Thursday, January 24, 2013

Five Star Lentil Soup

Five Star Lentil Soup

Last week my husband brought three business associates over to the house. Unannounced. For a tour. I was sitting at the computer blogging, naturally, when I realized I heard more than one voice coming around the corner.  So, I did what any blogging housewife does when people show up and it's become apparent that they will be walking all through your house in a matter of minutes. I ran upstairs to make the bed. This is a running joke between my friend Melissa and me. Anytime Melissa comes over unexpectedly, my bed is never made. She doesn't even believe that I make my bed, ever. The truth is, it's not that bad. I make my bed about 80% of the time. Another ten percent of the time, I wake up late or am rushed so I leave it. And yet another ten percent of the time I wake up, look at that mess of sheets and decide I'm just over my bed that particular day and leave it. These are the days I can almost guarantee Melissa will be stopping by.

Anyway, my bed was not made and it was the first and only thing I thought when I saw these three people in my living room. I beelined it upstairs. I could not let people my husband does business with think his wife is slovenly, even if twenty percent of the time I really am.

Switching gears here--Question--when is the last time you thought to yourself:

Man, I'm really hankering for a big, delicious bowl of lentil soup

(I'm struggling to know where to place the question mark)

Never? That's what I thought. Who hankers for lentil soup? It's fine and all, and I'm sure it's saved many a folk when the grocery budget was running low on a certain week, but craving it? That doesn't happen...until now. This lentil soup is named "five star" for a reason. I happened upon it accidentally and noticed it was an Alton Brown recipe and that it had hundreds of reviews and five stars. I couldn't believe it. Lentil soup in my experience has always been sort of ho-hum boring. Alton was about to change all of that. This soup calls for the usual earthy suspects of onion, carrot and celery. Lentils and stock are added along with three spices you may not have guessed. Together they work their magic creating the most soul-filling, full lentil soup I've ever tasted. You won't get this effect without the spices, so don't come to me all critical of the recipe when you've left out the cardamom. You leaving out the cardamom is your fault. Not mine. I've clearly told you to add it. Don't have cardamom? Buy it, or don't make this soup. Those are the choices. Look, my friend Danielle once wanted to make this quinoa dish I make with roasted chantrelles. Seeing as how chantrelles were not in season, I didn't give her the recipe. She asked again. I told her she couldn't make it right without chantrelles. However, she asked yet again, and I finally had to level with her. I said "I can't give you the recipe because I know you won't wait for chantrelles. I know you'll just go to the store and buy whatever mushroom happens to be there and call it good, but guess what? That's not good. It's not going to taste the same." I couldn't let her disgrace the dish like that. I take these things very, very seriously you see.

Five Star Lentil Soup
adapted from Alton Brown
serves 6

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 pound lentils, picked and rinsed
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped tomatoes
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground toasted cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground grains of paradise ( I used cardamom, which is a common substitute)
Place the olive oil into a large 6-quart Dutch oven and set over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, carrot, celery and salt and sweat until the onions are translucent, approximately 6 to 7 minutes. Add the lentils, tomatoes, broth, coriander, cumin and grains of paradise and stir to combine. Increase the heat to high and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook at a low simmer until the lentils are tender, approximately 35 to 40 minutes. Using a stick blender, puree to your preferred consistency. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Miso-Maple Sweet Potato Tacos with Coconut-Cilantro Sauce

Miso-Maple Roasted Sweet Potato Tacos with Coconut-Cilantro Sauce

Hear ye, hear ye. Have I mentioned I'm doing my annual yeast-free-candida-alkalizing cleanse? This means I am banned from eating anything animal, (eggs, meat, dairy) sugar (white rice, pasta, bread, white potatoes, fruit, desserts) caffeine (coffee, black and green tea) alcohol, or yeasty (any bread) and I am filling my body chock full of beans, legumes, vegetables, good fats, steel cut oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, green juices, and sprouted grains (Ezekiel tortillas and english muffins) for TWO months. Sound horrible? It kind of was the first time I did it -notevengonnalie- but this is the fourth or fifth time around and I've built up an arsenal of recipes and food sources to get me through this--no sweat. Yes, I'm pregnant and doing this because I've been given the okay by my doctor. The reasoning goes something like this:

As long as you're getting the calories and nutrients your body needs, cutting out processed foods and sugar never did anybody wrong. 

