Monday, November 19, 2012

Spaghetti Squash, Kale and Goat Cheese Gratin

Happy Thanksgiving week! How does it find you? Happy/healthy, I hope. If not, I hope it finds you hopeful and with love. This year, as we retreat to the mountains for the better part of the week, I wanted to share my Thanksgiving dinner contribution with you all. All of the "kids" are contributing one dish each, and I've chosen one of my top 5 of all time favorites. I wanted to share it, especially, in hopes that perhaps you can find inspiration to add it to your own Thanksgiving menu...this perfect combination of squash, kale and cheese makes for the ultimate healthy, hearty, fall-inspired comfort food.

Spaghetti Squash, Kale and Goat Cheese Gratin

Cut one medium to large spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise. Put on place, flesh side up, and microwave for 12-14 minutes, or until soft. Remove from microwave and let sit until cool.

In the meantime, chop 1/2 of a large white onion, mince 3 cloves of garlic and chop a small handful of fresh sage. Cook in a medium saucepan over medium heat, with a medium sized pat of butter, until all three are translucent and your kitchen smells awesome! (Roughly 15 minutes).

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

While onion and garlic are cooking away fantastically, scrape the flesh of your squash into a large bowl. It will come out of the squash with the consistency of spaghetti noodles. I would suggest scraping as much squash as possible out of the shell in order to minimize waste and maximize your squashage!

Put bowl of squash aside. 

With onions, garlic and sage still on medium heat, add roughly 2 cups of fresh, chopped kale. Continue to saute until kale is soft and bright green. When this step is complete (roughly 15-20 minutes), add kale and onion mixture to the bowl of squash.

Stir  1 and 1/2 a cup of greek yogurt (I highly recommend Cabots!), and 1/2 a cup of crumbled goat cheese. 

Transfer into a glass baking dish and sprinkle salt, pepper and another 1/2 a cup of crumbled goat cheese on top. Bake for 20 minutes with foil on top. Remove foil and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until cheese turns golden brown, your stomach is rumbling and your kitchen smells incredible! Enjoy!

One reason that I believe this dish is perfect for a holiday is that there are several steps involved (which require a bit of time and a bit of patience). I can't tell you enough how much I LOVE THIS DISH! And how I can practically guarantee that you will too. 

What do you find yourself most thankful for this year? Do you use Thanksgiving as a time to personally praise all that you're grateful for in life? I definitely do, as cliche as it may seem.

As this Thanksgiving approaches, I'm thankful for so many things. I'm fortunate for all that I have in my every day life, for the health of my family and the health of my marriage. 
I'm thankful for my almost 3-year old, Cloveleigh Mildred, who constantly surprises me with language that reflects immense levels of caring for others and the particular type of beauty that radiates from deep within. 
I'm thankful for my 8 month old baby, Banner O'Grady, whose utter and untarnished sense of joy reflects an aptitude for an easy-breezy kind of love and happiness (what more do we want for our children?).
I'm thankful for the moments when I am caught off guard, at unexpected times, when I feel an overwhelming type of unstaggering love for the man that I'm lucky enough to call my husband.
I'm thankful for my dear friends and my dear family who build the entire web of support, love, clarity, honesty and insight in my life. Dear friends and dear family, I wouldn't be anything of a person without you. 
I'm thankful for opportunities in my life which have taught me to be tolerant, honest, hopeful, thoughtful and loving as a parent. I'm mostly thankful for the chance that I have to teach two miniature human beings about universal acceptance, equality, desire, tolerance and the meaning of true love. 

Happy Thanksgiving to my readers! I hope you enjoy this week as much as any other and find time to be thankful for the things in your life that make you exactly who you are.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Garlic Basil Crockpot Stew

Hi, readers! I was talking to one of my friends recently, and she was in the middle of preparing a stew that instantly made my mouth water. A brothy garlic/basil/vegetable stew? Sold! Some of my very favorite things right there! I spent a day or two contemplating this recipe and tailored it a bit to fit the needs of the recipients of my family (my loyal guinea pigs!)...and the recipe below is the version that I decided upon.
How are all of you? How are those of you recovering from Sandy destruction? How are those of you preparing for the holiday season? And those of you pretending it isn't already here? Can you believe it? We are off to listen to our almost 3 year old sing with her class at their Thanksgiving feast this afternoon...bound to be the cutest thing. I will share photos if I'm able to take some cute ones!

Here is a soup recipe that you can't mess up. It is SOOoooo good!

Garlic Basil Crockpot Stew
In a saucepan over medium heat, saute half of a chopped white onion and three large cloves of minced garlic in 1 tablespoon of butter, until translucent. Your house will smell fab and you've hardly begun! (score!)...throw in crock pot. 
Chop the following vegetables and add to garlic/onion combo in crock pot: 1 zucchini, 5 small red potatoes, 2 cups of fresh green beans, 1 cup of chopped fennel, 4 medium sized carrots, 2 cups of diced tomatoes and 1 cup of fresh, chopped basil. 
Add a carton of vegetable broth and 1/2 a cup of water.
Add a can of pinto beans (or a similar bean...whatever is available to you!)
Add a dash of sea salt and a dash of fresh ground pepper, to taste. 

