, so had to mail it home. It arrived, I bought flowers, and I was absolutely delighted with the result.

Then Justin painted an Adirondack chair that I had wanted to finish ever since I acquired it from a previous roommate. It was once a very loud, colorful, and ugly Yuengling chair. Over the years, the paint chipped to the point that you could not sit in it without getting paint chips on you. Then the handle broke off. I scraped and sanded it before I left on my trip. Justin repaired and painted it a cheerful red when I was away, and I was pleased to come back and see it looking so nice on the porch.

A couple of friends and I made homemade poptarts upon my return. (Yes, that's right, homemade poptarts! They were incredible and you should go make them) It was such fun to roll out dough, choose sweet and savory fillings, and bake them to golden brown perfection. The next day I enjoyed one on my front porch with tea and a magazine.

And finally, homemade bread. What is more delightful than that? The work that goes into it, the smell of the dough rising, the fresh loaf cooling on the countertop. Then enjoying a slice with butter and jam, or taking a sandwich to the next level with something you made yourself. This time I made Hearty Country Bread from Baking Illustrated. The recipe is a little bit involved, but it's a nice weekend bread to commit to. Plan a day ahead, though, since you'll need to make a "sponge" which is a mixture of water, flour, and yeast that ferments overnight and gets added to the final dough.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

This week I visited family in Massachusetts. I've been having a wonderful time seeing friends, enjoying the cool mornings and evenings and sunny days, and spending time with family. I have bounced back and forth from my parents' house to my sister's.

This evening, my brother-in-law was delighted to make smoked bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers. Sounds intense, right? A whole jalapeno. Smoking the jalapeno mellows the spiciness and allows a nice flavor to shine through. A creamy sweet Italian sausage filling helps to cut the heat as well, and the bacon wrapped around the outside adds savory depth. These appetizers are not for the diet crowd, but they are flavorful and satisfying. Don't eat too many, though, or you won't have room for dinner! Make them for your next cookout and they are sure to satisfy.

Don't they look like little vegetable critters wearing bandannas? They were a bit addictive.

Other recipes you might enjoy:

Crispy Oven Chips

Cranberry Sage Cornbread

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

I think it is time for another muffin recipe, wouldn't you say? By now, you probably know I am a big fan of muffins. Scones and pastries are nice, but there is nothing like a good, hearty muffin. This seasonal muffin celebrates rhubarb. One of my favorite combinations is strawberry rhubarb, whether it be pie, crisp, or muffin. So I was excited to pick up some strawberries and rhubarb at the farmers market last weekend.

I planted rhubarb in my yard, and it is already poking its leafy greens through the soil, with a bit of red stalk starting to appear. If you ever grow rhubarb, beware of the leaves, which are mildly poisonous.

The recipe comes from Simply in Season, a Mennonite cookbook that groups its recipes according to the seasons. The original recipe is for just rhubarb muffins, which I would like to try someday, but this time I cut down on the rhubarb and added strawberries. I also used a blend of spelt and white whole wheat flours. I like my muffins less sweet, so I cut back on the sugar. With the crumble topping, there is just enough sweetness to balance out the less sugary muffin.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Beet Pasta

Ok, I know beets are sooo last winter, along with other root vegetables, but I had to share this recipe with you. Besides, beets are growing now. They are winter vegetables because they can be stored for long periods of time. But you can get them fresh this time of year as well.

Just look at the fuschia pasta! I love it. My taste buds love it too. The sauce is a pesto made from roasted beets, toasted walnuts, sun dried tomatoes, and olive oil. It is so easy to make and it tastes really nice. A welcome change from traditional spaghetti and red sauce.

