Friday Faves

photo-136 {layered carrot cake + birthday candles}

Happiest of Fridays, friends! I know it’s not technically summer for a couple more weeks, but with forecasts in the 80s this weekend it feels like we’ve left spring behind already! Any exciting plans for the weekend? We’re celebrating a dear friend’s birthday tomorrow, and I’m excited to sit out on a gorgeous patio and drink my favorite Moscow Mule in the sunshine. Sometimes it’s the little things, right? Wishing everyone a stress-free Friday and a lovely sunny weekend! Some favorite links and photos from the week (slash, past two months! A backlog of faves, as usual):

  • Love this list of Joanna’s top 12 recipes (I would like a #10 right now, please)
  • I ordered this on Wednesday – hoping it will be as amazing as advertised (thanks, Emily, for the tip!)
  • Can’t wait to try this salad and this salad – both from Bowl + Spoon (below – a double (triple?) fave this week!)
  • Love a cute summer tote (I would like 1, 2, 4, and/or 8)!
  • Has everyone read this post by now? So heartbreaking, but at the same time really beautiful.

photo-135 {a really good hostess gift/three of my favorite things}

photo-124 {my new summer treat}

photo 1-45 {Love Sara and Hugh’s new cookbook!}

photo-134 {So excited for summer with my two best buds!}
Chairs and sun hats from Pottery Barn Kids, beach towels from Serena & Lily, sand toys from Green Toys, and Fourth of July jammies from Hanna Andersson.

Friday Faves

photo 1-41{happy first day of spring!}

Happy Friday, friends! What are you up to this weekend? Besides watching basketball nonstop from now until Sunday night, that is. My brackets are already busted, but I’m so excited for the Zags that I don’t really care that much.  I’m also looking forward to showering my cousin Jennifer and my little cous-niece on the way tomorrow, and then a bon voyage party for a very dear friend who’s moving to Amsterdam (!!!) tomorrow night. Good things the Zags play tonight and Sunday! Wishing everyone a lovely weekend. Some fun links and pics from the week:

photo 2-34{table full of cookbooks at Sesame & Lilies in Cannon Beach}

photo 1-39{“wiltless” glassbaby trio: sweet pea, peony, poppy}

photo 2-35 {adorable little treat bar at my new favorite salon (where they also serve free wine!)}

10406367_674178919375541_7180681802310643910_n {how sweet is baby harper?!?}

Friday Faves

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{apple picking in hood river last weekend}

Can you believe we’re halfway through October already? Sob. A friend of mine is expecting a baby on December 31st – we were chatting yesterday and she mentioned she only has 10 weeks to go. And while that’s great news for her, I’m not even close to ready for 2015 yet – I feel like I just started getting used to 2014.  But anyway. Time marches on, as they say!  I hope everyone is looking forward to something fun this weekend.  I’m excited to hang out with my baby nephew tomorrow, and we’re celebrating my grandmother’s 95th birthday on Sunday. The forecast for the party is 73 and sunny – on October 19th! Amazing!  In the meantime, some highlights from this past week:

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{Mark Bittman book signing!}

photo-58{dinner party prep}

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{loving my new hair powder}

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{Coop loves the pumpkin patch!}

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Meringues

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A few weeks ago I posted a cookie recipe from Miraval, the spa I was lucky enough to visit back in February. I wrote about the cooking class we took, but what I failed to mention is what we snacked on during the cooking class. Meals at Miraval are pretty outrageous – at dinner you sit down and order off a menu, but for breakfast and lunch they have an amazing buffet where you can (mindfully) help yourself to all sorts of fresh, healthy foods.  Each day at lunchtime we got to pick from a beautiful salad bar, delicious soups, wraps, healthy entrées, etc. – and then there were always a few tiny treats to choose from as well.  The day my sister-in-law and I attended the cooking demo, they were serving these cookies – perfect timing because we were then able to ask the pastry chef about them in class (after everyone was not-so-mindfully going back for seconds).

