Go to Home Page

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.}

 

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.

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.

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.

cold weather coping, with soup

January 8th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

We’re on the upswing of some pretty intensely cold weather. Thankfully it was brief, only a few days, but the deep freeze shut down the state in ways that I haven’t seen in almost 20 years.

I’m old enough to well recall the last two deep freeze spells that came through Minnesota; the last one, in 1996 caught me inside a superbly drafty, old house and my poor baby, barely even 2 years old, was wrapped up so tight in layers that he could barely toddle around. We spent a lot of time snuggled in blankets watching PBS and reading books.  And prior to that, in 1994, I was carrying him around on my insides, and so toasty warm with extra weight and hormones that I walked to the bus stop in -20 temperatures, with a cruel wind to boot, in an open winter coat that flapped in that vicious breeze. And I was still too warm. I didn’t get any frostbite, but I sure got some weird looks.

And here’s the thing; yes, by golly, it’s cold. But that just means more layers, more awareness when going out. I was outside on both of our recent cold days and although I could certainly vouch for the bone-chilling wind, I was dressed properly and felt just fine. Not fine enough for being out very long, taking a walk or getting out the nordic skis, but there was no fear in running errands and going about my business. Working in a grocery store led me to witness some pretty bizarre behaviors in people buying up supplies like an apocalypse was upon us, but quite frankly, I’m more fearful of being out in a blizzard than I am of dealing with a polar vortex. Cold is not so bad if you aren’t afraid of it.

We did have a big hiccup with Mike’s car, though, as he willingly allowed Griffin to park his car in our garage overnight so that when he had to leave for work at 4:30am, his car might start a bit easier. Which it did. But, as you can imagine, Mike’s car wouldn’t start after being out overnight in -50 wind chills. After multiple attempts to get the engine running, he disconnected the battery and brought it inside to warm up, keeping it connected to an electric charger. The next morning, the car roared to life as it should. Bottom line: if your car has to be outside, try taking the battery inside on those brutal nights. It’s a little extra work that might save you from a dead vehicle. And an electric charger should be in everyone’s arsenal.

Our fireplace got a lot of use over the past week, too. It’s gas, which isn’t our favorite, but you can’t beat it for ease and for incredible warmth. The fireplace has a blower that sends the warm, heated air out in to the room, and I curl up on the sofa in front of it, cats draped across my lap, my knitting in hand and a movie or TV show on Netflix and can pretty much forget that’s it’s not a fit night for anyone outside our windows.

At the top of every coping mechanism, however, is the food we love to consume when the weather bottoms out. You all know that I love soup, almost beyond words, and for one of our bitterly cold night, I made a simple pot of simmered beet greens, chickpeas and red-skinned potatoes from our Fall Storage CSA share. Simmered in turmeric-laced coconut milk, spiked with red curry paste, it was enough to cut through even the most bone-rattling cold, warming us right to our toes. Beet greens {and all hearty greens, like kale, mustard greens, collard greens, and chard) become silky smooth, nearly melting in your mouth when simmered slowly, and this method has made me a huge fan of just about any dark, leafy green, loaded with the iron our bodies need. This soup is pretty similar to my popular Braised Kale & Chickpeas recipe, with a few tweaks here and there. The addition of turmeric adds lovely color, and the wonderful anti-inflammatory properties that turmeric offers.

We’re expected to warm up in to the low 30′s by the weekend, and I can’t even imagine how delightful that’s going to feel after this last blast of arctic air, but, sadly, weather patterns hint at the brutal cold returning all too soon. There’s lots of Winter left. Plenty of soup to be made, I imagine.

Greens, Potatoes & Chickpeas in Coconut Milk

1 large bunch dark, leafy greens such as Beet, Collard, Chard or Kale, washed, de-stemmed & rough chopped
1/2# red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut to 1/2″ {leave the peels on}
2 c. cooked chickpeas {equal to 1 15-oz can, rinsed well}
1 15-oz can coconut milk {use full fat for best flavor}
1 c. water
2 T. ground turmeric
2 T. red curry paste {optional, but you’ll love how it warms you from the inside}
1 large shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced {use less, or more, to taste}

In a deep skillet, warm oil of choice and sauté the shallot and garlic with a big pinch of salt until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add in the greens by the handful, stirring to help them wilt slightly. When all the greens are added, pour in the coconut milk and water, and stir to combine. You won’t have a ton of broth, and you don’t need a lot. Add the curry paste and whisk to incorporate, then sprinkle the turmeric over everything and stir until combined. Bring to a simmer, add the potatoes and chickpeas, then cover and cook over low heat until the potatoes are just fork tender, stirring occasionally. Don’t cook them to the point of falling apart. The greens should be silky smooth.