Cook on high heat for 3 hours and low heat for 1-2 hours. 

Serve with crusty, warm, buttered bread. We added cheddar cheese and greek yogurt to the top of ours before eating, which I thought was the perfect addition. You could also toy with parmesan or goat cheese! Yum! 

I cant hardly explain how simple this recipe is...perfect for a weeknight! I decided to make it on a cold, dark day and I believe that the finished product couldn't have been more fitting. Would it be ok for me to have a bowl for breakfast today?

So...Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Do you have fun plans? We're tucking ourselves away in our family mountain condo in North Carolina and emerging only for the occasional wine tasting, downtown stroll or cozy italian meal out. I am SO excited to be reunited with my favorite family members for a couple of days. My mom and I are just beginning to talk menu...I can't wait to share a bottle of wine and spend the day cooking with her. One of my very favorite, most heartwarming things to do. Would you share your plans with me? I would love to know what you have in store.

I'll revisit with you on my blog later this week as I experiment with butternut squash tacos! Have an awesome day!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Vegetable Stuffed Acorn Squash

Happy Sunday (early!) morning! How has your weekend been? I'm sitting on my couch with my hands wrapped around a warm mug of coffee (mixed with local honey) and am SO enjoying these spare moments of peace and quiet. When I wake up early in the morning, I give myself a choice: do I close my eyes for longer or rise and face the world? I almost always choose choice 2. These moments of alone-time as the sun rises, sipping coffee and gazing out of my windows as the world comes alive wins...for me. With these minutes of calmness before my household wakes up, I approach my day (and my family) with much more zen as they eventually wander out (or whimper from crib for retrieval) to join me. Ah, I love a good Sunday morning.
Last night we attended a wedding for one of my dear co-workers and spent time with old friends and made new friends as well. A night without children (thank you in-laws!), and conversations about my old workplace began to make thoughts about returning to work feel like more of a reality. Oh, the torn thoughts and feelings involved in this decision (so many, so conflicting!)...the positive aspect of my inner work related dialogue involves an opportunity for evening work, which would allow me to mosey in for a few hours each evening as my husband returns from his workday, requiring no huge home upheaval or the intense and difficult search for appropriate and trusting childcare. So very tempting! 
Also a big week for Americans...election day is on Tuesday! I can hardly believe it's here. Oh, the anxiety that I feel about this election knows no bounds. (breathe in, breathe out)....have you done your part and voted? Or do you have plans to vote? I'm so proud when I see men and women lined up outside of the early polling locations, waiting hours to vote, practicing their right to participate actively in our democracy even when it requires line dwelling and patience. VOTE, folks!

What I really wanted to do here today is share my newest recipe with you today, the mother of all stuffed squash recipes! After some experimentation on Friday night, I can officially say that I am proud of the final product! A perfect vegetarian delicacy (very filling!) for fall. Follow the instructions below for a meal that will most definitely leave you fully satisfied and content.

Vegetable Stuffed Acorn Squash
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pierce an acorn squash with a knife several times and heat in microwave for 3 minutes. Remove, and cut in half. Scoop the seeds and dispose or compost this part so that you're left with two halves, clean and ready for stuffing. 
Rub the flesh side with butter and place face down on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Once this step is complete, turn squash over and cook for an additional 15 minutes on their backs.

In the meantime:
In a medium sized saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. 
Add: 1/2 of a diced onion (any kind!), 1/2 of a diced bell pepper (I used yellow. Fun fact: red has the most vitamin C!), 1/2 of a diced granny smith apple and 2 carrots, chopped. Feel free to add any additional vegetables that you may have! 
Cook until vegetables are tender (10 minutes) and add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of red wine (I used shiraz), 2 teaspoons of brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for an additional 5 minutes and then remove from heat.
Mix with 1 tablespoon of feta cheese. 
Remove squash from oven and let cool a bit for easy handling. Fill squash with vegetable and cheese mixture and top with a combination of mozzarella and feta cheeses.
Bake on 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese begins to turn golden brown. 

Serve warm and ENJOY! 

