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red quinoa, kale & roasted cauliflower

April 7th, 2014 | No Comments »

I have a tendency not to share these dishes we eat, mostly thrown together with ingredients from the fridge that likely need to be used up before they become this years compost material. This ‘Cowboy Cooking’, as Mike calls it, is a strange gift that I have, an ability to see what’s available and be able to make something delicious from it. Plenty of people do it, I’m sure.

I just need to share it more often. Because the results are often pretty spectacular.

On one of my last trips through CostCo, I came across a 4-lb bag of red quinoa for $15.99. At $4 a pound, this gorgeously colored grain was significantly less expensive than any bulk option I’d ever seen anywhere, and I snatched a sack off the shelf as if they might vaporize right in front of my eyes. Cooking off a large pan at a time, I freeze what I don’t use, which then helps the ‘Cowboy Cooking’ at some point down the road. My favorite means of preparing this delicious grain is to use half coconut water and half coconut milk, along with smoked paprika and turmeric, as it creates a flavor bomb that blows off the top of your head in delight, as well as mixing in that beautiful yellow color that turmeric is known for, making the end result even more gorgeous. Pretty food makes everything better, doesn’t it?

red quinoa ~~ kate in the kitchen

I realize that everything about this dish screams of the current love of all things kale and roasted cauliflower and blah, blah blah with the addition of the ubiquitous quinoa, and more blah, blah, blah coconut water, and where is the creativity or uniqueness in any of that?? You’re right. There isn’t any. Maybe you’ve already done this dish; tossed together a pan of burnished cauliflower with your own uniquely cooked quinoa, and a pan of silky, slowly braised kale that’s pungently scented with garlic and thought that you were a million ways brilliant like I did. There’s nothing to it. And that’s part of why I want to share this delicious and superbly easy dish. There IS nothing to it. Which means you don’t need a whole resume of skills to get a fantastic dinner on the table. Or really, a lot of hands-on time.

red quinoa, roasted cauliflower, braised kale ~~ kate in the kitchen

Let’s take that quinoa: it’s one of the simplest grains ever to cook. Forget that whole 2:1 ratio of water to grain, though; with quinoa, it’s wrong, and will result in a mushy, unappetizing food that no one in your house will want to touch. Here’s the deal: one cup of quinoa needs 1-1/4 cups of liquid. That’s it. It needs a simple simmer, and then…. here’s the easiest part; it needs about 15 minutes of you ignoring it on a hot pad when it’s done. Yup. Take it off the heat when the water is absorbed, set it aside, covered, and ignore it. You can ignore it for an hour and it won’t care. In fact, it LOVES to be ignored. You can cook it in the morning and ignore it all day until dinner and it won’t care. Your result, however, will be a toothsome bite to the grain that reveals all of quinoa’s beautiful tastes. Nothing mushy here, folks.

And that kale? Have you ever found curly kale to be tough and chewy? Not to your liking? Try a slow braise of it, on the lowest heat setting your stove will offer, with just a tiny bit of liquid. I promise you this method will render the toughness right out of this nutritional bomb, making it silky, smooth and delicious to eat. Start with a small onion, or shallot, add a few cloves of garlic, then drop the chopped kale in the pan, stir for a few minutes, add enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan, a pinch of kosher salt, and cover it to cook. You can ignore this one too for a while and it’s ok. Curly kale doesn’t mind. Stir it a few times, and after about 20 minutes or so, the kale will start to show you it’s better side. If it still tastes tough when you sample a leaf, give it more time. Add another pinch of salt, too. It helps break down the cellular walls and tenderize the leaves.

The tender cauliflower, nutty grain and silky kale make for a mouth-awakening dish. And just for fun, I dumped in a bunch of cooked lentils that I had in the fridge to add to all the lip-smacking goodness. This dish…. it’s good when it’s hot; it tastes great at room temperature, and it’s wonderful chilled too. Easy. Endlessly versatile. Colorful. Healthy. It’s got it all. Now YOU need to get it all.

 

Red Quinoa, Braised Kale & Roasted Cauliflower

1 c. red quinoa, washed well and drained (regular white is fine, too)
1-1/4 c. water (or combination of equal liquids such as coconut water & coconut milk)
1 T. ground turmeric
1 T. smoked paprika
1 bunch curly Kale, washed and de-stemmed
1 medium shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 head Cauliflower, washed and broken in to bite sized pieces.
Salt and pepper to taste.

In a small saucepan, bring water or liquids to a boil. Add the quinoa, turmeric and smoke paprika and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and allow to cook until the liquid has been absorbed. Keep covered, remove from heat and set aside for at least 15 minutes, or up to several hours. No need to chill. Fluff the grains before utilizing.

Meanwhile, heat your oven to 400°. Place cauliflower on a baking sheet and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Mix well and place in hot oven. Stir occasionally and roast until fork-tender and browned in spots.

In a medium skillet, heat a small amount of oil and sear the shallot and garlic until tender and slightly browned. Add the kale and stir until coated. Pour about 1/3 cup of water in the pan, sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt on the kale and stir to combine. Cover the pan, reduce to the lowest heat setting and allow to cook, stirring once or twice, for 20-25 minutes. Taste a kale leaf; if it still tastes chewy, cook for 5-10 more minutes. The kale should be silky and tender in your teeth. Keep the heat LOW.