Season to your taste with salt and pepper, then ladle in to bowls.

 

on knowing it’s enough, and apple cranberry crisp

November 13th, 2013 | 4 Comments »

The end of the year always brings reflection for me. I tend not to wait until the flip of the calendar to January, and resolutions never cross my thoughts, but I look at my life and do a sort of personal evaluation on where I am, where the past year led me, and where I’d like to take the next 12 months. This process is only in the beginning stages right now, and as in past years, it always includes this blog space of mine.

Our church just started a sermon series on breaking free of the chains that hold us to societal norms, like the collecting of possessions, the constant need for ‘new’ at every turn, putting forth the appearance of perfect, and other traps that hold us to a collective thinking that is less than Christ-like. Our first message talked about how we tend to accumulate far more than we ever need, that our houses are twice the size they were 20 years ago, and at the same time, Americans rent 1.2 billion square feet of storage space. No one needs to have that spelled out; our homes are even way too big to hold everything we have.

This series comes so perfectly timed for Mike and I, as we decided the week before that we need to clear up the clutter of un-used items in our home and take back the space, even if it means simply leaving it bare. There’s that desk that sits in the corner, it’s purpose long gone yet the top is cluttered with items that haven’t got any other ‘home’. The spare bedroom has become a dumping ground for far too much, unorganized and chaotic. The lighter weight blankets, the flannel sheets, a closet full of off-season clothing, items that Griffin has outgrown, a pile of clothing started for donating. The list is endless, and I know that you’ve probably got a space like that in your house, too. I open drawers and find items I had forgotten about, and I wonder, why do I have this if I don’t even remember that I own it?

I look at my life over the last nearly 30 years of my adulthood and I see this triangular alliteration, a constant passing of years and growth that is my life. From the wide-open possibilities of my 20 year old self, I’ve seen how my focus has narrowed down, tossing aside what doesn’t work, trying on a new persona, peeling away the bits and pieces until I arrive, here, with the still changing ideas of what my life needs. Mike and I, with a young man looking at his 20th birthday next year, are starting to think of the paring down process of our third act. Our empty nest years. We know we’ll need to move, depart from this beloved home with it’s bright Southern light and wide open space. What do we really need, and what can we begin to release from our lives?

All I know is that if it’s been in a drawer, collecting dust, or tucked in a box that I don’t recall the contents of, hanging in a room that I don’t frequent, buried under a childhood long gone, I can rightly agree that its need has left my life. I can gaze at a box of beloved books that I read to Griffin, on repeat, under the blankets of his first bed, his little boy body, warm and youthful, snuggled next to mine and I remember how I loved those moments in the night. I can release these books, retain the memories and place the box in the pile to donate. I’m finding that the more I let go, the more joy I begin to feel. We simply aren’t made to thrive amidst clutter that has ceased to serve any purpose.

As the November light faded on our day, after raking one more time through the yard, clipping away dead growth on the annuals and moving more items to donate, I found myself peeling apples again. Fall has it’s routines and therapies, the cleaning out and putting away, storing Summer, baring the space to settle under silent snowfalls. Apple peeling is one of my Fall routines, the peel slipping away from my hands in one long strand, juices running down my wrists, a quick twist of knife and hand and the pieces begin to pile up in a beloved ceramic bowl. The oven tells me it’s ready, cinnamon fills the air and butter meets oats to top a pan full of apples and crushed, fresh cranberries. The fragrance unmistakeable, the timing perfect. I can see what I no longer need in this life, and eagerly anticipate letting go of it, but I could never stop peeling apples each November, eating Apple Crisp, warm under melting vanilla bean ice cream, ready to welcome in a new season.