Amen. Oh, and I'm not really denying myself either. Pregnant women are notorious for getting cravings, but once you start eating this way those all but disappear, so don't feel too bad for me. If you put a piece of chocolate cake in front of me would I still want it? Of course, but I wouldn't have to have it. That's basically how it is. The other night I wanted pizza something fierce but I got over it and the  other 20-plus days I've been doing this, it's been fine.

Miso-Maple Roasted Sweet Potato Tacos with Coconut-Cilantro Sauce

Anyway, since we are on said cleanse, I made these nifty little roasted sweet potato and onion tacos the other night for dinner. This wouldn't normally be my first choice except these are special since they come served with coconut milk sauce spiked with lime, basil, scallions, cilantro, and topped with some creamy avocado. Oh, and the potato onion mixture is roasted with this quick miso-maple glaze. Um, so I might have cheated a hair on the cleanse and not omitted the maple syrup. No judging. It was my first kitchen cheat. So, yeah, theres a lot going on in this little taco. And the result? The family loved them. Sure you have to make the glaze, sauce, and chop the potatoes, but everything comes together super fast and easily.

Miso-Maple Sweet Potato Tacos with Coconut-Cilantro Sauce
adapted from Love and Lemons

Serves 3 to 4
Glazed Sweet Potato Filling
2 tablespoons white miso paste
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 medium sweet potatoes, unpeeled and chopped into small cubes
1 small red onion, chopped
Olive oil
Taco Fixings
Corn tortillas, 2 to 3 per person ( I used Ezekiel sprouted grain tortillas)
Avocado, sliced
Sprouts (we used big sunflower sprouts)
Chopped scallions
Toasted pepitas
Heat oven to 400°F. Whisk the miso paste, maple syrup, and vinegar together in a small bowl. Spread sweet potatoes and onions in a single layer on a baking sheet (you might need 2 baking sheets). Drizzle with a little olive oil, and then liberally brush the glaze over the vegetables.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes. The time will vary depending on the heat of your oven and the size of your sweet potato cubes. The onions will likely be done first so be sure to watch and take them out when they're nicely browned but not burnt. When the sweet potatoes are finished, remove from the oven, taste and add another brushing of glaze if you wish.
Serve on warm corn tortillas with cilantro-coconut sauce (see below) and fixings such as avocado, sprouts, cilantro, and pepitas.
Cilantro-Coconut Sauce
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup basil leaves
1 scallion, green and white parts, chopped
1/4 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) ( I used raw cashews)
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 small garlic clove
Splash of Sriracha hot sauce (optional)
Pinch of sugar (optional)
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
In a food processor or blender, pulse all ingredients together until just combined. Serve alongside the tacos.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Homemade Frozen Fruit Cocktail Cups for Lunches

Homemade Frozen Fruit Cocktail Cups

These are pure genius. I always pack fruit for snacks in my kids' lunches at school but inevitably they get sick of whatever I've picked out for the week. Come Thursday they complain not a cutie again, mom. I try to refrain from reminding them, yet again, of the starving children in our world and tell them they can pick different fruit at the store for next weeks lunches. This idea though? Game changer. How cool to be able to chop up a bunch of fruit in advance, pack it in leak proof mason jars, and freeze so they are ready for a snack switch up any time.