Combine the quinoa, cauliflower and kale in a large bowl and taste for seasoning, adding more salt or pepper if desired.

{NOTE: I don’t include cooking times for this recipe, or any of mine really, because your oven and stovetop is not the same as mine. Instinct, as a cook, is a necessity; your browned cauliflower might look different than mine. Your onions could cook quicker, and your Low setting on your stove could be higher than mine and cook that kale faster. Trust. Taste as you go. And trust some more. Your mouth will tell you when it’s done.}

 

smoky blood orange vinaigrette

March 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Did you know that the Chocolate Lava Cake was an accident? In a rush to provide a warm dessert, the chef who created it took the cake out of the oven too soon, and when a fork was pressed in to it, the soft, melty interior slipped out. The chef was aghast, but the customer loved it. Boom. Herald the ubiquitous appearance of it on restaurant menus for decades, and a spot in the Dessert Hall of Fame.

This Smoky Blood Orange vinaigrette was also an accident. A delicious and colorful accident.

smoky blood orange vinaigrette

Back at the beginning of the month I had a dinner party to celebrate my 50th birthday, and invited some of my closest friends. It was a wine-soaked feast full of amazing food and so much laughter. My friend Mellissa brought a Greek salad with a stunning Blood Orange vinaigrette and I kind of glommed on to that vinaigrette and wanted to pour it over everything I ate. I even bought a container of Aliseo Blood Orange juice so I could whip some up for every salad I ate. During one of these moments, I grabbed a container of smoked spanish paprika off the shelf and shook a little in to the measuring cup.

Then I had that moment much like Chocolate Lave Cake Chef, where I was aghast, and thought ‘Oh dear…. that can’t possibly work, can it?’ I mean, I’ve been putting smoked paprika in a lot of foods because it tastes just so darn good and it was more like habit to reach for the dark red bottle on the spice shelf. Shrugging off concern, I whisked it, tasted, adjusted and tasted again. Then I poured it over a pile of lacinato kale and a bevy of other beautiful vegetables.

greens and vegetables with smoky blood orange vinaigrette

The first bite was a revelation. And another happy accident became an amazing delight. There was the tart citrus, the smoky paprika and a hint of sweetness from coconut palm sugar. I use brown mustard, minced shallot and some garlic, salt and pepper. It’s really nothing to make a vinaigrette from scratch, and the taste of your homemade salad dressings is far and away better {and better for you} than anything you can get in a bottle on the grocer’s shelf.

And besides…. it looks so pretty inside your refrigerator.

smoky blood orange vinaigrette

Smoky Blood Orange Vinaigrette

1/2 c. top quality olive oil
1/3 c. blood orange juice
1 T. whole grain mustard
1 small shallot, very finely minced
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 t. coconut palm sugar (or sub in any sweetener of preference)
1/2 t. cracked black pepper
1 t. fine grain sea salt
1 T. smoked spanish paprika

In a 1-pint glass jar (or other vessel of equal size), measure all ingredients. Shake or whisk well until fully emulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking- more sweet, more salty, a bit more juice….. I’ve found this vinaigrette needs more juice than the standard 2-1 ratio of a basic vinaigrette, but I want to taste the bold flavor of the blood orange juice. You may like it with less pizzazz. I recommend chilling it thoroughly before using, and tasting it again to see if it needs any more flavor adjustments.

 

pasta for the familiar

March 17th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Just 10 days ago, I underwent LASIK eye surgery and my life shifted in ways that I’m still learning to understand. I’m trying to make sense of it all, but only those who’ve been under the burden of eyeglasses for their entire life, then freed from the need in a quick, 7 minute procedure would be able to know why this is such a huge, life-changing shift.

So for the rest of you, I’ll just talk about pasta. Because that’s just not that big of a deal, right? But this dish I created recently, well, this IS a big deal.

I’ve been pasta-less most of the past year, and not for the standard ‘I’m carb-free’ or ‘I don’t DO pasta’ whine whine that this basic staple is devil spawn. We went through a long period where pasta was standard in our dinner repertoire, and I just became tired of it. Then, lately, there’s been that nagging sense that something was causing pure belly sadness and pasta, being cloaked in wheat, was ignored. Finally, I realized that I missed a steaming bowl of carb goodness. It was March in Minnesota, after all. Enough said.

IMG_5613

After the first few days post-LASIK, where my eyes felt like being perpetually stuck behind dirty contacts, hazy edges of everything and light that nearly pierced my brain in it’s brightness, I hadn’t experimented with just how my new means of vision would translate in the kitchen, and my need to clearly see my hands. Mike had brought home a box of gluten-free pasta that promised in large, persuasive text that it had a ‘White Pasta Taste!’ and my family would never know the difference. I craved a bowl of buttery noodles, covered in a thin layer of shaved parmesan, a salve for the body that was now rendered off in a new direction, brain and eyes communicating after a lifetime of silence. Everything was new. And I needed something old and familiar.

