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Multi-Grain Knots 2 Ways: Parsley-Garlic & Cinnamon-Whiskey Sugar

February 22, 2015

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Remember when I used to post about salads and juices and the benefits of food healing? Well those topics feel miles away as this Midwest February demands carbs, alcohol, and anything else that is going to fatten me up and keep me warm. Honestly, if I wasn’t so set on turning these into garlic knots and sweet rolls then the bread would have just been fantastic on it’s own; I sometimes struggle with my loaves coming out dense  but these were light (despite using whole wheat flour!) with a wonderful crunch on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside.

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As you may notice, this post is crowded with photos; I’m trying out something new today. Instead of photoshopping my photos side by side (since my site doesn’t allow me to put photos next to each other – grrrr), I just made them all HUGE! The only problem with that is that there are now SO many of them which makes me think that I probably spend way too much time editing photos to begin with and I could have just shown you a finished product shot and been done with this post five hours ago. Ugh, unfortunately that is not how I work – my words aren’t usually that inspiring (hey, I know where my strengths and weaknesses are) so I strive to lead with gorgeous photos. Anyhow, I’m sorry if it’s crowded – I’ve already spent all afternoon editing photos so I’ll keep it minimal with the words to try and tone down the scrolling. Maybe we’ll end up being really into it this way and it will feel less crowded with time? Or maybe I’ll go back to the side-by-side photoshop edited photos that look so uninspiring when pinned and awkward when linked to on Facebook. Who knows – we’ll see.

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Winter Panzanella Salad With Cornbread Croutons + A GIVEAWAY!

February 10, 2015

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It has been a very long time since I hosted a giveaway around here. I am beyond thrilled to let you know that the wonderful folks over at Turntable Kitchen hired me to create the recipe for their February pairing box. I had so much fun with it – the dreary and cold days are never ending in the Midwest this time of year so I let my imagination drift away to blissful summer days that revolve around endless afternoons with friends at the lake. The box was loosely inspired by summer camp – with a healthy Midwest vegetarian twist, of course (just my style). So, what I am trying to say is that this month’s pairing box is going to be a real treat that you won’t want to miss! I mean, it’s going to feature 3 never-before-seen Vegetarian ‘Ventures recipes! As an avid reader, I didn’t want you to miss out on these recipes so I’m giving you a chance to win a 3 month subscription to Turntable Kitchen’s pairing box which will start with the February box that I recipe developed for! What’s in the pairing box, you ask? Well here is what you get:

  • An exclusive 7″ vinyl
  • Digital mixtape
  • A premium ingredient
  • 3 seasonal recipes
  • Tasting notes

Here is a video to learn more about the pairing box (which, by the way, usually costs $75 for 3 months and I am offering a chance to win it FOR FREE below):

The Turntable Kitchen Pairings Box Experience from High Beam Media on Vimeo.

Okay, in case you aren’t sold yet, I’ve made a short list of reasons why you need this pairing box in your life:

  • It’s almost Valentine’s Day and this would be the perfect gift to impress that hot hipster that you’ve been trying to snag for months now
  • You are a vinyl enthusiastic and on a mission to collect every vinyl to ever be made so you must seek out these exclusive TTK 7″s immediately
  • YOLO. Treat Yo ‘Self. Whatever you want to call it, you love receiving gifts and this is a specially curated one that will arrive at your doorstep every month (until I cut you off…which will be in 3 months)
  • You like music and cooking. If that is the case then this is especially for you.
  • You always knew the coolest bands in college but then you got a corporate job and don’t have time for hobbies like rummaging through vinyl at record stores, hanging out in sweaty bars waiting for midnight sets to start, or reading every ‘rising artist’ article posted on Pitchfork. This delivers vinyl and mix tapes from new and upcoming bands right to your doorstep. (PS I should note that this scenario is highly unlikely because why would you have time for my wordy blog posts but not time for searching iTune’s daily ‘indie spotlight’ section or whatever they call it these days?)
  • You like cool stuff and this is cool and I am giving you the chance to potentially win this contest and try it out for free so why not?

