Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas came early

When I walked in to Bed Bath & Beyond last weekend, and they said I could use the 20% off coupon for the Philips Pasta Maker, my consideration that I don’t really need a pasta maker went out the door. Instead, I walked with this wonderful device out the door.

I bought some “OO” flour, and fresh eggs.  Since I am not one for reading manuals, I watched a video on youtube. Measure the flour in the provided measurement cup (250g flour), mix the 1 egg with a bit of water (and in my case, saffron dissolve in the water) in the second measurement cup, and wait for pasta to be pressed out of the maker 3 minutes later.





Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas tree, Christmas tree

The last weekend before Christmas. The weather continues to be mild and supposedly, it will be the ‘warmest Christmas of our lives’, according to weather.com for most of the US. I know some people who can’t wait for snow so they can finally go skiing, but after last winter I am not keen on snow for now.

 The tree is decorated.


 This year I painted the Christmas cards.

 With help from this little fella. He decided to not just supervise but get in on the action.

 Outdoor kitty is still out and about and supervises the late season raking of leaves.



 Recent lunches. Spiralized carrots, pomegranate seeds, hummus and frozen figs and strawberries. Or sauteed mushroom and corn, with hummus and fresh campari tomatoes. Or apple cake and tea (with the beautiful Starbucks 2015 Christmas Mug collection).

Friday, December 18, 2015

Thursday, December 17, 2015

“It’s not the years in your life that count, it is the life in your years.”

Sometimes, we settled into a predictable routine for long stretches of time, with kids or partners or jobs setting the routine.  Then, the days are long and the years are short, and we long for a bit of excitement, of mixing things up, of getting inspired again, changing lanes, trying new things.
This reminds me of the new best thing on Netflix, “Master of None”, which I first thought is a male Mindy Kalin version. While there are definite similarities (Indian main characters living  in NYC), this show stole my heart immediately. It is so fresh, funny, a bit deeper, without any sense of cynicism, just pure heart, like “Friends” used to be.  The explored themes like kids, parents, or ‘the other man’ made me laugh and think for a while.

It only took me only 2 days to watch the entire 10 episodes of Season 1. Unfortunately, by the finale the main characters also decide to put a bit more ‘life’ into their years instead of settling down into a relationship with one of the most funniest first dates (in Nashville). Instead they fly off into different directions, literally. And, yes, I now need a pasta machine.

Ah, modern life, with so many opportunities, and how can we ever be satisfied with what we have and not think there might be something better and more exciting ‘out there’.

Here are some wonderful inspirations for the holidays season from the world wild web:
mulled-pomegranate-rosemary-cider-with-bai-FINAL-2
Mulled pomegranate cider.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Christmas by the sea, Take 2

Last year I accidentally stumbled upon Camden’s Christmas by the sea activities. This time, I was prepared. Unlike last year when we had had several significant snow and icestorms already, this year it was mild, almost California-like (for Maine): sunny, dry and temperatures in the lower 50s. The stores and restaurants in Belfast and Camden were buzzing with visitors making a 2-3 day holiday season trip up the coast. Visiting a quaint, magical, wonderfully lit, quiet coastline with darling little villages and finding just the right unique knick knacks to buy for presents, which are hand-made by local potters or weavers or artists, not by some machine in China. Large bonfires lit on the beach, Santa arriving by boat and reading stories, and hot tea in hand-made mugs and luxury hotels. Let’s be jolly.
christmas_by_the_sea-1-2

Friday, November 27, 2015

The exercise cheat sheet

It is TGIBF, and I am polishing my shoe soles to get a good start. Found this this morning. All I ever need for exercises, because I think I can only remember about 3 things normally.

Makes ma laugh, too.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Veggie loaf

There is a tad bit of snow on the ground, and the cold has started. The wind blisters cold around the face, and tries to sneak in between buttons on the coat. Thoughts of hot chestnut praline lattes sound appealing and highly desirable when I take a few steps between the car and the stores. Today is a busy travel and last groceries shopping day, before the world in the US will settle down, hover around the oven and baste the turkey. Making some exotic cocktails while catching up and taking peeks at the sizzling bird.

