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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.

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.

lift, swim, eat, repeat

January 22nd, 2014 | 2 Comments »

It’s frigid outside, again, although nowhere near as cold as it was a week ago. In the pool room of the Y, the sun is making the water sparkle, when it’s able to peek out from the whirling dervishes of snow kicked up by the intense Northerly winds. The snow devils block the two story high windows, but even on this deeply cold day, the warmth in the pool is welcome. I slip in to the water and feel the shock of the cold over my entire body, shivering a little as I push off from the wall.

I’m sore this morning, as our Body Pump class has started a new release, changing the sequences and challenging our muscles all over again. This happens every six weeks, and I equally anticipate it, and dread it. And I love it. And hate it. Change is hard, and this physical change that I’ve been putting myself through for the last 14 months has forced me out of my comfort zone more times than I ever expected. Some mornings, just stretching, and rolling out of bed elicits groans and tender first steps. Going up and down stairs can hurt for the first treads after a good leg workout, and those first strokes in the pool, like today, felt tough, but freeing. Swimming takes the hurt out of muscles torn and battered, challenged through lifting, forced into re-building and growth. But the first 100 yards or so can almost bring tears to my eyes as the soreness abates, the tendons and ligaments stretch and recover. I swim to make it better, then, the next day I lift the bar, clip on the plates and tear myself up all over again.

I’ve always been active, but in previous years, most of that activity was in warmer months, saving my nordic ski habit for Winter. As much as I love the skinny skis, it wasn’t enough, and I knew I needed more; more weight training as I age to help ward off osteoporosis and keep good skeletal health. More cardio to keep my lungs healthy, in a family with history of asthma. And more movement to keep me from languishing through a Winter, sinking in to a soft chair, one eye on the calendar, waiting for Spring, for my bike to come down from the rafters in the garage so I can spin the tires once more. Starting was difficult, keeping at it to make it a habit was even more difficult, but one day I awoke and felt excitement at the thought of another Body Pump class, in realizing it was a swim day and anticipating how good I would feel when it was all over. The rewards were reinforced even further when clothing began to loosen, my shoulders strengthened and those bike rides didn’t feel so strenuous any longer. In 14 months, I haven’t lost a single pound, but everything looks different, and pants that were snug before I started can now be pulled over my hips without even being unbuttoned.

I love this article … stop a moment and go read it, as I think you’ll find it fascinating, too. I was a skeptic, and at one point would have scoffed at the information, but now, I’m a believer, and a convert and gladly head to the YMCA six days a week for one more Body Pump class, or to slip through the water, admiring the sparkling sunbeams on the pool floor as I swim. All the aches, the hurt and fatigue, the sore muscles and mind-numbing but uplifting after-burn combines to motivate me every day, to be better, and stronger.

Soups and hearty warm stews are a constant these days. Nowhere in your kitchen repertoire can you find a dish that is so versatile and so accepting of the varied means to an end. Minestrone is designed to take in the leftovers lurking in the fridge, the odds and ends of vegetables that don’t have a place otherwise, to steep together, to create something that fills you up after a cold day has taken the last of your coping skills away, or a good workout has drained your energy. I love that a good soup or stew tastes better in subsequent days, that the flavors meld and deepen, almost, like continual exercise does with our bodies, becoming something else altogether.

Perfect Minestrone

1 large onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 celery stalks, with leaves, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced (adjust to taste, I am a garlic lover)
2 small zucchini, peeled and diced
1/2# fresh green beans, cut to 1/2″ pieces
1 bunch fresh kale, rough stems removed and chopped (sub chard, collards, or spinach)
1 32-oz container Pomi* Tomatoes (use equivalent of your choice)
1/4 c. quinoa (optional, but I like the heft and nutrition it adds)
1/4 c. fresh chopped parsley and oregano (basil and thyme are also good)
Parm-Reggiano shavings

In a large stockpot, heat a small amount of oil and add the onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are opaque. Add the carrots, celery and green beans and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to brown a little, maybe 10-15 minutes. Moderate the heat to prevent them from scorching.

Add the garlic and a pinch of kosher salt. Stir to incorporate and cook for a few minutes until it’s wonderfully fragrant. Add the  zucchini and the tomatoes and a quart of broth or water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender enough to pierce with a fork, but not completely soft.