(side note: Dang I’m good at this! It’s like I sell vinyl records for a living or something…)

Cool? Cool! Now enter this giveaway already!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Oh and here is a simple winter salad that is perfect with leftover cornbread or as an excuse to whip up a batch.

Winter Panzanella Salad With Cornbread Croutons

Serves 6 as a side or starter

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 onion, cute into 1 inch wedges
  • 3 cups brussel sprouts, halved
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt / Pepper
  • 3-4 Thyme Sprigs
  • Lemon or Orange Wedges
  • Parmesan, to spring on top (omit if vegan)

For the cornbread croutons:

  • 2 cups non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove crushed

For the cornbread: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9×13 baking sheet with parchment paper. Squeeze the lemon juice into the milk and set aside for at least 5 minutes. Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the coconut oil, maple syrup, and milk mixture. Slowly whisk together the wet ingredients and then start incorporating the dry ingredients as you whisk until a thick batter is formed. Spread evenly in your baking pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean in the center. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Slice the bread into 1 inch squares to make them ‘croutons’ and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Combine the crushed garlic with the olive oil and brush over the croutons. Stick on the toaster setting in your toaster oven for 5 minutes (or until browned) or into your boiler for 1-2 minutes or until crispy.

For the veggies: Raise the oven temperature to 400 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop out the seedy insides of the butternut squash and cut it into 1 inch cubes. Transfer the butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and onions to the prepared baking dish and lay out in a single layer. Top with olive oil, salt, pepper, and toss until everything is completely coated. Bake for 30 minutes or until the vegetables have softened and browned. Remove from heat and let cool. Toss with the cornbread croutons, a squirt of citrus, some parmesan (if using), and serve warm.

Chocolate Espresso Almond Biscotti

January 18, 2015

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2015 has been very good to me so far. We signed a new lease for a house that has the most gorgeous natural light and a kitchen that actually has heat and air conditioning in it (!!!), we spent the first few weeks of it exploring the Everglades and lounging on the beaches of Florida, and we’ve spent every weekend with friends and family that remind us how important it is to have human connection in our lives. I don’t want to jinx it but I have high hopes for 2015; I’ve struggled with anxiety holding me back in the past but am feeling a clear vision for myself right now and am really hoping to project that into the future. I am determined to let 2015 be the year that my anxiety doesn’t hold me back from collaborating with more people (perhaps even taking a little trip to Asheville to mingle with so many of my favorite bloggers), from saying yes to new opportunities I haven’t experienced yet, and making sure to make time to physically be with the people in my life. It’s so easy to fall into the routine of work, work, work (especially when freelancing, as there aren’t any set hours) and then you realize you haven’t spent time with friends in weeks..or months. I’m taking this recharged energy from our vacation as a sign that I need to step back and do it more often. Sometimes I schedule myself so heavily that the anxiety of getting it all done becomes too much and I don’t realize that the best solution would actually be to take a break instead of pushing through and feeling miserable and like a failure while doing it.

Stepping outside of my usual routine has been a great reminder that time does need to be set aside for friends and for movies and for midnight walks. That is what I want 2015 to be about. I want it to be about working but having fun while doing it and letting myself step away if I need to. I want it to be the year that I say yes to getting out of my comfort zone and no to overbooking myself on the same old routined gigs. Here’s to 2015 and here’s to hoping it’s as marvelous as I imagine it will be.

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This recipe was inspired by some biscotti that my aunt brought over during the holidays. I was worried that the coffee grounds might not work into the dough and end up grainy in the final product but that wasn’t the case at all. If you are feeling fancy then I bet these would be magnificent dipped in caramelized white chocolate or dark chocolate but they are honestly great without it.

