Goat Cheese Dip With Red Wine Figs

November 20, 2014

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Here we go – this post is coming a few days early as I am squeezing one more post in before I dip out for the Thanksgiving week and put all my focus into consuming as much pie as possible and into keeping warm. We are heading up to Minneapolis in a few days, despite weather.com reminding me that it’s a horrible idea to travel north during the season of polar vortexs and non-stop blizzards. Don’t worry, I am trying to stay positive and ignore all the articles on the people who have been stuck in their cars for over 24 hours due to the New Buffalo blizzard (okay, now I am just being dramatic).

I had intended to do another vegetarian Thanksgiving round-up and remind everyone that it is possible to have a 100% humane holiday but I’ve honestly already seen a slew of really great vegetarian round-ups that made me second guess needing to put another one out there. It’s crazy wonderful how far vegetarianism has come, just in the three years since I’ve been blogging (despite the 12 years since I became a vegetarian) and it’s really inspiring to see so many people catching on! I mean, I know you guys get it (that is why you are here!) but it used to be really really hard for us vegetarians to sit down at the Thanksgiving table and find something to eat. Luckily, the days of frozen meat protein and plates full of dinner rolls are over because there are endless recipes for vegetarian mains and even meat-free sides!

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I have one more recipe to throw into the Thanksgiving mix – a simple and cheesy dip that is a perfect starter to have around while everyone’s mouths start salivating over the irresistible cooking smell coming from the kitchen. The base is creamy and then it is layered with red wine poached figs for an elegant twist – the sweet from the figs and savory from the goat cheese is addictive in the best way possible.

I prefer this dip with fresh cut veggies (your body will thank you later) but it is also great served with toasted flat bread or homemade crackers. Make sure you pick super fresh and vibrant vegetables for the tray as they are going to be a shining piece of the flavor. I picked an array of carrots, homemade crackers, romanesco broccoli, watermelon radishes, grapes (more to cleanse your pallet between bites rather than dipping), and celery. Feel free to get creative with your tray and pick what you find looks the freshest at your grocery store. Also, make sure you pick vegetables that have different colors, textures, and size to create a show stopper appetizer tray.

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Goat Cheese Dip With Red Wine Figs


Serves 6 as an appetizer

  • 1 pint of fresh figs (about 6 large or 8 small), quartered
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • dash of salt

 

  •  4 ounces of goat cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives + more for garnish
  • Salt / Pepper

 

  • An assortment of veggies, crackers, and chips

Combine the figs, red wine, sugar, cinnamon stick, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until the figs has absorbed the red color (I like to keep my figs a little firm but feel free to let them simmer for longer if you’d like them to absorb more of the wine flavor). Remove from heat and strain.

Whisk together the goat cheese, sour cream, and chives and transfer to serving dish. Top with poached figs and chives.

Pomegranate Cranberry Rum Punch With Candied Rosemary

November 16, 2014

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I know I know – I disappear for a whole month and when I come back, I only have a simple drink recipe to give you? I can explain. Our oven was broken – for six weeks. We rent our home so it wasn’t as simple as dipping into our saving to invest in a new one; instead, it was a constant battle of calling and emailing our rental company, them ordering parts, installing those parts (3 different times), and it still coming out broken. It was frustrating and I may have had a few meltdowns that made me disgusted with even bothering with the kitchen for a few weeks. Yes, I could have used the stove-top to whip you something delicious but it was the frustration of the whole thing that really unnerved me every time I walked into the kitchen and the annoyance took all my creative drive right out of me. So yeah – I was feeling negative the last few weeks and really didn’t want to bring you into it..I am hoping you understand. After a particularly nasty call I made when we were told it was fixed (for the second time) and I whipped up a big batch of cake batter only to find that the oven stopped halfway through the baking process, Wyatt snuck out of the house and returned with a toaster oven the size of our real oven. I am now able to bake you cakes, pizzas, breads, and so much more in this giant toaster oven so watch out – there will be lots more recipes very soon!

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Until then, I bring you a cocktail recipe! Thanksgiving is approaching fast and we are switching up the tradition this year. In years past, Thanksgiving prep was actually great practice for the freelance world; I would spend weeks researching recipes by scanning through magazines, Pinterest boards, and the indexes of my favorite blogs. I’d make lists of 30 to 40 recipes that would then be dwindled down to 10 or so by my stepdad and ma. We would then spend two solid days cooking (these are now shoot days in my freelance life) and prepping the food. It would all end up with a huge feast that we’d present to the whole family. Unfortunately, that won’t be the case this year due to my stepfather’s passing two months ago and my mother not ready to carry out that tradition just yet.

Instead, I will be heading up the the northern part of Wisconsin (brrrrrrrr) to celebrate with Wyatt’s family in their cabin. I am excited to start this new tradition with Wyatt’s family but am also bummed I won’t be taking control of the food this year. Wisconsin may only be 2 states away but the drive is 13 hours and I can’t imagine that a cake or pie will fair well in the back seat with Tuko.

So alas, I am throwing in the towel and only bringing ingredients for a cocktail recipe instead. Besides the obvious point that these ingredients will travel well and it’ll be easy to prepare, I am hoping to bring a bit of my family’s tradition with me to Wyatt’s event. It is not that this particular cocktail is an old family recipe but that my family has always celebrated with alcohol. Both sides of my family are German and we all tend to be heavy and joyful drinkers; I realize some families have negative views of drinking as it leads to dramatic arguments and un-controllable negative habits but not with my family. My family works hard and we also play hard; my mother and I have at least one ‘mother-daughter pool day’ a year in the summer months that consist of drinking sangria and lounging by the family pool, my grandparent’s drank a Manhatten together every evening as they talked about their days for over 50 years, my father pulls out the bottle of Jack whenever his old college buddies come into town and they drink rum and cokes while reminiscing about their old prank days, and my mother and I always get a boot full of glühwein during the holiday season when we go up to Chicago for Christmas shopping.  Similar to food, it’s nice to be able to take a sip of a certain cocktail and have my mind transported to a moment in time that I had shared with loved ones.

