Zeb’s Waffles (from My Beef with Meat, by Rip Esselstyn)

We have been eating like kings around here lately. Along with time spent on preparing great meals, I have been reading a ton. Last week I read “The River of Doubt- Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey.”  I always assumed that I knew everything about Teddy Roosevelt, but how wrong I was. He could just be my new favorite President and that’s saying a lot because I have an on-going fascination with Jefferson and Jackson.

Was I the only person who didn’t know about his trip into the heart of the Amazon jungle, his near-death illness, and his obsession with adventure? This book was a face-paced, keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of book. Well written and chock full of gruesome details about life in the jungle. Termites that literally ate through clothing, uncivilized natives shooting poison darts, insects x 100, death and disease.  

I read with my iPhone in hand, pausing every few pages to do quick research about carnivorous fish, murderous Nhambiquara Indians, and maps of all sorts. I learned stuff like this: back in 1542, Spanish explorers noticed that certain native women went about naked, carrying huge bows and arrows. They could out fight 10 men. The Spaniards named these ladies “Amazons” after ancient Greek women who were said to have removed their right breasts to be able to shoot arrows better. A-mazos: meaning  no breast and hence the name Amazon.

A  Polish explorer wrote this after spending months in the Amazon: “Something began to go wrong in us. Coming daily into such close contact with the virgin forest we found that its grotesque forms and brilliant colors got on our nerves like a nightmare. It was stifling us; the whole exotic jungle became one gigantic cauldron of hatred and brutality.”

Hatred and brutality….. I love stuff like this!

I also loved these waffles from Rip Esselstyn.  Extra hearty and no sugar-rush I normally get after eating regular waffles. These are ridiculously filling - plan on serving only two small waffles per person. If you are not used to eating flaxseed, then you'll be surprised how quickly it fills the tummy. 

Zeb’s Waffles

2 ½ C old-fashioned rolled oats
¾ finely chopped walnuts
¼ C flaxseed meal
Zest of ½ orange
½ - ¾ t cinnamon
1 medium banana, smashed
1 – 1 ½ C almond milk

Mix the oats, nuts, flaxseed, zest and cinnamon. Place two-thirds of this dry mixture in a high speed blender or food processor and process until a fine consistency. Return this to the remaining dry mixture. If you prefer a less-chunky waffle, process all of the dry ingredients, but a little chunkiness was perfect.

Add the banana and milk and mix well. Add more milk if you want thinner waffles. Use the back of a spoon to spread the batter on the iron. Cook on a hot waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions. I served mine with fresh raspberries and a raspberry-maple syrup. Delish!

Chickpea Paella

This paella is so pretty – spectacular, in fact. If you've never made paella, then you might be surprised at how simple it is to create such a special dish. All you need is time, a low flat oven proof pan and saffron. If you have a paella pan, awesome! If not, I think a rimmed baking sheet would work in a pinch. A metal pan will give you the best result – a crispy, chewy, golden-brown bottom layer. I don’t really have quantities today –just trust your kitchen instincts and give this a try!

Here’s what you need:
Vegetable broth, warmed with a pinch of saffron (don't be shy)
Uncooked white rice
Olive oil (don't be shy)
Chick peas
Other various vegetables cut to bite size pieces. You can see I used red peppers, carrots, cherry tomatoes and snap peas. Lemon wedges are also delish in paella. (Peas are classic also.)

Here’s what you do:
Place the paella pan on low heat and coat it liberally with olive oil. Sauté the rice and chick peas in the oil, stirring constantly until the rice loses its pure white color. Carefully place the pan in a hot oven (350 degrees) and carefully ladle in some warm, saffron broth. Cover the rice with broth. Close the oven and wait about 5 minutes. Without stirring, add more broth and wait another 5 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Continue doing this until the rice seems done but resist the temptation to stir! I often drizzle more olive oil around the perimeter of the pan to help create a crispy edge.

When the rice is almost done, begin to add the veggies, in a decorative way. Add harder veg first and allow to bake before adding the softer veg. If using lemon wedges, add them last.

That’s it! Simple, right? Serve with salad and a big glass of red wine. 

Roasted Salt and Vinegar Potatoes

This is an excellent recipe – straight from America’s Test Kitchen.  Not too salty. Not too vinegary. Perfect with a salad and grilled veg. There is a shocking amount of salt used in this recipe, but you need that much. Somehow all that salt helps create a totally creamy potato.  I modified the amount of oil recommended in the original recipe. 