Well, I've just had the pitter patter of pajama clad feet wander over to me and join me for the beginning of a lovely Sunday, so signing off here, please enjoy the rest of your weekend to the max! Fingers crossed for the most apt and able candidate to win the presidential race! Eeeee!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Rosemary Pumpkin Pasta

Hi there, blogger world! So many thoughts for peace to my readers who have been affected either directly or indirectly (aren't we all to some extent? Shouldn't all of mankind affected by disasters which affect some of us?) by Hurricane Sandy. So much love going out to all of you from my household. What a devastating week it has been, for so many people. 
New in our (very lucky, hurricane-free) household, our waking/sleeping lives have shifted slightly as our 7 month old baby Banner has thrown us into memories of newborn sleep patterns while he struggles with the discomfort of teething. In a nutshell: we are TIRED! All of us. This baby does not want to be put down, demanding more snuggles and patience than any other time in his little 7 month old life-poor little soul, deeply uncomfortable with the very foreign changes occurring within his little mouth, and very little understanding about the how and why. But one thing has remained constant through the chaos of the last week: we are hungry, we need comfort food, we're starting to get really cold (love!) and so...the blog continues! 
Recently, I made this delish recipe for Rosemary Pumpkin Pasta, which filled my belly with such warmth and satisfaction that if it weren't for the lost art/need of culinary diversity, this would be in my belly every single day. Good news from my kitchen=its full of a variety of beautiful, different kinds of squash after today's trip to the market! Feelings of Christmas morning excitement for this girl!

In the meantime, we will continue to send positive and healing thoughts to victims of this terrible hurricane and those affected on every level of devastation. 

Rosemary Pumpkin Pasta
Gather 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary. While you're removing it from the stem and breaking it into tiny pieces, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on your stovetop (on medium heat), in a saucepan. 
After the oil becomes hot, toss rosemary into the pan, cooking for a couple of minutes, until it becomes crispy (not burned!) and a deep, beautiful green color. Your rosemary should remain green and should not turn brown or black. 
Once you've achieved the perfect dark green color and minimal but brittle "crunch", remove and put on a plate, blotting oil from rosemary.
(Try it. Just a little taste....AWESOME!)

Cook one box of pasta, al dente: penne or linguine. I've tried both and either work amazingly. 

In the meantime, combine the following ingredients in your oil (which should still be warm, but turned down to a medium-low heat for the next step):
1 cup of water
1/2 a cup of half and half
2 tablespoons of white-wine vinegar
1/2 a cup of parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can of pumpkin puree, or roughly 15 ounces of flesh from one sugar pumpkin (roasted, scraped and pureed-leftover can be saved for future pumpkin recipes, and refrigerated for a couple of weeks)
Salt and Pepper to taste
A dash of red pepper flakes

The longer this cooks (low, on your stovetop), the more pronounced each flavor will become independently and as a greater combination of flavors. If you're in a hurry, toss with pasta and serve immediately. If you have time and are approaching this recipe more leisurely, simmer for up to 2 hours for an extra-amped up taste!
Crunchy rosemary distributed generously among plates, on top of pasta, is the most perfect finish. Also sprinkle a bit of red pepper flakes to garnish atop the rosemary. 

As always, I served this with a beautiful spinach salad, buttery, crunchy bread and white wine. 

I have passed this recipe on several times since it's first creation and it has a large audience appeal. This is the perfect make ahead meal as well, and can be delivered to a family with a new baby, or perhaps a new neighbor, or coworker. If you choose to do so, pack the sauce and rosemary in a tupperware along with a box of dry pasta. The sauce can be easily reheated and the pasta can be easily prepared when the timing is perfect for the meal recipient! I recently brought this meal to a friend who delivered her baby and the ease of the meal was key in the meal-giving. (If you're delivering to a family with a new baby, pack a bottle of wine as me! Encourage celebrations to begin!)

I hope that this post finds my readers well and feeling helpful towards our fellow men during this difficult time. Today, my two year old daughter, Cloveleigh, and I gathered several bags of toys to donate to children who have lost theirs in the storm. Consider at least a small gesture, if it's all you can do, because many small gestures equal something beautiful and much, much greater.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pumpkin Lentil Soup in Crock Pot

Does the idea of coming home to Pumpkin Lentil Soup stewing away in your crock pot at the end of a busy, blistering day make your mouth water? This is a thick, hearty recipe that I'm going to keep tucked away in my back pocket and make on repeat as the colder days approach. THIS is a recipe you'll want to make on a day when you're destined to end up under a blanket, fireside. Trust me, there. 

So. How is everyone? I love the busy feeling that's been constantly buzzing around me lately as we begin to make holiday plans, destined to be full of family, love and laughter. 
I've been thinking lately about romantic relationships, as so many people around me seem to be in relationships that are moving forward, backward, remaining stagnant, etc. I think that during the holiday season, people are more preemptive in their search for a romantic partner. Have you seen that? Have you done that?
I'm safe to say that my husband and I met many years ago at the very beginning of a very typical MARCH. But it's true, isn't it? Lots of people don't want to be alone during the holiday season, they want to share, to love, to make holiday memories...
...the funny thing is, as colder weather approaches, I always feel a busy buzzing love of independence as well. (to counter the affection and family time that naturally accompanies having a holiday-time husband, not in lieu of it, mind you.) How about you? Are you drawn to be surrounded by romance and love and company during the colder months, or do you seek solo adventures, accentuated by warm soups and chilly wind in your hair? I would love to know. Share your stories with me. 
And until then, PLEASE oh please enjoy this soup!!

