Thursday, January 12, 2017

Butternut and Apple Soup

A new year is upon us and that’s a good thing. I love a new start. Yes, I love Mondays. I love new novels and new shoes. I love new haircuts. I love to taste a new wine or to eat at a new restaurant. I just purchased new drinking glasses and, honestly, I feel like singing!

Adding an apple to a squash soup was new to me…..and I loved it. Be forewarned, this soup is not like other squash soups you may be familiar with. There’s no brown sugar, no nutmeg, no curry…just that apple. And that’s enough.

Here’s what you need:
2 C cubed butternut squash
2 leeks, sliced and washed thoroughly
1 medium onion, diced
1 russet potato, peeled and cubed
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cubed
1 quart vegetable broth

Here’s what you do:
Throw it in a soup pot, simmer for about 30 minutes, allow to cool a bit, blend.

I guess I could have added a garnish, but , whatever….. I am actually sipping a cup of this soup as I write this post….no time for parsley.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Asparagus and Walnut Lasagna

Here is a very simple and elegant lasagna based on a recipe found in the tiny gem of a cookbook: “Vegan…Made Simple.” I have mentioned this book before and I can’t recommend it enough. (As I write this, I see there are used copies on for $.01… kidding!)

Check out how simple the ingredient list is. The method is equally simple. The result is very sophisticated.

Here’s What You Need:
1 pound of fresh asparagus
2 T olive oil
2 T non-dairy butter
½ C minced onion
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ C flour
4 C soy milk
1 T soy sauce
1 T Worcestershire sauce (optional because this is not a vegan ingredient)
1 C chopped walnuts, divided
8 lasagna noodles

Here’s What You Do:
Prepare the lasagna noodles as directed on the package. Set aside.
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough ends of the asparagus. Lightly steam it. Set aside.
Sautee the onion and garlic in the oil and butter until they are very soft, but not brown. 

Add in the flour and incorporate it into the melted fats. Add the milk, a bit at a time, whisking it thoroughly. When the milk has all been added, continue to cook over medium high heat until it thickens. Season with soy and optional Worcestershire.
Layer ½ of the asparagus, ½ of the walnuts and 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of a 9x9 baking dish. Arrange 4 of the lasagna noodles over the sauce. Make another layer, ending with sauce. Sprinkle 1 few table spoons of walnuts on the top of the casserole. Bake for about 20-30 minutes until warm and bubbly.

Allow to cook for at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Lemony Carrot Top Pesto

If you are lucky enough to come across freshly picked carrots at your local farmers market, buy them. Especially if they still have their gorgeous lacy green tops. Make a simple carrot soup with the roots and for a gourmet finish, make a pesto with a handful of the tops. You won't regret it! I use this beautiful green pesto in all sorts of ways. You see it here smeared on a grilled cheese sandwich. Puts a soup and sandwich meal over the top.

Lemony Carrot Top Pesto

Here's what you need:
2-3 garlic cloves
1/2 C raw almonds
large handful fresh carrot tops
small handful fresh parsley or basil
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt to taste
olive oil

Here's what you do:
While the food processor is running, drop in the garlic cloves. This will chop them very finely. Add the almonds and greens and run the processor, helping incorporate all the leaves with a spatula if necessary. Add about 1/2 cup olive oil and continue to process. Add salt and pepper and lemon juice to taste. This pesto can be as thin or thick as you prefer.

This pesto freezes nicely. Use it as a dollop on soup, or mixed in dressings or over pasta.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Petosky Stones on a Michigan Beach

Have you noticed a spirit of discontent and dissatisfaction that has absorbed into the fabric of people lately? I see it everywhere and it troubles me. I see people raising their voices at strangers. I feel the disgust toward me from people who are of a different political persuasion. I sense judgement, prejudice, condemnation.  I hear members of my own ‘clan’ criticizing each other behind the backs of so-called friends.

We attended an art show this week and my husband commented, “All the art seemed so angry.” – loud and in our faces.

I don’t know….maybe it’s just me.