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Caramelized White Chocolate & Dark Chocolate Covered Oranges

January 12, 2015

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As I posted about on instagram a few weeks back, we visited a citrus grove when we were in Florida over the holidays. My grandma lives on a small island down near the Everglades and we’ve gone down to visit her at least once a year since I was a little kid. Most of our trips have always consisted of laying on the beach, seeing movies at the local diner-style movie theatre, and taking boardwalk adventures through the Everglades. All those activities were up there on my list this time around but I also wanted to try something new; this time I wanted to pick some legendary Florida citrus. The idea came after reading Forager: A Subjective Guide To Miami’s Edible Plants this fall. The book is filled with adventure photos of foraging in the tropics which was so different than the mushroom and apple picking I am used to here in the Midwest. I wanted to be able to forage in a sundress instead of a sweater and to walk away with my hands smelling of sweet orange.

I was able to pull my reluctant mother and boyfriend away from the beach one morning and convinced my grandma that there are things worth getting off the island for. We drove off the island and a good hour into the inland of Florida. I should let you know that driving in the ‘country’ of Florida is not like any other countryside I’ve been to in America.  It doesn’t take long for the coastal mansions and condos to fade and before you know it, you’re on a small dirt road that is wedged between vibrant swamps. We drove through the swamps for an hour before we started to see citrus groves dotting the landscape a few acres at a time. Finally, right when I was starting to get to the point of being nervous that I dragged my family out into the very wild south, we came upon the citrus ranch I had mapped out. The farmer’s were similar to Midwest ones (in fact, they were originally from Michigan but had moved down to Florida to retreat from the winters) but the landscape could not have been more the opposite. This was the kind of place where they told stories of rattle snakes getting too close to your dogs and pesticides ruining your bodies; this was the kind of place you won’t find without really looking for it. This is the kind of place where you find real adventures and discover where your food comes from.

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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.

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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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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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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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!

 

Baked Vegan Maple Bacon Donuts

March 10, 2014

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I’d like to think I live in a pretty progressive town for it being smack-dab in the middle of cornfields (also known as the ‘meat-and-potato region’). Bloomington, Indiana is home to around only 40,000 people (80,000 if you count the students from the university) yet we have 4 co-op grocery stores, an entire street dedicated to ethnic restaruants, a vegan diner, numerous international grocery spots, a bike trail that runs the length of the city, and bakery dedicated to only serving vegan goodies.

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I bring this up because our local vegan bakery specialized in baked (or cake? I’d like to think they are the same thing but my boyfriend said this is 100% false) donuts. Theres always an array ranging from traditional toffee to more unique lavender-lemon. My usual go-to (after the huge cinnamon rolls and buckeyes) is always their maple bacon donut. They are wonderfully sweet with a hint of smoke from the coconut bacon.

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Honey Roasted Citrus & Thyme Popsicles

February 23, 2014

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As mentioned in my previous post, we’ve been in Florida for the last week as an attempt to relieve ourselves from the negative temperatures that the Midwest can’t seem to shake. The week has been filled with lazy mornings at the beach, afternoons by the pool, and early evenings were spent exploring the Everglades.

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More on our adventures later this week after I finish editing all the photos I managed to snap. As for now, I tried to spend the whole week relaxing but couldn’t resist the urge to document these popsicles to share with all of you. I received both an ice cream maker and popsicle molds for Christmas and although I’ve played around with a few recipes, the Midwest ground has been covered in snow since December and our home has maybe seen the sun half a dozen times since the new year. Thus, ice cream cravings have been at a standstill (well, at least until last week when we headed to the coast).

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Naturally Dyed Pink Meringue Cookies with Blood Orange Curd [Valentine's Day Edition]

February 2, 2014

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Last year I waited until the very last minute to do a Valentine’s day post so I figured we’d just get this out of the way this year. Yup, it’s February so it’s totally acceptable to start talking in the rhythm of a haiku and dreaming in red and pink.

 

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I’m starting to feel like this sweets thing is never going to end. There was the month long baking marathon of festive cookies that leads up to Christmas. And then my boyfriend and best friend both had birthdays in January (which means 2 cakes each. Hey, it’s the one month out of the year I have an excuse to make a cake so I tend to go a little overboard). And now it’s february which is yet another excuse to eat chocolate covered everything and pink tinted sugar.  So, I guess what I am trying to say, is that after this Valentine’s Day post I’m going to cool it on the sweets. No, I’m not doing it for you – I know you enjoy every sugar laden treat I post on here. I’m doing it for myself because you can’t feel in control of your health when you are on a constant sugar high. Ya know?