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Kim, the pastry chef, told us these are one of the recipes people ask her for the most, and then proceeded to tell us how easy they are to make. Start with a basic meringue – egg whites plus sugar – and simply add chocolate and peanut butter. How have I not thought of this before? They’re a perfect Miraval treat as they’re relatively low fat/low cal, they’re naturally gluten free, and if you use dairy free chocolate chips you can make them dairy free as well. The recipe calls for organic peanut butter, I used Adam’s no stir creamy – there’s a fair amount of sugar in the meringue “batter” so I think the saltier the peanut butter, the better. Almond butter would also be really good. The recipe calls for mini semisweet chocolate chips, but I suspected these would be even more delicious with dark chocolate – and it turns out I was right. It’s all personal preference though, of course, so you could use whatever peanut butter and chocolate chips you like.

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Kim told us that the best way to stir the peanut butter into the batter is to put it in a ziplock bag, snip off a tiny corner, and “pipe” the peanut butter into the egg white mixture. I’m including the recipe as it appears in the cookbook, where it tells you to drop the peanut butter in by the spoonful, but Kim’s way is easy and fun. Next time I might try to use the piping bag to add it in in little tiny dollops, as my giant swirl needed a bit of stirring to mix into the egg whites, and that of course deflated them. They still turned it pretty dang good, however, and the chunks of peanut butter are my favorite part (I would love to make these with crunchy peanut butter next time, but worried the weight might deflate the egg whites even more).

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The cookbook lists chopped pecans as a topping for the cookies, but Kim used sliced almonds and they’re perfect with the delicate meringue (and will be even more perfect when I try these with almond butter). You could use any nut you like, however, or omit them entirely. No matter how you customize them, they’re simple and delicious. I’m not a huge chocolate person (the lemon raspberry cookies are really more my style), but of course I still ate quite a few of these while at Miraval, when my sis-in-law made them as soon as we were back, and of course now that they’re sitting on the counter while I type this. The best part is they’re practically guilt free – or at least as close to guilt free as you’re going to get when there’s chocolate and peanut butter in the title.  If you try them, let me know how you tweak them and how they turn out!

Miraval, previously: Magic Bars, Lemon Raspberry Cookies, Arugula Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Meringues, from Miraval’s Sweet & Savory Cooking

Yield: 20-30 cookies

3 egg whites
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup peanut butter (preferably organic)
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup nuts, optional (chopped pecans, chopped walnuts, chopped peanuts, sliced or slivered almonds)

Heat the oven to 200 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Slowly add the sugar, and then the vanilla.

Drop spoonfuls of peanut butter throughout the meringue (or pipe as discussed above) and sprinkle the chocolate chips all over. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the peanut butter and chocolate chips into the meringue, leaving streaks of peanut butter throughout (you want it to stay in chunks rather than getting incorporated into the egg whites). Take care not to deflate the meringue (this is tricky, mine deflated a bit but my cookies were still ok).

Drop spoonfuls of meringue (about 3/4-ounce or 1 1/2 tablespoons) onto the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with nuts (if using). Bake for about 45 minutes (I got engrossed in the Patagonia sale online and mine accidentally stayed in for almost an hour – luckily they were ok). Test for doneness by removing one cookie from the oven, letting it cool for two minutes, and then testing to see if the outside is crispy and the inside slightly soft. Let cool at room temperature on the baking sheet and store in an airtight container.

Nutrition Information

Serving size: one cookie (based on a yield of 30 cookies)
Calories: 45
Total fat: 2 grams
Carbs: 27 grams
Dietary fiber: 0 grams
Protein: 1 gram

Miraval’s Arugula Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette (and an easy recipe for Vegetable Stock)

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Hi friends – long time no see. I’ve been meaning to get this post up for about a month now, but for a variety of reasons it just hasn’t happened. Life gets busy, I came down with the norovirus, I’ve had a lot of shopping to do for my little baby nephew on the way (!!!)…..excuses, excuses. Mostly though, I’m afraid I haven’t sat down to post this because salad dressing – especially a healthy salad dressing – is just not very exciting.