Here’s what you need:
2 lbs small red potatoes
1 ¼ C table salt
8 C water
4 T Malt Vinegar  (I used cider vinegar)
Cracked black pepper to taste
2 T olive oil 

Here’s what you do:
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet and it aside. Brush a different baking sheet with oil.

Bring the water to a rolling boil. Add all the salt and when dissolved, add the potatoes. Cook until fork tender – about 20-30 minutes. Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool on the wire rack for 10 minutes. Some salt will form on the potato skin.

Transfer the potatoes to the oiled baking sheet and smash them with a measuring cup until they are about ½ inch thick. Brush them with oil and half of the vinegar.

Roast the potatoes for about 20-25 minutes or until they are well browned and crispy. Brush with remaining vinegar. Season with pepper. Serve immediately. 

3 Noteworthy News stories you may have missed – Plus my favorite Tapenade

In honor of the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death, NPR recently interviewed a man who has written his 2nd book about the man. I had no idea there was even one book about Cobain, but I have since learned there are many, many, many. Why? I don’t know. Nirvana fans, my apologies. What’s so fascinating about this guy?

"Kurt loved plaid."

Well according to the radio interview, Cobain is responsible for the word *grunge* and all that is associated with that term – including, of all things, fashion. You can literally google the term ‘grunge fashion’ and see entire lines of clothing. Thanks, Kurt.

"I'm now going to add a stick of butter....."
And speaking of drug abuse, how about recent news that Nigella Lawson was barred from entering the United States for previous drug use? Seriously? Please compare that to the dozens of American celebrities and politicians (including our current president) who flaunt their drug use in our faces and continue to live very happy and productive lives in the lime light. Rob Ford, anyone? Uh, no thank you. Let’s cut the domestic goddess some slack. Any woman who snacks while standing at the fridge in the middle of the night is all right with me.

"Honey, let's eat in tonight."

Have I upset anyone? Well here’s my last noteworthy news story. I hope you are sitting down. A Michigan couple recently burned down their apartment complex while using a blowtorch to remove the fur off of a squirrel they were planning to eat for supper. More drug abuse? Possibly. They don’t call it dope for nothing.

Here’s what you need for the world’s BEST Tapenade – everyone RAVES about this:
1 lemon – zest and juice
2 small cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces best quality black olives, minced
½ C fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
4-5 green onions, minced
½ C walnuts, minced
1 C fresh parmesan cheese, grated very fine
4 T olive oil

Mix well and serve with crackers. If using a food processor, watch that you do not pulverize anything beyond recognition. Leave it a bit chunky for the best taste.

Enchanted Broccoli Forest – Moosewood Cookbook

One thing I cannot get over is how much my cooking has changed in the last year. Meals used to revolve around the ubiquitous boneless skinless chicken breast. Mushrooms, eggplants and squash were only side dishes. Cheese was melted over everything.

Up until a year ago I was cooking for a crowd, or at least more than two people. I used the crock pot and the pressure cooker; my freezer was packed full of whatever was on sale. Huge amounts of food were consumed.

When my children were little, I loved nothing better than to make ‘kid food,’ but this never meant boxed man ‘n cheese! It meant homemade meatballs served with fun shaped pasta. Or Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes. Or individual pizzas, each made to everyone’s personal preferences. Toothpick night, dip night, eat dessert first night.

I recently remembered this fun recipe and made it when my sons were home for dinner. I served it with Ina Garten’s Lemon Chicken (which, if you are still eating chicken is absolutely the best chicken dish on earth. Check it out here.)

Silly, I know….make a rice pilaf and stand some broccoli up like a little forest….then label it ‘enchanted’…… but I like it….and my kids used to love it….and that warms my heart….and besides, it tastes great. Kid food for grown-ups.

Here’s what you need:
1 small bunch broccoli
1 T oil or butter
1 C chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T lemon juice
6 C cooked rice – white or brown
Salt, pepper, cayenne to taste
2 t dried dill
1/4 – 1/2  t dried mint
1/4 C minced fresh parsley
1/2 C toasted sunflower seeds (or salted sunflower seeds)
1 C grated cheddar
More butter, melted for drizzling over the top

Here’s what you do:
Trim the broccoli making sure you have about 15 ‘trees’ that are long enough to stand up. Trim the tough spears. Plan to serve the remaining broccoli on the side. Steam the broccoli until just fork tender. Run under cold water to stop the cooking and to retain the bright green color.

