Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

May it be funny, scary, full of cute, tiny zombies, good candy and occasional spooky cocktail and don't forget the people affected by Sandy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy waters

We were lucky so far up here in Maine, a twirl of warm temperatures, high winds, rain, more or less, but so far not much out of the ordinary, at least not if you are not located along the coast. It is not quite over yet, once Sandy makes a right turn again towards Canada. Nevertheless, I filled up some of my bottles with water. Instead of buying bottled water. Just in case. 


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta Alfredo

It is not just the primetime week for carved pumpkins, but also the time to get fresh and inexpensive butternut squash. A few days ago I had made a big pot of roasted butternut squash soup, but after 3 helpings I was kind of tired of more leftovers. So, I reinvented the rest into a brandnew meal: a vegan butternut squash alfredo sauce. It is so tasty even none-vegans will be delighted. Savory, rich, creamy with a slight hint of sweetness with maple syrup and the aroma of sage. 

Note: Instead of the 1 1/2 cups of butternut squash soup you can also use simply roasted butternut squash.


Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta Alfredo
(Makes 2 larger servings)
Alfredo sauce:
  • Base:
  • 1 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash soup (or fresh roasted butternut squash)
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1/3 cup soaked cashew nuts
  • 1 TB nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 TB mellow white miso, sodium reduced

  • Rest of Alfredo sauce:
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced using a mandoline
  • 2 cloves garlic, microplaned
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 ts of grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 TB maple syrup
  • Several dashes fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 4 oz penne pasta, cooked al dente
  • for garnish: fresh sage, pepittas or sunflower seeds, dried thyme

Pour all the ingredients for the sauce base into a food processor (best: Vitamix for extra smooth texture) and puree. In a pan, heat the olive oil, add the onions and saute until slightly brown. Add the garlic, and saute for about another 1 min. Add the white wine, and reduce for ca. 1 min. Now add the base butternut squash base cream, and gently stir in. Add the sage, nutmeg, and maple syrup, and simmer on medium-low for a few minutes until slightly reduced. Add salt and paper to taste.

Add in the cooked pasta, and stir until the pasta is coated, and heat through for about 1 min. Serve with fresh sage, roasted squash seeds (caramelized!) and some dry thyme. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

It is the time of soups again, and the time for ripe, inexpensive winter squash. Butternut squash is one of my favorite squash variety to make soup with (kuri the other). I have a handful of different recipes, one with coconut milk, another with a dash of cinnamon, or with sweet potato, but this basic recipe is still my most favorite: roasted squash with carrots, celery and a hot pepper for some spice kick. I left on the skin when I added the roasted squash to the soup, and it thickened the soup beautifully.


Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
  • 1/2 TB olive oil
  • 1 shallot, peeled and diced
  • 1 hot red chili, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, microplaned
  • 1 small butternut squash (ca 1-1 1/2 pounds), cut in half
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, wiped clean and diced
  • 3-4 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • optional: orange peel of 1/2 orange
  • crème fraiche, to serve
Preheat the oven to 375F. Half the butternut squash, and scoop out the seeds (preserve and clean or compost). Sprinkle with some salt and pepper, place on a baking sheet, and roast for ca. 30 min at 375F. 
In a large pot, heat 1/2 TB of olive oil. Once hot, add the diced shallot and the chopped red chili, stir and cook until softened (ca. 2-3 min). Add the diced carrots, the celery and the garlic and continue to cook for another 3-5 minute. Cut the soft and baked butternut squash into 2 inch pieces and add to the pot (if it is an organic squash you can leave on the squash skin; it will thicken the soup. If it is not organic, only use the flesh). Add the broth, and cook the soup for about 20 min until all vegetables are softened. Season with salt and pepper and fresh orange peel (optional). Using an immersion blender, and purée the hot soup. Serve with creme fraiche, or in my case with goat cheese crumbles, walnuts and cranberries.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cat weightloss update

You might (or might not) remember that I started getting serious about the weightloss of one of my cats back in May. I had bought Science Diet indoor cat food, which is actually lower in calories than the ‘light’ food (yes, there are food labels on cat food). I calculated and measured and was strict with treats (none!), and even bought a baby scale (it was another story to make here realize absolutely nothing will happen to her if she just stands still for a few seconds in the baby scale…..) to keep track of her progress. But after 3 months she still had not lost anything. Not an oz. As that point I was at a loss because I did not want to go to lower with reducing the calories since cats are prone to get into a state in which too much body fat is processed and they can actually get liver damage and die from it. 

