Monday, April 30, 2012

Persian Nights Smoothie

One day, long ago, B and I shared a memorable meal at a restaurant in Santa Cruz, CA. It was just a few months before C was born, and we had such fun eating through the Bay Area on that trip. One of the things that elevated the meal far above the ordinary was this fabulous beverage, which I was inspired to recreate soon after returning. The rosewater is key to the flavor--you can find this in health food stores or online--just be sure that it is marked "for culinary use."  Although, even if you leave it out you will still be left with a very tasty smoothie!

Persian Nights Smoothie
Serves 2

1 cup almond milk
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 ripe banana
1 tsp rosewater
3 ice cubes

Mix all ingredients together in a blender until frothy, pour into two glasses, and serve!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rich Chocolate Fudge Sauce

This recipe was a standby of my childhood. My favorite thing about it, besides the rich chocolatiness, is the way it slightly hardens and becomes chewy when chilled by the frozen delight underneath it. Of course, it's a perfect addition to frozen or fresh fruit or ice cream, but we once also tried dipping pieces of crusty French bread into it for some "pain au chocolat," and it was marvelous. Enjoy the magic!

Best Ever Chocolate Fudge Sauce
Makes 8 servings (1 cup)

2 oz unsweetened chocolate
6 TB water
6 TB sugar
Dash of salt
2 TB coconut oil (or your solid fat of choice)
1/4 tsp vanilla

Heat chocolate and water in saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until chocolate is melted. Add sugar and salt. Bring to boil and boil 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat; add coconut oil and vanilla and stir until incorporated.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Almond Plum Tart

Jumping ahead to summer again... this is one of our all-time favorite summertime desserts, a plum tart with frangipane filling. I have made it for several tea tastings and potlucks throughout the years, and it's always a hit! The slightly sweet almond paste gives it a satisfying richness, and the fruit topping is a refreshing counterpart. The filling also pairs well with many other fruits (cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines...), so feel free to experiment. Hmm, maybe I'll try rhubarb one of these days for a spring version!

Almond Plum Tart
(Adapted from Stone Fruit: Cherries, Nectarines, Apricots, Plums, Peaches by Cynthia Nims)
Serves 8-10

  • 1/2 cup blanched* almonds
  • 6 TB sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (or your solid fat of choice), at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 pie crust (I usually use this classic recipe, with coconut oil)
  • 1-1.5 lbs ripe but firm plums
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Prepare your pie crust and transfer to a tart pan.
  2. Put the almonds in a food processor or blender along with the sugar and flour, and process until the almonds are very finely ground. Add the coconut oil, almond milk, and almond extract, and pulse a few times to evenly blend, scraping down the sides as needed.
  3. Spread the frangipane evenly into the crust. It won't look like it is very full, but don't worry, it will puff up a bit when baking.
  4. If you want to make your tart look extra fancy, slice the plums and arrange in a lovely pattern atop the tart. If you are pressed for time, cutting the plums in half and placing them cut side up on top of the tart works just as well. If your plums are very tart, or you just want a little extra sweetness, sprinkle a tablespoon or two of sugar on top.
  5. Bake until the plums are tender and the pie crust is beginning to brown, 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then slice and enjoy warm or at room temperature.
*You can blanch raw almonds yourself by adding them to boiling water and cooking a few minutes until their skins become loose and they begin to float. Remove from hot water and allow to cool, then pop the almonds out of their skins, towel dry if they seem a bit damp, and proceed with the recipe.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Jam Dots

Welcome to dessert week! Though I do have quite the sweet tooth, we try to focus on healthful recipes the majority of the time. Luckily, these delicious jam dots fit the bill perfectly. We were introduced to this recipe by our lovely friends J&G. I have to say, they are some of the tastiest and most substantial cookies I've ever had. They definitely don't fall into the low-calorie camp, but they are packed with the nutritious goodness of nuts and whole grains, and I feel completely satisfied after eating just one (I'll admit, that's not often the case with other kinds of cookies). The recipe is extremely versatile--feel free to change up the nuts and spices, throw in some chocolate chips, etc. And with a food processor, they come together very quickly.