Sauté the onions over medium heat until softened and not brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the lemon juice, seasonings, herbs, seeds, cheese and rice. Mix well and pour into a prepared 9 X 13 pan.  Arrange the broccoli in a pleasing way throughout the rice. Drizzle with melted butter. Create a tent out of aluminum foil to partially cover the veggies. Bake 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Serve right away.

Stuffed Baked Potato with Cashew Queso

Bake a potato. Add some of Isa Chandra’s Cashew Queso. Sprinkle generously with black beans, avocado and cilantro. Serve with pride.

Here’s what you need for Isa’s Cashew Queso:
1 C raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours or overnight
2 C vegetable broth
2 T white miso
2 T cornstarch
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic
2 t cumin
1 t ground ancho pepper (I used smoked paprika instead)
2 T nutritional yeast (optional)
½ t salt
1 T lemon juice

Here’s what you do:
Drain the cashews and place the nuts in a high speed blender or food processor. Add the vegetable broth, miso, and cornstarch. Sauté the onion and peppers in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another few minutes. Add the cooked veg to the blender. Add the seasonings and nutritional yeast to the blender. (save the lemon juice till the very end.) Blend on high until smooth and glossy. Pour into a sauce pan and heat and stir until thickened and bubbly – being careful not to scorch the bottom. At the last minute, stir in the lemon juice.

This was super on the baked potato and also great on sandwiches and burritos all week. Perfect, perfect, perfect for dipping. Think ‘crock- pot- and-Super -Bowl- party- good’. 

Goddess Nicoise – Isa Chandra

Well, I ended up actually seeing a Snowy Owl the other day – he was just sitting there, looking right down at me. No need to mention that I spent an hour searching for him, drove down every single muddy country road in the county and ended up half-way down some farmer’s driveway just so I could get this photo. Admit it – it was worth it! Isn’t he great?

Mr. Living Cookbook (aka Tim) also spotted some of these gorgeous birds and his photos are spectacular – so I must share them also.

I think spring might be just around the corner *FINALLY* here in West Michigan, so I bet the Snowy Owls will head up north soon.

Warmer weather (that means in the 20s and 30s folks) means my taste buds crave salads. This one comes from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra. She does all things well. The dressing is excellent and can be drizzled on all kinds of stuff.  

Here’s what you need:
16 oz chick peas, drained and rinsed
½ pound of small red potatoes, quartered and steamed until fork tender
½ pound of fresh green beans, stems removes and steamed until fork tender (did you know you can steam the potatoes and beans in the same pot? Start the potatoes first and add the beans when the potatoes are almost done. )
Red onion – sliced super thin to taste (I think I left these out – not a huge raw onion fan)
1/3 C good black Greek olives, pitted – whole or sliced in half
8 C leaf or romaine lettuce
1 C cherry tomatoes

Green Goddess Garlic Dressing
2 average size garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 C fresh chives, cut in 1 inch pieces
1/2 C  fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
2 T tahini
2 T nutritional yeast
1 T white miso
1/3 C water
2 T lemon juice

Arrange the salad on a large platter. Blend dressing ingredients until smooth in a high speed blender or food processor. Drizzle dressing liberally over veg.

Note: Isa likes to smash the chick peas, but I prefer them whole. Isa likes to add capers, but I can’t stand them. Isa also likes more garlic, but I refrain from too much raw garlic. 

Mushroom Lasagna with Cashew Ricotta

Get in the kitchen – but first go buy some mushrooms. This recipe is my creation, and it’s a keeper. I was in the mood for mushrooms and lasagna, and this is what I came up with. This recipe goes down in history - good for company but better for a Monday night at home with your family.

Here’s what you need:
16 oz sliced white mushrooms
8 oz sliced shitake mushrooms – make sure no stems are hiding in the package- they’re tough and chewy. Cut them off and search the pile to be sure none are hiding.
16 oz sliced portabella mushrooms – gills removed – use a small spoon to scrape them away.
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms – soaked in 1 ½ C boiling water for one hour. KEEP that water!
3 cloves garlic, minced
10 oz cherry tomatoes
12 lasagna noodles
1 t cornstarch
1 T Earth Balance butter
½ C dry white wine
Dried basil

1 recipe cashew ricotta
(1 ½ C raw cashews soaked in water for one hour. Drain off water. Place in blender with ½ C  fresh water, 2 T lemon juice, 1 clove garlic, 2 T Nutritional yeast {optional, but adds a nice cheesy taste}, dash of onion powder. High speed, scraping down sides as needed, until creamy and fluffy.)