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Savory Cheddar & Cornmeal Waffles With Green Tomato Salsa

November 3, 2014

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November. November. November. No matter how many times I say it, I am having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that it is already November. Instead of rambling on in an attempt at trying to catch you up on everything that has been going on lately over here with me, I decided to take the time to sit down and edit all the photos I’ve accumulated over the last 2 months; I decided it would be more interesting to tell you through these photos. It’s been a whirlwind of freelancing, road tripping, hiking, completing another issue of our magazine, and continually trying to find myself through it all. Here are a few glimpses from the more scenic moments of the last two months:

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Tropical Mini Breakfast Muffins + Forager

October 15, 2014

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As a food blogger, it’s not uncommon for me to be sent promotional food books on the regular. I usually enjoy flipping through their pages, finding inspiration in their recipes, and connecting with the writer in print and online. However, I was blown away and pleasantly surprised when that routine was shaken up with Forager: A Subjective Guide to Miami’s Edible Plants. In Forager, there are no recipes but they aren’t even missed next to all the insightful facts on picking tropical edibles in South Florida. The gorgeous images and clean aesthetic has me yearning for a trip to the tropical state to do my own foraging.

The book is divided by items foraged and gives you facts on where you can find it, what its nicknames are, the time of year it can be foraged, and its nutrient benefits. For example, I used a banana in the recipe below and the book talks about how bananas have a sugary, buttery, and floral taste to them and that the commercial variety we are used to see in grocery stores is the Grand Nain, which is a cultivator of the Cavendish banana. However, if you are foraging your own in Miami, you can find an array of other varieties that won’t appear in your local grocery shop including Cuban Red, Manzana, Hua Moa, and many others.

This is one of the most unique field guides I’ve come across and can’t recommend it enough. It’s been on my coffee table all summer and I can’t bring myself to put it away since I find a new page I’m in love with every time I pick it up. It is the kind of book that doesn’t make you want to turn to your kitchen for inspiration but turn to going outside and exploring your surroundings.

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Spiced Apple Biscuit Waffles For Popover + Driftless Issue 2

October 9, 2014

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I am interrupting my usual weekend-only posting to stop in and chat really quick about two exciting VV related topics going on outside the blog. The first note is that I did a guest recipe post over on Popover last week. The recipe is for Spiced Apple Biscuit Waffles (so fall) and a little story behind apple picking. For this recipe, imagine spiced apple slices wedged in between melt-in-your-mouth flaky biscuits that are crisped perfectly in a waffle iron. Are you imagining that? Yeah – pretty amazing, huh? I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Popover is an up and coming lifestyle blog that I highly recommend you check out if you aren’t already following along. The creators behind it obviously have a really great eye and I’m excited to watch it grow. My favorite posts so far have been this one, this one, and this one if you are looking for a place to start on the site.

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The other topic I wanted to bring up is that Issue 2 of Driftless Magazine is finally done! If you are fairly new around here then you may not have heard me mention this magazine before (recap can be found here and here) but it’s basically my other half these days (VV being my first love, of course).

Issue 2 Cover

Driftless is an ad-free, independent magazine about Midwest adventuring. It’s pretty insane how much this magazine has grown since bringing the idea of it up to you all back in January. I feel a duty to keep you filled in since we began this together but I only wish you could see all the insanely time consuming hard work that has gone into it behind the scenes! We are so proud of what has come from that hardwork and I couldn’t be more excited for an issue than I am for Issue 2. Issue 1 was great (like really really great) but it took us six months to make it and I was feeling pretty burnt out at the end after staring at the same content for that long. Issue 2 also is close to my heart because I actually contributed to this one instead of just helping arrange the whole thing (woot woot! That is right – VV makes an appearance for several recipes this time around!).

We announced issue 2 on October 1st and will begin mailing it out to people this coming Monday (eee!). This issue is all about the fall and winter months in Midwest America and does a gradual transition from the beginning of fall (apple picking, hiking amongst the changing leaves) to the deepest depths of winter (holiday dessert recipes, cabin celebrations). You can pre-order it now (AND get free shipping until next Wednesday, October 15th). Here is a preview:

 


 

Lastly, I am SO excited to announce that we’ll be having a Driftless Magazine booth at both the Chicago Renegade Fair and the Indianapolis INDIEana Handicraft Exchange the first week in December. If you live in either area and think you might be adventuring to one of these two events, let me know so we can meet up! I’d love to chat all things independent magazines, vegan baking, indie-rock, and the likes.

Okay – those were my excited plugins for the day. I’ll be back this weekend with a new recipe for you all.

Salted Maple Dark Chocolate Raspberry Crumble [Vegan Option] + Raspberry Picking

October 5, 2014

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Caroline and I took a short drive into the country yesterday in search of an apple orchard that would fulfill our fall fever. We knew the moment we were close because the vast open corn fields were upbruptly interrupted with what seemed like skyscraper-high blow up bounce houses and multi-colored tents popping up in the distance. As we approached the entrance, we realized we had no idea what we got ourselves into with police officers directing traffic and fields filled with minivans. Luckily, the apple orchard was large enough that we could find pockets of solitude to snap some photos of the gorgeous apple trees and our picking adventure. After we had our fill of the apples, we headed back to the entrance to pay and inquired about a ‘Pick Your Own Raspberry’ sign that was near the parking lot. The worker handed us a bucket and told us to head across the street if we were interested in berry picking. To our surprise, across the street was a whole different story; the sound of children squealing and the constant need to dodge groups of people disappeared. Not only was the berry field completely void of cars, but also of people in general. We were shocked to be the only ones out there picking thriving raspberries while hundreds of families pushed their way through the crowds for apple-flavored everything just yards away. It was a small oasis of solitude in an otherwise crazy tourist attraction and we were surprised to unexpectedly stumbled upon it. Cheers to the bright red underdog of the season and here are a few photos from our adventure:

 

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One Pot Veggie Chili Cornbread Casserole Over the Open Fire

September 28, 2014

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Man, all this talk about getting older, family members passing away, and animal cruelty is exhausting. How about we keep this one light today, cool? Cool because I’m about to overload you with photos from our trip last month!