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I promise that once you make this though, it’s a lot less boring. Believe me when I tell you I’m not a fan of mustard (or any condiment, really), but this dressing is still somehow delicious. I was introduced to it when I took a cooking class at Miraval last month, and since I’ve been back I’ve been making it nonstop. The Miraval recipes are pretty conscious about oil and salt, but it’s amazing how you don’t really miss them here.

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Isn’t this just the prettiest picture you’ve ever seen? Just kidding, it looks gross – sorry! Thickened vegetable stock sounds weird, I know, but it’s a trick they use at Miraval – thicken your veggie stock with cornstarch, and use it in place of (most of) the oil in dressings to cut fat and calories substantially. At first I was kind of annoyed about making the stock, but it’s actually incredibly easy and makes your kitchen smell delicious. You could easily use store bought veggie stock, however – or just skip this step and use more olive oil if you aren’t that worried about it.

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Just throw all ingredients (except for your whole grain mustard and olive oil) into your blender and puree, then slowly add the oil.

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Whisk the whole grain mustard in once the dressing is removed from the blender, so that the grains stay whole. I know it doesn’t look pretty, but it tastes so good (and healthy!).

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You can use this dressing on whatever salad you like, of course, but in the class we made arugula with cranberries, pine nuts, and goat cheese, so that’s what I did here. I used dried cherries instead (my favorite!) and toasted the pine nuts – delicious as a starter, or add some grilled chicken and call it dinner. My favorite Miraval tip, for the next time you’re entertaining: put on a pair of plastic gloves and plate your salad with your hands – it looks so much prettier that way and you can really make it stand up on the plate. If only I could go to cooking school every day!

Miraval: highlights and cookies

One year ago: eggplant parm (yum, now I’m craving this again)

Honey Mustard Dressing, from Mindful Eating

Yield: 2 1/2 cups

1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/2 cup whole grain dijon mustard
2 tablespoons roasted shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon roasted garlic (or raw, or a combination or roasted and raw, depending on how garlicy you like things), chopped
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup thickened vegetable stock (recipe below)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper (black pepper would work fine too)
Chives, optional

If using a mixing bowl: combine mustards, shallots, garlic, honey, and vinegar; mix well. Add thickened stock, oil, salt, and pepper, and whisk to incorporate the stock and oil. Add chopped chives.

If using a blender: Add all ingredients except whole grain mustard and olive oil; blend well. Stream in oil. Pour into a bowl and whisk in the whole grain mustard (so that the grains stay intact – you don’t want them to break down in the blender).

Dressing will be thick and creamy. Toss with arugula and any garnishes you like – I love it with dried cranberries or cherries, toasted pine nuts, and goat cheese.

Nutrition information per 2 tablespoons: 44 calories, 1.5 grams of fat

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Miraval’s Vegetable Stock, from Mindful Eating

Yield: Makes Two Quarts

3 cups onions, peeled and quartered
1 cup celery (no leaves), roughly chopped
1 cup carrots, roughly chopped
1/2 cup leeks, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, quartered
2 tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup fennel, roughly chopped (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4″ x 4″ cheesecloth
6 inches butcher twine
2 quarts cold water

Heat a large stockpot with the vegetables; stir occasionally for 3-5 minutes to prevent scorching. Tie spices and herbs inside cheesecloth with butcher twine and add to pot. Cover contents with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for two hours. Strain stock and use or cool in an ice bath. Refrigerate or freeze for future use.

Nutrition information per cup: 47 calories, zero fat

For thickened vegetable stock:

2 cups + 4 tablespoons vegetable stock
4 tablespoons cornstarch

Heat two cups of stock to a rolling boil. Combine 4 tablespoons cold stock with the cornstarch to make a slurry. Add the slurry to the boiling stock and whisk constantly until the stock thickens to a sauce-like consistency. Cool completely in an ice bath. Cover and refrigerate for later use. Thickened stock will keep up to one week – stir well before each use.