Here’s what you do:
Clean all the mushrooms and chop the larger pieces in about ½ inch chunks. Cut the soggy porcinis in smaller pieces too.  Sautee them all in a large pan in about 1 T olive oil.  Be patient. It takes about 12-15 minutes to get them browned on most sides.

Add another 1 T olive oil and drop in the minced garlic. Cook the garlic in the puddle of oil until it is fragrant – do not brown it! Even if you have to turn off the heat and let it just warm, that’s OK. Mix the garlic and mushrooms together.

At the same time that the mushrooms are cooking, reduce the soaking water from the porcinis. I added ½ C of dry white wine, some salt and pepper and simmered the liquid for about 10 – 15 minutes. You want about ½ C liquid.  When reduced, add 1 T Earth Balance butter and thicken it with about 1 t cornstarch. Instead of adding the cornstarch directly into the warm liquid, remove  ¼ of liquid to a small bowl, sprinkle the cornstarch over it and whisk until totally dissolved. At this time, you can drizzle the slurry directly into the hot liquid – no lumps! Works like a charm every time. Heat until thick and glossy. The small amount of butter adds nice body and gloss. Pour the sauce over the mushrooms.

At the same time that all this is going on, sauté some cherry tomatoes by heating them in ½ T of olive oil. When they seem ready to ‘burst’, prick them with a sharp knife to release some juice and pressure. Continue to sauté them until they are nicely wilted and deglaze the pan with some more wine. Remove from heat and set aside. You want it to be a bit juicy.

At the same time this is all going on, boil the lasagna noodles according to the box.

Assemble the lasagna as follows: spray an 8 or 9 inch square pan and place about 10 tomatoes in the bottom of the pan to keep the pasta from sticking. Create layers of pasta, mushrooms, cashew ricotta until everything is used up. Leave some pasta for the top layer and pour the remaining tomatoes over the top, tucking any stray corners of pasta down. I drizzled some more wine over the top to prevent dryness. Sprinkle with dried basil. Bake 350 degrees until heated through – about 30 minutes.

(printable recipe)

Snowy Owls and Mushroom Barley Soup

I never realized all the time I would have on my hands after becoming an empty-nester. Time for reading, piano and walking. Time for lunches with girlfriends, late movies with Tim, and long TV series on Netflix.  ( can anyone say ‘House of Cards’?)

I really wanna see one of these guys...I found this one on the internet. 

And speaking of time, today after church, Tim and I spent 2 hours driving around looking for Snowy Owls. TWO HOURS. Now, before you write me off as crazy, please understand that the beautiful Snowy Owl has decided to make the northern United States his home this winter, and he’s usually an arctic bird, so it’s pretty special to see one way down here in Michigan. 

*ALL* my friends have seen them. 

*EVERYONE* has a great photo on their phone of their favorite owl sighting. 

Supposedly you can see them *EVERYWHERE*….. So we decided to see for ourselves. ….. and of course…..we saw NONE. … Not one….

But we did see some pheasants.

And this HUGE hawk.

And this Merlin.

We had to settle for this plastic owl.

 Too much time on my hands? Maybe....  

Extra time also means I get to perfect recipes. Here is a re-make of an excellent Mushroom Barley Soup. Same recipe as I posted previously, but I added dill and lots of lemon juice at the end. Also a dollop of sour cream. Still soup weather up here.... 

Lemon Cheesecake with Lemon Curd

I have made this excellent recipe twice, both to great acclaim. It was the perfect ending to my recent Valentine’s Day dinner party. I was going to serve something chocolate, but decided on the lemon, just so I could taste the lemon curd again. It’s AWESOME.  I actually froze the cheesecake for a week or so before my party – no problems there. Just be sure to wrap it very well and thaw it slowly in the fridge.

 Don’t freeze the curd; make it just before serving and slather it on! The extra beauty of the lemon curd is that is covers over all the cracks in the cheesecake and makes a spectacular presentation.

The recipe comes from Fine Cooking and can be found here. Don’t change a single thing.

And speaking of Valentine’s Day and romance, here’s a light look at being married from church bulletin bloopers….

Diana and Don request your presents at their wedding.

Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days. 

Let us join David and Lisa in the celebration of their wedding and bring their happiness to a conclusion.

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