IMG_5615

But this dish turned out to be anything but, yet, at the same time, it soothed immensely. It was buttery noodles. There was lots of fresh shaved parmesan cheese, just as I desired. But there were sautéed collard greens, a deeply burnished bed of shallots and garlic, and all of it was bathed in the deep umami of a thick anchovy fillet, melted in a puddle of olive oil. Skipping over the familiar, I added a dose of the here and now, trying to pull together two sides of my life that were now in conflict inside my head. I wish I could explain it better than that, but there’s so much to comprehend from this simple procedure that I never anticipated, so much emotion- being able to read the labels on the bottles in my shower, seeing the texture of the ceiling when I awake, pressing my cheek to my husband’s without the pinch of eyeglasses between us- the simplest of life moments that so many take for granted and never think about that suddenly are part of my life. I’m close to weeping every day at this wonderful, unfamiliar and amazing world. I can’t wait to leap in to a lake or pool this summer and come up with clear vision. I may break down crying at how great that will feel.

My boy wandered in the kitchen, dressed for his Wednesday night youth group at church and stuck his nose in the pot of pasta I was stirring together, clinging to thin sheets of collards and tiny chunks of allium, steam rising from the glistening spirals. His eyebrows rose in anticipation and he drew two forks from the drawer, and together we stuck a few noodles to the tines and lifted them to our mouths. I shaved the parm on his bowl, then mine, and we bent our elbows to the island in our kitchen, shoulder to shoulder and dipped our forks. This act of simple consumption with he and I is a need for both of us, to connect over a bowl of modest food, leaning together in companionable silence except for the clink of silverware, a swift moment to just be. It added to the familiar that my brain was seeking. He sighed as he scooped up the last noodle, moving it around the bowl to grab the last drops of oil and butter, the remaining bits of cheese. He smiled at me and leaned his shoulder in to mine, his gesture of thanks well received, another wave of the familiar among a week of new discoveries.

This pasta was so good; simple, deeply flavorful and crazy easy to make. If you haven’t experimented with anchovies in pasta dishes, I urge you to just try it, as they add immense depth.

 

Pasta with Collard Greens and Anchovy

1# pasta, cooked
1 thick bunch Collard Greens, stems removed, washed and rough chopped
1 medium shallot
2 cloves garlic
1 Anchovy fillet (or two, depending on size; I used Wild Planet White Anchovies, and they are BIG)
Butter and olive oil for cooking.
Parmesan cheese to taste

Cook pasta according to personal taste. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large, deep skillet and add a knob of good butter, along with a drizzle of olive oil. Sauté the shallot and garlic, stirring frequently, until golden in color. Add the anchovy fillet and mash with a spoon to break it up. Stir in the collard greens to coat, add about 1/4 cup of water, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the collards are soft, but still retain some texture.

Drain pasta, reserving a small amount of liquid. Add pasta to pot with collards and stir well to combine. Grind some black pepper over it, along with a few shakes of sea salt, stir some more and taste for seasoning. Adjust if you like. Add another drizzle of olive oil, or some more butter if you prefer, or some of the pasta water if it seems too dry. Spoon in to serving bowls and top with shaved parmesan cheese to taste. Grab a fork, and someone you love.

 

 

 

boston baked brown bread

March 10th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

boston baked brown bread ~~ kate in the kitchen

Sometimes you just need something like this bread; a dense, slightly sweet loaf, with a firm, pebbly crust and a texture that wakes up your mouth, giving it plenty to chew on. Something that seemingly defies convention, that marries best with thickly spread chilled butter and a steaming cup of coffee, that says straight away to your belly a soul-satisfying ‘Ahhhhhhh!’

Baked in a cast-iron skillet, this bread, with it’s molasses laced crumb, rich with rye, cornmeal and stone-ground wheat goes by multiple names depending on who you ask, or possibly, where you’re from. The recipe origin, from the Food52 folks, called it Yogurt Bread with Molasses. Ho hum. No offense to them, but this description doesn’t even come close to explaining the brilliance of this bread. In reading through the comments on the article, it was described as Boston Baked Brown Bread, others called it New England Brown Bread. There’s a fact that in one era, and possibly still existing, that this bread or it’s similar affiliates is sometimes baked in a coffee can. It’s created for holiday festivities, and Christmas isn’t the same without it. But that’s just what I read about it.

boston baked brown bread ~~ kate in the kitchen

I’m pretty sure that my life changed the moment I cut my first aromatic wedge from the thick loaf that slipped from my beloved Griswold. Melted butter in the pan baked a delicious crust around the outer edge of the loaf, and I broke off a bit of it to test before the entire thing had cooled. It was divine, firing all the pleasure synapses in my brain and instead of defying recipe instructions to ‘Wait until cooled before slicing {Yes, I am serious}’ I slipped in to my cross country ski boots, gathered my equipment and drove to the golf course to take in a wildly beautiful day of ample sunshine, blue sky, and temps above zero {{what?? I know. It felt… foreign}}

osprey nest, Marshan Lake

I was practically snow blind when I returned home, but fully spent from 75 minutes on the trails. A shower rinsed away the evidence, and more of this bread made it’s way to my mouth, almost gaping open like a baby bird with Mama perched on the nest edge.

boston baked brown bread ~~ kate in the kitchen

And what about that wheat it contains? Because, yes, I’ve been experimenting with wheat-free products and have to tell you, I’m not convinced it’s ALL wheat {or gluten, per se}  that causes my issues, but more processed, preservative laced wheat, and wheat products like commercial breads and white flour that make my poor belly quake in fear. This bread, while I suppose may cause a problem if I consume the entire thing {but seriously, that might happen to anyone} so far, with a pure, organic, and stone-ground wheat and rye flour in it, I’m not finding it to be troublesome. Still, I’m holding myself to a small slice {or maybe two} of it daily. The bread keeps quite well in a sealed container, and the flavor and tenderness deepen over a few days. No yeast either, so it comes together fast. Just be sure NOT to over mix.