As I age, I want my life to be a gentle and peaceful presence upon this planet. I want my tiny splash to make ripples of goodness and grace and forgiveness and acceptance.

Remember that old song? “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” 

Are you humming? Me too. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Gift of Purples

Majestic is what we say
Harkening back to times of thrones and wealth
Rare and royal; adored or despised; youthful and mature at once

Even the word itself is special:
               Effort needed by both tongue and mind

We foolishly try to capture purple:
               Paint in little girls’ bedrooms
               Jellybeans; Easter eggs; nailpolish; eye shadow; construction paper
               I loved a purple turtleneck once:
                               metal buttons on the cuffs, worn with a purple plaid skirt

I think better to allow nature to provide the majesty surrounding purple:
Sunsets that fill a horizon
Violets under our feet
Shadows on a half-buried shell

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Cheesy Cauliflower Mash Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

For whatever reason, my zucchini plants have produced tons of male flowers and very few female flowers the past few years. The male flowers have long stems and never produce any fruit. The female flowers grow very close to the base of the plant, they have stockier stems, and they develop into the squash.

So, I have learned to prepare and eat the gorgeous blossoms! How lucky is that? They are so fantastic! If you are fortunate enough to have blossoms on your zucchini plants, consider stuffing them and treating yourself to the most amazing treat!

Today, I stuffed them with leftover Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower and leftover corn.

Here’s what you do:
Pick the blossoms
Carefully open them, rinse out little critters and bees (I’m serious)
Remove the hard yellow part inside
Carefully stuff them with goodness (usually a cheesy mixture, but whatever seems good is appropriate)
Dip in a mixture of 1 C milk and 1 T cornstarch
Roll them in a mixture of 1 C flour and some seasonings (oregano, thyme, basil, salt, pepper, etc)
Lightly pan fry them until golden on all sides.

Admittedly, these were very delicate because the cauliflower mash was probably softer than the traditional stuffing used in blossoms, but no worries. They were delicious! 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Parmesan and Herb Mashed Cauliflower Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

I live in a tiny village. One small grocery store (that does not carry tofu), one small Dollar Store (that sells great canned refried beans), one little coffee shop (it’s NOT Starbucks), and one drug store (walking distance from my home and a regular stop when I run errands).

We DO have a fantastic bakery (I’ve been known to eat a cookie or two) and butcher shop (I’ve never stepped foot in it), and we DO have a great library (if they don’t have the book, they will gladly send for it). 

I didn’t grow up in a small town, so it’s always nice to be reminded of the ‘small-town’ feel that surrounds me. People smile and say hello! We wave at each other! Our community Facebook page is *mostly* filled with praise for local businesses, tips on local services, and compliments on particular events. (Oh, we do have our complainers, but let’s ignore them for now.)

Last week at the grocery, Dawn (my cashier, the daughter of my neighbors, and at whose home we store our boat all winter), commented on my mushroom purchase. We had a nice little mushroom conversation; other people in line even chimed in. So nice. Small town. Friendly. Hopefully, I educated about what to do with large, beautiful, delicious Portabella mushrooms.

I hate the name of this recipe, but I wanted to get in all the elements. Please try this! I’m planning to serve this the next time I have a dinner party. A true culinary creation!

Here’s what you need for the Parmesan and Herb Mashed Cauliflower:
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets, non-dairy butter, non-dairy milk
½ C cashew Parmesan (1 C raw cashews, ¼ C Nutritional Yeast, 1 t salt, high speed blender)
Lots of fresh herbs (basil, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley)

Here’s what you do:
Place the prepared cauliflower florets in boiling water and cook until very soft. Place in food processor and whirl until creamy. Add margarine, salt and pepper, and only a tiny bit of milk. Use a spatula to encourage any stray pieces to stay under!

Add the Parmesan and herbs and whirl until blended. Season with salt and pepper. You’ll have way more than you need for 4 giant mushrooms, but you can eat the leftovers exactly like mashed potatoes.