Just in time for a veggie loaf, which might be a great addition for the vegan or vegetarian at the Thanksgiving feast.

veggie_loafLR

Veggie loaf

makes about 8 servings

  • 1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas  (divided)
  • 1 cup of cannellini beans or white navy beans (divided)
  • 1/2 TB coconut oil
  • 1 shallot, peeled and diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup frozen edamame
  • 1/2 cup of chopped frozen spinach or chopped kale (thawed)
  • ½ cup cut up broccoli (cut florets into small pieces)
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • ¼ cup chopped carrots
  • 1 ts boullion powder, dissolved in 1 TB of water (e.g. Rapunzel)
  • 1 TB dried thyme  
  • 3 TB barbecue sauce
  • 3 TB nutritional yeast
  • 3 TB pepita seeds (or roasted pine nuts)
  • 1 egg (or flax egg for a vegan version)
  • ½ cup or more panko (breadcrumbs)
  • ground black pepper
  • pinch of cayenne powder (optional, if you like some spice)

Preparation:

  1. If using canned chickpeas and bean, rinse and drain both in a colander. In a food processor, process 3/4 of the chickpeas and beans. Pulse to make a coarse mixture. Set aside.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat with coconut oil, and saute onions and garlic. Cook until translucent. Add edamame, spinach, broccoli, corn, carrots, and dissolved bouillon and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add 1/2 of the veggies to the mixture in the food processor and pulse some more.
  4. Transfer all ingredients (pulsed mixture, remaining sauted veggies, chickpeas and beans) to a mixing bowl. Mix in the thyme, BBQ sauce, nutritional yeast, and breadcrumbs. Add the pepper and cayenne (if using). Taste for flavor and add more salt of pepper if necessary.
  5. Add egg, and mix in.
  6. Transfer the mixture a dry loaf pan. Press in the mixture and even out the surface. 
  7. Decorate with some BBQ sauce or apply it as glaze.
  8. Bake in pre-heated 400 degrees F for 35 minutes or until a toothpick from the center comes out clean.
  9. Cool for 10 minutes, and serve in the pan.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The best squash soup ever

I take back everything I ever said about butternut squash soup.  Because there is really only one pumpkin soup in my book, and that is soup made from kuri squash, also called sunshine squash or hokkaido squash. It just has this wonderful, mellow nutty flavor compared to which butternut squash is simply bland.

kuri_soup_2

It’s not even difficult to cook. I usually buy the smallest kuri possible, the little 1 pound babies, and that’s good enough for 2-3 servings of soup. I leave the skin on, and cut it (also simpler because the squash is small) into sections, and scoop out the seeds, which I roasted separately.

kuri_soup_3

An added flavor booster is this little gnarly cousin of the celery stalk, the celery root (or celeriac). It makes the soup slightly thick, similar to adding potatoes. It has a very strong flavor, so a little slice goes a long way.

kuri_soup_4

So, there you have it. A kuri squash, 1-2 carrots, celeriac, and broth, cooked until both the carrots and squash are tender, cooled, pureed and ready to eat the finest, and boldest natural kuri squash soup.

kuri_soup_6

Red kuri squash soup

makes 2-3 servings:

  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 small 1 pound red kuri squash, cut into section, seeds removed (also known as Japanese squash, orange hokkaido, or uchiki kuri squash)
  • a 1/2 inch thick and 4 inch long strip of a celeriac (root)
  • 2 small diced and peeled carrot
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • sour cream, to serve
  • fresh thyme, chopped, and pepitas to serve


In a large pot, heat olive oil. When hot, add the onion and soften (ca. 3 to 4 min). Add the vegetables and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Cover with broth, and a lid, and simmer for 25 minutes on medium low heat, or until the vegetables are soft. Cool the soup and puree in a blender, or use an immersion blender and purée the hot soup. Add more stock or water if necessary. Serve.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Beet salad with apple, walnuts and coffee roasted beets

Beets are some of my favorite vegetables, and if given the choice I often order the beet salad in a restaurant. My own go-to recipes are balsamic roasted beets,  the garlicky yogurt beet salad, and the beatnick juice.  I wish I’d make fresh pressed juices more often, if it would not be for the clean-up….

coffee_beets2LR

Recently I found a new way of cooking beets. Coffee ground roasted! Raw beets, wrapped in foil, and baked under a crust of a coarse salt coffee grinds mixture. The infusion of both the salt and the coffee gives the beets an extra dimension, yes, they are quite salty, but the coffee complements the beet flavor without overpowering it.

flowerCRLR
coffee_beets3LR

Coffee roasted beets
  • 2-4 beets
  • 1/2 cup coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2  coffee grinds (before or after brewing)
  • foil
I mixed about a cup of coarse kosher salt with a 1/2 cup of ground coffee (you can use the remaining coffee grinds from brewed coffee), and poured it over 2 large beets that I halved.  Wrapped it tight in more foil so that steam develops inside, and baked the beets for 45min at 400F.