Pasta & Co. Red Lentil Soup

IMG_6030Spring is allegedly only two and a half weeks away, but you’d never know it if you looked out the window. I had the good fortune to escape to the desert last week (more on that on Friday), but returned home to gray skies, nonstop drizzle, and temperatures in the thirties (I know my Midwest/East Coast friends have it way worse, but even the high thirties is still freezing for this girl at this point). This was the second year in a row that I’ve spent the end of February in Arizona, and it makes me wonder why I don’t spend the entire month there. Potentially March as well – but I digress. The silver lining of this weather is that nothing sounds better than making soup, except possibly curling up on the couch to watch the Oscars with said bowl of soup – and maybe some popcorn.IMG_6022

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IMG_6024So often when I go to post one of my favorite recipes, I wonder how I haven’t shared it with you already, and that is especially true in this case. I could eat lentil soup for every meal – I have a hard time not ordering it when I see it on a menu, or making it immediately when I come across a new recipe. As such, I think I can fairly say I’ve tried quite a few different variations, and nothing comes close to this one – especially for the time and effort it takes to throw it together.IMG_6025

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IMG_6027Simply toast the cumin seeds along with the other spices, then sauté your onions and garlic (I of course use the pre-chopped Trader Joe’s bag of onions), dump in the lentils, water, and tomatoes, and simmer. Note that using water in lieu of chicken stock means (a) it’s vegetarian, (b) it’s so much lower in sodium, and (c) you have one less thing to buy at the store. The recipe tells you to make a “bouquet garni” (I love that term) with the cilantro, but I usually just throw a few stems in and then dig them out after half an hour. Another fun note is that the Trader Joe’s bag of red lentils is exactly two cups – nothing makes me happier than not having to measure AND not having to add a half-used or almost-empty bag of something random to the pantry, never to be used again. Although in this case, you’ll want to make this soup again so you would use them, but still – you know what I mean.IMG_6028

IMG_6035Stir in a little lemon juice and cilantro at the end, and that’s it. So easy and SO good. I like to serve it garnished with more cilantro, a lemon wedge, and perhaps a dollop of greek yogurt, but it really doesn’t need anything. The soup will keep well in the fridge or freezer, so it’s great to package up for lunches for the week – your coworkers will be so jealous, and you won’t have to brave the weather to go grab lunch.

One year ago: coconut granola, lemony banana bread 

Pasta & Co., previously: black bean and couscous salad

Soup, previously: white bean and kale, split pea, tomato, pumpkin black bean, curried butternut squash, cauliflower leek, minestrone, and roasted sweet potato and apple 

Red Lentil Soup, from Pasta & Co. By Request 

Serves 6-8

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
2 medium onions, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or put through a garlic press
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2 quarts water
2 cups red lentils, rinsed
1 cup crushed tomatoes in purée (the recipe recommends Paradiso brand; I use whatever I have on hand)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
7 sprigs cilantro, washed and tied together
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons cilantro (or more to taste), washed, dried, and finely chopped
Sour cream, yogurt, or quark to top (optional)

In a large saucepan, combine oil, cumin seeds, coriander, and turmeric.  Over low heat, cook mixture until seeds darken.  Remove from heat and add onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Sauté over medium heat until onions are translucent.  Add water, lentils, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and cilantro sprigs.  Bring to a boil and simmer 20-30 minutes, until lentils are very soft.  Remove soup from heat, take out cilantro sprigs, and stir soup for a few minutes to break up any remaining pieces of lentil (do not purée this soup).  Stir in lemon juice and chopped cilantro.  Taste for seasoning (may need additional salt) and texture (may need to be thinned with a small amount of water). Garnish with sour cream, yogurt, or quark, if desired.  Soup will keep well for days in the refrigerator, and freezes nicely.

