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In the three years I have been writing this blog, you may have noticed that I haven’t shared any meat-centric recipes — or used much meat at all. This isn’t because meat hasn’t been meat on our table. It was for several years, then it wasn’t at all, and now it’s back again. Like many people, especially those of you reading this blog, we’ve thought a lot about what we eat and have done our fair share of experimenting.
For several years for a lot of our family meals, I’ve cooked two dinners. One for Brad and the kids (with meat) and one for me (without). I’ve gotten pretty good at making one dish, splitting it into two, adding appropriate protein and — voila! — a meal to suit each person. This may sound like a ridiculous waste of time and effort but at the time I loved the challenge and I wanted to respect everyone’s wishes about food and their bodies’ needs.
It worked for a while, sort of. I love food and cooking as much as anyone, but it just got to be way too time consuming. And I felt like even though I was holding true to my intentions it was less rewarding than truly sharing in the eating experience with everyone else at the table.
Recently I’ve switched to only cooking one dinner, and about half the time it’s made with meat. I still don’t eat the meat but I don’t balk anymore if there was chicken in the soup. I just eat around it. Can I tell you how much lighter the dish load is now? Meals are actually more pleasurable, too, both in the cooking and eating.
This recipe is one of my favorites to “eat around the meat.” It’s everything good about chicken noodle soup — a gorgeous golden broth, hearty veggies and the noodles, of course, but the next-level taste is totally owed to the lemon, dill and white wine trifecta. They add such a bright flavor to the comforting bowl of love!
This is the most requested soup I make. And if I’m being honest, I’ve thought about sharing this recipe with you before but I’ve been too selfish until now. I hope you and yours love this soup as much as we do!
Lemony Chicken Noodle Soup
A couple tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
3 to 4 ribs celery, preferably the inner most ribs with lots of leaves, chopped
1 head of fennel, chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine
7 cups homemade vegetable stock (or in a pinch I use Rapunzel Vegetable Bouillion with Sea Salt & Herbs)
1 fresh bay leaf
A couple sprigs of thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 roasted chicken, flesh torn into bite size pieces and larger bones saved to toss in as it simmers
About 8 ounces fusilli or noodles of your choice
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
lemon, zested and juiced
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a large stock pot. Add chopped onion, give a stir and cook for a few minutes until translucent. Stir in garlic, carrots, celery and fennel. Cook for a few more minutes until those start to soften. Add wine and simmer off some of the alcohol, then pour in the stock, herbs, torn chicken and bones. Simmer for about 40 minutes, mostly covered. Stir in pasta, cook for another 8 to 10 minutes until noodles are al dente. Finally add fresh dill, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaf, taste and adjust seasoning. I usually end up using the lemon juice, too. We like ours extra-lemon-y.
Variations: Rice or quinoa stand in for pasta beautifully here. I often switch out the chicken for cooked chickpeas. Stirring in a shredded zucchini toward the end adds beautiful color and gives the soup more body if you skip on the noodles. Really the base of this soup is just so darn good you can add just about anything and come away happy!
For the past 4 1/2 years Brad has been working (day and night, literally) to complete his degree, taking one class online at a time, studying on road trips, before and after games and really anytime he could squeeze in some book time. He just completed his last class and will receive his diploma later this year. And not only did he do all this while working a seriously full time job but he will graduate with the highest honors, quite an accomplishment. The kids and I were so thrilled and proud we knew cake was the only answer. This one certainly rose to the occasion.
I’ve made this cake before and love everything about it. It’s a revised recipe from the Leon Baking & Puddings cookbook, adding some of the flavors my family likes best (and some things I already had in the pantry!). This cake is dense, rich and super chocolate-y. But the real brilliance is in its alchemy: the ingredients are wholesome, dairy and egg free (great for those with food allergies) and won’t leave you with a sugar high or sweet regret.
A note on the recipe: This is from a UK cookbook so the measurements are metric. If you don’t have the equipment in your kitchen to help you measure, there are lots of online converters to help.
For the cake:
150ml hot water
80g cacao powder
200ml maple syrup
200ml coconut milk
1/2 a lemon, juiced
80ml coconut oil, melted (plus a little extra for greasing the pan)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
180g whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a little coconut oil, grease a 9-inch cake pan.
In a bowl, whisk together the hot water and cacao powder until smooth. Add the maple syrup, coconut milk, lemon juice, coconut oil and vanilla extract.