Jam Dots
Makes 12 large cookies

  • 1 cup almonds, pecans and/or walnuts
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (or a generous pinch of other favorite spices: ginger, cloves, cardamom...)
  • Scant 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup oil (unrefined coconut oil is recommended if you have it, but canola or other neutral vegetable oil works just fine)
  • 2 TB jam
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Process oats and nuts in a food processor until fairly smooth.
  3. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in whole wheat flour, spices, and salt.
  4. Add maple syrup and oil; mix well.
  5. Form batter into ~1.5" balls on a cookie sheet.
  6. Push a thumbprint gently into each ball.
  7. Fill each thumbprint with about 1/2 tsp of jam.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes before eating.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Beauties and Mysteries of the Earth

"Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth 
will never be alone or weary of life."
-Rachel Carson

A few beauties of the earth that we have been celebrating this weekend:

 Giant towers of kale (now over 6 feet tall!)

 Blossoms, blossoms everywhere....


Cherry blossom "snow" (resulting in some snow-related play)

 Happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Creamy Tomato Pasta Sauce

I originally found this recipe on VeganYumYum, and it has been one of my go-to weeknight meals ever since. We've simplified it a bit over time; although cashews and tomatoes together may seem like an odd combination, the results are really wonderful. This dish is always well received by our children, as D can attest....

Creamy Tomato Pasta Sauce
Serves 6-8

1-2 TB olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can (28 oz) tomatoes
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped or 2 TB pesto (optional)

  1. Blend the canned tomatoes, cashews and salt together until the mixture is smooth. (If you have an immersion blender, you can add these directly to the saucepan after cooking the garlic and blend at that point.)
  2. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add minced garlic. Cook a few minutes until garlic is fragrant, but before it begins to brown.
  3. Add the tomato/cashew mixture to the pan. Add basil, if using.
  4. Bring to a simmer and cook on medium-low, stirring occasionally, for 15-30 minutes to allow the flavors time to marry (the longer the better). Beware, this mixture is quite bubbly and can be a little messy on the stovetop! 
  5. Taste, and add more salt if desired.
  6. Cook ~1 lb of pasta of your choice, drain, and add sauce, stirring to coat. It may at first seem like a lot of sauce, but the noodles tend to soak up the sauce.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Roasted Summer Vegetable Bean Salad

This is best enjoyed in the summer when tomatoes and zucchinis are abundant and at their peak of flavor, but it's a tasty dish anytime. The "recipe" (such as it is) follows--the amounts are just estimates, and it is very open to improvisation.

Roasted Summer Vegetable Bean Salad
Serves 6-8

  • 2 15-oz cans or 3 cups of cooked white beans
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 lb or so of zucchini (I used 4 small)
  • 2 cloves garlic (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • ~1/4 cup vinaigrette dressing (I made my own using olive oil, balsamic vinegar, agave nectar, salt, pepper, roasted garlic and fresh thyme)
  • Preheat oven to 350. Slice tomatoes in half and arrange cut-side up on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in oven while prepping zucchini.
  • (Optional: you can peel a few cloves of garlic to roast along with the tomatoes so that you can add to your dressing later.)
  • Slice zucchini into thin rounds and place in a bowl. Toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a separate baking sheet.
  • Roast vegetables for 30-45 minutes, until zucchini is starting to brown, and tomatoes look slightly dehydrated and bottoms are brown. The zucchini will likely be finished before the tomatoes.
  • If you are making your own dressing, now is a good time to put it together.
  • Allow vegetables to cool for a few minutes. Refrain from "taste-testing" all of the delicious roasted tomatoes.
  • Drain and rinse beans (if using canned). Add to serving bowl and fold in vegetables. Add dressing to taste. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Garlicky White Bean Sauce

This is an old standby for us--we most often use it as a base for pizza in lieu of tomato sauce and cheese. It also makes a tasty dip (you can roast the garlic if the bite of fresh garlic is a bit too much for you).

Garlicky White Bean Sauce
Makes a generous amount of topping for 1 pizza

1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
Juice of 1/2 lemon (or ~1TB of cider vinegar would work in a pinch)
2 TB olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper
Italian herbs, if desired (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary...)

Put all ingredients except herbs in a blender and or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice if needed. Stir in herbs if using. Refrigerate until ready to assemble pizza.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Catching Up

We've been busy around here! Let's catch up, shall we?

Because of the lovely weather, we have spent much time in the garden planting (and weeding). Take a look at this purple potato we planted... this little guy was wild!

B has been baking from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads. Pictured here is the sprouted wheat bread--yum!