 

Apple Cranberry Crisp

For the apples:
6 c. chopped apples, using a mix of tart and sweet (this batch I used Haralson and Honeycrisp)
2 T. brown sugar
1 T. almond flour
1 T. coconut flour
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cardamom

1 c. fresh cranberries, chopped (i used a food processor; you will mix these in just before assembling the crisp)

For the topping:
1-1/2 c. whole rolled oats (use gluten free oats if needed)
1/2 c. almond or sorghum flour (use AP if no need for gluten-free)
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground cardamom
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
pinch of sea salt
4 T. super cold butter
1/3 c. maple syrup  (if you have apple cider syrup, it’s a divine substitution)

Mix the apples with the brown sugar and flours, stir to combine and set aside. Heat your oven to 375°.

In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients for the topping. Cut the cold butter in to small cubes and add to the bowl, tossing to coat. With a pastry cutter, two forks, or your hands, quickly cut/rub the butter in to the dry ingredients, leaving some large pieces. Drizzle the topping with the maple syrup and toss to mix.

Spray your baking dish with cooking spray, or rub with additional butter. Toss the chopped cranberries with the apples, and spread half the mixture in the dish and top with about a third of the crumb topping. Layer the remaining apples, then the rest of the topping. Drizzle a bit more maple syrup over the top, then bake 30-40 minutes, or until the topping is crisp and browned and the contents are bubbling.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, creme fraiche, vanilla yogurt or warmed and whipped cream cheese.

 

NOTE: I like my crisp a bit drier than most, and the flours tossed with the apples will absorb their moisture. If you prefer a more saucy version, omit the flours and use white sugar in place of the brown to toss the apples. It will draw out their juices. Tossing the chopped cranberries with the apples just prior to assembling keeps them from bleeding. If you don’t mind that sort of thing, toss it all at once and let it sit.

 

 

the amazing sweet potato cornbread {gluten free}

November 4th, 2013 | Comments Off

I talked about walking away from wheat in my last post, with that delicious Maple Apple Cake that had no wheat whatsoever in it, and I couldn’t resist sharing this incredible Sweet Potato Cornbread recipe with you as well.


Cornbread is a staple around here in the cold months. We eat it with all manner of soups, chili and such, and all of us love a good hearty piece, drizzled with honey as a side to a steaming bowl. I needed to find a wheat-free option for this quickly.

Fortunately, it didn’t take much searching to come across this recipe for Pumpkin Cornbread on Ashley’s delicious blog, Edible Perspective. I’ve been following Ashley’s site for quite some time now and love all her simple yet inventive recipes. She inspires a great deal of dazzling food thought for me in my own kitchen.

Ashley has no less than three versions of her Pumpkin Cornbread in the referenced post and the last one she lists is the one that nailed the homerun of wheat-free Cornbread that will now be my go-to recipe. Again, like that phenomenal cake I just made, the base is a mix of flours and does not rely on a commercial blend. I just don’t want to take the lazy route to make my favorite baked goods without wheat, and exploring the means of creating these standards is half the fun.

Texture is of vital importance in baked goods without wheat. A good quality result shouldn’t immediately raise a red flag that something is missing, and this cornbread’s texture is spot on for what I love about top-notch cornbread; it has that cracked, rugged top and a dense crumb that holds just enough moisture to keep it from crumbling with the first bite. Adding roasted and mashed sweet potato helps with that tenderness. Sinking my teeth in to that first piece, cut while still warm from the pan, and I rolled my eyes in joy. It was perfect. The crumb was perfect. The taste- superb. The texture was pure cornbread, with hardly a hint that the wheat was missing.

It’s results like this that I can’t resist praising. I LOVE this cornbread, and can’t wait for the next bubbling pot of soup so I have an excuse to make it again.

Like I need one, right?

 

Sweet Potato Cornbread

1/2 c. gluten free oat flour (I grind Bob’s Red Mill GF oats to make mine)
1/2 c. medium grind cornmeal
1 c. corn flour (use Masa Harina in a pinch- this is different than cornmeal)
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
3/4 t. fine grain sea salt
2  large eggs
1 c. mashed sweet potato (about one good sized spud; I roasted mine until it collapsed, cooled, skinned and mashed)
2 T. maple syrup
3/4 c. unsweetened almond milk (use whatever milk you wish)
2 T. olive oil

Heat your oven to 375°. Spread a few tablespoons of oil around the pan you chose for baking. I used an 8×8 square baking pan.

Whisk together the oat flour, corn meal, corn flour, baking powder, soda, and sea salt. In a large measuring cup, measure out the milk, then add the sweet potato, maple syrup, eggs and oil. Whisk wet ingredients together until smooth, then pour over the dry ingredients and gently mix with a rubber spatula, scraping across the bottom of the bowl. Mix only until combined, then scrape in to prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake 30-40 minutes, or until tested done in the center of the pan. Allow to cool before removing from the pan.