By the end of August she got sick and we had to do a dreaded vet visit. The vet now has a pet weightloss specialist technician, and I got to talk to her. She recommended a Hills prescription weightloss diet for cats; it is very high in lean protein, high fiber and has some carnitine to promote weightloss. I decided to try it out, a few cans first, because the cats can be particularly picky with their food. Fortunately, Val was liking it. After some adjusting of when and how much of food to give to her, we found a new rhythm so that she was not hungry (during the night and woke me up) and ate about one can/day. Now, 6 weeks later she has steadily lost 1 pound. She is much more active, plays with her catnip toys, and chases her sister around. She also seems in much better spirits. (On a side note, since she has epilepsy I also need to reduce her meds, because she is knocked out cold by the former amount). She still has a long way to go, but hopefully we are on the right track. 


Monday, October 22, 2012

Marbled bundt cake

It was cold, dark, rainy and a Saturday afternoon. ….. time to bake a delicious, simple cake.

Marbled Bundt Cake
  • 3 cups all0purp0se flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided into a 1/2 cup and a 2 cup portion
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 TB espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet mini chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter (cold from the fridge warm for 20 sec in microwave)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 large organic free-range eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
Preheat the oven to 350 (F). Spray the baking pan with baking spray, and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour, the baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a separate medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder and 2 TB milk. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Set aside.

Place the 2 sticks of melted butter and 2 cups sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high until the mixture is blended, about 1 minute. Add in vanilla extract and continue beating until combined. Add the 5 eggs, one at a time, beating each egg until it has been incorporated. Now, turn mixer down to its lowest speed and add the flour mixture (from the first step) in three additions, alternating with the whole milk in two additions and mixing just until blended.

Add 2 cups of batter (from the fourth step) to the cocoa mixture and stir until blended.
Using a spatula, pour enough vanilla batter into the pan to fill the bottom. Now the chocolate batter on top of the vanilla mixture and distributed well. Finish with the vanilla layer. Use a chop stick and draw it once through the cake better to get the marbling.

Bake for 55 - 60 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes, before turning out to cool completely.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quinoa Harvest Vegetable Soup

This is the new alternative to the ever healthy, cold-fighting, health and soul boosting chicken noodle soup: the quinoa vegetable (chicken) soup. I made it without chicken, but it would be great with chicken, too. Just all kinds of fresh and frozen vegetables, fresh carrots and celery, red bell pepper, Trader Joes sweet corn (non-GMO!), artichokes, kidney beans, kale and some dried mushroom with precooked quinoa and vegetable broth. Goodness in a bowl!
Quinoa Harvest Vegetable Soup (2 large portions):
  • 1 quart vegetable broth (I use Rapunzel bouillon)
  • a few strands of saffron
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and fine dice
  • 2 celery stalks, cleaned and cut in small dice
  • 1/4 cup dried porcini (or 1/2 cup of fresh shitake, sliced)
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • handful of frozen sweet corn (non-GMO!)
  • handful sliced frozen or fresh lacinato kale
  • handful of frozen artichokes
  • 1/4 cup pre-cooked, frozen kidney beans (or from a can, Eden, organic, sodium-reduced or free)
  • 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa (I used the three color quinoa from Trader Joes)
In a medium size pot, heat the water with the bouillon (or the broth), and add in all the vegetables. Cook for ca. 15 min until the carrots are soft. Add the pre-cooked quinoa and heat through. Serve!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sky-high salad

Whenever I eat at the Cheesecake Factory I order the vegetable salad: a salad with a sky-high pile (like any other dish at Cheesecake Factory) of vegetables cut into same-sized dice. It is easy to make at home: a base of romaine, rainbow carrots, celery, apple and some home-made honey mustard dressing. Crunch away….

Cheesecake_fact_salad dressing
salad red_carrot.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Times of romaine salad

It is a time of transition… transitioning from lettuce from the garden and the farmers market to bags of romaine heads from the grocery store, While I love mixed lettuce with balsamic vinaigrette, I like romaine only with something creamy-yogurt based, but then I don’t like commercial dressing. Today, I mixed up a simple greek yogurt honey mustard dressing and it was better than anything in a bottle. The salad had cucumber and a beautiful red pear as well as walnuts.


Home-made Greek yogurt honey mustard dressing (1 portion):

  • 1/3 cup greek yogurt
  • 2-3 TB water
  • 1 TB dijon mustard
  • 1/2 TB honey
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/2 ts dried thyme

Mix and serve over salad.

Home-grown radicchio

Every year I do a certain amount of ‘experimental gardening’, i.e. trying to grow something that I have never grown before, sometimes with the surprise factor of how these plants really grown and mature, seeing the entire process. There have been eggplants, soy beans, broccoli and this year I picked up a small container of radicchio plants at the farmers market in late spring. I planted the little seedlings in a pot and for most of the summer they grew into lettuce like green leaves, so I wrote it off as a failed experiment. Only by September did the plants develop dense little centers in dark red that resemble the radicchio I know from the store. This one (below) is the first one that makes it into my almost completely home-grown lunch salad with some concord grapes grown on the back of my garage.

home_grown_radiccio home_grown_radicc_salad

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pop pumpkins

Here are a few more pop colored pumpkin ideas..... who does not like pink pumpkins? :-)


Source and instructions

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Small marbled bundt cake

What better to do on a rainy, cold October evening than to warm and sweeten it up with a small marbled bundt cake!