Homemade Frozen Fruit Cocktail Cups

In the original recipe, a lot of canned fruit is called for, including that iffy fruit cocktail that's been around for ages and I just couldn't bring myself to use it (no matter how much I loved those halved cherries as a kid) when I could use a great mix of fresh fruit as my base, thus making it healthier and fresher at the same time. I did keep a can of mandarin oranges and crushed pineapple for sweetness. My kids freaking loved this. The idea is you can pack them straight from your freezer in the morning, and come snack time it will be thawed, but still really icy cold. My daughter actually prefers hers slightly frozen and slushy. This would be a better idea in the springtime/summer when it's a little warmer, but I thought I'd go ahead and start making them now when the current temp has been around -18 degrees out because I make total sense. Well, that and my kids don't ever seem to ever get cold, so I figure, what the hay?

Me: Isabella, put your jacket on before you walk to the bus stop

Isabella: I have one in my backpack

Me: Okay, great, so put it on

(Isabella does her why are you so crazy? glare)

Me: It's NEGATIVE 28 DEGREES outside. Put that jacket on now. You cannot just walk out there in that thin sweater shirt.

Isabella: I'll put it on if I get cold

Dammit girl. Who is the mother? ME that's who, you little snotty ten year old who thinks you know better than me! Me! The great and powerful Oz! I should've just let her go out there all vulnerable in her thin sweatshirt instead of finally insisting she put the dang thing on -plus a hat-. But I didn't because I love her, and I'm a good mother who thinks it's better to yell and throw my weight around as boss and insist she does what I say instead of letting her reap her own consequences, which, by the way, would have avoided a morning spat and sent her to school with peace, love and calm in her heart that would have quickly changed to a silent mental note on her part about how she should really put her coat on before walking out the door tomorrow because, brrrrrr, this winter is not messing around. Or not, because my kids don't ever actually get cold.

Homemade Frozen Fruit Cocktail Cups

Once a year, maybe, one of my kids will get cold. It always happens in a restaurant. Suddenly, one of them will wrap their arms around themselves and say "Mommy, I'm cold". My eyes instantly go wide. I'm surprised and shocked and thrilled at the same time. I excitedly say, See! See! This is why I tell you to bring your coats with you everywhere because we live in the mountains and it's cold here. This is what I've been trying to get across - that you must always bring a coat. Guess you'll just have to sit and be cold because you didn't listen, huh? 

You can't win them all folks. Mother of the year, right here. Ah, but I redeem myself with homemade fruit cocktail cups. Now you can too, grasshopper.

These are not just for kids because let me tell you, these are delicious and I am a certifiable adult.

Homemade Frozen Fruit Cocktail Cups

Homemade Frozen Fruit Cocktail Cups
adapted from Pioneer Woman
makes 8 big fruit cups

4 cups fresh fruit, cut into small-ish dice (I used a mix of strawberries, blueberries and mango)
1 11-oz can mandarin oranges, drained
1 8-oz can crushed pineapple, not drained
2 medium bananas
3 tablespoons lemon juice (this will help keep the bananas from turning brown)
3 cups pineapple orange juice (plus a bit more if needed for jars)

Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and mix until combined. Spoon fruit into mason jars (or if you won't be packing these, you can use disposable plastic cups covered with plastic wrap and foil) Use all the juice in the bowl and if needed, pour more juice into each jar until the liquid comes just up to-but not covering the top of the fruit. Leave a bit of room at the top. Seal lids and freeze until firm. Remove from freezer 45 min-1 hour before serving to thaw.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Picture Perfect Sunny Side Up Eggs

Perfect Sunny Side Up Eggs

Guten'tog! I am officially better! Being sick is the worst!

Normally, I just make over easy eggs for my kids. I've never really been fascinated with the whole preserving the look of the yolk thing for the sake of calling it a sunny side up egg. Over easy is just fine, and frankly I've always liked hiding that bit of yellow under a blanket of butter fried white. So why, why for the love of Pete do I bring you this post you ask? Because I do have a fascination with method. If there is a certain method in place solely dedicated to making a picture perfect egg and I become intrigued, I am pretty much obsessed until I end up making it.

Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) made these eggs the other day on her cooking show. I wasn't really into it considering she used canola oil instead of butter to cook them (maybe clarified butter would work since it wouldn't burn?). But then, I'll be dammed if she didn't turn out the most freakishly perfect sunny side up egg I've ever seen. It looked fake, like those plastic eggs they give kids with their play kitchens. But then I realized I've never made such a good looking egg before, and knew I would need to master it for my sanity in case I ever needed that skill in the real world. What if I'm a food stylist some day? What if someone ten years from now asks me if I know how to make the perfect egg? I can't very well say no. I mean, I am a food blogger for goodness sake and there are certain basic skills one must have to bear that title with any dignity.

So, look, the recipe sounds "complicated" since you need a certain amount of oil to coat the bottom of the pan which can't be too hot since you want the eggs to cook slowly. You want the egg to sit in the pan for a few seconds before slowly starting to turn white.

Perfect Sunny Side Up Eggs

Then you'll need to spoon some of the hot oil over the whites only at first. This is very, very important and if you need more explanation see the *note in the cooking directions.

Perfect Sunny Side Up Eggs

Perfect Sunny Side Up Eggs

Then, after a few minutes, you'll want to spoon the oil over the yolk to cook and set to your desired doneness.

Perfect Sunny Side Up Eggs

 Lastly, you'll want to drain the egg on a paper towel since nobody wants their eggs to taste like oil. This step is surprisingly easy. Despite outlining all of the steps, I promise you it's super easy peasy if you are capable of an attention span of about three minutes. If you read this last paragraph and decided it was too much work or effort, I suggest you work on some more discipline, stillness, or self control in your life. But that's just my two cents and I'm not qualified or anything, I'm only a food blogger.

My suggestion would be to read the directions in their entirety first and visualize as you go. You'll be able to go make your perfect egg without referring back to the recipe unless you need it just...perfect like I do. I refereed back like three times even though I really didn't need to.

Perfect Sunny Side Up Eggs
adapted from The Pioneer Woman
serves 3

3 whole eggs
4 Tablespoons Canola oil (more or less as needed for size of skillet) *I bet clarified butter would work and be a bit yummier*

 First, heat the canola oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. You don't want it too, too hot, as you're going to cook the eggs pretty slowly. You don't want the oil so hot that the eggs sizzles and turns white the second you crack it in! The whites should remain clear for several seconds before they start to turn white.

1) Once the oil is mildly hot, crack in the eggs (three eggs is about as many as I can tend to at one time.) The oil should not cover the whites; if anything, it should just come over the edges a tiny bit.

2) Once the eggs begin to turn white, use a small spoon to carefully spoon the hot oil over the whites only. Go from egg to egg, spooning the oil over the whites. This will help the whites cook slowly so that they won't be slimy. *important: Don't spoon oil over the yolk yet.

3) After a minute or two, touch the whites of one of the eggs and make sure they're set/not jiggly and loose. At that time, you can spoon oil over the yolks to  help them set on the surface.

* Note: The reason you need to wait before spooning hot oil over the yolks is that immediately after cracking the eggs into the pan, there is still egg white covering the yolk. If you were to spoon the hot oil over the yolk immediately, it would cause the white on the yolk to turn white, which will result in the yolk having a cloudy covering. 

4) Continue spooning the oil over the egg until it appears to be as done as you'd like. You can gauge it by lightly jiggling it or poking with a spoon.

5) Remove eggs from the pan with a slotted spatula, then- this is important- drain them briefly on a paper towel before serving. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

a note from the sickie

Good day fellow foodies,

I am writing you with nary a picture to let you know that my Internet was not working yesterday, and I am sick today with a cold and I have kids home from school, so I've got nothin' for ya. Boo!

Need a fix? Check out some of my friends blogs:

Keep Calm and Carry On- Katie is talking about juicing today. Get excited.

The Daily Dish- Shari is linking to some fab homemade pizzas

Smitten Kitchen- Deb made ethereally smooth hummus. It look like silk. Go check out her technique, and no, Deb is not really my friend. She doesn't know me at all but it doesn't stop her from being awesome.

Little Miss Momma- Ashley is telling about a precious whale themed baby shower and shares an oreo cake pop recipe.