Here’s what you do for the portabellas:
Remove the stem and gills from the underside of the mushroom using a small spoon. Cook on a grill pan, drizzling a tiny bit of oil on the round side of each mushroom. A little salt will help draw out some of the mushrooms’ moisture, and that’s a good thing. Turn the mushrooms over once in a while and do not rush them….you want them completely cooked and knife tender. Use a foil tent to help them steam a bit. They're not going to fall apart, so keep grilling them till they're nice and soft. 

Remove the mushrooms to a baking sheet. Fill with the cauliflower mash. Top with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. DIVINE!!! Super elegant! 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Polenta Croutons

I’ve been known to boldly say, “Bread makes the sandwich.” And today, I boldly say, “Croutons make the salad.” Scatter these on your favorite Caesar and you’ll be thanking me.

Eat your salad and add these croutons!

It could not be easier to make these, but you do need a pizza stone to get the nice chewy edges on the polenta.

Start with a store bought tube of regular polenta. 

Use a sharp knife and turn the tube shape into a rectangular shape. This will not only make it easier to cut the polenta into cubes, it will eliminate the coating that exists on the polenta. Cut the polenta into ½ inch cubes. Drizzle with ½-1 teaspoon olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Carefully place the polenta cubes on a smoking hot pizza stone. (Well, at least preheat your stone in a 450 degree oven.) Bake for about 15 minutes, then turn the cubes over and bake for another 15 minutes or until the polenta is nice and crisp.

I found the best way to turn the cubes over, is to put them back in a bowl, toss them a bit, and then pour them back on to the stone. CAREFUL! Everything is 450 degrees!

It’s difficult not to eat the entire batch of polenta croutons before they even make it to the salad!  

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Zucchini Crust Pizza

What’s your favorite color? Green
What’s your favorite book? “Lonesome Dove”
What’s your favorite song?  “Life Song” (Casting Crowns)
What’s your favorite vegetable? Lettuce (I’m serious)
What’s your favorite place? The lounge chair on my deck
What’s your favorite food? Pizza. Pizza. Pizza. Pizza. Pizza. Pizza. And more pizza.

Here’s what you need:
2 medium zucchinis
½ C chickpea flour
1 T ground flaxseed
1 T vegetable oil
1 t oregano

Here’s what you do:
Grate the zucchinis by hand or in a food processor on the finest setting. Put the shredded zucchini in a large sieve and sprinkle with salt. Use your hands to mush the salt into the veg and allow it all to set over a bowl for about 20 minutes. Stir it once in a while and squeeze the liquid out. After 20 minutes, really get in there with your hands and remove as much liquid as possible.

While the zucchini is doing its thing, make a flax ‘egg’ by mixing 1 T ground flaxseed and 3 T water. Whisk the mixture and allow to sit in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
I flipped the crust over to show you how nice and golden it became. 

Mix the ‘dry’ zucchini (really, squeeze it a lot), the flaxseed ‘egg’, the chickpea flour, oil, and oregano and mix it all well with your hands. Spread it into a circle on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven The bottom of the crust will be nice and golden.

Top with your favorite pizza toppings and heat through for another 5-10 minutes. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Cilantro Pesto

Cilantro is as divisive as the current political arena, don’t you agree?

In the world of American politics, you’re either a Democrat or a Republican and there is NO room in between. And it’s going to get even more ‘exciting’ as the months move along. Hold on to your hats, folks!

It’s the same in the world of cilantro – either you’re a lover or a hater and there is NO room in between. I’m right, aren’t I? Luckily, cilantro is not as important as who will be our next president, so let’s not fret too much over this controversial herb.

Here’s a super tasty way to use the villainous green stuff.

Here’s what you need:
4 C fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems
1/3 C toasted pumpkin seeds
1-2 gloves fresh garlic
½ - 1 fresh jalapeno, seeds and white veins removed
2 T lime juice (or to taste)
½ C olive oil

Here’s what you do:
Mix everything except for the olive oil in a food processor. Use a spatula to keep all the tiny cilantro leaves in the mix. While the processor is going, drizzle the olive oil in and be amazed at the glorious color!

I mixed a huge dollop of the pesto with some sour cream and plopped it on a black bean burger.

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