Archive for the 'Recipes' Category

Ginny’s Famous Baked Apples

Most days it is easy to feel invisible. And quite honestly this can be beneficial. As a shy introverted young girl, I often felt most comfortable when I was invisible. In a boisterous Italian family one may wonder how it was even possible to survive on the quieter side of the spectrum, but when you are surrounded by strong personalities you don’t need to compete. As the story goes, my two closest childhood friends will eagerly tell you that I found my voice towards the end of high school and the personality followed to reveal itself in the college years. Continue reading ‘Ginny’s Famous Baked Apples’

Coconut Pistachio Bites – Mermaid and Cinderella Stories

Life gets tricky, relationships get complicated and the unknown can be terrifying. There are certainly a lot of ways to read or read-into that last sentence so I should explain.

Tricky=We are all stretched by time constraints. Picking and choosing what to spend our free and work time on is something that we all navigate.

Complicated Relationships= just a fact. With true communications skills on the decline it is easy to become isolated and wonder if the subtext is really a declaration of more.

Unknown= there can and is some sort of anxiety around that which we cannot yet understand. Even excitement can bring with it elements of this emotion.

And yet, despite all of those factors, life has some amazing high points. Times when you realize just how great it is to be in the midst of your life, and enjoying the here and now. These past few months in many ways felt surreal with a dose of magical.

Dress shopping for my daughter’s junior prom brought with it all of the excitement of a Disney princess movie, eg Cinderella heading off to the ball, with elements of tricky, complicated and the unknown lurking. Life as a young adult is not easy and it wasn’t when I was growing up either. Technology now plays a more prominent roll in the lives of this generation; the struggle is real.

And as you may have read in my last blog post, there was some questionable feelings I had as I approached this next decade of my life. Regardless, this next half century of my life (to quote my daughter), was ushered in by people that brought with them contagious happiness and more fun than could be bottled up. In her usual way, my daughter required me to ‘sparkle’ and I went out of my comfort zone and dawned my mermaid-esque top to show that I would not run or hide but meet this new phase head-on.

With so much fantasy in the works…princesses and mermaids alike, the reality was that I was living large and consumed a few too many calories. It was fun, and well, at a certain point I have to get back to the basics. And while this recipe is hardly glamorous food, it fits the parameters of trimming the waistline, providing fuel and eating on the healthy end of the plant-based spectrum. Like all dichotomies, for as much as I love to get all slicked up for a formal event, I also like to wear my faded blue jeans and embrace my pseudo-inner hippie roots (growing up in Marin County in the 70’s and 80’s had a way of seeping into my blood). This carries over to my food vibe too. I love food that is a showstopper and yet I also love food that is simple and healthy.

Coconut Pistachio Bites – This simple combination should not be underestimated, the flavor of the oats, nuts and maple syrup gives this recipe a good texture and subtle sweet flavor. The recipe is quick to assemble, great leftover and a good energy booster.

Coconut Pistachio Bites

Ingredients

1 cup raw, shelled pistachios plus more for sprinkling on top

1 cup rolled oats

½ cup unsweetened coconut

¼ cup maple syrup

½ tsp salt

2 TBS olive oil

honey (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 8×8 inch square pan with parchment paper.

In a food processor, using an S blade, combine pistachios, oat and salt and blend for 30-seconds until it is the consistency of a meal. While the motor is still running, slowly add the wet ingredients (maple syrup and olive oil). A dough should start to form.

Firmly press the dough evenly into the pan and sprinkle with coconut flakes and chopped pistachios. . Bake 10-12 minutes until the coconut is golden brown and the dough is baked. Set aside to cool.

Carefully remove the cooled bites out of the pan by holding the sides of the parchment paper. Cut into squares. For extra sweetness, drizzle with honey.

Suzie’s Cinnamon Kahlua Chocolate Cake

This year I celebrated a milestone birthday which was feeling a bit unnerving – there were juxtaposed emotions (1) reality of mortality, (2) being ever so happy to actually be here since I am very aware without the miracles of modern medicine I could easily not have made it to this birthday and (3) the weight of carrying a big number as part of my identity and being vain. Continue reading ‘Suzie’s Cinnamon Kahlua Chocolate Cake’

Southern Hemisphere Meatballs…Meditation and Other Deep Thinking

I’d like to declare that we are officially in the era where meditation is not considered a fringe activity. In the day-to-day busy stressful lives we lead there is seldom time for ‘self-care’ let alone an at the ready tool bag that can help us release from the everyday grind of demands. We are hearing about the benefits of meditative work at the corporate level and even that Western Medicine doctors are prescribing meditation to patients. Continue reading ‘Southern Hemisphere Meatballs…Meditation and Other Deep Thinking’

Creamy Cauliflower Gruyere Soup

I truly feel like life is in transition and I am not quite sure what to make of it all. I am a contradiction of things at any given moment…observant, hurried, reckless, cautious, pensive and opinionated. [Is this what mid-life looks like?] I look for ways to embrace the calm, to smile and to laugh every day. I remind myself about the gravity of the past few years because it is perspective. I remind myself to be thankful for each and every experience – not only the good ones – because it is not without the sour that we know the balance and beauty of the sweet.