Pumpkin Lentil Soup in Crock Pot
Combine the following in your crock pot, approximately 6 hours before dinner time:
1 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 apples, diced into tiny pieces
1 small sweet potato, diced into tiny pieces

1 cup of red lentils
1 (15.5 oz) can of pumpkin puree
3 cups of vegetable broth + 1 1/2 cup of water
1 1/2 tablespoon of curry powder
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
A pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons of garam masala
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper

Serve with either honey cornbread or buttered rustic baguette (toasted)

I used roasted pumpkin seeds on top for garnish with a dollop of greek yogurt. 

I hope you all enjoy this soup as you cozy up at the end of a long, well worn day. Love. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Black Bean Burger and Yucca Fries

Good morning! This morning, I'm sitting here with a steaming mug of green tea (fighting off our inevitable weather change family cold), listening to the Be Good Tanyas Pandora station (j'adore!) and thinking about FOOD! I really wanted to share my black bean burger recipe with you, which pairs oh so perfectly with yucca fries (recipe also to be posted below...correlated with photos above!). 
I'm watching Cloveleigh in a pure state of fascination as I type. I've put together a first aid kit for her to use on her babies, as lately she's been completely absorbed in anything medical-related. I'm watching her administer a painful-looking number of vaccinations on her infant baby doll and plastering her with "I am BRAVE!" band-aids. Mostly, I'm fascinated with her precision and her singular focus in this process. Such a thorough, careful girl. 
Additionally on my mind is our weekend full of love and laughter! My sister-in-law and new brother-in-law have tied the knot! After a weekend of complete revelry, we've added a person to our family (whom I adore!) and things are beginning to quiet down around us as the post-party dust settles.
Which brings me to my next point...FOODfoodFOOD! 
Ok, here we go! 
I've probably made a total of 20 homemade black bean/veggie burgers over the years, and I've finally accomplished a combination of recipes which I consider to be the BEST I've had, and I'm dying to share this recipe for you. I SO hope you can incorporate it into your next cookout!

Best Black Bean Burger You'll HAVE! (makes 4)
(best made the night before grilled...warning: this burger has a perfect little zing!)

In food processor or blender, combine the following:
1 can of black beans, drained
3/4 a cup of rolled oats
2 ears of yellow corn, raw corn shaved off of ear directly into blender/food processor
2 thinly sliced green onions
3 garlic cloves
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
1 small white or yellow onion, diced
2 teaspoons of curry powder
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper, as needed
Blend these ingredients thoroughly, until the mixture creates an almost paste-like texture. 

Transfer to covered bowl and let sit overnight in the refrigerator. 
The next day, add 3/4 cups of whole wheat or plain breadcrumbs, mix well, and form into 4 patties. Refrigerate on plate until grill-time! 
These must be grilled in a basket, because they are dainty and can be difficult to handle. These can also be cooked in a pan on your stove top with a drop of olive oil, on medium heat. I much prefer the grilling option!

With these burgers, a variety of toppings will create a perfect and thoughtful balance. In the past, I've tried some of the following: caramelized onions, roasted corn relish, avocado, provolone cheese, goat cheese, spicy pimento cheese, tomatoes, spinach, a handful of basil, spicy mustard or honey mustard and/or roasted red peppers.

If you try to make these burgers (please do!) and branch out with tasty, alternative toppings, please share them with me! I would love ideas to further evolve this delicious meal, as usual.
I highly recommend that you serve these with YUCCA FRIES! (yum!)

Here is my very own YUCCA FRY recipe:

Obtain 2 large yuccas, and peel skin with carrot peeler, or industrial kitchen peeler. Skin resembles bark and can be tough to peel, but with patience, will be removed by dedicating only a small amount of extra "umph" than required for a carrot or potato.

Cut yuccas both into thirds, lengthwise. Boil in water, on medium heat, for roughly 12 minutes. If boiled too short, will have a tough texture. If boiled too long, will fall apart. Because of the precision involved in this step, this is becomes a mindful recipe. Yucca should be fork tender when cooked appropriately.

Remove from boiling water. Once cooled, cut in half down the middle, and remove the vein that runs directly down the center of each yucca. This is easy to locate and easy to remove.

Cut into fry-sized wedges. Heat coconut oil on medium heat (I used a cast iron skillet...perfect!), and fry yucca until golden brown. The idea will be to end with a soft center and crunchy, golden brown, exterior to your yucca fries.

My love of raw is in a constant state of war with my love of cheese. As usual, a bit of cheese won the victory. As a result, I sprinkled the yucca fries with lime juice, garlic, sea salt and grated parmesan cheese. I served these with a homemade spicy ketchup (easy! equal parts ketchup and wing sauce!).

This meal is (excuse my language)...damn good. I hope you'll enjoy it!