 

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I’m jumping all over the place with this intro but there is so much to cover in such a short amount of time (+an over-share of photos = an unnecessarly long post so stay with me!).

There was so much inspiration from all over for this recipe. First off, I’ve been dying to make Linda’s Blood Orange Curd that she posted on her site The Tart Tart since the blood oranges finally started pouring into the Midwest.  I halved the recipe and manipulated it a little bit to fit with the amount of egg yokes leftover from the meringue. All I can say is…Damn, I am SO bummed I halved that recipe. It was the perfect amount to fill the meringue bites but I really wish there was leftovers to lather all over pancakes or toast or oatmeal or whatever else would be within reach. This was my first try at curd (and my first experience tasting it homemade) and I’m completely hooked. It’s a wonder I’ve gone all these years without it. Move over jam – citrus curd is my new #1.

 

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Chai-Spiced Citrus & Apple Breakfast Crumble

January 26, 2014

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I knew this was going to be a tough post to write when I spent over an hour debating on just the title. It went a little something like this: Is this recipe a cobbler or crisp? What even is the difference between a cobbler and a crisp? Is Huffington Post an accurate source for telling me what to name my recipe? Well, if it is an accurate source then neither of these names are correct. According to the good old Huff’ Post, a cobbler must have individually dropped biscuits while a crumble is a fruit based dessert topped with an oat mixture and a crisp is similar to a crumble but won’t have any oats involved (Did you get all that?). Huh, who would have known? Do you believe them? Yeah, I don’t know if I do either but I also don’t have the answer so we are sticking with it.

Well, now that we are talking about the title of this post, why not keep going? What else were we even going to chat about today? I can’t seem to remember anymore either. You are wondering what makes this a breakfast recipe? Cool. Let’s chat about that.

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Breakfast, for me, is a pretty routined affair. During the week I eat granola/yougurt or oatmeal and during the weekends it’s usually biscuits & gravy (per the boyfriend’s request). That’s it. And maybe a boiled egg or banana mixed in there every once and awhile for variety. So why, you ask, did I make this breakfast cobbler (whoops – I mean ‘crumble’)? Well, it wasn’t really intended to be a breakfast thing at all. I’ve been trying to incorporate more whole foods into my diet and fruit has been a particularly challenging one. Every time I eat an apple or orange or any fruit really, it reminds me of apple dumplings or crumb cake or cobbler. My body has obviously been neglecting fruit in its original state because all fruit triggers a craving for some sort of baked good.

So my desire for fruity baked goods grew every time I enjoyed another apple for a snack or a banana as a post-lunch dessert. The desire grew and grew until I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. I didn’t want to shatter all this healthy whole food eating with a thick sugary dessert so I set out to make a ‘healthified’ version. One that could be made almost completely out of unrefined sugar and loaded with tons of oat fiber and fruit nutrients.

This crumble was the outcome. It doesn’t have the gooey inside consistency that most traditional crumbles have but it’s still packed full of just as much flavor while leaving you feeling lighter than any traditional recipe. To compensate for the lack of gooeyness, I mixed in part of the oat mixture with the apples to create a creamy oatmeal consistency while still topping the cobbler with the rest for a crispy oat outer layer.

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Chocolate & Spiced Chai Biscotti

December 24, 2013

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MERRY CHRISTMAS [EVE] (or, to all of you who don’t celebrate Christmas, HAPPY TUESDAY!). I love Christmas eve just as much as I love Christmas day. This is because, growing up, my parent’s were divorced so we always had Christmas with my Father ‘s family on the 24th and then had ANOTHER Christmas with my mother’s family on the 25th. I never could relate to those kids who were so excited to get to open ONE present on Christmas Eve to hold them over – I always received DOZENS of gifts on Christmas eve followed up lots more gifts on Christmas day. As I’ve aged, I’ve toned down a little (just a little!) on my excitement for a double dose of gifts but have learned to find joy in so many other wonderful aspects of having two Christmases in a row. Double the santa cookies. Double the Christmas movies. Double the Yule log playing in the background on your tv (speaking of that, I’ll be playing Lil Bub’s yule log video this year – if my family doesn’t think thats too weird).