The first time I made this, I used homemade ricotta to top the pasta. The second time, I used store bought, and I could definitely tell a difference. The homemade ricotta was smooth and creamy. The store bought was a little gritty. If you don't want to go to all the trouble of making your own ricotta, then I recommend using store bought creme fraiche. However, if you do want to take the time to make your own ricotta, I recommend this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Radish Tea Sandwiches

My French Breakfast radishes are always dependable. It doesn't matter how nourished the soil is or how much or little it rains, they always seem to come up -- fast. Just a few weeks, and they're ready to eat. Radishes make me think of the brief time my dad had a garden when I was a kid. The radishes were dependable then, too, and I remember being on the back deck and eating them raw with salt on them.

Another way to eat them that I discovered last year is with creamy butter and salt, including the leaves. Just plop them on the table with coarse salt and butter, and slice it on your plate. The most recent Bon Appetit issue suggested putting them on a sandwich with herbed anchovy butter. I had to try it, immediately.

It was quite nice. The sandwich was not too heavy in spite of all the butter, and the radishes tasted really fresh. I ended up adding more anchovies straight to my sandwich because I like them so much. I had this with green beans, and it was a filling meal.

Radish Tea Sandwiches
Makes enough for about 4-5 smallish sandwiches
From Bon Appetit May 2012

1/2 cup room-temperature salted butter
5 (or more) mashed drained anchovies
1 clove garlic, mashed
3 tablespoons minced chives
3 tablespoons minced tarragon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
Coarse sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Mix together in bowl

1 loaf whole grain bread
12 radishes, thinly sliced, with leaves
Extra anchovies (optional)
Spread herb butter on each slice of bread. Fill with sliced radishes and greens. Add extra anchovies if you like.

Printable Recipe

Other posts you might like:

Sugar Snap Pea Salad

Pantry Sandwich

Spinach Dip

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spinach Dip

Hello friends. I am a bit embarrassed that it's been over a month since my last post. I don't have much defense, aside from busy-ness. My business class has been challenging and helpful, and my huge binder of work has certainly been taking up some time, along with recipe testing, pricing, and marketing research.

My in-laws came a couple of weeks ago, and we had a great time doing house projects, working on the yard, and going hiking. My mother-in-law helped me paint the arbor over the chicken coop. Justin put the finishing touches on a new raised bed we built, and my father-in-law built planters to hold alpine strawberries (they're starting to sprout!). It was a fun visit.

Then, we went to visit my family for Easter. We had a lovely time, met the newest member of the family (my two month old niece), played ping pong, ate a lot of food, made a lot of messes in the kitchen, and then ate some more food. I even went shopping with my mom, complete with, "how does this look on me?" I don't think we had ever done that before, and it was nice.

So how have you been? Enjoying Spring? I love it. Everything comes alive. The birds are excited. The flowers start their parade: first the yellows, then the pinks, then the purples. Gardens grow and layers come off.

I have for you a spinach dip today. I was trying to think of healthy sides for lunches that are different than the standard apple or carrot sticks. I came accross this recipe in Whole Living magazine and changed it based on what I had on hand. You can make a single batch that will give you 4-5 servings for lunches, or you can double it and set it out at a party with raw vegetables and crackers. It's rather addictive, so I hope you enjoy it.

Spinach Dip
Adapted from Whole Living Magazine
Makes 2 cups, or 4-5 servings

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
4 cups spinach (or kale)
Saute the garlic in olive oil, and add in the spinach and salt. Cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Let cool a bit.

1 cup greek yogurt or cottage cheese
pinch red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 ounces Havarti cheese, diced
Transfer spinach mixture to food processor, and add in remaining ingredients. Puree until smooth.

Serve with assorted veggies such as carrots, snap peas, celery, red peppers, and cucumbers.

Printable recipe

Other recipes you might like:

Cottage Cheese with Lemon

Sugar Snap Pea Salad

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Banana Bread

I have to say, this is the best banana bread I have ever made. And it's so perfect, because today is Banana Bread Day.

Five years ago, after having dated Justin for 3 1/2 weeks, I discovered that he loved banana bread. I baked some banana bread and made a card reading something like, "I hereby declare March 8th to be National Banana Bread Day..." And we lived happily ever after.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chicken Ginger Soup

Feeling a little down? Chicken soup. Have a cold coming on? Chicken soup. Need some comfort food? Chicken soup. Just want something light? Chicken soup. It’s so versatile, right? Meets your (almost) every need. It’s also something I rarely make.