C has been bitten hard by the "chapter book" bug. We started with Charlotte's Web, and now are immersed in The Secret Garden. This book is such a pleasure to read--it resonates with us all, and its slow pace and lovely imagery are exactly what she seems to need right now.

In fact, when we went to our "secret garden" (the nearby botanical garden/park) the other day, she was pretending to be Mary (I was Martha, the servant, and D was my nature-loving brother Dickon. He was, as usual, a good sport about it and even referred to his snack as "Dickon's cracker.") Some photos from our excursion:

In other news, we have had several nights of great sleep for everyone, which is something to celebrate after 4 years of less-than-optimal slumber. It improves everyone's mood and makes us feel like we can accomplish so much!

And on that note, today we started our "mushroom farm" by inoculating a log with shiitake mushroom "plug spawn" (I just love that term). Here's hoping that in 6 months or so we will have a bountiful first harvest!

This week, we will also be starting our next round of painting. We'll give our kitchen a much-needed "facelift"... we have big dreams for it someday, but for now a fresh coat of paint and some new lighting should make the space much more pleasant.

So that about sums it up! Wishing you all a wonderful week!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Shiitake Mushroom Broth

This rich broth elevates any dish and can be made into some fantastic gravy!

Shiitake Mushroom Broth
Makes ~1 gallon


2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 shallot, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup red wine
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms
16 cups filtered water (you can use less if you want it more concentrated)
1/4 cup soy sauce (or to taste)

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a thick-bottomed stock pot. Cook onion and shallot for 3 to 5 minutes and then pour in wine to deglaze pan. Cook for a few more minutes, then add all the other ingredients except soy sauce. Cover, bring to a boil, and then simmer over medium heat for 3 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally and removing lid about halfway through cooking time. Add soy sauce to taste. Strain into a storage container and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sweet and Savory Tofu

This is our default "house tofu" recipe--it's simple, quick and delicious. It utilizes the same method as our tempeh soysage, which eliminates the need for marinating the tofu beforehand. The recipe below is for one block of tofu, but we always cook up two at a time so that we'll have some leftovers the following day.

Sweet and Savory Tofu
Serves 4

1 block (about 1 lb) extra-firm tofu
1 TB oil
2 TB maple syrup
2 TB soy sauce
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced


1. (Optional) Press the tofu for 15 minutes to 1 hour to drain out the excess liquid, which will give the finished product a firmer texture. If you skip this, it is helpful to towel it off before pan-frying so that you don't get as much oil splatter.

2. Cut the tofu into your preferred shape (we use small rectangles).

3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add tofu. Cook on medium-high until one side is golden, then flip and brown the other side. If you are cooking more than one block of tofu, you can remove the first batch and cook the second in the same pan.

4. While the tofu is cooking, prepare the marinade. In a small bowl, mix together the maple syrup, soy sauce and minced garlic.

5. When all the tofu is browned, add the marinade. Make sure that all pieces of tofu get well coated.

6. Cook until most of the marinade is evaporated and the garlic is fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.

6. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tempeh Soysage

This is a very easy and delicious way to prepare tempeh. Incidentally, this method of pan-frying slices of tempeh and adding a quick marinade at the end is a wonderful, quick way to enjoy tempeh or tofu in quick weeknight meals, since there is no need to marinate beforehand. Enjoy!

Tempeh Soysage
Serves 2-4

2 TB red wine or water
1 TB maple syrup
1 TB soy sauce or Bragg’s
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
2 TB canola oil
1 8-oz package tempeh

In a small bowl, mix together wine/water, syrup, soy sauce, and seasonings.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cut tempeh into 1/4” thick strips and arrange in a single layer in pan. Cook each side 5-6 minutes,or until browned.
Remove pan from heat. Immediately add seasoning mixture and stir it around as it sizzles and evaporates, making sure to coat each piece.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

On This Easter Sunday

 On this Easter Sunday, we:

 Enjoyed the quince blossoms in the kitchen window.

Made an exciting discovery: three shiitake mushrooms growing from a long-forgotten mushroom log.

 Drank iced tea. Outside.

 While barefoot.

 Gave D's beloved baby an outdoor bath.

 Gazed up at the blossoming cherry trees.

Listened to the "stirring of wind chimes."

 Wondered when we will begin to smell the lilacs in the breeze.