Whole Grain Pear Hazelnut Muffins

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This cookbook has been all over my favorite food blogs of late, so I ordered it despite the fact that my breakfast typically consists of a green smoothie (or a Starbucks bagel on the too-common occasion that I’m out of a green smoothie ingredient). So far I’ve made the whole grain pancake mix, the blueberry breakfast bars, and these muffins. I’ve given the pancake mix as birthday and hostess gifts, and it’s been a hit. I made the blueberry bars when I spent the night with my friend Kyle and her picky toddler year old last week – Ellie gobbled them up, but Kyle and I decided that, while delicious, they seemed more like dessert than breakfast.  Next on my list of recipes to try: Bacon and Kale Polenta Squares (hold the bacon), Strawberry Oat Breakfast Crisp (although I suspect it, like the blueberry bars, might also be better suited as dessert), and Zucchini Farro Cakes – YUM.  And of course variations of this granola.  These muffins, though, are a definite win – you can do them ahead of time, and they really do feel healthy – the perfect breakfast treat.

My grandfather passed away a few weeks ago, at the age of 94. He spent the last few days of his life in the hospital, which was not the way he would have wanted to go, but he received such wonderful care from the doctors and nurses that we were all glad he was there. I wanted to do something nice for the nursing staff as a thank you and had planned to bake these cookies, but my cousin Christina (a nurse herself) suggested bringing in something healthier, as nurses get a lot of cookies.  I had seen these muffins on a couple blogs, and this seemed like the perfect excuse to try them.

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I love the idea of cooking with whole grains – especially oats – and the pears make the muffins incredibly moist and dense without being too heavy. Sara from Sprouted Kitchen suggests a way to make them gluten free; Deb from Smitten Kitchen suggests you add chocolate, which they definitely don’t need, but I would imagine would be delicious.   Point being, you can swap out ingredients or doctor them up any way you like. I loved the pears but you could definitely use apples too.

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It looks like a lot of bowls (and it is), but it’s really only the dry ingredients and the wet, combined with my tendency to make a mess in the kitchen and dirty more bowls than necessary. Deb includes suggestions to “streamline the recipe” (use fewer bowls) for anyone that doesn’t have the luxury of a dishwasher.

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You could chop the nuts in a food processor, but I was worried they would get ground up too finely so I used a ziplock bag and my go-to crushing utensil, a bottle of wine. I also ate a lot of hazelnuts in the process, yum.

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Pear-Hazelnut Oat Muffins, from Whole Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon (she’s a Seattle gal so I’m extra happy to support her!)

Makes 12 standard muffins (and maybe a few more)

3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 firm medium pears, such as Bartlett (you want them firm so they don’t get too mushy when you grate them)
2/3 cup natural cane sugar, such as turbinado
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan (I’m going to try coconut oil next time)
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, cooled, and coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin tin, or line with papers.

In a bowl, combine the oats, flours, baking soda, baking powder, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt. Mix well and set aside.

Peel and core the pears, then grate them into a bowl using the large holes of a box grater (or the grater attachment of your food processor). You should end up with about 1 cup of shredded pear [Note: I doubled the recipe so grated four pears, and ended up with about four cups of grated pear, unpacked – I dumped them all into my batter and the muffins turned out fine. Just in case you were worried about ending up with too much grated pear].

Put the sugar in a large bowl. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the butter to the sugar and stir until well combined. Whisk in the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and pear until you have what resembles a loose batter. Add the flour mixture and fold it in gently. Reserve 1/2 cup of the hazelnuts to sprinkle on top of the muffins; stir the other 1/2 cup into the batter. Be careful not to overmix.

Fill the muffin cups almost to the top with batter, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup hazelnuts. Put the muffins in the oven and immediately decrease the heat to 375 F. Bake until the tops are golden brown and feel firm to the touch, even in the center, 25-27 minutes (they might look done before they really are – the tops will brown before the fruit-filled centers are cooked through).

Let the muffins cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan. Muffins will keep in an airtight container for up to two days; they also freeze well.