How ARE you all? Well, I hope! I have lots of delicious fall-inspired recipe ideas coming up this week...pumpkins! lentils! root vegetables! kale!....hope your appetite is ready for them all. I KNOW mine is! Love to everyone. Enjoy your Tuesday! 
PS: Below, is a photograph of my sweet Cloveleigh, the flower girl (seated on a trolley on the way to the church!) alongside my handsome hubby. I hope you enjoy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lemon Yogurt Pasta

This pasta recipe is easy, quick, and delicious. In my opinion, this is an ideal weeknight dinner! I'm sure you're not surprised that another of my Fall recipes is comfort food. Should I apologize for more warm, filling, carby goodness? I just CAN'T. My job is to keep you full, satisfied and warm this Fall. Salads to come next Spring, that I can promise. So...let's get started. This dish is DELICIOUS (and Pinterest inspired with a few of my own little twists)!

Lemon Yogurt Pasta
Cook a box of whole wheat pasta (I prefer spaghetti for this particular recipe) al dente (7-9 minutes).

Saute 2 cups of spinach and 2 chopped tomatoes in olive oil, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 2 minced garlic cloves. Saute on medium heat until spinach is wilted, roughly 10-12 minutes. 

In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 a cup of Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the juice of one lemon, 2 teaspoons of grated lemon zest and 1/2 a cup of shredded parmesan cheese, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of salt and black pepper to taste.

Add drained pasta to vegetables and coat well with the oil, spinach and tomatoes. Mix lemon yogurt sauce into warm pan with pasta and vegetables and toss until well coated. 

See how easy this is? It's even amazing leftover...and you know what that means! Middle of the week packed lunch with flair! How is that to get through this week's Hump Day? 
How was your weekend? Mine was wonderful, full of time outdoors with my family, delicious food and good coffee. Please let me know if you find time to make this recipe and if so, what you think. Did you like it just as it was? Or make any changes to yours that completed the dish for your specific palate?
I hope everyone is well. I'm shocked at how quickly this month has flown by so far! We have a special wedding this weekend for my husbands baby sister. So exciting! What are you looking forward to, currently? I would love to know. 

Until we meet again, have a happy week! 

Blogger me

Isn't it fun seeing ourselves photographed at times we didn't expect? A friend of mine came over last week for a lunch date and sat down for a cup of coffee as I finished writing my latest blog post. She snapped a few photos and mailed them to me this morning. Here's a glimpse of a late morning blogging session with one of my true loves, my baby Banner. I am so madly in love with this snuggle bug, and he is usually just an arms length away while I post recipes for all of you to see! Happy Monday!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Roasted Root Vegetable and White Wine Soup and Ice Cream Cake

Hello! Last night, I wanted to make the perfect fall-inspired chowder to eat outside in front of our outdoor fire with warm scarves and a glass of wine. We had company over, so I wanted to create a comfortable ambience. The photos featured above are exactly what I ended up with. It WAS the perfect fall evening, which felt like comfort in its entirety, with my newest favorite obsession, the Thievery Corporation Pandora Station!
Do you ever just look around you, use all of your senses to take in your environment, and take a deep, satisfying breath, thinking "This is it. Pure Peacefulness."? I try to achieve this feeling at least one time a day and last evening was it for me.

I would love to share my newest recipe with you! (followed by homemade Toasted Coconut & Chocolate Ice Cream Cake...double yum!)
Here you go!

Roasted Root Vegetable and White Wine Soup (in crock pot)
Chop roasted root vegetables into bite sized pieces and put on roasting pan or cookie sheet.
I used: 1 sweet potato, 2 red potatoes, a handful of brussel sprouts, half of a head of cauliflower, 3 whole garlic cloves and half of a head of broccoli. 
Toss vegetables with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a combination of spices. Any combination would be great, but most importantly, include dried thyme and coriander. I used a combination of spices including: coriander, thyme, savory, rosemary, basil, tarragon and lavender.
Roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
Transfer to slow cooker with 4 cups of vegetable broth and a cup of fresh corn kernels.
Cook on low for 6 hours.
Add one cup of heavy cream and 3/4 a cup of white wine, salt and pepper within the last hour of cooking. 
Blend with immersion blender or transfer in batches to blender/food processor and return to crock pot.

I served with crunchy, toasted baguette with a pat of butter, a dollop of greek yogurt and a dash of habanero hot sauce. This soup was divine, seasonal and easy to prepare. 

And now, for dessert!

Toasted Coconut & Chocolate Ice Cream Cake

Mix the following ingredients in a medium bowl, and transfer to a lightly greased springform pan:

1 cup sugar
1 cup of all purpose or bread flour
1/2 a cup of cocoa powder
3/4 a teaspoon of baking soda
3/4 a teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 a teaspoon of salt
1 egg
1/2 a cup of milk
1/4 a cup of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 a cup of boiling water

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Let cool at room temperature and then transfer to freezer.
When transferring to freezer, remove a pint of chocolate ice cream, and let thaw.
Within 1-2 hours, take your chocolate cake out of the freezer and spread a generous layer of soft chocolate ice cream on top, while still in springform pan.