I always strive to learn and improve, but I know part of my learning is sometimes allowing for the imperfections and embracing those imperfectly perfect jagged edges. I’ve abandoned my inner ‘Martha Stewart’ and I am learning to embrace my quirky, passionate, satirical, geek techie and foodie undertones >I have no idea which public persona that correlates to, so I guess I’ll have to just be me.<

I can’t make excuses; I am still in soup mode. Perhaps it is because I feel gypped out of winter. I hear about record breaking snow stories on the East Coast, and yet I am wearing a sweater (and sweating) because it is 75 degrees outside. My brain refuses to accept this winter-free season. In sheer protest I am still making soups.

Thinking back on my love of flavors, I am reminded how much I enjoy soups. A large pot, filled to the brim with fresh ingredients, slow simmered with a pinch of this and that, until the wafting aroma fills the corners of the kitchen and you can practically taste it with your eyes. Soups seem so simple to assemble and yet so decadent in composition. While I tend to like ‘day old soups’, feeling their flavors are more robust, the beauty of this recipe is that once cooked it hits its full stride.

Creamy Cauliflower Gruyere Soup

Soup Ingredients

1 TBS olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 tsp salt

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup dry white wine

2 heads cauliflower

1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated

2 cups vegetable stock

2 cups heavy whip cream

Pesto Rye Crouton Ingredients

1 loaf rye bread

olive oil

pesto

Directions

In a large stockpot, sauté onions, garlic and salt for 5 minutes over medium heat.

Deglaze pot with white wine and cook until it has evaporated. Add stock, cream and cauliflower and simmer approximately 30 minutes, until cauliflower is tender. Once cooked, transfer this mixture to a blender and puree until texture is smooth and creamy.

Season with salt and pepper. If soup is too thick, think with more stock. While still hot, blend in Gruyere cheese.

To make pesto croutons, slice bread into half-inch cubes and toss lightly with olive oil. Place on baking sheet for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Before serving toss with pesto and finish with chopped chives and a drizzle of olive oil.

Sweet & Spicy Simple Vegan Chili

There is a quiet Saturday morning space that I’ve discovered. I find it in the alcoves of the sun trying to push its way through the slatted blinds on a cold winter morning. The house is asleep; the neighborhood farm animals are tucked into the cozy spaces, and aside from the humming of the heater as it takes the chill out of the house, there is absence of sound.
Continue reading ‘Sweet & Spicy Simple Vegan Chili’

Lentil Soup

There are just certain facts about yourself that are known entities. For example, I’ve always hated mushy cooked carrots (unless they are sweetening up a soup). I function most effectively with everything in its place. My favorite drink is a Negroni; I refuse to pick a favorite color. Chocolate is my favorite food group. Spending time with people I enjoy is always an option. And I have a passion for photos that cannot be satiated. It’s just a fact. I love pictures; I always have. And if you were to scroll through my photo roll on my phone camera you would find that nearly 1/3 of them are food photos.
Continue reading ‘Lentil Soup’

Small Batch Carmel Corn

The holiday season brings with it heaps of food memories. For me, the smells and tastes are triggers. As we work our way through so many of the traditional Sicilian dishes that have been passed down from generation to generation, I feel blessed and cursed. Blessed to have a family so very steeped in traditions in their love of food and cursed that these time intensive delicacies rob me of what little free time I have. There is certainly joy in finding time to cook with my Aunt, Cousin and my Mother, but there is so much pressure to get things done for the big day.

My husband and I are both products of divorced families. As children, having multiple Christmases has its silver lining – seemingly infinite gifts. As adults, the silver lining can sometimes be overwhelming – driving, shopping, cooking (repeat x 4). I end up feeling energy depleted and trying to figure out how I might lighten the load next year.