Once the beets are soft, remove all the salt and coffee grinds, and peel the skin of the beets (scrub off the mixture on the exposed side of the beets, if you halve them). They are ready to be used in salad, like this classic beet, apple, gorgonzola and walnut salad with balsamic vinaigrette.

beets_coffee_salt

Beet salad with apple, gorgonzola, walnuts and coffee roasted beets
  • 1 coffee roasted beet (see recipe above), peeled and cut into slices
  • 1 shallot, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil (or other light flavored oil of your choice)
  • 1/4  apple with skin, thinly sliced
  • 1 TB gorgonzola cheese
  • 5 walnuts, chopped and toasted
  • 3 TB balsamic vinaigrette
In a pan, heat the coconut oil, and saute the shallot and the beet slices. Add a bit of pepper. Heat for ca. 5-7 min until the shallots have some light brown (and pink…) color. Arrange on a plate and top with apple, walnuts, gorgonzola and drizzle the balsamic vinaigrette.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Late fall jitters

It is the time of the year when the day starts out bright and sunny, but it is not very long. The leaves are golden and mostly on the ground. Everyone is saying “We had a good fall this year”, which is code for “it is still mild, and not a single snow flake in sight”. Everyone knows it’s coming. It won’t be long.

norway

People start to feel down, when it’s getting dark by 4pm and a long evening is ahead. I just see it as endless time to get cozy. Huddle with the cats in front of the fireplace, and light cashmere fir scented candles. Slow down. Drink hot peppermint tea. Watch a Hitchock movie. Read a book.  Unpack the water color palette and paint the pages in my planner.  Knit mittens.

blackKnitting
watercolor_doodle
fall_reading

Life slows down in the winter months, at least in the evenings. During the short days, everyone is busy, rushes to the stores, buys thanksgiving décor, the first holiday presents, and grabs cans of green beans and jars of crunchy onions on the way out. The chicken man at the FM has a long list of organic, local turkey orders. There is red  and gold or silver everywhere, and a buzz in the air. Memories of Christmas and Thanksgiving past bubble up and shape the hopes for the coming season. We will be busy until the Holidays and New Years. Then, at least in New England, the cold and the snow will come. And skiing season. And more firewood.

kitties
saturday_sunday
metallic-mug-c
deer
water_colors
So, there is plenty to look forward to.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The no-work butternut squash soup

One of my favorite fall soups is butternut squash soup. One thing that keeps me from making it is sometimes the handy work that has to go into it.
squash_soup_slowcooker-1-3
First, there is operating a huge knife and cutting a very hard squash in half. Then, removing the seeds with a spoon. Followed by peeling and cutting the squash into chunks. That’s a butternut squash workout.
This soup needs only 1 step, maybe 2: cutting the squash in half and removing the seeds.
Then, the squash halves or quarters are places in a slowcooker, half filled with vegetable broth, a carrot, some onion, and the slowcooker produces a ready to puree and eat soup in 4-5 hours.
Yes!
squash_soup_slowcooker-1-5
All done!
squash_soup_slowcooker-1-11
Butternut squash soup in the slow cooker
Makes 4-5 servings.
  • 1 x 2-3 pound organic butternut squash
  • 1 small sweet onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 large carrot, peeled
  • some fresh thyme
  • vegetable or chicken broth, about 4-5 cups
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
  1. Cut the butternut squash in half with a large knife. Be safe! The knife can slide of the butternut squash skin.
  2. Remove seeds with a spoon.
  3. Potentially, cut the halves in quarter so that they fit better in the slow cooker.
  4. Optionally: peel the butternut squash with a vegetable peeler.
  5. Place in a large slow cooker.
  6. Add the peeled carrot.
  7. In a pan, heat the coconut oil and saute the diced onion for 5 min (sauteeing the onion adds a nice, nutty flavon).
  8. Add onions to slow cooker.
  9. Add herbs.
  10. Fill the slowcooker to half with vegetable broth.
  11. Set slowcooker to high, and cook for 4-5h. (You can shave off one hour if you add hot broth).
  12. During the last hour, add the coconut milk.
  13. Use an immersion blender and puree the soup.
  14. Add the curry powder, and stir. Taste for salt and adjust.
  15. Serve!
squash_soup_slowcooker-1-9
squash_soup_slowcooker-1-12
Done!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

How to shop wisely

During Columbus Day shopping, I came out of my blissful bliss that online shopping is often the hassle-free alternative of shopping: no need to get out of the house, find parking at the mall, scramble through busy malls, and then haul the loot home. No, it is delivered right to your front steps by your favorite man in town (or second favorite), the UPS guy.