Boston Baked Brown Bread

1-1/4 c. stone ground wheat flour
1-1/4 c. stone ground rye flour
1/2 c. coarse ground cornmeal
1 t. kosher salt
1 t. baking soda
1-1/4 c. vanilla almond milk + 1/4 c. kefir or plain whole milk yogurt + 2 T. white or cider vinegar {use all milk if no kefir on hand; or sub what original recipe calls for; 1-1/4 c. plain whole milk yogurt}
1/2 c. molasses

Optional: 1-1/2 c. chopped dried fruit and nuts
Butter for greasing the pan.

Heat oven to 325°. If using milk and vinegar, whisk them together now in a 4-cup measuring cup.

In a medium bowl, whisk wheat and rye flours, cornmeal, salt and soda.

Stir the milk mixture to combine and add the molasses. Whisk well and pour half in with the dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, stir in wide strokes to mix, sweeping across the bottom of the bowl. When half mixed, add the remaining milk, dried fruit and nuts, if using, and continue to sweep the spatula around the bowl until just combined. DO NOT OVERMIX. The dough will be stiff and very thick.

Slice about 2 tablespoons of butter in to a standard loaf pan, or a 7-8″ cast-iron skillet. Place in warm oven and allow to melt. Remove from oven {remember…. it’s HOT} swirl butter to coat the entire pan and scrape the batter in to the pan. Spread slightly to fill and place the pan back in the oven.

Bake about an hour, then test the center of the loaf. It should be firm, spring back when touched, and a toothpick test will be clean with a few crumbs clinging to it. Remove it from the oven and let it cool completely before removing from the pan and slicing. I’m not kidding. It will fall apart, and you’ll be singing like a sad trombone if you don’t wait.

Bread can be kept in an air-tight container. The flavor improves after a few days, if you can wait that long. :-)

ginger-lime tuna with coconut quinoa

March 4th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

How pretty is this dish??

ginger-lime tuna with coconut quinoa ~~ Kate in the Kitchen

Now that we’re in to March, the month where Spring makes it’s appearance on the calendar, I’m hoping for a speedy turnaround to the cold. Although my cats would likely argue for the continuing need for cozy, warm lap snuggles, I argue for lighter, greener, and crunchier.

To anyone committed to eating better foods, we know that spending a bit more money is sometimes the means to achieving our goals. I enjoy having cans of tuna around for a quick meal, but have become more particular about what canned tuna I’m willing to buy. Wild Planet has become a favorite, even with the cost being around $5 a can. No, I am not kidding. I grew up with Charlie, the Starkist Tuna, bathed in thick mayo on white bread. Not anymore, though. Wild Planet tuna is the real deal; it’s sustainable, line-caught tuna that eliminates the life and sea draining by-catch, and you get a thick fillet packed in non-BPA cans it’s own juices. While the price eliminates it being a regular offering in my kitchen, when I do feel like eating tuna, this is the one I want. {{No endorsements here…. I just love the product.}}

The current issue of Eating Well magazine has a section on bowl dinners- which is quickly becoming ‘the thing’ throughout Blogland to pile everything in a big, wide bowl-  and the very first recipe listed was this Tuna Tataki Quinoa Bowl, of which I had everything on hand to quickly put it together. I’d recently found a 4-lb bag of organic Red Quinoa at Costco, and mixed it 50-50 with white quinoa, adding coconut milk, water and turmeric to create a deeply colorful option that added a lot of vibrancy to the plate. Er. Bowl. A can of Wild Planet Albacore tuna was used in place of fresh, marinating it in the same pungent and tasty broth.

ginger-lime tuna with coconut quinoa ~~ kate in the kitchen

Outside, the wind was really howling, once again. The sky shone a deep blue and the feigned warmth of the sun lulled me in to disbelief over the current state of the air outside. The lime juice and ginger lifted a fragrant scent, and I fished around in the drawer for my julienne peeler, scrubbing down carrots and keeping an eye on the simmering quinoa on the stove. Thin strips of carrot and cucumber dropped to the cutting board under my hands. Even before the quinoa finished cooking, my meal was ready to put together. After piling everything artfully in the bowl, sprinkling it with a bit of  nori powder and taking a few photographs, I stirred the ingredients together with a fork and sat down. It was light, delicious, and really satisfying, with crunchy texture and bright, bold flavors. I love lime juice and ginger together, and although I’m sure a fresh tuna steak, or even sushi-grade salmon would have added a lot more flavor, the alternative was still delicious, not to mention so much easier and convenient.

One note on preparing quinoa: Eating Well lists, as many other recipes do, to cook quinoa in a 2-1 ratio of liquid to grain. In my experience, this makes for a very mushy and tasteless end product. Quinoa shouldn’t be mushy when you eat it; it should retain it’s shape, be toothsome but not crunchy, and you should be able to taste it’s texture. I have always cooked one cup of quinoa to 1-1/4 cups of liquid until all is absorbed, then remove the pan from the heat to sit for 10-15 minutes. It always comes out just fine.