There is no sugar coating it; four Christmases is A LOT to be merry about. That’s not to say that each celebration is not coveted and special; I love them all. We all do. And we love all of the nice interactions with family and extended family and friends. Yet this year I think I reached my saturation level. I’ve declared that next year I will take the year off. I want to truly appreciate how special it all is, and in order to do that I need to be able to have a holiday where I can just relax. As I shared this with our families the response was very mixed if not perplexed. Even my children were wondering why such measures would be necessary. The reason is simple. I’d like next Christmas to be different. Not complicated or time consuming but indulgent. I am not looking for an epic adventure, just long lazy days, a book and a walk on the beach followed by some festive red cocktail as we head out to dinner.

So I’ve got a dream. Let’s see if I can make it happen. As we head into these final days of 2017, I am making my wish and resolution list and I am going to be a bit selfish with how I spend my time in 2018.

For those interested in a preview (or inspiration) this is what my list is starting to look like.

• Finding the peace in quiet moments

• Work life flow; in the direction of ‘life’ (admittedly there is no ‘balance’)

• More fun, more smiles, more memories, more laughter

• First Friday gatherings with my girlfriends, make a standing date to see the ladies I adore with zero planning

• Travel!

• Be spoiled…

While reflecting on food memories I was ‘reminded’ by Facebook about my favorite childhood caramel corn recipe. This was a ‘camp’ recipe shared with me by the mother of one of my friend’s, and it’s something I’ve never outgrown. >I use the term ‘camp’ loosely because this interlude hardly involved tents or camp fires; it was time away from home in the summer and it was pretty darn amazing!<

This easy Caramel Popcorn is the perfect salty/sweet combo! It starts with fluffy, freshly popped popcorn then it is glazed with real butter and decadent brown sugar, and nuts of your choice — pieces of almonds, cashews and/or pecans make for an irresistible crunch.

Small Batch Carmel Corn

Ingredients

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup butter

½ cup corn syrup

6 quarts popped corn (1 cup uncooked kernels)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

pecans, walnuts or cashews, to your liking

Directions

Put popped corn and nuts into large bowl and set aside. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Boil sugar, butter, syrup and salt for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add in baking soda. Stir well over popped corn and nuts. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, stirring in 15 minute intervals. Remove from oven and cool then store in air tight container.

Dark-ish Chocolate Pistachio Bark – Help Santa Slay Christmas

Dear Santa,

I’d like to quit Christmas this year. Let’s be honest. You get all the credit. I do all the work, and this year it seems quasi impossible to make it as dreamy as days of yore. I know, it is the most wonderful time of the year – unless, you can’t keep up with the to-do list of shopping, tree trimming, house decorating (inside and out), baking, cooking and well…the list continues. Now excuse me for not being reverent, but if this is feeling merry, how much longer can it last? I think it is time to take a stand. If I do nothing for Christmas well then I might just have some time for me. Continue reading ‘Dark-ish Chocolate Pistachio Bark – Help Santa Slay Christmas’

Giardiniera (Sottaceti) or Pickled Veggie Bliss

October, formerly one of my favorite times of year, seems to trigger a ‘hunger games’ type of reaction from my very being. As the month approaches I feel a duplicative sense of anxiety and accomplishment. Two years ago, during Breast Cancer Awareness month, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. What unravels after that is a bizarre concoction of one part sanity, one part disbelief mixed with two heavy doses of fear. In my moments of clarity my goal was to make sure things were in order, smart decisions were made and that at all costs I protected those closest to me. In retrospect, I can tell you that having a goal did work.

I was luckier than many, and I managed to keep my anti-joiner resolve. I may have had to go done this path, but I did it my way. I refused to be defined by this illness – pink bows >no thank you<, hugs and long stares, wondering how I am REALLY doing >avoided at all costs<, and should anyone dare to call me a hero/warrior >I ran for the hills<. Okay, I am joking, to an extent.

I sincerely did appreciate how much people cared, and my inability to share my dark places with them was just a defect of me, being me. In many ways I wanted to press the fast forward button, and perhaps by not discussing it I was able to minimize some of the more scary elements.

Why bother discussing something that stripped away some of my memories and gave battle scars my family? It is the past, I am fine. And yet unceremonious revelations abound by the day. My tell tale signs of its aftermath are different than what I would have anticipated. For example, I appreciate the value of a smile, taking the time to laugh, a conversation that goes beyond what you may or may know about me on social media. I want to have fun; I want to feel alive; I want to just be happy. I want to spend time with people. I know this probably seems simple and hardly profound. There are other signs that I’ve changed.

I feel as if I’ve been to the dark side and back, and oddly enough, now I find that I gravitate towards natural light. Literally. In fact I crave it. I can’t seem to keep curtains or doors closed – I want the natural light to shine in.