This season, I was ready for a new Eddie Bauer coat, and I knew what I wanted and which size I needed. When a sale came up online I ordered it. Then, when I took a trip to ‘the city’ (there are few when you live in Maine, and there is only one that has an Eddie Bauer store) over the long weekend, I still checked it out in the store, just for fun, and realized, much to my dismay, that the sales in the store were significantly better. WHAT?!!? The online offer of the coat was $219, and in-store it was available for $170. Ouch. Since I had not worn the online one, I sent it back and bought the in-store version.

Something similar happened at the Gap. Find cute sweater in store, on sale, 30% off, I try it on, love it, take it home, only to find out that the same sweater was only $23 online instead of the $36 in store.  Grumble.

I assume the good times of relying that online prices match in-store prices are over.

gap sweater

How to shop wisely:

  • Always compare online prices and in-store prices before you buy any item.
  • Before you order online, call in to your nearest store and ask for the price in case you do not have time to visit the store (or it is too far away).
  • Most stores ship items to your home, and do it for the in-store price. Some stores even ship for free (e.g. Lululemon)
  • When you find a great item in store, and have the nagging doubt that there might be a better deal online, use a smartphone to check the online price in the store, or wait until you can check it out.
  • If you find out that there is a better deal available online while you are in the store, ask to get a price adjustment to match the online price in the store.
  • Or, worst case, you can return either one item, online or in store, in case you find it less expensive elsewhere, later on.
  • If you want to save your sanity instead of your wallet, don’t check any prices, and be happy with your item.
  • The End.

 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Brownie Bites with Chocolate Glaze

This is a recipe inspired by my sister. Once I saw her brownies, glazed in dark chocolate, I was smitten and I had to try to make them immediately. It took a while until I had my act together, and added the glaze instead of just eating the brownies.

The recipe is quite straightforward: take your favorite boxed brownie mix (or make it from scratch or make them even vegan), mix according to instruction, but add additional cocoa (and a few other secret ingredients), underbake (just 22min), and then glaze with dark chocolate

brownie_bites-1-9

Add about 1/4 cup of dark chocolate extra to the boxed mix. Also add a teaspoon of instant espresso to the dry ingredients, and a teaspoon of vanilla to the wet. Mix the wet ingredients separately.

brownie_bites-1

brownie_bites-1-3

I used a ‘brownie’ pan since I like the crust of brownies. One package makes 1 pan.

brownie_bites-1-4

Bake 23 min at 325F.

brownie_bites-1-5

Cool the brownies and cut them in quarters.

brownie_bites-1-6

Mix a glaze with about 1.5 cup of chocolate couverture (I used these ‘chocolate chips’ from Lindt), and melt them over a double boiler. Add 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

brownie_bites-1-7

Dunk the chocolate bites in the melted chocolate, and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper to dry.

After about 1hour, they are ready to eat!

brownie_bites-1-9

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Top 5 Fall Plant-based Recipes

The leaves rustle in gold and red, making fall the most colorful season, Earth’s last hooray before the winter. The  stands at the farmers market overflow with all shapes and sizes and colors of winter squash and pumpkin. The days are shorter again, and you find yourself with more time in front of the stove to cook again. Here are 5 heart-warming plant-based fall recipes:

Roasted Butternut Squash soup in a Mason Jar
 
A roasted butternut squash soup is easy to make and nothing spells fall more than a butternut squash soup, whether the squash is roasted first and then cooked, spiced with curry and orange, and classic with celery and carrots. It also transports well as a lunch meal.

butternut_squash_soup

Vegan lentil, walnut, and mushroom meatballs

Meatballs! Is there more to say about comfort food? This is a light and tasty version with lentils, walnuts and mushroom that taste meaty, as they should.
lentil_meatballs_spagetti_thumb[2]

Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta Alfredo with Sage

A creamy pasta sauce with cashew nuts, nutritional yeast (for the vitamin B12), and some miso. Delight pure!
vegan_butternut_squash_pasta_alfredo

Kale Butternut Squash Mini Muffins

These muffins are a classic: with kale or baby spinach, roasted butternut squash, tiny, cubed feta and sunflower seeds. Technically not all-vegan however the feta gives it a great flavor and heartiness. They store really well, and are a great addition to the lunch box, for kids and adults alike.
Kale_butternut_squash_muffins

Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup

At last, the classic – a vegan, home-made cream of mushroom soup, made with a mix of dried mushroom and fresh, roasted mushroom, and broth.
vegan_cream_of_mushroom_soup