Toast 1/2 a cup of shredded, sweetened coconut for 10 minutes at 30 degrees and sprinkle on top of the ice cream cake with a combination of 1/2 a cup of dark chocolate chips.

Freeze until ready to eat.

THIS cake is delicious and I've created a recipe that is simple and incorporates many ingredients which are likely sitting in your cabinets. This is one of those special recipes that appears to be much more sophisticated than the amount of sophistication that it takes to create! And ROCKS! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

Good morning! Featured above are photos from the easiest chili I've ever made and a no-fail honey cornbread recipe as well. 
Do you ever wake up on the wrong side of the bed? I woke up yesterday in a complete funk (it's so rare for me!), feeling much older and more tired that I should at my energetic 29 years! It was difficult for me to pinpoint the cause. My personal mental health practice is that when I feel a certain way, even if it's unfavorable, to allow myself those feelings until they pass. I think respecting/accepting the way that you feel indicates a sense of self-worth and self-respect. Saying to yourself "I feel like I'm in a funk, and that's okay for today" is an important task (as long as you don't treat people poorly because of it, of course). I think that if you beat yourself up for feeling funky, it perpetuates the cycle of feeling badly, and why make yourself feel worse when you're already feeling down? 
With children, the dimensions (and self-exploration) of my moods have become more impactful. I made a promise to myself early on in my mothering that the most important thing is to teach your children that it's okay to be mad, sad, frustrated, etc, but that together, we can learn to cope with any feeling that we experience. I often praise my 2 year old for feeling brave, strong, patient and worthy after a meltdown because she has practiced an expression of these feelings. Sometimes children just need to know that someone is listening. How tragic it would be for the small people we've committed to teaching to feel as though they were screaming to the wind? 
I'm not afraid to cry in front of my children. I've cried twice in front of my 2 year old, Cloveleigh, who had approached me to say "Your eyes are watering, mama. I'm sorry, mama, I love you" and then finished her sweet sentiment with a big hug. Before children have learned to speak, they've learned to detect human emotions through our nonverbal behavior. Prove to them that they're correct in their assessment. My belief is that it's okay to admit that you're feeling badly and give them confidence in their detection. It's okay to show that you're not always strong. This will help them feel worthy when they aren't feeling strong themselves. 
In addition to trying my best to rear two children with a strong sense of how to handle and understand their emotions, one lesson I'm sure to pass down is the importance of comfort food on a day when things just seem to feel funky. 
And, of course, this leads me to last night's dinner! Listed below are two recipes for extreme (but not unhealthy!) comfort food. These will also be great to make on a cold or rainy winter day as well, guaranteed to fill your home with the smell of home and your belly with feelings of comfort. 

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili (in slow cooker)
Combine the following ingredients in your crock pot:
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 tablespoon of cumin
1/2 of a jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and pepper diced 
A pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups of vegetable broth
2 cans of black beans
1 can of diced tomatoes with green chiles (with liquid)
The juice of 1/2 of one lime
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cook on low heat for 6 hours. Serve with greek yogurt, shredded aged white cheddar cheese, green onions, avocado and lime wedges. 

Honey Corn Bread with Fresh Corn Kernels
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine 1/4 a cup of butter (softened) and 2/3 cup of raw sugar. Stir well. Add 2 eggs, 3/4 cup of honey, and 1 and 1/3 cups of milk. Mix well.
Add 2 1/3 cups of flour, 1 1/2 tablespoons of baking powder, 1/2 a cup of cornmeal, a pinch of salt and the corn shaved off of one ear of fresh corn. 
Mix carefully but not rigorously. 

Pour batter into 2 mini muffin tins (we made 24 mini muffins), 12 standard sized muffin tin, 6 jumbo sized muffin tin or an 11x14 inch baking pan. 
Cook for 30-40 minutes, and remove from oven when muffins have turned golden brown. 

I hope you enjoy these recipes and find comfort and warmth in eating them alone, or sharing with your friends and family. Of course I found them both to pair particularly well with a glass of wine. 

Do you ever wake up feeling funky? What's your feel-better recipe? Whether it be food or something else, I would love to know what makes you feel better when you're feeling down and out. I hope you have a wonderful day! Happy Tuesday! 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sangria Bar

Is there a more perfect time to introduce last weekend's Sangria Bar (for a bridal shower that I hosted) than now? I'm listening to the rainfall, enjoying a crisp Sunday afternoon glass of cab, and thinking about my readers and all of my recipes lined up for the week (which I'm so desperate to share with you as the week unfolds).
As I contemplated the planning steps involved in this party, the idea of a sangria bar popped into my mind and I couldn't shake it-so I set out to create it. I figured that this would be a fabulous way to serve a large group of people afternoon drinks and would also provide a beautiful, appealing bar set-up, with the rainbow of colors involved in 3 very different sangria recipes.
I found an A-Z stamp and ink set in my craft drawer, some old wooden slabs and paint in my shed, and created a shabby chic (and also very cute!) sign listing the types of sangria that were served at the party. I propped the wooden sign up against an ice filled galvanized bucket. I emptied the dry pasta from 3 of my tall glass IKEA jars (made with a metal latch) to use as sangria vessels. These were all simple steps to creating my sangria bar, and involved materials that were easily located around my house.
On your next rainy afternoon, pour a glass of wine (or cup of tea!) and investigate multiple uses for everyday items around your own house. The transformation can be amazing (and creating change can be soothing and calming to the state of your soul).
Listed below are the three types of sangria that I chose for my party. My best childhood friend came to help me prepare for the party and played a hand in helping me sample the sangria as we went (my belief is that any good cocktail recipe MUST be sampled copiously before being served to guests at any party).