All wrapped up for Grandpa's nurses, along with boxes of See's chocolates, his favorite

All wrapped up for Grandpa’s nurses, along with boxes of See’s chocolates – his favorite

Kale Salad with Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette and Garlic Breadcrumbs

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I had really good intentions of posting this recipe earlier in the month, when people were still sticking to their new years resolutions. I had big plans for a “salad week” to follow “soup week,” but “soup week” turned into just “three days of soup,” and then things got a little busy and I dropped the ball on salad week entirely. Never fear, though, because it’s still January for three more days. And besides, this salad is so good I think it can be enjoyed long after we’ve given up on our resolutions.

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There was a time, not too terribly long ago, when the thought of raw kale made me wary. I loved it in soups, or sautéed as a side dish, but I really thought the bitterness needed to be cooked out in order for it to be edible. My friend Lindsay told me about this salad, and I must have sounded skeptical because she then sent me the cookbook and demanded that I make it immediately.  As soon as I tried it I was converted. The two tricks are: (1) make sure to use Tuscan kale (aka dinosaur, black, or lacinato), and (2) take the “ribs” out. Tuscan kale is better raw than other kale varieties, and the ribs are what makes it bitter, so once they’re gone you’re golden. I really think cutting the leaves into thin ribbons helps, too, for presentation if nothing else.

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The dressing is the best part – almost like a Caesar dressing, but without the egg and anchovy (which are the reasons I won’t eat a Caesar salad). Just whisk (or blend) olive oil, lemon juice, and good parmesan with a little salt, pepper, a pinch of chili flakes, and garlic. Melissa’s recipe calls for raw garlic, but as I’m not a raw garlic lover I roasted mine first. Coat the kale with the dressing and breadcrumbs and you have yourself a delicious, healthy treat. I’m now pretty into ordering a kale salad whenever I see it on a menu, and with the exception of the “marinated lacinato kale” at Tom Douglas’s Serious Pie, I have yet to find one that beats this.

Kale salad, previously: here (scroll all the way to the bottom).
Kale otherwise, previously: White Bean and Kale Soup, Kale Pesto.

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad with Chiles and Pecorino, from In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

Time: 20 minutes
Serves 2-4

1 bunch Tuscan kale (aka black or lacinato)
1 thin slice country bread (part whole wheat or rye is nice), or 1/4 cup good, homemade coarse breadcrumbs (I made breadcrumbs from gourmet store-bought croutons)
1/2 garlic clove (I used 1 whole clove roasted garlic)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino cheese, plus additional for garnish
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for garnish
Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Trim the bottom 2 inches off the kale stems and discard. Slice the kale into 3/4-inch ribbons. You should have 4-5 cups. Place the kale in a large bowl. [Note: I de-stem the entire kale leaves, which makes this salad take a lot longer than the 20 minutes Melissa estimates, but I think it’s worth it.]

2. If using the bread, toast it until golden on both sides. Tear it into small pieces and grind in a food processor until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. [Note: I put garlic croutons in the blender and it turned out great.]

3. Using a mortal and pestle or a heavy knife, pound or mince the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt into a paste (if using a knife, use the side to smear and smush the garlic once it’s minced). Transfer the garlic to a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup cheese, 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, pinch of salt, pepper flakes, and black pepper and whisk to combine. [Note: I do this with my immersion blender, which I think makes it extra creamy – and lets you skip the “smooshing the garlic” step. Also I used a whole clove of roasted garlic rather than half a raw clove.] Pour the dressing over the kale and toss very well to combine thoroughly (the dressing will be thick and need lots of tossing to coat the leaves). Let the salad sit for 5 minutes, then serve topped with the breadcrumbs, cheese, and a drizzle of oil.