The chicken soup I grew up on had carrots, celery, and onions, sometimes rice, and good chunks of chicken. The stock did not stand out in my memory, but of course it was there, supporting the ingredients floating in it. I always liked chicken soup, but never gave it much thought.

I had dog-eared a ginger chicken broth recipe in Bon Appetit a couple of months ago, then forgot about it until a friend mentioned he had made it and it was excellent. Determined to give it a try, I gathered up the simple ingredients: onions, celery, carrots, lots of ginger, a small chicken. It simmered happily on the stove and smelled wonderful. When I tried it, it tasted healthy and pleasant and full of all things wholesome.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Honey Squares

These homemade energy bites always make me think of my mother-in-law. She brings them whenever she visits, and sends me home with a bunch whenever I visit her. The flavors of peanut butter, carob, and honey are complemented by crunchy nuts and seeds. Raisins add a little sweetness.

This recipe makes about 16-18 little bars that are quite filling. If you want to double the recipe, you can either make bigger bars or twice as many. They keep well in the fridge for about a month, so it is definitely worth the effort to individually wrap them and then pull them out for a snack. They are good to take hiking, eat as an afternoon snack, or eat after a good workout. You can use any mixture of nuts and seeds that you like, or use all seeds for a nut-free version.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sweet Potato Soup

Hey peeps. My first week of being thirty was grand. I got back into biking since spraining my wrist (I've been able to do everything else normally for a while now, but shifting gears was still painful until recently). I hosted a brunch. I went to a friend’s apartment warming party and had the best ever flan. And, I made this soup.

As promised, I have for you a lovely veggie centric recipe. This sweet potato soup is one of my favorites, and as I was photographing it, I thought, “I must have already posted this.” But I checked, and no, it’s a new one for you.

Sweet potatoes are a common rotation in my house. My husband declared he could eat them every day, and I’m sure with as many forms as there are to roast, bake, cook, or shred them, that would be true. Whenever he sees them nestled in with the onions underneath the counter, or out waiting  to be prepped, he lets out a loud, ‘’Oooooohh! Sweet potatoes!” The way to his heart.

This soup combines the natural sweetness of the tuber with a deep variety of spices like fresh ginger, cinnamon, curry, and cayenne. If you do not like spicy soups, cut the cayenne down a bit, but not completely. A dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream on top cuts the heat, and a sprinkle of roasted peanuts adds a nice crunch. If you’re avoiding dairy, just leave out the half a cup of milk added at the end.

Enjoy this soup with some crusty bread for dipping and a cool drink.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Almond Cake for My 30th Birthday

Yesterday I turned 30. Thirty. I’m not one of those people to hide my age or groan over birthdays, but wow. Thirty is a new decade for me, and I’m looking forward to it.

You see, I had such an eventful decade in my twenties. I graduated high school, college, and grad school. I spent a year in Nicaragua, met my husband, and discovered my life calling to open a bakery café. I acquired four nieces and lost three grandparents. I lived in two countries, one suburb, one island, one rural area, and one city. I moved six times. I bought a house. I completed an epic hike in the Grand Canyon. I got a bike. And my favorite cat ever.

What will my thirties hold? Seeing my business come into existence? Seeing my children come into existence? Getting my home repaired? (Oh, it needs it so badly). Completing a triathlon? (That’s a big maybe). Keeping bees?

One thing is for sure: I will continue to cook. And bake. And love life.

For my birthday, I invited some friends out for sushi, had them over afterward for games, and baked myself this almond cake from Alice Medrich's "Pure Dessert." It was a home run all the way. By the time my 15 or so friends left, there was only 1 out of 24 pieces on the tray. Mind you, I may have had three pieces, but it was my birthday. One piece of cake for each decade.