 

This recipe is adapted slightly from Ashley’s. Please check out her post on how she created, and re-created this cornbread, and the multiple ways she made her version.

ratatouille, and october

October 9th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

I love October. I love everything about it, from it’s blazing maples and fiery Sumac to the clear, crisp nights of abundant stars, the scent of woodsmoke floating on the chilled air. I love that switch to snugglier clothes and another blanket on the bed. I love a simmering soup pot, a pan of fragrant cornbread, baking with apples and fresh-pressed, rich apple cider

I just LOVE October!

I haven’t always loved Ratatouille, though. And I’ve made it multiple ways that have been OK, to an extent, but haven’t been so wonderful that I jumped at a chance to repeat the recipe. Yet every year, when the abundance of zucchini and eggplant and tomato is all there, ready and waiting to be slowly cooked together in this classic peasant dish, I always want to try something again.

There are so many ways to make a simple dish like this.

This recipe I would repeat. Over and over again. While it is a bit extensive, with the grilling and the simmering, the end result is well worth the extra effort. This Ratatouille was silky smooth and simply melted in my mouth, with hints of smokiness from the grill. And as all good dishes go, it was even better the next day.

This recipe does not use fresh tomatoes, and I love the rich flavor that fire-roasted canned tomatoes gives it. Feel free to use fresh if you wish, knowing you will lose some of that smoky taste if you do.

 

 

Ratatouille, Grilled and Simmered

3 small zucchini, sliced horizontally
1 medium eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ slices
2 medium onions, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 each red, yellow and orange bell pepper, gutted and halved
1 28-oz can fire roasted tomatoes (strongly suggested for the amazing flavor they will add- sub in fresh if you wish)
1/2 c. good quality olive oil
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. mixed fresh herbs, like oregano, thyme, parsley, basil, all finely minced
2 t. smoked paprika (smoked is preferred; use regular if it’s all you have)
Salt and pepper

Whisk the olive oil and balsamic vinegar together in a measuring cup. Brush a small amount on one side of the eggplant slices, being careful not to spread on too much. Brush some on the zucchini and reserve the remaining oil/vinegar mix for later.

In a 6-qt stockpot, heat a small drizzle of olive oil and add the sliced onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are opaque. Add the garlic, reduce the heat and cook, stirring often, until the onions and garlic are very soft.

While the onions cook, heat your grill, and when hot, place the peppers, skin side down on the hottest part. Add the sliced zucchini and eggplant, and cook until tender and slightly charred for all vegetables. Place peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam so you can remove the skin. Rough chop the zucchini and eggplant and add to the pan with the onions, stirring to combine. Drizzle in a small amount of the oil/vinegar mix to moisten and add the smoked paprika. When cool enough to handle, skin the peppers and rough chop those, adding to the pan, along with the can of tomatoes. Stir everything, get it simmering, then reduce the heat and cover the pan. Allow it to cook, slowly, for 30 minutes. Stir it once or twice to insure it isn’t sticking. Reduce heat if it is, and drizzle a bit more of the oil/vinegar mix in, if needed.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add in half the fresh herbs. Allow to simmer about 5 more minutes. Stir, taste and season more, if needed. Serve warm or room temperature, over brown rice or pasta, or with a thick, hearty bread to soak up the juices.

 

KATE’S NOTES: I am nuts for fire-roasted tomatoes and have tried multiple brands, always coming back to Muir Glen Organic. The taste is bar none for a canned product- it tastes like tomato right off the vine! You can use fresh tomato in this dish if that’s your thing, but the extra fire-roasted taste will lend well to the final result, along with the grilled and charred vegetables. 

The smoked paprika also adds a nice deep, smoky flavor, and has been one of my most favorite spices to add to just about everything lately. You will get a much different taste if you use regular paprika.

heirloom flavor {review & recipe}

September 19th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

I have been fortunate lately to receive some really nice books for review purposes. This particular one, ‘Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday’s Best Tasting Vegetables, Fruits & Herbs for Today’s Cook’ by Doreen Howard, was highly anticipated, as our CSA offers many heirloom varieties, an option that was a huge draw for me in selecting it in the first place.


Come in to my kitchen…