For the original recipe, please follow the link to Eating Well’s site. This is my version:

Ginger-Lime Tuna with Coconut Quinoa

1 c. quinoa (I mixed red and white together)
3/4 c. coconut milk, whisked smooth*
1/2 c. water
1 T. ground turmeric
1/4 c. tamari soy sauce (or regular if it’s what you have)
3 T. fresh squeezed lime juice
1 T. fresh ginger, mashed
1 t. chili garlic sauce
1 can Albacore tuna
2 medium carrots, scrubbed
Half an English Cucumber
1 sheet fresh Nori, snipped in to pieces (I used Nori powder as I have a small bag of it)

In a small saucepan, combine the coconut milk and water and bring to a boil. Rinse the quinoa well in a wire mesh strainer and add to the pan with the turmeric, stirring to combine. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat and cover, allowing to simmer gently until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes.

While the quinoa is cooking, whisk the soy sauce, lime juice, ginger and chili garlic sauce together and add the tuna, breaking it in to bite sized pieces. Stir to coat and set aside.

With a julienne peeler, or a sharp knife, slice the carrot and cucumber (minus the seeds) in to thin strips.

When the quinoa is ready, place about a half cup in a large bowl and mound the tuna, carrot, and cucumber around it. Drizzle with a bit of the marinade and sprinkle with the pieces of Nori. This recipe made two sizable meals.

*- Coconut milk can be very thin, or very thick depending on the brand. The particular can I used this time was really thick and flavorful, but had I used it alone to cook the quinoa it would have never worked. I mixed it with water until it was thinner, but if you have thin enough coconut milk, you may be able to use it straight without adding water.

this is 50

March 1st, 2014 | 5 Comments »

 Today is my 50th birthday.

happy birthday ~~ kate in the kitchen

It’s hard to wrap your head around 50 years of living. I’ve tried a lot in the last months to make sense of this journey, to see, in looking backwards, how the years past have shaped and formed the ‘Me’ that is celebrating a half century of life today. Sometimes it’s painful; other times, exhilarating, and always it’s a fascinating retrospect of a life that I am blessed to call my own. It isn’t perfect by any means. But it’s mine and I treasure it. Life lessons and all, the ‘A-ha!’ moments, the 20-20 hindsight, the path that spiraled and twisted until it led me straight to where I am right now, it’s all been one wild ride and I wouldn’t go back and change one bit of it.

So what has it shown me, this exploration of the past and this life? Here’s 50 meaningful insights I’ve come up with as I look back:

1. Pain is a necessary part of growth, but it doesn’t have to control you.
2. There will be many, many regrets. Let them go.
3. Therapy can vital to happiness and is never a sign of weakness.
4. Having pets in your home can change bad to good in one fuzzy and enthusiastic embrace.
5. Never, ever stop seeking whatever it is that will make you shine, inside and out.
6. Keep your brain and body active. Your life will be much better for it.
7. Try something new all the time, whether new foods, new experiences, new routes to drive, new magazines to read.
8. Let go of material goods as being what defines who you are. Because they don’t.
9. Allow yourself to let go of everything that ceases to work for you.
10. Get outside every day and breathe the air, feel the sunshine and move around.
11. Sleep when you’re tired. It’s not a sign that you’re old, it’s your body telling you it’s had enough for that day.
12. Seek the friendships that enhance your soul and well-being, not your image.
13. Mistakes are tools to learn by; figure out what each mistake taught you, and move on.
14. It’s perfectly all right to cry.
15. Laugh often, loudly and with others.
16. Good food makes for a healthy body, but don’t ever turn down a piece of cake.
17. Value the importance of staying physically strong as you age. Your body really does need to lift weights.
18. Kick through the leaves every Fall, make a Snow Angel in the Winter and seek out the first blooms each Spring.
19. Give more than you ever get.
20. Read real books.
21. Make your mantra ‘Never stop learning’
22. Marvel at the first snowfall every year.
23. Graciously release yourself of the need to be perfect. And right.
24. Believe that the world will keep spinning if you are sick and need to stay home and in bed.
25. Make your own traditions.
26. Learn how to care for your home, your car and other mechanical needs. Even if you aren’t alone now, you might be one day, and you’ll need those skills.
27. There is far more value placed on treasured memories, than on a dusty box of items you no longer need or use.
28. Love everyone unconditionally. How they live their life is none of your business.
29. Grace is the hardest thing to give that gives you the highest reward, but it is so worth offering to everyone you meet.
30. You don’t have to accept anything that someone else does, but it never gives you license to lecture or challenge them about it.
31. A hot shower does so much to help shift perspective.
32. Nothing we ever do, gain or achieve is because of luck. Luck is when you find money.
33. Celebrate the big and the little milestones in your life. Every day.
34. Schedule a ‘Do Nothing’ day at least once a month, or more.
35. Date your spouse or partner. Often.
36. Be gracious, patient, and kind to anyone working at a cash register, serving your food or stocking a shelf.
37. Buy the good towels that are thick and absorbent, and sheets with a high thread count. Your skin will always be happier for it.
38. Burn candles regularly. The flickering light is soothing beyond imagination.
39. No one benefits when you stretch yourself out too thin, least of all, you.
40. Understand that the more you say ‘No’ to what you don’t want or need, the better equipped you are at saying ‘Yes’ to what makes you happy.
41. Make a playlist of songs you love to sing along with. It’s an instant mood lifter.
42. Offer your skills to help others learn what they don’t know.
43. Be grateful every morning that you have another 24 hours.
44. If you haven’t used it, worn it or looked at it for a year or more, get rid of it.
45. Be kind to your feet; you can’t even imagine the miles they’ve taken you.
46. Build an impenetrable filter between your brain and your mouth. And use it constantly.
47. Grief of any kind, for any reason, happens on your own terms, not someone else’s.
48. Time alone is absolutely vital to your well-being, and is never a sign of selfishness.
49. Yes, it really does matter that you drink plenty of water.