In a separate, larger bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and whisk everything together. Pour the batter into the prepared pan
Bake until a knife or toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes then remove from the pan on to a wire rack to finish cooling.
For the icing:
50g coconut oil
200g dark chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
50ml maple syrup
Raspberries (optional, but really pretty)
Combine everything except the strawberries in a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of barely simmering water to make a double boiler. Stir until completely melted. Drizzle the cake with icing and top with raspberries – or you could arrange some pretty (non-toxic! organic!) flowers from the garden on the top.
Since there’s been a crisp edge to the air and the leaves started changing and falling, we’ve been craving soup. We were especially inspired this past weekend after reading one of the kids’ favorite fall time books: Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper. It’s about a cat, a duck and a squirrel’s adventures with making a pot of pumpkin soup. It’s precious, funny and inspires kids to want to cook and eat pumpkin soup too.
The first time I made this soup I added white wine; the second time I skipped it. Both times it was delicious. I’m not sure which one I like better. It just depends on the mood you’re in. Same with the toppings: I bounce around between different nuts, a drizzle of oil or nothing at all. Experiment with a few options. The kids will love all the sampling, too.
Roasted Pumpkin Soup
2 small-ish pie pumpkins
A couple tablespoons walnut oil
1 onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable stock (Add more if needed.)
1/3 cup white wine (completely optional)
A pinch or two of pumpkin pie spice (My favorite blend has Saigon & Indonesian cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, mace, allspice and cloves.)
Salt and black pepper, to taste
A handful chopped, toasted nuts like walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds or a drizzle of walnut oil or truffle oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut the pumpkins in half and scoop out the seeds. Place in a baking dish, cut side down and pour in about 1/4 inch of water in the bottom of the dish. Bake until you can easily pierce the shell with a knife, about 35 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of your pumpkins. Then let cool while you prep the rest of the soup. When the pumpkins are cool, scrape out the flesh and add to the soup.
In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat walnut oil. Cook onion and shallot with a pinch or two of salt until the onion starts getting caramel colored. Stir in garlic, cook for a minute or so and then stir in roasted pumpkin (chunks are fine), stock and wine (if you’d like). Increase heat to bring to a boil. Then cover partially and reduce heat to a simmer for about 20 minutes.
Transfer the soup to a blender (I love my Vitamix for this) and whip until super smooth and fluffy. Taste again for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. Top each bowl with toasted nuts, a drizzle of oil or nothing at all. It will still be delicious.
Saturday night I made this soup for the first time. Our house was full of good friends, outside the snow was barely falling, the fire was crackling and every last drop of this soup was eaten – either with a spoon or sopped up with crusty bread. And that’s why there is no recipe photo for you.
Earlier in the day I got this idea while flipping through a cookbook I bought last fall on our trip to Ireland, the Avoca Café Cookbook. (Which I do I have picture of!) I am a serious lover of all lentil soups so it immediately caught my eye: bright tomatoes, hearty red lentils and finally the kiss of orange. Perfect for a night at home with friends, I thought.
But when it comes to making soup, I have a confession: I have the hardest time following recipes. I usually look at the main ingredients and the method, shut the book and get cooking. That’s what happened here, plus a kitchen full of friends, a beer or two, and a lot more laughing and catching up than keeping track of amounts of ingredients and cooking time. And it was still delicious.
Tomato, Orange and Red Lentil Soup
1 onion, chopped
Olive oil, as needed
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 14-oz cans diced tomatoes
2 to 4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 pound red lentils
salt and pepper to taste
1 orange, zest and juice
1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, gently cook the onion in a drizzle of olive oil for about 10 minutes. I like to salt the onions after they have cooked for a few minutes. Add the carrots and cook until they soften. Stir in garlic and cook for a minute or two. Stir in the tomatoes, 2 cups stock and lentils, bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are cooked. Add more stock to adjust the consistency, as needed. I like to use a hand blender to puree part of the soup being sure to keep some of the texture. Stir in the orange zest, thyme and mint just before serving. Delicious with a thick slice of multi-seed brown bread. (Check out the brown bread recipe from last fall, another Avoca cookbook recipe.)
A couple other riffs on this soup: You could add some cumin and curry for a different flavor. Or stir in a little coconut milk to give some lovely silky-ness. Or sprinkle in some homemade croutons for crunch.