Pink Lemonade Sangria
Combine one bottle of sweet white wine (I chose a pinot grigio), one bottle of sparkling pink lemonade (the bottle that we used is featured above, doubled as a vase once consumed), 1/2 a cup of simple sugar (made by boiling a combination of water and sugar until dissolved) and 2 lemons, sliced. 
This is a cute, crisp type of sangria that would be adorable at any afternoon gathering. I love the whimsy that it adopts by using pink lemonade and taking on a light pink color. Perfect for a garden party!

Red Ginger Sangria
Combine one bottle of red wine (I used a merlot), 2 cups of ginger ale, 1 tablespoon of minced, fresh ginger, 1/2 a cup of simple sugar, 1/2 of a pineapple, cut into small chunks and 1 cup of frozen strawberries. 
This was a beautiful shade of red, and I would consider it versatile for parties hosted any time of day (or night). I would highly suggest tasting this one as you go, adding simple sugar as you see fit. Your palate may be very different than mine, and its important that you love the beverages that you choose to serve.

Sweet Honey Plum Sangria
Combine one bottle of white wine (I chose chardonnay), 3/4 cup of honey (mixed with boiling water until dissolved), 3 plums, sliced (I found 3 different kinds to add to the hue) and 1/2 a cup of blackberries. 
This was a sweet, refreshing sangria that could be served all summer long and also into early months of Autumn. Sweetened with honey, it took a different taste that the other 2 recipes which were sweetened with sugar.

I enjoyed toying with these different recipes and trying to achieve party-worthy taste and colors. This was a sweet, cost efficient way to serve a large guest list. Featured below is a fun photo of my friend, Lianne, taste testing! If you have any sangria recipes which you've loved in the past, please feel free to share. I would love to learn more! I hope you've had a wonderful weekend full of hope and laughter.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Party Food!

I'm here today to talk about my FAVORITE thing! PARTY FOOD! I love cooking for parties and also love every second of brainstorming that goes into planning a party. The photographs above come from a bridal shower that I hosted this weekend. I would love to share a few of the recipes that I used. 
I could have better photographed the display (and am so bummed that I didn't get a photo of the outdoor sangria bar in daylight hours-which I had the most fun decorating) and was also too busy to capture images of the beautiful fresh flowers that came from my co-host (and best friends!) gorgeous Charleston garden. Oh well!
I'm going to divide this party up into 3 separate posts this week. Today I'm going to talk about FOOD! My next blog post will outline the steps that I took to create a lovely sangria bar (we had perfect weather!) and the 3rd part this week will feature desserts that were served. 

Here we go! I would highly recommend serving the following 4 recipes at a party, big or small. I cooked for a guest list of 12-14 girls, so these recipes are mostly suited for that number, but all would be easy to double or halve. 

#1: Red Lentil Hummus
This hummus had a nuttier and more exotic taste than your standard chickpea hummus. I enjoyed trying something new and was able to use Red Lentils that were shipped directly to me as a gift from a lentil farm in Idaho. (I received 20 lbs of dried lentils! THE most perfect gift!)

Cook 1 cup of dry red lentils in 2 cups of water with 3 garlic cloves, minced. Bring to boil, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. 
Drain lentils, reserving cooking liquid.
Puree lentil mixture in food processor and mix 1/2 a cup of olive oil, 1/4 a cup of tahini, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of Tabasco sauce, a pinch of cayenne and the reserved liquid. 
Cover and let sit for at least one hour at room temperature.

I prepared this hummus 2 days before it was served. On shower day, I threw back in food processor with 3/4 a cup of water and 1/4 a cup of olive, another pinch of salt and another pinch of cayenne and it created THE perfect consistency. 
Feel free to add garlic powder, more or less cayenne, salt, pepper, whatever you choose until you achieve the taste that you prefer. I've found that people have very differing opinions on how they choose to take their hummus so feel free to experiment with the taste as you go.
I served this hummus with sesame crackers, carrots and celery. 