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Roasted Cauliflower, Leek, and Garlic Soup

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Back in November I realized I had only posted five soup recipes in the then-nine-month life of this blog, and promised to remedy that.  Somehow two more months have gone by without any more soup – I’m going to blame Thanksgiving and Christmas, but really it’s pretty inexcusable. We’ve done white bean and kale, split pea, cream of fresh tomato, black bean and pumpkin, and curried butternut squash. I don’t know how I’ve had a (wannabe) food blog for almost a year and haven’t posted my favorite lentil soup, or chicken noodle, or even a chili – apparently I’ve been holding out on you all.  I’ve had a sweet potato and apple post in draft form since October, and I’m thinking I might share that this week even though it seems a little fall-ish.  I’m going to make my grandma’s minestrone tomorrow, and I have a couple others I’ve been wanting to try out, so if all goes according to plan this might be a Soup Post Every Day week on the blog (starting today, of course – I got sucked into Downton Abbey on Sunday night and thus couldn’t get this post up as planned yesterday).

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My girlfriends and I had a “cookbook exchange” a while back – like a white elephant, where everyone brings a present, you draw numbers, people can steal from you, etc. – except the presents were all cookbooks. My friend Karrie brought this one, and although I came away with something different, I had heard such good things from Karrie about Clean Eating (she subscribes to the magazine) that when I got home I ordered the cookbook. Some of the recipes seem a little less “clean” and a little more “diet-y” to me (somehow I don’t think of reduced-sodium cream of broccoli soup as “clean,” and there are a few casserole recipes that call for that, which I found strange), but overall I really like it.  And of course January is the perfect month to get really into eating “clean.”  I may have added a little more olive oil and salt than the recipe calls for, but it’s still a lot less olive oil and salt than usual so I feel ok about it.

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I’m not a fan of raw cauliflower, but I’ve recently discovered that (like most vegetables) it’s pretty delicious when roasted. And even better when puréed into a soup. I am a fan of leeks, though, which is why this recipe caught my eye in the first place. It also sounded perfect for a cold January night – it’s not as cold in Seattle right now as it is in other parts of the country, but it’s still soup weather almost everywhere.

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I’m pretty sure you could roast any combination of veggies, purée them with chicken broth, and turn them into a delicious soup – that’s basically all you do here, with the addition of a little nutmeg (which I couldn’t even taste, so I’m not sure it needs it) and milk added in at the end. Oh, and a few bay leaves.

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Your cauliflower will be very soft after it’s done simmering, so I broke mine down with a rubber spatula before puréeing.  That way, you can purée it with an immersion blender easily.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, however, a regular blender or food processor would work fine.  Adding a cup of milk turns it into a gorgeous, thick, and creamy soup you would never think is missing anything (although as I add in the notes below, a few garnishes won’t hurt).

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Roasted Cauliflower, Leek, and Garlic Soup, from The Best of Clean Eating

Serves 10 as a first course/makes 8 cups
Hands-on time: 15 minutes/total time: one hour

3 leeks, white part only, washed and thickly sliced
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 head garlic, top cut off so cloves are exposed
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 bay leaves
1 cup skim or 1% milk
3 cups shredded basil
3 tablespoons hot water

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Toss leeks, cauliflower, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Spread onto baking sheet and roast in center of oven, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is browned and almost tender, about 25-30 minutes. [Note: I was worried that the soup might be too garlic-y, so I wrapped my garlic in tin foil – probably not necessary but better safe than sorry.]
2. Scrape leeks and cauliflower into a large saucepan or dutch oven. Add chicken broth and bay leaves. When the garlic has cooled a bit, squeeze the cloves from the skin into the pan (discard skins). Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Purée soup with an immersion blender, or transfer to a blender or food processor in batches and blend that way. Once the soup has been puréed, stir in milk and add more salt and pepper to taste (I definitely added a little extra here as it tasted pretty bland to me – but remember the basil is going to add a lot more flavor, so no need to panic like I did). Reheat before serving.
3. Place basil in blender with hot water. Purée until smooth. Ladle soup into warm bowls and garnish with the basil. [Note: I followed these instructions and it didn’t work too well – although I suspect it might work fine in a food processor, but I don’t have one (wah, wah). I ended up thinning mine with more water and a fair amount of olive oil; I also added a spare clove of roasted garlic and some salt to spice it up a bit.  At this point I started to wonder why I didn’t just use regular pesto, but I suppose that’s not as “clean.”  Though FYI, you could definitely go that route.  You could also garnish with one or both of my two favorite soup garnishes, parmesan cheese and croutons.  But again, not as clean. Alas.]