Everyone else, if you are my friend and I didn't link to you, do not be offended! I only linked to sites that posted something food related today, specifically.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Cherry Chocolate Smoothie and Our Christmas Eve

Chocolate Cherry Smoothie

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
kids were playing like fools while I sat with my spouse
In one chair we were cozy,White Christmas was playing,
Bing crooning the title song, when I started surveying

When, what to my wandering eyes should appear?
Jeremy on his phone! so I started in his ear
"What are you reading on this Christmas Eve night?"
"about anal cancer" he said with delight

He's crazy, he's weird, he's odd, it is true
He said he was relaxing, what's a girl to do?
Try as I might, I focused on Bing
and tried to not listen when he'd yell random things

"Hmmm", and "interesting" he said while reading
But I put my foot down when he shouted "scrotum bleeding!"
You guys, please, I'm not making this stuff up
He really said that and...enough was enough

"We need a cell phone rule" I suddenly declared
Jeremy thinks I text more than him, but I wasn't scared
"No cell phones at dinner, or when spending family time"
Just the mere thought was supremely sublime

"Fine by me" Jeremy said with a hoof
He thinks he doesn't have a problem with phones, but here is the proof:


Never mind that there are no pictures of me
I have my moments too, of that I'd agree
I'd better stop now, you get the point
signing off now or I'll overwrite

Now wasn't that a fine tale about our Christmas Eve that had nothing to do with that, and everything to do with cell phones instead? It's all true too, except we still don't even have cell phone rules after all that.  Don't you agree that we should at least never use our phones when we're all out to dinner together? Jeremy will do his ho ho ho laugh and say that it will be a harder rule for me to follow than him since he thinks I have a texting problem. I beg to differ. I just like to text my sister between 5:30-6:30pm. But alas, I agree that texting is my main source of communication. I hate talking to other people. In general. Or at all. About anything. But I especially hate talking to people about nothing on the phone (cough- KEL!- cough). In person it's a completely different story (I'll chat your ear off) unless I don't know you very well, and then yeah, I pretty much hate talking to you in person too. I sound lovely don't I? I bet you're just jonesing to be my friend now. I promise these are just the things I think in my head but in real life I'm very polite and sweet and accommodating and people don't know unless I don't care if they know or I'm exhausted tired and can't even pretend. Then they know. And I'm pretty sure a handful of the Steamboat population thinks I'm weird because of this, but it's okay. Weirdness is a strong suit of mine.

Anyway, what this post has really been about the whole time is chocolate cherry smoothies. Didn't get that? Well now you will. Chocolate cherry smoothies or Black Forrest Blizzard, whatever you want to call it. It is deelish. If you like cherries, that is. My daughter loved this and my son hated it. That's probably how people will fall on the spectrum, chocolate and cherries is a sensitive matter.

Cherry Chocolate Smoothie

For this drink, chocolate almond or soy milk provides the chocolate, two heaping cups of dark sweet cherries provides the cherry (duh, I know).  A frozen banana is added for sweetness and thickness, and a touch of Greek yogurt provides tang and protein. The recipe calls for almond extract to help brighten up the cherry flavor, but this is optional. I like it, but taste the smoothie before you add to see if it's something you'd be into. The original recipe called for 2 teaspoons of honey or agave to be added and I totally disagree. It would be way too sweet, especially if you were using sweetened chocolate almond milk to begin with (they are all sweetened unless you buy unsweetened).

Cherry Chocolate Smoothie
adapted from Cook Without a Book: Meatless Meals by Pam Anderson

makes 2 large smoothies (halve this recipe for two smaller smoothies)

2 heaping cups frozen, dark sweet cherries
1 frozen banana, cut into chunks
2 cups chocolate soy or almond milk (I used half sweetened and half unsweetened, but either will do)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

chocolate chips or shavings for garnish (optional)

Place all the ingredients, except for the chocolate chips for garnish, in a blender; process until creamy smooth. Divide between two glasses. Top each with chocolate chips or shavings if desired.