Add the kale, the pasta and the quinoa, if using. Depending on what pasta shape you use, cook until the pasta is al dente. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper. Make sure the pasta is cooked, but also remember that it will continue to absorb liquid as the soup sits.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with a sprinkling of the fresh herbs and some shavings of cheese. Serve with a good bread, if desired.

*- Pomi Tomatoes are a packaged brand of tomatoes available in most grocers. The container is aseptic, with no BPA and the taste is phenomenal, fresh and clean. It’s one of my favorite brands of canned tomatoes on the market.

NOTE: The original version of this recipe called for pasta, as most Minestrone soups do. I subbed in quinoa for a GF option but you can use any small pasta shape of your choice if you wish. The photo shows Orzo pasta.

 

KATE’S NOTES: A good Minestrone is designed to use up vegetable odds and ends. While these make for a delicious soup, use whatever you have available to make your Minestrone unique, and to use up what’s in your refrigerator.

cold weather coping, with Vegetable Shepherds Pie

December 31st, 2013 | Comments Off

There’s no shortage of weather folklore to be found, in which the rhythm of the seasons can be a harbinger for predicting coming temperatures. This one seemed particularly fitting to our current weather in Minnesota.

When leaves fall early, Fall and Winter will be mild;
When leaves fall late, Winter will be severe.

Our whole theater of seasons in Minnesota was far, far behind the norm this year, with snow falling on May 1st, the growing season extended to near the end of October, and Autumn leaves peaking weeks behind schedule. Is it all an indication that our Winter will continue to be caught in a deep freeze? Stick around.

Decembers as of late have been all across the board for weather; we’ve had monster blizzards (December ’10) that dumped nearly 2-1/2 feet of snow on us, and Christmas weeks that have had nothing but hard rain (December ’12).

This December, it’s been the season of sub-zero temperatures.

It’s a languid post-Christmas week (languid for me as I took 9 days off after Christmas), and we’re already experiencing a second round of deep cold and unpleasant wind chills, of complaining and groaning over why one lives in such a place, running through Instagram photos of island vacations past, to dream of warm sand and sunshine and forget that exposed skin could acquire frostbite in just 10 minutes exposure outside. We bake to ward off the chill, simmer kettles of soup or slowly braise a comforting pot, cuddle under blankets, binge-watch Netflix and Hulu or movie catalogs, or just plain deal with it when the temperatures plummet and the wind bites with gnashing teeth at our skin. But one thing remains; we’re all in this together.

Cold weather isn’t much of an issue with me. I’ll add another layer, pull out the thick, warm wool mittens, tug on some leg warmers and keep my head down from the wind. Inside, I slip on wooly hand warmers, sheepskin slippers and invite the cats for a snuggle. Cranking up the oven helps too, as adding warm, cozy foods to the menu is the best way to keep warm from the inside.

This Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie was created as a vegetarian entree I was designated to bring for a Christmas gathering with my in-laws. I wanted something that would be universally accepted across the board by all the various dietary needs of our extended family; the Primal eaters, the wheat-free, the dairy-free and the meatless. It covers all those bases with it’s lush pile of heavenly roasted vegetables bathed in a balsamic glaze and a simple shower of salt and pepper. I chose not to use a binder to hold it all together, and instead of rich, buttery potatoes coating the top, I used roasted sweet potatoes, spun to a silken mass with a hand-mixer, touched only with good seasonings. The result was remarkable in flavor, eye-catching in presentation. I was thankful that it was so well-received, and grateful to have still a large portion to bring home and consume, post Christmas, as the deep cold set in.

Don’t be put off by the long recipe; you roast most of the vegetables, which can be accomplished while the sweet potatoes and beets do their thing in a hot oven. You’ll spend some time prepping those veggies, but putting it all together happens quickly. You can make the recipe in two 8×8 pans, saving one in the freezer for another time. Another elegant presentation would be to portion out ramekins for individual servings, an ultimate dinner party delight. The recipe makes plenty of filling to do with as your creativity leads you.

Best of all, when the temperatures drop and your belly growls it’s hunger at you, this feeds you with warmth, good health and well-being. For the upcoming winter, you’ll love having this in your repertoire.

Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie

3 Parsnips, peeled, cut to 1/2” chunks
4 medium carrots, peeled, cut to 1/2” chunks
2 stalks celery, cut to 1/2” pieces
2 8-oz pkgs whole baby portabella mushrooms, quartered
1 medium onion, halved, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, peeled and rough chopped
3 cups Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and halved
4 small to medium gold beets (from one bunch) scrubbed, greens removed if needed
5 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed well
1/3 c. mixed fresh herbs, minced (oregano, parsley and thyme are delicious)
olive oil
salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 400 degrees. You will be roasting all of the vegetables except for the celery, onion, mushroom and garlic. They will all take different amounts of time to finish, so start with the ones that will take the longest: poke the sweet potatoes a few times with a sharp knife and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Wrap beets well in foil. Place both in hot oven and roast until tender. A fork should slip easily in to the beets when they are done. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl, toss parsnips with a bit of olive oil and salt and scrape onto one side of a baking sheet. Repeat with carrots, and place on the other side of the baking sheet. Roast in hot oven until just tender. Place back in bowl and set aside. Repeat with Brussels sprouts, roasting until just tender. Scrape from pan in to bowl with parsnips and carrots.

Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter. When bubbling, add mushrooms, and sauté over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until they release their liquid. Add onion and celery and continue to cook, stirring often, until they soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat slightly, and cook for about 10 minutes, allowing the mushrooms to brown in spots and become very fragrant. Stir in garlic and sauté for about a minute, then add about 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar. Scrape up any browned bits in the skillet, and simmer until the vinegar is absorbed. Add in the parsnips, carrots, and brussels sprouts and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine and allow to simmer over low heat for a few minutes. Turn off the heat. Peel the beets, chop in to bite sized pieces and stir in to vegetable mix with the fresh herbs. Scrape entire pan in to a 9×13 baking dish.

Peel sweet potatoes and place in a bowl. Mash with a fork, or potato masher until smooth and creamy, season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly over vegetables. Place back in the oven for 15-20 minutes to heat through.

holiday eating, + down time

December 6th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

The space between Thanksgiving and Christmas feels so much shorter this year, like a freight train coming at us, all decorated in sparkling lights, tinsel and bows. I love Christmas a lot, and the decorations are only a part of what makes it so appealing. But we’re barely past Thanksgiving and December is already roaring in to greet us, all proclaiming the glory of the season.

It’s time to turn the focus on the real meaning of the season.

But first….. we need some good food for celebrating, don’t we??

I tend not to post a lot in the last month of the year. My job becomes so incredibly busy this month and the uptick in activity drains a lot of energy out of me, leaving little time for extra effort in the kitchen to make, photograph and write about a divine treat, or beautiful holiday option. Plus, I just don’t think anyone needs yet another food blogger spelling out Christmas cheer in concentrated posts between now and the end of December. It’s become so saturated with those, hasn’t it?

But I do have some delicious treats, side dishes and snacks from past years that I think are wonderful, and thought that I’d just share a few of them with you. Some are old (but all things old are new again, aren’t they??) and some are new; some spell Christmas loud and clear, and others are just a darn good idea, but all of them can be incorporated at some point over the next weeks in to your holiday repertoire.

May your season be cheerful and bright, however you celebrate.


The ultimate Christmas treat: Sugar Plums

If you’ve never made this classic holiday treat, this should be the year you do. They are superbly simple, with a delicious taste that only gets better as they sit, waiting for Christmas morning. They’re quite healthy, too.

Sugar Cookies. The perfect blend of butter, sugar and vanilla, and just what you need to roll out and cut with fancy cookie cutters for decoration.

 

A Nutmeg Cake that smells like Christmas:


White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies- Christmas perfection.

Swedish Holiday Fruit Bread (Fruktkaka), tasting like a long forgotten memory.

Nutella Pound Cake, anyone?? Can’t get much richer and decadent than that, can you?

Earl Grey Tea Cookies- made with the beautifully aromatic tea leaves, these taste like a gorgeous Winter day and are a great afternoon treat.

Authentic German Stollen, which I must make again this year. This recipe was glorious. (Photo is from 2008- no judging!)

Great snack option, or perfect for gift giving, Dark Chocolate Nutella Muddy Buddies:

For a very hearty appetizer, this Chili Bean & Queso Dip is spectacular:

For something completely different, try making this Middle Eastern spice and nut blend called Dukkah. (again, photo from 2008- no judging!!)

Make Christmas magic with this unique and delicious Red Rice Pulao with Roasted Vegetables as your side dish:

You can substitute your favorite hearty green in this Boursin Spinach Gratin, and still get an amazing, rich and creamy side dish:

May the magic and beauty of Christmas, and all the holidays be kept close to your heart, now and all the year through.