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People always talk about apple picking this time of year but what about camping? For some reason, camping gets lumped into summer activities but have you ever tried to go camping in July? If the heat doesn’t eat you alive then the bugs will. So many people I talk to won’t go camping after Labor Day even though this is the best time of year to be outside. What is better than spending all day hiking around in the woods while the leaves change colors? And what is better than getting a huge fire going to keep you warm in the evenings and to roast your ‘mallows over? And what is better than zipping two sleeping bags together so you have to snuggle really close to your significant other to keep warm at night? Not much if you ask me.

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Vegan Corn Cream Soup With Cornbread Croutons + National Chicken Month

September 21, 2014

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One of my very close friends recently decided she wanted to stop eating meat so she came to me as for suggestions on where to begin. I was able to send her a long list of blogs, cookbooks, and resources for her new found dietary adventure and was very flattered to help. I try to not be preachy here on VV but my vegetarian beliefs are strong and I’m so very grateful to be used as a resource for helping others find their footing in the world of vegetarianism when they are ready.

There are times where I honestly forget that my diet is any different than most Americans. I have been a vegetarian for over 10 years so the thought of ordering a steak at a restaurant never even crosses my mind. Yes, I sometimes bring it up but I like to let my recipes speak for themselves and for you to want to dive into them because they look and taste delicious. I want you to forget that my recipes are even vegetarian and for you to decide to make them because they are what sound good to you at the time.

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Perhaps if we knew each other in real life then I may be more open to offering up my vegetarian beliefs to you – when you could sit down next to me and see that I am a totally normal person who loves Seinfeld marathons and strong drip coffee just like everyone else. But we are not right next to each other and you don’t have any confirmation that I am in fact a level headed human (except maybe through the words posted here on VV). This means flashing a slaughter video of animals being mistreated would most likely be found as appalling and, at the very least, a horrible start to a friendship. This is unfortunately the approach that many animal activists organizations take and, although I do support them, I do not feel comfortable posting their traumatic content on VV. With that being said, I was contacted by ASPCA (The American Society Against the Cruelty of Animals) earlier this week about National Chicken Month and found their campaign to not only be void of preachiness but straight up educational. The video they sent me was tasteful and informative. Heck, they aren’t even telling you to give up eating chickens but just to be mindful that the chickens you do eat have humane living and slaughter conditions (which…maybe it’s because I’m a vegetarian but sounds like a no brainer).

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Apricot Barbecue Sauce [Vegan Option]

September 14, 2014

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Well, the first week into being 25 has been quite the unfortunate whirlwind; It’s bizarre how this crazy world works. Two Fridays ago, Wyatt and I were enjoying our last day at the cabin with an early morning canoe trip. The air was slightly crisp, the water completely calm, and not a soul was in sight; the whole experience reminded me of a family summer vacation we took when I was 7 up to the boundary waters for a week of backpack camping. The feeling of awe and excitement that I felt as a little kid on that trip was all rushing back to me that morning as I scanned the rocky shores that drifted by parallel to the canoe. All these memories from the trip that I hadn’t thought of in at least a decade were coming back — bathing in the ice cold Canadian waters with endless wilderness as our backdrops, stopping for lunch on islands along the canoe route, giggling as my brothers attempted to chase a family of moose, and watching the sunsets over the wild wilderness along the shores of our campsite. On that early morning canoe trip, I felt overwhelmed with gratefulness that I was able to have those experiences growing up and so proud that motion of paddling felt more natural than driving a car. That morning, I was thinking of the family I had spent that canoe trip with: my mother whom had grown up in the city but had come to love the wilderness due to marrying my stepfather, my brother who can get me more annoyed than anyone on the planet but who I suddenly missed terribly, my stepbrother whom I had drifted apart from almost a decade earlier, and my stepfather who was always so strong and the leader of the bunch on our outdoor adventures.

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On Turning 25 + Vegan Carrot Pistachio Cake

September 6, 2014

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[Photo of me on the last day of me being 24 years old - AKA earlier this week]

I’m currently on vacation in the most luxurious cabin on a small lake in Wisconsin. It’s Wyatt’s aunt and uncle’s cabin and can house anywhere between 12-15 people so we are feeling like we’re living in a mansion here by ourselves. It’s been a blast with a mix of hiking in the sunshine and reflecting / reading during the rain. With my 25th birthday being this week, I’ve been thinking an awful lot lately about what getting older means to me and if I’m still as terrified of it as I was at 22. Yes, I’m horrified by the thought of having to go to the doctor every few months to keep my body from falling apart and of losing my incredible metabolism but, at the same time, I’m also excited about continuing to mature and figure out this crazy thing we call living.

I spent the long 8 hour car ride up here reflecting on how my life has changed since I first stepped into my 20s five years ago and would like to share some of the things I’ve learned along the way with you:

1. You are who you surround yourself with. This one was something that became so clear to me when I dropped my druggie high school friends for highly creative and motivational college buddies. Spending a Saturday night hosting a potluck and playing board games was so much more rewarding than playing video games and getting drunk in friends’ basements. I learned that there are people out there that do get as excited as me about trying a new vegetable and not just about their newest weed blend. Going from living with people who spend every night hosting “ragers” to living with my highly motivated musician boyfriend was also an eye opener. He spends every extra waking moment working on music which only motivated me to work on my passions as I see him dedicate his entire self to what he loves and wants to become.

2. You don’t have to like everyone. This one was hard for me – it felt like if I was going to be around someone then I really wanted to be their friend. I’ve come to realize that putting a lot of energy into trying to force a friendship is a lot of wasted time and it’s okay to find someone completely talented and work with them on a professional level without feeling the needs to go get drinks with them afterwards or on the weekends.