50. Friendships will inevitably change over time. You will find the ones that mean the world to you, and learn to understand when it’s best to let go of those that don’t. Cherish, treasure and keep close those friends who walk with you during the darkest moments. You will know who they are by the hand that takes hold of yours when the lights go out.

Cheers, friends!!

winter white, and a colorful salad remedy

February 20th, 2014 | Comments Off

Winter feels like an endless slap to the face this year, doesn’t it? Arctic, brutal cold. Snowfall upon snowfall upon snowfall, and we’re running out of room to put it when clearing sidewalks and driveways. The mounds next to our driveway are so high that it’s becoming difficult to see down the street, and the winding curve of our road makes for challenging navigations as the piles block our sight lines, even after the city came through and plowed some of them back.

I get it. Really, I do.

But I confess, as you might have seen on social media, that I still love the snow as it falls. Recently, awaking from an afternoon nap on the sofa in our sunroom, the light was fading fast to that purple hue of late Winter, and snowflakes, big and fat, were gently sifting down. I sat up, reaching for my glasses and propped a pillow up behind me, pulling the fleece blanket closer. Sitting there, in the dim, waning light I watched the parade of flakes and felt a peace slip over me, soothed by the patterns. The snowfall hushes the world around us, silence like a blanket, a magic hand that tosses out a fresh white covering across the land. Yes, it’s piling up high. Is it excessive? Hardly. Current accumulation in the Twin Cities is 47″ for the season. The year I was a Senior in High School, and the subsequent year after that we had the two snowiest Winters on record in Minnesota, with total of near 100″ each year, and in January 1982 alone, 46.8 inches of snow fell.

So this? Is nothing. Really.

But I get it. And I think what gets us in a melancholy mind worst of all is not the lack of sunlight, as most believe, but the pervasive lack of vibrant color.

colorless feline ~~ Kate in the Kitchen

So, let’s make some color, shall we??

golden beet tartare

Back in June of 2012, I received an amazing cookbook, Herbivoracious, by Michael Natkin. Out of that book came this delicious Gold Beet Tartare salad, and I was hooked, making it just about every week until it wore out it’s welcome across my palate. It favors endless variations, and bursts with color, flavor and texture to awaken tired mouths, hinting at the abundant season ahead. One variation I thought was just splendid was to omit the English Cucumber, and sub in diced raw Fennel instead. Or? Roast that fennel if you prefer, with the Beets and Vidalia Onions. Does your local market carry the young and tender Spring Vidalias right now? Looking like an overgrown scallion, the young Vidalias are sweet and flavorful, making a perfect addition for this salad. Make it a warm option, because of that Winter white outside. Switch up the standard lemon for a Meyer Lemon to add a bit more intensity. What I love about this recipe, or really, any recipe, is the versatility that allows for one to make it solely your own. This is just a guide. You know your tastes best, so explore, imagine and chop for the color you crave, the flavor you need to pull you through these last weeks of cold, of white and snow and shoveling and those towering piles everywhere.

 

Gold Beet Salad

3 medium beets, tops trimmed (save them and eat them if it’s your thing)
1/2 an English Cucumber, peeled and finely diced
1/2 medium Vidalia onion, grilled but still somewhat crunchy, finely diced
1 T. capers, drained and minced
1/2 c. kale leaves, finely minced (recommend: lacinato)
3 T. olive oil
1 t. fresh lemon zest
1 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 T. fresh chives, minced
2 T. fresh parsley, minced (I used flat leaf; curly would work just as well)
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400°. Place a square of foil in an 8×8 baking pan and put beets in the foil. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and fold the foil over the beets. Roast the beets until a knife inserted in them slips out easily. The time will depend on the size of your beets, but plan for at least 45 minutes to an hour. Allow the beets to cool, then peel and dice them.

In a bowl, add the beets, cucumber, onion, capers, kale, lemon zest and juice, chives and parsley. Drizzle in the oil, add a few shakes of sea salt and grinds of pepper. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Allowing the salad to sit for a few hours, or overnight before serving will deepen the flavors. Adjust seasonings before serving.

these little things

February 14th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

I’m awakened by the familiar creak of the floorboard outside our bedroom door as Mike brings a steaming cup of coffee in to the room for me. He opens the blind to the morning light, kisses me lightly and leaves me to sip, awaken and stretch in the quiet. It’s one of our most beloved routines, and on the rare mornings that we aren’t in the same home, I miss the gentle easing out of sleep, the scent of the cup at my bedside, his tender kiss.