But, to be completely honest, this biscotti has nothing to do with Christmas and I really just chatted about Christmas Eve because I’m just so darn excited its finally here. This biscotti is actually about having 11 days off of work in a row – which is the longest vacation time I’ve had in 2013. It’s about finally having lazy mornings after lazy mornings of sipping coffee in bed and enjoying a favorite magazine while munching some biscotti. It’s all about mastering the technique of getting the biscotti soggy enough in your coffee that it doesn’t crumble all over your sheets but firm enough that it’s still crunchy when take that first bite. But don’t worry, it’s okay if it takes you a few days to master this technique – we’ve still got loads more days off ahead of us!

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Milk Stout & Sea-Salt Caramels

November 25, 2013

 

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To speak the obvious, the holidays are upon us! We’ve got Thanksgiving and the start of Hannakuh this week. And Christmas is exactly a month from today. Are you ready? Yeah, me neither. So even though I have not got around to getting gifts and roasting a giant tofurkey, at least I won’t come empty handed because I’ve got these caramels!

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These little candies are the perfect accompaniment for all your holiday gatherings. Going to a Thanksgiving where the host has already agreed to make EVERYTHING? Bring these instead of (or along with) that bottle of wine – it’ll be more personal and they are so perfectly petite that you don’t have to feel guilty about munching a few down before the big feast.

Or these would be wonderful to have on the table during a winter gift wrapping party (am I the only one who has those? It’s really the best excuse to make mulled wine and listen to Christmas records with friends). Or to bring to that ugly sweater party. Or really just to have out on the table all December long while you prep for the holidays.

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Savory Pumpkin Hand Pies

November 19, 2013

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Being a vegetarian at your boyfriend’s family Thanksgiving can be madly intimidating. Or going home and explaining to your family for the first time that you no longer will be eating your aunt’s legendary roast. Although it’s never fun having to repeat yourself over and over to every person at the gathering about why you aren’t diving into that meat, it’s something all of us vegetarians (and vegans!) have had to endure. Instead of spending your entire evening avoiding eye contact with everyone in the room in an attempt to avoid that ‘dietary needs conversation’, whip up a batch of these hand pies to win everyone over. No meat lover will miss the meat in these little pockets of savory deliciousness and they might just agree that these would make a better main course (or appetizer or side or all 3).

Although eating a giant turkery for Thanksgiving is ‘traditional’, I say the hell with it! Let’s make our own tradition!! You aren’t constrained to eating that one meat that is ‘traditional’ and you can play around with any food you enjoy. And, in my opinion, I think these little pockets of pot pies are better than any dried out turkey I was served as a child.

 

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Hop on over to DeSmitten Design blog for the full recipe and learn more!

 

Caramelized Cranberry & Brie Pull-Apart Bread

November 12, 2013

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Are you guys ready to talk about Thanksgiving? Excellent because it’s been on my mind a whole bunch lately and I am wearing my excitement on my sleeve. Holidays weren’t something I truly appreciated until I moved away and spent months upon months away from my family (it also helps that, in the more recent years, I’ve become obsessed with food as well). These days, it seems like I get more and more excited about the holidays sooner and sooner. Hell, I was ready to start talking about stuffing at the end of September!

 

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Vanilla Bean & Espresso Granola

November 3, 2013

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Keeping it simple for today’s post. Sometimes you have the energy to make a 20 step breakfast recipe and other times you just want to be able to throw something together in five minutes, stick it in the oven, and crawl back into bed with your coffee for another hour. Yeah, I don’t care if that makes me sound lazy. You think I’m lazy now, just wait until the frigid months of January and February roll around. Ha, no but on a serious note – I’ve just been super busy getting some really great guest posts together for the month of November (more on that in the coming weeks).