3. It’s not about where you are but what you do while being there. I was, like every young ‘adult’ getting ready to graduate from college, obsessed with moving to the coast. I was sure that I was meant to move to Portland or San Francisco after I received my degree and never come back to Indiana. However, when the time came to move – my mother talked me into visiting these places for a few days first to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake. She, like all parents, was nervous about me moving to a new place without a job (market) when I had already been offered a full time job in Indiana. When I actually flew out there, I realized that San Fran was much too large for me and Portland…well Portland was amazing (ha). Despite Portland being an amazing place to visit, I spent a few days with Wyatt’s inviting friends which showed us a blast of a time by taking us to some great dive bars and brunch spots. I was totally in love with Portland but was a little bit taken aback by the idea of me in Portland. Wyatt’s friends had been living there for a few years now but were working as servers and in resteraunts. Back in Indiana, we had a full fledge career already starting in the industry (music industry) of our dreams. We decided to stay in Bloomington for a year to test it out and have been here since for 3 years. I’ve watched many of my friends lose interest in their passions as they are gobbled up by large city activities and I feel lucky knowing that I’m able to put hours into VV and Driftless since I don’t have a 2 hour commute a day or rent that costs 3/4 of my salary.

4. Naive can be good. It sounds silly but I’m so greatful that I dived head first into some big adventures without realizing what they would entail. For example, if I had any idea the learning curve and constant work that went into making a magazine then Driftless would have most likely never released an issue. The truth can be daunting so just going for that big dream and you’ll figure out the rest along the way.

5. You make your own opportunities. I often time have trouble sitting still and watching TV when I know I could be working on a blog post that may be the post that gets me noticed by that oh-so-famous blogger. Or I could be shooting a new article to be featured in a print issue of one of my favorite independent magazines. It took several years for VV to get off the ground but persistence with constantly photographing and recipe developing puts me one step closer to my dreams everyday. Little victories like being interviewed for Food & Wine, being nominated by Saveur Magazine, and getting motivational emails from some of my favorite bloggers are all just the small victories that help push me towards growing this little place and I know that these little victories didn’t happen because of luck – I worked my ass off for them! This also means that hopefully more opportunities will come as I only continue to develop my skills more.

These are a handful of big picture maturaties that I’ve had to discover for myself over the last few years. Although I’ve grown immensely since turning 20, I am pretty excited to see what else I learn over the last 5 years of my twenties. I’m sure life has some pretty insightful things planned for the next 5 years but I’d really love to work on growing the following:

1. Learn to lose control. I really struggle with needing to be in control (of my daily routine, my blog, my body, my attitude) at all times and get really upset when things are out of my control (even little things like the weather not going as I hoped really bums me out).

2. Learn balance. Right now I am ALL in. I go from work to magazine to blog to bed. It’s great and I stay constantly engaged but it sure would be great for me to be able to…you know…watch some TV or something without my mind wondering to my next to-do list.

Now, as I mentioned, it’s my birthday (week) so let’s eat cake!!

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Vegan Carrot Pistachio Cake

adapted from Love & Lemons

  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup non-dairy plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or seeds from 1 vanilla bean)
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1/2  cup coconut oil, melted

 

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 8 ounces vegan cream cheese
  • 8 ounces earth balance (or regular butter if you aren’t looking to make vegan)
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • ~1 Tablespoon non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (or seeds from a a vanilla bean)

 

  • 1/2 cup shopped pistachios

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and spray or line two 8 inch round cake pans. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt in one bowl. Whisk together the yogurt, sugar, apple sauce, vanilla, and coconut oil in another. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones until everything is combined and then fold in the grated carrots. Divide the dough between your two prepared pans and stick in the oven for 30 minutes (or until a toothpick is inserted into the center and comes out clean).

Remove from oven and let cool completely.

To make the frosting: Beat all the ingredients together until light and fluffy. Add more milk if it ends up stiff. Divide the frosting into 3 parts and use 1 as the center layer, one on the sides, and the remaining part for the top. Top with crusted pistachios and enjoy!

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*A few notes:

- I made this cake vegan because it was my birthday and it was what I wanted. Feel free to swap out the non-dairy items with organic dairy items if you’d prefer to.

- Also, feel free to add in an extra 1/2 cup shopped pistachios into the batter (throw them in the same time you put in the grated carrots) if you’d like the added texture in your cake. I stuck with keeping mine on the outside but that is just my personal preference.

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Fresh Squeezed Heirloom Harissa Bloody Mary

August 25, 2014

 

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Today I’ve paired up with the fine folks over at Williams-Sonoma to share my favorite Bloody Mary recipe with all of you!

Hmmm…end of August. I almost went all season without posting a tomato recipe which would basically make me the worst food blogger on the interwebz. Some people look forward to tomato season for the margerita pizzas and others for the buscetta but me? I look forward to tomato season for the fresh squeezed tomato juice and the killer Bloody Mary’s. I’m not much of a hostess (“we have water and uh…we have some open bottles of tequila and whiskey”) but I never skimp on the Bloody Mary’s during tomato season.


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Most drinks you can tolerate if they are watered down or a little off but not Bloody Marys. Bloody Marys are such an unusual concoction to begin with that you really need to make sure it’s damn good or else it could easily be inedible. I personally think the secret is to have that kick – sriracha is my spice of choice usually but I ran into a huge deal on hot peppers at the market yesterday so harissa felt like a great replacement to experiment with.

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Creamy Peanut Butter “Pupsicles”

August 10, 2014

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As I mentioned via Facebook a few days ago, VV is turning 3 this month (!!) so I’ve celebrated with doing a huge site makeover. It started out as an idea to maybe get a logo designed and ended 2 weeks later with a whole new layout, color scheme, and aesthetic. I’ve been tackling it all myself which means I change my mind about things every 5 minutes so don’t be surprised if you continue to see some tweaking (TWEAKING. Not twerking – I don’t participate in that cultural dance move, sorry guys) happening around here for the next few weeks. I’ll probably be posting even more pictures than I already do (like the ones above -what do they have to do with this post? Nothing really – I just like hanging out in my backyard shooting with my DSLR and film) since all the photos are now HUGE (YAY!).