This year, we’ll celebrate 12 years of marriage, and rarely have we given Valentine’s Day much thought at all during that time. There have been flower bouquets on occasion, and a kiss each February 14th that says ‘You’ll always be my Valentine.’, but the truth is much sweeter than an entire box of chocolates; each day has elements of simple romance in them, and every day should be a reminder of why you fell in love.

Twelve years with a ring on my finger, and I’m still finding aspects of this man to fall in love with, especially the way he still can make me bust out laughing over the dumbest things. We’ve weathered tough years that wore us thin on one another and still, at night when we lay to sleep, we clasp hands and let the cares of the day slip away in moments for just us two. I joke about his wild eyebrow hairs, and he reaches behind me to scratch that one spot I can never reach. I press my toes to his. The day ends in drowsy eyes, murmurs of ‘I love you’ and then, sleep. The next day, there’s a cup of coffee, abundant grace, and still, a wedding ring.

I cook the foods I know he will love. He changes the oil in my car, and willingly drove it on the coldest days of this frigid Winter when we knew the battery was failing. I gladly do the laundry. He does the dishes. If there’s ice cream at the end of our day, he places my favorite spoon in my bowl, and knows exactly how much I want. He hides chocolate for me. I make sure there’s plenty of peanut butter for him. We know, with a simple glance at the end of our workday, how it panned out for the other- the tension around his eyes, the downturn of my mouth. He can see with the sunrise if I’ve slept well the night before. He leaps from bed in the middle of the night to run downstairs and see why our most vocal cat is howling at 2AM. I send him love texts from work. For each hour that passes, of every day, through a parade of seasons both outside our doors and inside our souls, we watch over each other carefully, protecting each other, loving each other, caring and soothing the barbs of living, holding hands while we walk at sundown, falling asleep after a kiss each night.

It’s Friday, and our routine won’t change much today, over any other day; before I leave for work, I’ll draw him in to a close embrace and kiss him deeply before donning my coat and shoes, picking up my work bag and heading out the door. It’ll be dark when I return, a long day apart, and the moment we lay eyes on one another, there forms a softness around our eyes, a shot of warmth through us of how glad we are to see one another. Again, we embrace and share a kiss. “How was your day?” Dinner might be waiting, or we’ll warm up something in the fridge.

There might be flowers. And there’s always chocolate, hidden somewhere in the house for those moments when nothing else tastes right. But the days pass similar to this, always starting with that gentle kiss in the morning, a warm embrace and greeting when we part, and when we return. The little things, the daily gestures, the give and take, a back scratch or massaging a sore spot, a favorite spoon, a treasured meal. Ice cream in the freezer, peanut butter in the cupboard. A kiss, and proclamations of love before sleep on a cold February night, the first sweet Spring night when the windows are open, or the hottest of days in July.

No Valentine card can ever convey the importance and the grace behind the daily shuffle, hand in hand with this other soul.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my sweet love!

 

food bloggers unite: feeding south africa

February 10th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
“It is our moral obligation to give every child the very best education possible. In order to learn, children need to be nourished. The Lunchbox Fund ensures that ever child is equipped to embrace the future and change it for the better.”
— Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

This year’s event by The Giving Table focuses on South Africa, and The Lunchbox Fund, which “…..has been feeding impoverished and orphaned schoolchildren since 2005. It brings communities together with the help of small local businesses and entrepreneurs, and provides vulnerable students with healthy meals that nourish their bodies and minds.” 

  • The Lunchbox Fund identifies schools or forms partnerships with locally based NGOs or community organizations in order to evaluate and identify schools. It funds distributers to buy and deliver food, monitor the feeding scheme, implement a Project Manager, and deliver reports back to them for evaluation.


Maybe you were here last year when I told my own personal tale of being hungry, and the impact it had on me. Last year’s cause focused on children in the USA that went hungry every day, on families that struggled to make ends meet and provide enough food. But children go hungry all over the world. And we know they do. But what do we do about it?

What have YOU done about it? What are you WILLING you do about it?

While breakfast is one of my favorite meals ever, lunchtime is a treasured routine, a suspension in the middle of any day when all activity stops and we sit down to nourish ourselves for the rest of the day. As far back as I can recall, I have so many memories of lunchtime; from being able to come home for lunch when I was just a kid (do any school children actually do this anymore?? It was such a treat.) to a break in the action of high school to gather in the lunchroom and catch up with everyone. Then, we enter the workplace, and those moments when work ceases and we pick up our lunch totes, or head out for a quick fix. Weekend lunches of leisure and leftovers. It all resonates. I’ve always enjoyed lunchtime, no matter where I am, or how old I’ve become.

I cannot imagine being in school and not being able to eat lunch. When my boy was young, and when he allowed me to pack a lunch for him, I wanted it to be something special that he enjoyed and we worked together to make it fun, to be something he looked forward to and would eat when the time came. He would help me pack his tote, make sure that he had a napkin or the right utensil for his yogurt, a cup of dressing to dip his carrots in, an apple cut up just so. When he wasn’t looking, I would slip in a note just for him. Eventually, he wanted school lunch just like the other kids, and when he got home, we always talked about what he ate, why he liked it and what he didn’t. One day, I clearly recall when he told me how he and a few friends shared their lunch with a new boy in their class who had no food. When he asked me why that boy wasn’t given lunch, or didn’t bring any with him, I had no answer. We talked about how it was always a good idea to share if someone had none.