I actually made this granola recipe back in September and am just now getting around to posting it. I originally had made it for my stepdad’s birthday (I made him a bunch of baked goods and sent out a little care package). However, I had been putting off posting this because I really wanted to make my own coffee extract first. Have you ever made coffee extract? I’ve only ever made vanilla but it seems silly to not experiment with other ones. Unfortunately, so far I’ve been pretty un-enthuised with the end results for my coffee extract. I really wanted to be able to make an extract out of leftover coffee grounds but have been unsuccessful as of now. So, for the time being, I am sticking with using part of an espresso shot in the recipe below.

 

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Maple Apple Bars /// Apple Picking

October 27, 2013

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I know, I know. Every food blog out there right now has gorgeous pictures up of them apple picking. But what’s one more?

Apple picking is a sign that the air has become crisp and the days shorter. We usually go apple picking at the same place every year but found this new gem of a farm this fall. It’s huge with windy isles filled with dozens and dozens of apple flavors. We adventured right around dusk while the lighting was magical and the the farm was void of families.

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Nutmeg Banana Carrot Muffins /// Some Words on Sugar Substitutes

September 29, 2013

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Today is Sunday, September 29th. Today is a very very special day. Or should I say tonight? Yes, tonight is a very very very special night. Tonight is the season finale of Breaking Bad. It is when three (four?!) years of pain-stakingly frustrating tension is finally resolved (or at least we hope it will be). There is only one problem: we don’t have cable. How did we watch all the other 61 episodes then, you ask? Well you can stream them on the network’s website the followig day after an episode has aired. Which I am usually totally fine with. But this is the season finale of the whole series. And I can’t stop thinking about it. I don’t want to go into work tomorrow and have to keep my ears shut the whole day. Or spend the next 24 hours avoiding my newsfeeds on facebook and twitter. I want to experience it along with the rest of America.

So, how will I do this, you ask? Well, I’m not sure. But I sure as hell want to be prepared with baked goods when I figure it out. I’m thinking…bribing frineds with these muffins? Or the bartender to turn it to AMC with these little handheld cakes. Or maybe even going over to our new neighbors house and using these muffins as a ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ peace treaty right when the show is starting (that way I can peep in the door and see if they are watching it. ‘OH! You guys are watching Breaking Bad?! We were just about to put it on. Maybe we should all watch it together. I also have some local cider and whiskey I can bring over, if you’d like….’). You know, those kinds of things.

 

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Oh no. This post was supposed to be a distraction from thinking about Breaking Bad. Okay, what were we talking about before I so rudely changed the subject to a drug-ring-themed-pop-culture-television-drama? Oh yeah, muffins. And not just any muffins – muffins exploding with nutritional benefits like dates (fiber, iron, calcium), bananas (potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C), nutmeg (iron, magnesium, calcium), and carrots (vitamin A). These are nutritional enough for breakfast but satisfying enough for dessert. And even scrumptious enough to bribe your friends with.

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Blueberry Pistachio Parfait with Quinoa Granola and Maple Cashew Cream [Vegan]

September 1, 2013

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There is so much fall going on around Pinterest these days; I find it to be both appalling and kind of exciting. Maybe it’s this streak of 90 degree weather or my longing for copious amounts of curry in my stomach or the desire to wear knee high socks but I am feeling ready for it. [Heck, maybe I even already bought a can of organic pumpkin for vegan fall baking].

My brain feels so fried from this heat that I’ve managed to stumble into a mundane food routine of salads for lunch and veggie sandwiches for dinner. That is about it….Well, almost it. The other summertime food that has been a regular lately is greek yogurt and homemade granola. So much so that I am starting to think we may need to take some time off from each other soon or we may not be able to stay friends.

Thus, in an attempt to keep yogurt off my long list of hated foods (right next to beets and jello), I decided to try cashew cream in my breakfast parfaits. I originally made the cashew cream to lather on eclairs (…more on that in the coming days) but haven’t looked back at yogurt in weeks.