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Anyhow, this post isn’t about site re-designs or gardens so let’s get to the point. This post is actually about having a ridiculously spoiled dog that enjoys all of his treats homemade and gets half the popsicle mold reserved for him in the summer. Meet Tuko (pictured above. He only looks at the camera to scowl at it…) – he is a 2 year old boxer that we treat more like our own kid than a family pet. You may have already met him here or here or here but I don’t hold you accountable for remembering since those posts were so long ago and you haven’t seen him in awhile. When he is not sleeping on the couch or bed, he enjoys hanging out in his “room” (AKA our backyard – pictures above), racing Wyatt on his skateboard, and whining while looking longly at his leash.

Boxers are known for having trouble with extreme weather – their hair is too short to keep them warm in the winter and their short snouts are a handicap for them in the summer when the only way to stay cool is to pant it out. A simple solution could be just to keep them inside during the summer or make sure that they have ice water provided for them at all times. I tend to like to take the fun route though and keep a stack of these peanut butter popsicles (also known as ‘pupsicles’) in the fridge at all times for Tuko to enjoy after a long day at the lake or after our afternoon walk.

 

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Blueberry Apricot Tart with Pistachio Crust

August 3, 2014

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I’m turning 25 in less than a month. August 1st was a bittersweet reminder of this and it seems that it’s causing me to reflect an awful lot.

At the age of 17, I really wanted a nose piercing – I wanted that piercing more than anything else that I could imagine and it was the biggest problem I had in my life at that moment. I had received a speeding ticket a year earlier that my mother had to front me the money for since I didn’t have a job or income at the time. I had promised to pay her back but a year had gone by and I hadn’t gotten around to replacing my part-time cashier gig from Target. When I asked my mother if I could get a piercing, she said ‘sure – as soon as you pay me back the $400 you owe me’. She said this in a tone that implied she was pretty sure that I’d coast through the next 5 years of my high school and college life unemployed and never get that chance to get the piercing. The next day I walked into the local coffee shop downtown with a ‘help wanted’ sign on the door and snagged myself a position on the spot. I immediately began working 6 days a week (everyday after school and on Sundays) and was able to pay her back within 3 weeks. And you know what? That nose piercing was freaking awesome – I earned it and looked freaking radical with it (that was until it got infected 3 weeks later but that is besides the point).

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I’ve been thinking about that coffee shop gig a lot lately. It was a small place and there were 5 employees (counting the owner). The shop was too small to have more than 2 people working at a time and I’d often times be left by myself, at the age of 17, to man the place down during the slow hours. I remember feeling very grown up with that responsibility and even feeling more mature than most of the other employees. The owner had recently had a baby when I started so she was coming around less and less which left myself and the other 23-25 year old employees to take charge. One of the girls, who was 23, was notorious for over-reacting to negative feedback from the customers (and employees) and locking herself in the bathroom to cry it out. I specifically remember the owner calling me hysterically on several occasions saying that Amy had locked herself in the bathroom again and she needed me to come in. I was 100% positive I was more mature than Amy.

The only guy employee at the shop was 25 and had just got back from being on the road with a local band. He had claimed this was just a pit stop until another tour started but he ended up staying there for a couple years – I was pretty sure I was more mature than him too. He just seemed too lost and always dreaming away his life talking about how he was going to become a big rock star and be a guitar engineer for the best bands in the world – yet he was saying all this while serving up a mediocre latte to a yuppie lawyer in the middle of nowhere, Indiana.

The last girl I distinctly remember had just graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington after 6 years of schooling and was just planning to work for the summer until she saved up enough money to move back down to Bloomington. Last time I went up there, she was on her 5th year working at the coffee shop. I’m still pretty sure I’m more mature than her.

As I approach 25, I know now that my idea of ‘mature’ was quite skewed and 100% naive. I based my judgement on the fact that I had a plan I was acting on – I was going to go to school that fall and leaving all of them in the exact same place of limbo that they were all stationed in. I had no idea how much being 23, 24, and 25 is actually about beginnings and you are lucky if you’ve just started to figure out what you want. I had no concept of the fact that things take time to grow and being in your middle 20′s is actually really freaking weird. I know now that the crying girl was probably just really lost and the confusions of life were getting her down. I also know that the guy is currently a guitar tech for Jimmy Eat World and travels all over the world for stadium shows with them. I’m not 100% sure where that last girl is but I do know she was still working there as of about a year ago. As for me? I’m quickly approaching 25 and starting to feel like the hot mess that I perceived all of them as.

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Summer Vibes // Driftless Magazine Giveaway

July 28, 2014

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Hi! How are you? It’s been a minute – I missed you guys. No – for real! You are like an old friend that I kept meaning to call but I didn’t want to rush the conversation so I kept putting it off after long days at work and warm adventures in the sun. I finally decided to make NO plans this evening and set some time aside for VV.

The summer has been RACING by – I can’t possibly be the only person to feel this way? It’s been a bizarre one here in the Midwest – so much extreme weather and thunderstorms and jumping from 90 degrees to 50 degrees – what is going on? I’m not sure but we just gotta roll with it. Despite having some unusualy cool evenings around here, our kitchen still seems to remain a constant 90 degrees (95 if the oven is running) so the cooking has been at a stand still as of lately. It really is a frustrating circle – all the beautiful produce and extra long sunlight thrives during the summer months but then it’s the least ideal time to be inside and get creative in the kitchen I feel like everytime I wander in there to tackle a new recipe, the streaming sunlight that trickles in through the windows is a constant reminder that I should be out THERE today instead of inside. Since I haven’t done much adventuring in the kitchen this past month, here are a few photos from outside adventures we’ve been taking to soak up the sun and enjoy the extra long daylight:

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Farmer’s Garden Stuffed Pimiento Cheese Veggie Burgers

July 10, 2014

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Today I am excited to pair up with the fine folk over at Vlasic Farmer’s Garden to bring you a healthy, delicious, and nutritious vegetarian grilling recipe! This veggie burger is not like your typical freezer bean patty – this burger has the base of fresh vegetables and beans, an irresistible tanginess from the pickles, and is stuffed with a southern classic: pimiento cheese.