 

  • Lack of food can diminish concentration, erode willpower, and strip away a child’s potential; without food, a child’s attendance and performance at school is severely jeopardized. 
  • 65% of all South African children live in poverty. Receiving food encourages these children to stay in school and obtain their education.


We know, as adults, that being hungry makes it hard to concentrate. We know how it can affect our work, and most of us keep snacks at hand to ward off hunger if our meals don’t carry us through, but imagine being a child, in school and trying to concentrate while hunger gnaws at your belly. There are no snacks. Likely there’s little at home to even start the day. And there may even be no promise of food throughout the entire school day. No one should have to live like that.

Can you find it in your heart to donate even a small dollar amount to help? All you have to do is click on this link..….. it’s so easy, and so profound. We all spend money throughout our days that provides us with simple pleasures that we take solely for granted; our daily latte fix, that cup of yogurt with all the fancy toppings, a candy bar, a soda, the latest fashion or gossip magazine, even the money we spend on our own daily lunches. Where does that money go? Would you consider donating only $10 dollars? Most people spend that every day and rarely can recall on what, but $10 would help fill The Lunchbox Fund and provide 100 school children their only meal of the day for an entire year. Can you imagine the impact of that small of a donation?  Compare that to a cup of yogurt, or your fancy latte and I think you’d agree it’s money well spent.

My lunch now is always fairly simple. I like quick, nourishing salads for my midday meal, or simple foods like an apple and peanut butter, a handful of nuts, hummus and vegetables, a quick meal of leftovers from the previous night. I like the calm of a quiet half hour to eat, to taste and enjoy, to watch the sun out the window and just be.

This raw kale salad has been on repeat in my lunch repertoire since discovering it’s simple tastes, the crunch of pistachios and the dreamy, chewy dates that bounce off the tart dressing. It’s a breeze to prepare, and taste much better the next day, after the lime juice, miso and sesame oil have a chance to penetrate the kale, soften it fully and infuse it with flavor. Make it the night before and by lunchtime, it will be perfect.

Raw Kale Salad with Lime-Sesame Dressing,
Pistachios & Dates

For the salad:

One bunch Lacinato Kale, washed, stems removed and rough chopped
1/3 c. pistachios, roasted & salted (or raw, if you prefer)
2 Medjool dates, pits removed and minced
1 t. fresh squeezed lime juice
Pinch of sea salt

For the dressing:
2 T. toasted sesame oil
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. fresh squeezed lime juice
2 t. white or brown miso
2 t. honey
2 T. white or brown sesame seeds, crushed
Pinch of sea salt

Place kale in a bowl. Drizzle with the teaspoon of lime juice and the pinch of sea salt. With your hands, gently massage the lime juice and kale for a few minutes until it becomes soft. Set aside

In a measuring cup or small bowl, place the crushed sesame seeds and sea salt. Drizzle with the lime juice, sesame and olive oils and whisk gently to combine. Add the miso and honey and whisk together thoroughly. Taste for seasoning. It should have a nice balance of tangy, salty and sweet. Adjust with a bit more miso or honey, if desired. Drizzle half the dressing over the massaged kale and toss to combine. Add more dressing if needed, but you may not use all of it. Add the pistachios and minced dates, toss well and serve. Salad will deepen in flavor if allowed to sit for a few hours, or overnight.

just write {120}

January 28th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

The sunshine is deceitful, as it smothers us in warmth through the windowpane, the wind threatens to burn an icy finger through the glass and tear us in two. Another day of unbearable cold, a mysterious lethargy forms over me and I pick up the phone to call work and say that I’m not coming in.

Then I sit. No energy or resourcefulness. I catch up on reading, cuddling a purring cat to share the chilly sunshine spots. Clear and unbroken, the snow beckons, the cross-country skis lay forgotten in the arctic cold, the golden light outside playing strands of color across the floor and I resist opening the door to feel it’s light on my face. The cat burrows in to my chin, pressing his head to me as if to say ‘This is where you belong.’

I experiment in the kitchen, turn on the oven, roast a few potatoes and make a quick bread in my cast-iron skillet. It works, and it doesn’t, but I eat what cooked well and poke through the rest of it, sunshine warm on my back and the hum of the oven keeping time with the furnace exhaust that floats by the window. From the chimneys across the yard, white puffs billow, hang in the air close to the rooftops. A few tornados of snow kick across the blank white canvas. The ice on the edges of the windows hasn’t even melted yet and it’s after noon, now. I try not to think of the animals out there in this cold.

Brownies come together in a pan, thick, swirls of chocolate, butter and sugar spun together, dark chocolate chunks melting within, a blue flame coaxing flavor and magic alchemy. After their fragrant turn in the warm oven, the scent rises to the ceilings, filling the house and chasing off the chill of the day. The potatoes rest on the baking sheet, skins wrinkling as they cool. A memory flashes through my mind of sitting bathed in summer sunshine on the faded redwood steps outside, birdsong keeping company with the wind through the leaves, and me, dipping my fork in a bowl of fried potatoes, salient with smoked salt and grinds of sharp pepper. Once more, I watch the streams from my neighbors chimney, smoke clinging low in the sky.

The sky is a cold, icy and brilliant blue, and the furnace hums on, and on, and on.

Join us for the 120th version of Just Write, over at The Extraordinary Ordinary