 Enjoyed a beautiful family day together.
And we also: hunted for Easter eggs and baskets, stomped in mud puddles, feasted on a delicious brunch (raised waffles are so. good.), wrapped a present, went to a birthday party, fixed some household items, broke some household items, endured multiple tantrums from each child, went on a walk, watched birds flitting through the trees, did some yard work, cleaned up messes, sang songs, and, of course, washed many dishes. In short--this day was full to the brim with life.

Hope you had a lovely Sunday!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Continuing on with the veggie theme this week, here is a wonderful way to enjoy cauliflower. This recipe was developed by my sister after her trip to Italy a few years ago.

Roasted Cauliflower Salad
Serves 2-4, depending on how much cauliflower you have

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 of a large or 1 small leek, diced
2 TB chopped good-quality olives (such as Kalamata)
Juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon (Meyer if available)
2 TB olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut cauliflower into florets and toss in a bowl with 1TB of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes, or until florets are quite soft and starting to brown.

While the cauliflower is roasting, saute leek over medium heat in remaining olive oil until tender and translucent.

Mix the roasted cauliflower, sauteed leeks, olives, lemon juice and zest in a bowl (you can just use the bowl you are going to store it in). Add salt to taste. Cover and put in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Massaged Kale Salad

I admit it. I don't eat nearly enough raw vegetables in the winter. For me, winter is all about squash, root vegetables, and of course dark leafy greens like kale, chard and collards. These tough, hardy winter greens just beg to be braised or sauteed, and I never really considered eating them raw. That is, until I discovered the wonders of the massaged kale salad.

This salad is a truly marvelous way to enjoy the nutritious goodness of kale in raw form. The secret is to massage the kale a bit with some salt, which allows the cell walls to break and water to escape, in effect "cooking" the greens and leaving them quite tender. I can't believe I've gone so long without discovering this marvelous secret!

The recipe is adapted from the one I saw demonstrated by a local nutritionist, Jennifer Adler. It incorporates some sweet elements to balance the strong flavors of the kale, and actually tastes better the longer it sits; she says it will keep for up to 2 weeks! Plus, it's a lot of fun to make--and, added bonus, the kale smells amazing as you massage it, so fresh and invigorating. So go get some kale and make this lovely winter salad before regular salad season starts!

Massaged Kale Salad
Makes 6 servings

1 bunch kale, de-stemmed, torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 TB apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup dried currants, cherries, or raisins
1 small or 1/2 large apple, diced
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, raw or toasted

Put kale in a large mixing bowl.
Big bowl o'kale

Add salt and massage into kale for a few minutes. (Note that curly kale will need a bit more time to become tender than lacinato kale. You can add another sprinkle of salt if it doesn't seem to be shrinking enough.)


Gently stir in remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust salt, vinegar and oil as needed. Enjoy!

The finished salad... yum!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Kale Chips

We'll start off our month of food with a couple recipes from one of our favorite veggies: kale! This tasty and super-nutritious green is easy to grow (we're still eating kale, and kale flowers, from the plants we've had growing since last summer!). Even C and D love it and I often see them picking off a leaf or flower to snack on when we play outside.

Kale chips are a great way to enjoy kale; below is one of our favorite variations (thanks to our pal Jon for passing on the recipe he developed for the tasty topping). They are also delicious with just olive oil and salt!

"Cheesy" Kale Chips


1 bunch kale (any variety works)

1 cup raw cashews (if soaked for several hours beforehand, they are much easier to blend)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 red bell pepper, raw
1/2 tsp sea salt

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Remove stems from kale and tear into small, chip-sized pieces. Set aside.
  3. Combine all topping ingredients in a food processor, and blend until creamy.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, mix the cashew cheese with the kale. You want to coat each leaf with the topping and avoid large clumps, so it's best to roll up your sleeves and work with your hands.
  5. Spread kale in a single layer on a baking sheet (you will probably need two baking sheets per bunch of kale) and put into the oven.
  6. Begin checking the chips after about an hour and a half. You want them nice and crispy (though they are still delicious even if they're a bit chewy). This may take 2 hours or longer. You could bake at a higher temperature (though I'd recommend staying below 300) to speed the process, but would have to be more vigilant about removing them as they turn crisp, since they are more apt to burn.
  7. Store crispy chips in an airtight container. If you have any chewy ones that didn't fully dehydrate, it's best to just eat them... otherwise the rest will become chewy. Enjoy!