For anyone unfamiliar with pimiento cheese, let me fill you in: the south knows what it’s doing. Fried pickles, gooey macaroni and cheese, and tangy pimento dip are all American staples due to southern home cooking (or at least that is what I’ve been told from my time living in Nashville, TN). Pimento cheese dip is super basic: creamy mayonnaise, sharp cheddar, cubed pimientos, and tangy pickles. That is it. Yes, you can add in some scallions for color or some salt/pepper for seasoning but don’t go overboard with too many other flavorings. There is an indulgence richness to southern specialties that is not to be ignored and pimento cheese is no exception. You may be tempted to half the mayo in the recipe for a healthier version or look for low fat cheese but please don’t – honor the richness of the dip and go all out! Heck, the chickpea base is pretty darn healthy anyways so why not splurge a little on the tablespoon of dip stuffed in the burger?

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It only took me 10 years of being a vegetarian to ditch processed veggie burgers. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to living off of frozen, store-bought black bean burgers during those first few summers with a side of roasted vegetables and a layer of bbq sauce over it all. A few winters back, I got in the habit of whipping up a batch of veggie burgers and then freezing them for quick lunches during the week. They were so simple and healthy to throw in a pan with a little ghee and cook on each side until browned. After that winter, I tried bringing a pack of veggie burgers to a grill out only to find I couldn’t stand the dense, crumbly store-bought versions anymore.

The solution seems simple: make your own veggie burgers moving forward. Although this is easy to accomplish when you’ve got a frying pan at your disposal, grilling them at your friend’s bbq is another story. I’ve been through many recipes that fall apart at the sight of a grill and end up causing more embarrassment by the host trying to flip them than your taste buds are worth. It took a good 3 summers of trial and error before I mastered a sturdy burger and they still don’t always turn out to be the easiest things to grill. My tips for grilling these are to make sure they are chilled before placing them on the grill (this will help them keep their shape) and make sure you are using a large spatula to flip them. If they do fall apart, use the spatula to lightly smash them back together and they should be fine.

If you are having trouble keeping them together than feel free to go with a steaming method by wrapping them in tin foil and grilling them wrapped up. This will create a softer burger and the outer layer won’t get crispy but it’s still delicious. And if all else fails then there is always the fool proof stove top method which is cooking them in a frying pan with a bit of ghee (works every time).

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Grilled Pretzel Panzanella Salad + A Summer Stock Up Giveaway

June 30, 2014

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If you are located here in the states then you are probably having a hard time getting into the groove of this week knowing it’s going to be a short one. With Friday being a national grill-copious-amounts-of-food holiday (oh and a celebration of the countries birth), I’ve got grilling (and eating. and watching fireworks. and swimming) on the mind.

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Living in a smallish town has it’s perks – it is easy to walk to the local co-op to grab vegetables for dinner. Taking a nightly bike ride is never interrupted by honking cars. You don’t ever have to wait for a table at your favorite local eatery and weekends are spent swimming at the neaby lakes and quarries. The downside is that sometimes resources can be limited – in this case, pretzel bread. I love making homemade bread but it’s not the first activity I get excited about when it’s already 90 degrees in my kitchen. My lack of success after adventuring to 3 grocery stores, 2 co-op stands, and our local bakery to find pretzel bread only made me more determined. If only we had a Trader Joes around here… I kept thinking, which just enraged me more. Finally, I took a deep breath, pulled out my rolling pin, and whipped up 6 mini-loaves of pretzel bread.

Do you need to make fresh bread for this recipe? No. In fact, I may even advise against it since you’ll need to then let it sit for several days to become stale enough to truly be panzanella. But, if you are feeling overly ambitious or lack pretzel bread in your town, like me, then feel free to start on this a few days early with the bread and come back to it when the bread has become slightly stale.

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Dark Chocolate & Apricot Oatmeal Cookies /// The Homemade Flour Cookbook

June 23, 2014

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Last July, I hopped on a plane and met one of my best friends, Ella, for an adventurous long weekend road trip up the Pacific coast. She had already spent the last 3 months exploring the US in her little car and I was scheduled to meet up with her for the very last leg of her trip. I flew into San Francisco where I immediately made her take me to Tartine Bakery to pick up two loaves of bread (which I strategically ordered 3 days prior, duh) and an array of baked goods that we couldn’t resists while in the shop. We wondered around the city streets stuffing our faces with fistfuls of pillowy carbs until we stumbled upon the Bi-Rite Market.

It only seemed appropriate that we top this portable feast off with some spreads so we headed inside the market. After picking up 3 jars of specialty jams, some fresh blueberries, and a slab of Humboldt fog cheese to top our bread with, we decided we should just grab a few more items to enjoy on the road for the next 3 days. Fast forward 10 minutes later and we were standing outside the market with 4 bags full of $150 worth of groceries. Although we both had a little bit of sticker shock when we first saw it all rung up, we feasted that week and it was the fanciest camp food I’ve ever had the pleasure of traveling with.

Although the bread was legendary, the cheese was so creamy you could eat it by the spoonful, and the blackberries were as fun to pick off the wild bushes as they were to eat, the flavor I remember the most was from our gorgeous dried apricots we purchased from Bi-Rite. It was the first time I’ve ever had an apricot that I could recall (fresh or dried) and the flavor stuck with me. Everytime I bite into one, it reminds me of smelling the salty seashores, gawking at endless redwoods, laughing at wrong turns, and feeling slightly whoozy from the winding roads. And those small reminders are now why I keep dried apricots around for everyday pick-me-ups.

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As most of you probably have heard from all the reviews online or saw on my instagram, my good blogger friend Erin Alderson of Naturally Ella just released her first cookbook, The Homemade Flour Cookbook, this month. I’m a total DIYer in the kitchen (anything from making my own vegetable broth to flavored mustards to Boozy BBQ sauce) so I was so excited to hear she was covering the topic of making her own flour. It seems like such a no brainer that things like Garbanzo bean flour comes from dried chickpeas, but to learn that it’s insanely simple to whip up your own version instead of spending $8+ on a small bag is just so liberating! I started out simple with just making this oat flour but can’t wait to dig into the more unique flours like lentil and pistachio flour.

