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!