#2: Olive and Feta Tapenade with Bread (Baguette, toasted and drizzled with lemon olive oil)
Chop 2 cans (one black, and one green) of olives into a small, chunky texture. I was able to discover olives that were canned with just oil and sea salt and were fabulous. Both were lacking that metallic taste found in some canned olives.
Add one small container of crumbled (full fat) feta cheese.
Toss in a bowl with the juice of one whole lemon, 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary, and 2 garlic cloves, minced. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, stir, and let marinade for as long as possible.
I let my olive marinade in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 2 days. I think that time frame completely added to its deliciousness.
I sliced a baguette, drizzled lemon flavored olive oil and toasted in oven to serve with my olive "tapenade" (which is much chunkier than your typical tapenade, I just chose to name it that because it needed a name!)
This recipe was one that I created as I went along and could EAT every DAY (It was fab and well received by guests! Perfect party food!)

#3: Maple Bacon and Pineapple Skewers
Cook one package of applewood smoked bacon about halfway (on 400 degrees for 15 minutes). Let cool.
Dice a whole fresh pineapple.
Wrap pineapple chunks in bacon and spear with bamboo skewers.
Roll skewers in dark brown sugar.
Bake at 400 degrees for an additional 10 minutes (or until brown sugar begins to caramelize pineapple and bacon is cooked thoroughly).
SERVE! Simple!

#4: Apricot Gorgonzola Canapes
Purchase a package of dried apricots in the bulk department at your grocery store (if you plan to make many of them, this is the most cost efficient option).
Crumble a bit of crumbled gorgonzola cheese in the center of each apricot.
Put one pistachio on the top of each blue cheese adorned apricot.
Drizzle raw honey on top of these golden little pieces of delicious party love!

I hope you can use some of these recipes at your next party! I had so much fun creating them and putting together a fun variety of colorful foods that turned out looking gorgeous together. 
What would I have done, especially in the creation of the next two features (sangria bar and cookie bar!), without my best and longest standing friend? I valued (most of all!) her sophisticated Sangria sampling palate and you can envision the fun we had. I can't wait to continue sharing party details with you this week and I hope some of these ideas are ones that you'd like to use as well.

My little almost 6 month old (with his new big boy haircut from this afternoon) has stared at a candles flame for about as long as I've been writing (what incredible singular focus babies this age have!). I'm signing off now to cuddle him, make tea, and embrace his tiny baby youth that appears to already have begun to disappear with his new trim! Have a wonderful afternoon. Much love. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cauliflower Curry Soup

Hello! I've spent such little time with my computer and such a great amount of time outside this week in the crisp air that I've hardly had a chance to check in. How has your week been?

Would YOU like to make a slow-cooking, really tasty, very suitable FALL soup? The recipe that I'm featuring today is so simple and delicious that I'm planning to make it many times over the next few months. My belief is that it could easily be used as a template for a much richer variety of soups as time goes on. My husband noted that adding small pieces of chicken would amp the heartiness and give it a bit more texture and taste. I think that tofu would create the same idea. If you make it and decide to add/subtract ingredients as you go, please share your ideas with me! I'm always interested.

Please forgive my hasty introduction. I usually find myself with more time to be contemplative and leisurely with my morning coffee/tea/blogging schedule than the time I have in the evenings. Are you a morning person? Or do you prefer your evenings? Or late nights? I'm most thoughtful when I rise with the sun...I tend to become clumsier and less thoughtful as the daytime hours tick by.

Ok! Here you go:

Set your crock pot to high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, one medium onion, chopped, 2 garlic cloves, minced, 2 carrots, sliced and one apple, chopped. Leave unattended (if you wish) for ten to twenty minutes. Add one medium head of cauliflower, chopped into small pieces. Add 2 tablespoons of curry powder and mix until all vegetables are well coated. 
Once this step is complete and your veggies all have an orangish hue from the curry powder, add 6 cups of vegetable broth and 2 cups of water. Also, a pinch of salt and black pepper, to taste.
Voila! Set on medium heat and cook for 6-8 hours!
Once you're nearing mealtime, add 1/2 a cup of milk or cream and blend soup with an immersion blender. Taste and add salt and pepper again, if necessary for your palate. (If you don't have an immersion blender, transfer soup to blender in batches and then transfer back to crock pot).

This soup is fabulous with a chunk of bread or some sesame crackers. I serve with a dollop of greek yogurt and a handful of roasted cashews, chopped, for garnish. YUM!

You can expect to find many slow-cooker recipes on my blog as the temperature decreases. I love coming home to the scent of sweet squashes, winter greens and spices that have been cooking all day long as I've been going about my every day business. It cooks itself! Comfort food! Perfection.

This weekend, I'm hosting a Kitchen Shower for my Sister-in-Law (to be married in October!) I've planned my menu and prepared most of my foods for the party. Early next week, I'll do a party planning feature and share some of my ideas with you for tapa-like, mid afternoon party foods and will completely fill you in on all of the details of my sangria bar! 

I hope everyone is having a wonderful week! Time for me to get my baby from his crib, pour a glass of wine, turn on a bluegrass-y Pandora station and make some decisions about tonight's dinner. Find a moment to consider your day through a calm sense of reflection. Take a deep breath. Enjoy your Thursday evening.