I my measure success by being able to help others. I want to give back to those that are the difference in my world. I want to do all of those little things that make life memorable.

Food is something at the top of my list on how to keep things special and memorable. It is not that I am the only good cook in my house, it is more about my passion for it. It is the gift of my time.

As summer slipped into fall, I thought it might be nice to put the end of summer flavors in a jar. Ergo, another metaphor for light.

Pucker Up. Pickling is one of those magical preservation methods that not only extends a food’s shelf life, but also takes its flavor profile to interesting and delicious places. Cucumbers aren’t the only thing that can be pickled. These very robust flavored veggies have a nice garlic taste and a hint of sour vinegar tang. It’s high pickling season, so pull out those mason jars and get to work!

Giardiniera, or sottaceti, are colorful pickled vegetables that make a beautiful accompaniment to a charcuterie plate or can be added to rice or salad dishes.

Giardiniera

Ingredients

5 lbs mixed vegetables; cauliflower, celery, carrots, cucumbers, fennel, green beans, red peppers, zucchini, onions

8 cups white wine vinegar

4 cups water

7 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

3 TBS salt

French or lemon thyme

1 jalapeno, seeded (optional)

Note: I made the full recipe and then jarred half of it before adding in the jalapeño.

Note: you can also conserve the vegetables by storing the mixture in oil rather than vinegar, which will keep the flavor balanced.

Directions

Clean and prepare the vegetables. Vegetables like the celery, zucchini and peppers can be cut into strips while cauliflower should be cut into sizes that will easily fit into a jar, about the size of walnut. For variety, cut carrots into round coins. Green beans can be cut in half and onions into small slices.

In a large stock pot, add the vinegar, water salt and bring to a boil. While some recipes will suggest that you cook each separately in the vegetable mixture, I like to mix the remainder of the ingredients together; keeping the thyme aside to place a sprig in each jar. Cook approximately 3 minutes until they are bright and starting to soften but still somewhat crunchy. At this point, the vegetables are ready to be eaten. To prepare them to share at a later date, continue the canning process. If not canning, vegetables will keep for up to 3 months.

Prepare canner, jars and lids. (If you’ve never canned, then let me give you a few more details: Prep the jars and lids for canning following the procedures for boiling water canning. Place lids in a small saucepan half full of water and place on low heat. Put the metal rack in the bottom of the stock pot or boiling water canner. If using screw bands, place them top up in the bottom. The purpose of the rack is to keep the jars from direct contact with the heated metal at the bottom of the pot, which could cause them to scorch or break. Place your clean jars into the canner and fill the container (and jars) half full of water. Turn on the stove to medium heat. Remove a jar from the boiling water canner, by this point the water in the canner should be pretty hot so use the jar lifter. DON’T put the jar directly on the counter as the change in temperature between the oven and the counter will cause the jars to break. It is best to place the jars either on a folded kitchen towel or a wooden surface.)

Pack vegetables evenly and colorfully into hot sterilized jars to within a 1/2 inch of top of jar. Ladle hot vinegar mixture into jar or add olive oil to cover the vegetables, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Creating proper headspace in each jar is essential to achieving a proper seal and being able to safely store your jam. This is where the clear plastic ruler comes in handy. Remove any air bubbles by poking down into the mixture with chopstick or skewer. Clean the rim of the jar with a damp paper towel to make sure there’s no stray juice to interfere with the seal. Center lid on jar. Cap the jar with your lid and tighten the screw band until it is fingertip tight.

Place the jar back into the boiling water canner using your jar lifter. Once all your jars are filled, make sure they are completely covered with water (you may have to add a bit of additional water to the canner). Bring the water to a boil and then set your timer for 20 minutes. (Add 1 minute onto this time for each 1,000 ft above sea level.) When the timer goes off, remove the canner lid and wait 5 minutes. Why 5 minutes? If you don’t wait a few minutes the jostling of removing them from the canner could keep the jars from sealing. Another important tip is to remember to keep your jars upright as you remove them, titling to the side can also interfere with the seal. There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing “POP!” from across the room and knowing your jars are sealing, but you can’t sit around for a whole day for that sound.

In 24 hours go back and check all your jars. If you push down on the top and the lid gives, you didn’t get a solid seal. Immediately refrigerate or reprocess that jar. I usually take it one step further by taking off the screw band and holding the jar up by just its lid (with the other hand ready to catch, of course). If the lid doesn’t spring up and I can hold it up by just the edges of the metal lid, it has a nice seal.