These cookies are a slight adaptation of the Cranberry Oat Cookies she has in her cookbook. I had planned to make them word for word but my ability to follow a recipe is lacking and I felt inspired by the other add-in ingredients I had laying around. I’m doubting Erin could be too upset by the adjustments since she herself admits to always needing to turn a recipe into its own in the intro of  The Homemade Flour Cookbook.

I’d recommend this book for anyone trying to get extra creative in their kitchen or looking to become as self-sufficient as possible. The book is split up into types of flours and the instructions on how to mill each grain / bean / seed is incredibly informative and helpful. Plus, on top of all that, she includes several recipes for each type of flour, so you have endless inspiration from cover to cover.

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Salted Date Caramel Cashew Tart with Mocha Graham Crust

June 16, 2014

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I’m pretty sure I need to bookmark this post as a reminder to the annoyed and freezing January version of myself. This post needs to be a reminder that no matter how hard it is cut an onion while you can’t feel your fingers, its even harder to bake in a 90 degree kitchen without passing out of heat exhaustion. It is one thing to use your oven as a heater in the winter but how do you cool the kitchen down in the summer? The secret is most certainly in avoiding turning that oven back on.

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I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but our kitchen was a add-on from the original 1920′s ranch we live in so it’s a little bit of a awkward shack addition in the back of the home. All weird bugs and lack of natural light aside, the workspace wouldn’t be so bad if the builders had managed to hook it up to the central air system. Nope – they did not. This means that its absolutely frigid in the winter and beyond humid / muggy in the summer. Hell, the kitchen might as well be outside so I could at least get some nice natural light out of the thing.

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Rosemary & Garlic Smashed Purple Potatoes

June 12, 2014

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The posts are starting to dwindle down to once a week around here while the weather warms up and I take more and more breaks from my computer. I’ve had more evenings filled with evening hikes and less evenings spent wrapped in a blanket on Pinterest. I sometimes think I need to stay focused and spend less time wondering but I’m mostly just enjoying the much needed break from the interwebz.

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Did I tell you I inherited a boat? It’s a sweeeeeeet 1961 vintage, turquoise, motor boat that fits 4-6 people on its dark wood seats. It’s old and has needed a lot of work but we spent all last weekend cleaning it out, adding new lights to the trailer, replacing the gas tank, and getting it back into a usable state. It’s in pretty darn good shape for being 50 years old since my dad has housed it in the garage for the last 30 but there are still a few minor tweaks still needed before we can hit the water. All hard work aside, it’s been a fun summer project that has helped us get our hands dirty and reminded us of the rewarding benefits that come with physically putting effort into something.

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Citrus Biscotti with Hibiscus Glaze

May 31, 2014

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Let’s start the weekend with a cup of strong black coffee and a sugary biscuit, shall we? The small pauses of silence around here have been a sign that I’ve been completely over-extending myself lately dipping into large projects outside of VV… whether that be creating a magazine or guest posting or working on secret assignments that I can’t reveal to you (just yet) – there has been a lot going on behind the scenes over here! Thus, can we please just take this Saturday morning off, sit around the kitchen table marveling in leisure conversation, strong drip coffee, and warm baked goods? Please? We can?! Thank you – this is exactly what I needed.

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After we enjoy this lazy morning around the table, I’m going to take a weekend vacation from my computer and go hiking, do some quiet baking, and probably watch some overly angsty 90′s movies.

Enough about me – what are you doing this weekend? If you are looking for some weekend entertainment, why not consider pre-ordering a copy of Driftless Magazine? Driftless is the new magazine that I’ve been promoting the sh*t out of while I try to get you all obsessed with how amazing it really is! The digital version is being released TOMORROW, June 1st so it’ll be in your inbox in time to wind-down with it before having to get back into the work week. (sorry – last time I’ll bug you about it for awhile – I’m just too excited about the magazine not to have it on the mind all the time!)

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Let’s Talk About Driftless Magazine

May 27, 2014

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I’m going to real talk you here for a minute. About four months ago I posted that I wanted to start a magazine about the Midwest – 20 contributors, 2 editors, 2 creative directors, 1 designer, 2 illustrators, and numerous bumps later – we are finally ready to release issue 1 of Driftless. Now here’s the real talk – this was 10000% more work than I had ever imagined it would be. Did I have any idea how to layout a magazine? No. Did I have any idea what kind of costs are involved with print? No. Did I have any idea how to coordinate deadlines with a slew of 20+ people? Hellll no. Thankfully, my good friend Leah came on board as a partner at the start of all of this or I would have never stayed sane trying to get this off the ground.

This magazine was by far the hardest creative adventure to date for us. But I’m hoping it could be the most rewarding as well. With the time ticking (this issue is about the summer), we are scrambling to get this to the printed press asap and start getting this out into the world. One problem: it is going to cost around $7000 to print these at a high enough volume that we can sell them back to the public at a reasonable price. Yup – Seven Thousand Dollars. That is a whole ‘latta cash…and about $4000 more than we had budgeted for. I know talking about money is so ugly – believe me, I feel ugly talking about money but there is just no way around it here. We could really use some help getting this project off the ground – we could really use your help. Even if you don’t have any cash to contribute – just sharing this on your blog, Facebook, twitter, etc would really help spread the word about Driftless!

If nothing else, hop on over to the crowd funding page to see a video of Leah and myself – you’ll get to watch how awkward I am in front of a camera and imagine that this is probably how awkward I would be in real life if we met.

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Here are the hard facts:

Driftless is a new, ad-free, independent magazine about adventuring in the Midwest. Our quarterly publication introduces readers to the creative and awe-inspiring wonders the Midwest has to offer by way of stories, recipes, guides, essays, and interviews. Driftless is putting the Midwest back on the map as a beautiful place to both live and visit — we are way more than just flyover territory! We showcase the talent, creativity, and ingenuity that flourishes in our neck of the woods.

Driftless is the type of magazine that you keep on your bedside table for nightly reading, your bookshelf for easy reference, and on your coffee table for showing off your favorite Midwestern inspirations. Issue 1 is 100 perfect-bound pages of gorgeous photographs, beautiful illustrations and clean design from Midwestern artists and makers.