Soup keeps in the refrigerator for up to five days; in the freezer for up to a month. Prepare the basil purée a day before serving.

Nutrition info per 3/4 cup serving: 76 calories, 2g fat, 0g saturated fat, 11.5g carbs, 3g fiber, 4g sugar, 5g protein, 114mg sodium, 0.5g cholesterol

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Carrot Mac and Cheese and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

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So this is a recipe for all of my mommy readers, as well as my mac and cheese loving readers, mommies (and daddies) or not. I posted a lot of Melissa Clark recipes last winter before I realized I needed to start expanding my cookbook horizons, but I think it’s been long enough that I can start (over) posting again. While this mac and cheese might not be anything that exciting, but for the carrots, it’s a good basic recipe – it’s not overly un-healthy (as macaroni and cheese recipes go), you can throw it together pretty quickly, and you likely have most or even all of the ingredients in your fridge/pantry already. And the carrots make it fun because you can trick your picky eaters (or at least attempt to trick your picky eaters) into thinking the orange shreds are cheese. I took care of my cousin’s kids for a couple days last month while she and her husband were out of town, and after an afternoon of school pickups and after school activities, we arrived home at five and I had this on the table – with roasted veggies on the side, no less – by six. Which apparently is still really late for dinner for children, but hey, isn’t that what goldfish crackers are for? The four year old gobbled it up, carrots and all; the eight year old was a little more discriminating, but although there was a pile of grated carrots on his plate once the mac and cheese was otherwise gone, he still asked to take the leftovers in his lunch the next day, so I consider it a success.

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Just grate your carrots and throw them into your pasta three minutes before it’s finished cooking. You can buy pre-grated carrots, but it takes two minutes to grate them yourself (food processor or even on a box grater) and I feel like it really makes a difference.

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Just whisk together the milk, eggs, sour cream, salt, pepper, and mustard powder, and toss it with the pasta, cheese, carrots, and butter. Top with cheddar and parmesan and stick it in the oven for half an hour. Dinner for two hungry kiddos in under an hour, auntie win!

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<<If carrots aren't your thing, I also really love this butternut squash mac and cheese (also pretty tricky), or this broccoli version.>>

Carrot Mac and Cheese, from Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now

Serves 6

2 cups whole wheat macaroni
2 1/2 cups coarsely grated carrots (about 4 large or 8 small)
3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. Arrange a rack in the top third of the oven.

2. Cook the macaroni according to the package instructions in a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the carrots three minutes before the pasta is finished cooking; drain well.

3. While the pasta is hot, stir in the butter and all but 1/2 cup of the cheddar. In a bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs, salt, mustard powder, and pepper. Fold the mixture into the pasta.

4. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar and the parmesan over the top. Bake until the casserole is firm to the touch and golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Notes from Melissa:

1. Feed this dish to kids as is; grown-ups should indulge with a squirt of fiery Sriracha or other hot sauce all over the top.

2. You can vary the cheese to give this rather plain (if tasty) dish more personality. Gruyère, aged cheddar, pecorino, and aged Gouda will all add a sophisticated allure that will raise it above mere kids’ food.

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In an effort to make the meal a little more well-rounded, I made brussels sprouts for the kiddos too – and they ate them, that’s how good these are! Most of you don’t need me to tell you how to roast vegetables, but just in case you’re someone who likes instructions: I usually roast mine at 400 for 20-30 minutes, just tossed lightly with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Top with a little grated or shaved parmesan, optional.  I’ve been doing a lot of Brussels sprouts, broccoli/broccolini, and squash lately – if anyone has any other go-to fall veggies they love to roast, I would love to hear them in the comments!

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