Small marbled bundt cake (for small, 6 cup bundt cake pan)

  • 10 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c. sugar (135 grams)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 free-range organic eggs
  • 1 2/3 c. (185 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 ts baking soda
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder 

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream butter, sugar and salt together for several minutes until light and fluffy (best in a standmixer). Add vanilla extract and one egg at a time. Mix well, and add in second egg.

Sift flour with baking powder and baking soda. Add flour in two parts, alternating with half of the buttermilk each time. Divide batter equally into two bowls.Sift cocoa over the batter in one bowl and mix well. Add 1 tablespoon of milk to cocoa batter to thin.

Spray the bundt form with a baking spray. Place half of the “white” batter in the form or pan. Add all of the dark/chocolate batter on top and distributed around the form with a spatula. Finish with the remaining white batter. Place a spatula vertically in the batter and draw it around the form once to swirl. Smooth the top.

Place the cake in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out cleanly. Remove from oven, cool slightly and then turn out on a cake rack to cool further.

Home-made chocolate glaze:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 TB unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons warm milk
  • 1 ts rum extract
  • 1 ts vanilla

Pour the chocolate chips in a glass bowl or a ceramic bowl, and set it over a pot with boiling water on the stove (the bowl should not touch the water). Stir continuously until the chocolate chips start to melt. Add in the butter, and melt it with the chocolate chips. Once it is all a creamy, lump-free consistency, add in the milk, the rum and vanilla extract. Once incorporated, take the bowl off the pot, and continue to stir while adding in the confectioners sugar. Keep stirring. Brush the cake with the chocolate glaze. The glaze will thicken when cooled, and it is great to have a 1/4 of an inch thick glaze on the cake. (Leftover chocolate glaze is great on graham crackers… )
Let cool and dry for about 4-5h before serving. The cake actually tastes better with time; at the beginning it is dry and light and slightly crumbly, and after a week it becomes moist with an intense nutty flavor. It should be stored cool and airtight. 



marbled_cake_sm_3 marbled_cake_sm_4

Sunday, October 14, 2012

At the farmers market

The weather was brisk and sunny, and besides the produce the farmers’ kids entertaining each other were the main attractions this time.




FM_3 FM_5

DIY Chevron Pumpkin

Are you ready for the scary season? The weather is quite scary already, wet and cold, and it might be true that we will have a very snowy winter... oh well, more skiing, right? Here is a nice DIY pumpkin project with the ever popular Chevron pattern (requires some taping and spray paint).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kale penne pasta

The days get shorter, colder and with the occasional rain day even depressing. This calls for heart-warming foods again, not quite soul food, but you know what I mean. I still had a big bag of chopped curly kale, so easy to prepare, just throw in a hot pan with a bit of broth or white wine or water. Add some diced red bell pepper, a bit of cheddar cheese (vegan or not) and penne pasta. Perfect midweek dinner!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Garden, the fall version

Fall, the maple tree leaves turn yellow, orange and red, the summer plants start to turn to mush with the first frost, the herbs still do well and the kale is not intimidated by cold anyhow. The kuri squash is ready (reincarnated from a squash I bought at the farmers market last year) and the winter savory also likes the cold. The neighbors’ bunny helps me to eat the kale (she get the leaves that have a few too many holes), and Chanelle helps making sure I do a good job.





Monday, October 8, 2012

Lobster broth soup

The good thing about going out to eat lobster is….. to have lobster shells to make a rich lobster broth. Most of it I froze for the risottos in the winter, but the surplus became the base for today’s soup, with carrots, red bell pepper, kale, and spaghetti, just heated until the spaghetti were cooked. Cozy.


Cat in a blanket

It is the time of the year again when the squirrels are running around with thick cheeks and hazelnuts in their mouths, and every cat who prides herself as being a smarter than everyone else (aren’t they all?) looks for that place that is prepared to give some extra warmth, underneath the bed covers, the woodstove oven or draping a big fur blanket around herself.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Foggy foliage

The foliage is at its peak this weekend in Maine but the weather not necessarily. This was the second hike in 2 weeks that I did in overcast and foggy weather with quite slippery trails, but if you have friends visiting for a limited time you can’t always optimize on the weather. Nevertheless, the views (if you have some) can still be spectacular.
Somesville, Mount Desert Island

View from Sauveur Mountain trail towards Echo Lake
Somes Sound
Lobsters on a Southwest Harbor pier
 Let me grab the largest lobster..... (no, the smallest ;-))