By contributing $25 or more, you are pre-ordering Issue 1 which will show up at your doorstep before it becomes available in any retail shops. 

A few snapshots from issue one (if that recipe looks familiar that is because its from the insanely talented creators of A Couple Cooks, the Grand Rapids photo by Jill DeVries, the swimming photo by Leah Fithian, and all design layouts are by Jessica Kleoppel):

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And don’t forget to follow Driftless on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily updates!

Thanks again for always supporting VV and taking a minute to hear about my other wild and creative endeavors! I’ll be back later this week with a  deliciously spring biscotti recipe.

Mango Strawberry Pie with Coconut Crumb Topping

May 18, 2014

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Sometimes you wake up and you realize you are years older than you imagine yourself as. That is what happened to me last weekend when Wyatt’s little brother graduated from college. The exact same college I had graduated from several years back. The memories of him being a freshman and showing him the ropes around campus are so fresh. I’ve known him for four years but I always envision him as that young and naive freshman; I guess that means I always envision myself as that outgoing, a little too judgmental and way too cocky junior. That was a good year – it was the year I lived with two wild friends and it was the year we hosted all sorts of parties with local bands in our basement and it was the year I met Wyatt. It was the year that I got his brother a little too drunk when we went to see Ty Segall and Wyatt wouldn’t talk to me for days. It was the year I had come back from living in Nashville and it was the year I finally truly and honestly felt comfortable in my skin. It was the year they banned 4Loko (thank goodness) and it was the year I got hired at my current job. It was the year I always look back on and can picture so clearly when thinking about college.

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Boozy Citrus & Whipped Goat Cheese Popsicles

May 16, 2014

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I’m pretty obsessed with the concept of adding unusual flavors to whipped cream and incorporating it into everything I eat. Floral whip, (goat) cheesy whip, nutty whip – you name it and I’ve probably toyed with the idea of incorporating it into a recipe. Thus, here we are with a popsicle recipe mostly made out of whipped goat cheese. The results are light and refreshing (just how you want it to be on a hot summer afternoon) and surprisingly ‘adult’ with the mature flavors of goat cheese and booooooze. I made these popsicles for my good foodie friend, Renee from Will Frolic For Food, so hop on over to her blog now to check out the recipe.

Also, in case you missed it, Renee was kind enough to share an amazing popsicle recipe here on VV earlier this week that combined the wonderful world of tart rhubarb and sweet coconut milk – click here to check it out!

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Also, while we are at it, here is an array of other amazing popsicle recipes that you need to bookmark for all your summer hangouts in the sun:

+ Maria from Pink Patisserie has the most gorgeous White Peach, Nectarine, & Rose Water Creamsicles up on her blog.

+ Harriet over at Molly, ily has a wonderful and simple recipe for Mango Coconut Creamsicles.

+  Berry season is coming and there is no better way to use your bounty than with these Smashed Berry-Lime-Coconut pops.

+ If you’ve been following VV for awhile then you already know about these but my Raw Vegan Fudgiscles are one of the most visited recipes on the site!

+ I’ve never seen roasted berries look as appetizing as they do in these Roasted Strawberry, Coconut, & Lime Icy Pops.

Now – go make some popsicles and spend this weekend in the sun!

 

Rhubarb Popsicles /// Guest Post from Will Frolic For Food

May 12, 2014

We are mixing it up on VV today with a wonderful guest post from Will Frolic For Food’s creator Renee. I am very excited to introduce Renee to all of you Vegetarian ‘Ventures follows because she is a mastermind in the kitchen! We met over Coconut Dulce De Leche (if you haven’t checked out her recipe for that yet then DO IT. DO IT NOW!) and have been foodie pals every since. This particular guest post is on popsicles and I’m excited to announce that there will be a VV one on Will Frolic For Food later this week so stay tuned!

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Hey there! Renee here from Will Frolic for Food. Shelly and I have been stoked about doing this popsicle collab for months, but are just now getting around to it! Between working, planning a wedding, chocolate-making, and my many other projects time passes so quickly. I can hardly keep up!

Rhubarb for some reason always reminds me of celery. Probably because they look like sisters with the same nose but totally different personalities. Thus totally avoiding using it until this season. The stalks are these long legged pink-green beauties, ragged at the end from where the poisonous leaves and inedible roots we’re split off. It has the same stringy, crunchy consistency as celery when I bite into it with my knife. But it practically melts in heat, especially with a pinch of sugar and a dash of water to help it along.

So why rhubarb? Well, I like to make my kitchen times an adventure. I found a dairy free version of rhubarb curd over at Dolly & Oatmeal (check out how freakin’ gorgeous her rhubarb curd meringue tarts are! ). I did a blood orange curd this past Winter that went into my “keep forever lest be sad always” recipe box. I’m now a new-old hand at curd — why not try out a rhubarb one? I mean, when you curdify fruit it’s pretty hard to go wrong, right?

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On Record Collecting // Weekend Almanac Issue 2

May 9, 2014

I’ve got a fun little personal post before the weekend sets in. What are your plans this weekend? Are you going to be spending it with your beautiful mother? I personally will be relishing in a graduation grill-outs since Wyatt’s little bro is finally graduating. I’m in charge of desserts too so there is probably a good chance something sweet will be popping up around here in the next few days!

Last fall, I wrote an article about record collecting for Weekend Almanac and it finally appeared in their newest issue that was released last month. Weekend Almanac is an inspiration of beautiful photos, recipes, adventures, and guides that all take place on the weekend. You should definetely hop on over to their website and check it out for yourself.

On that note, there were a lot of ‘outtakes’ from the photo shoot I took for the article and I thought it might be fun to share them on here with all of you! Yes, this was before Wyatt cut all of his hair off. And yes, record collecting is sort of like cheating for me since I sell indie records for my day job. But hey, its a hobby none-the-less and something else I’m passionate about when not in the kitchen. Plus, lets be honest, there is nothing more satisfying than cooking up a meal with a warm vinyl spinning in the background.
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Happy Friday! See you in a few days with a new recipe to share with all of you!