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The cashew cream only takes a few minutes to whip up and usually lasts me 3 to 4 servings of breakfast. It’s sweeter than yogurt but not so much that you feel guilty about enjoying it for breakfast. Feel free to enjoy with whatever granola you have on hand but I highly recommend trying out this quinoa version. The toasted quinoa gives the granola a crunchy texture unlike any kind of granola I’ve had before. And it’s a complete protein so you’ll be really ready to start your day right. ‘Nuff said?

 

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Blueberry Pistachio Parfait with Quinoa Granola and Maple Cashew Cream

Inspired by Gourmande in the Kitchen & Cashew Cream adapted from Oh, Ladycakes

For the granola:

  • 1 cup tri-colored quinoa (or 1/2 cup red + 1/2 cup white), rinsed super well
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • dash of cinnamon & nutmeg
  • vanilla bean, seeds removed and pod discarded (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil (or any baking oil you’d prefer)
  • 2 Tablespoons honey (or more maple syrup to keep vegan)
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, divided & lightly crushed

For the maple cashew cream:

  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked in water overnight
  • 4 dates, pitted
  • 2-3 Tablespoons maple syrup (depending on how sweet you want to make it)
  • about 1/4 cup water
  • 1 pint blueberries

Submerge cashews in water and let soak overnight.

Remove pits from dates and let soak with the cashews 30 minutes prior to making the cream.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine the quinoa, rolled oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the vanilla bean seeds in a mixing bowl. Fold in the oil, maple syrup, and honey. Transfer to a baking sheet and spread out as much as possible. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to keep from burning. After 30 minutes, add 1/4 cup crushed pistachios to granola and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Drain cashews / dates and place in a food process or blender. Add the maple syrup and 1/4 cup water. Blend. If too thick, gradually add more water a tablespoon at a time until a desired consistency is reached (I like mine at the consistency of greek yogurt – thick and sustainable but a little fluffy).

To assemble: Layer the cream followed by the cooled granola followed by blueberries and garnish with crushed pistachio and cinnamon.

 

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Goat Cheese Polenta with Basil Almond Pesto & Pan Fried Chickpeas [For one]

August 21, 2013

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Wyatt is off at a Black Sabbath concert tonight . No, I’m not sure why – he’s not a 60 year old fan or a metal head of any kinds [but this is beside the point]. The point is that I’m here alone tonight. I decide to have a sort of girl’s night…with myself. Yoga, red wine, and a chick flick (Bridesmaid to be exact…hey, don’t judge! Everyone ALWAYS references it and I have no idea what they are ever talking about). This is a special treat because I’m usually get suckered into alien, death-centric, action flicks and a case of beer.

This also meant I was on my own for dinner this evening. Any normal American would have probably just got chinese take-out but I was excited by the thought of not having to worry about another person’s needs / preferences. Both polenta and chickpeas are two things Wyatt isn’t really that crazy about – and I totally disagree. I personally don’t think there could ever be anything wrong with a big bowl of corn creaminess that takes on the subtle flavor of whatever cheese you decide to melt into it. And as for chickpeas – give me them anyway you’d like: blended, roasted, sautéed, or panfried.

Needless to say, I’ve settled in for the night with this big polenta bowl and my boxer dog, Tuko. If you need us – we’ll be over here watching some girls relieve themselves in wedding dresses because of some bad Mexican food they ate (gross! Sorry, Bridesmaid reference?)

When pan frying the chickpeas, make sure you use just a big enough skillet so that they can lay evenly in one layer but not so big that you have to use half your bottle of oil. And as for the pesto, I’ve been into using kale (since it grows like wildflowers in my garden) but went with basil on this one since it’s finally basil season – feel free to use whatever leafy green you have on hand!

 

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Goat Cheese Polenta with Basil Almond Pesto & Pan Fried Chickpeas

  • 1 cup dried polenta
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 ounces goat cheese (or more if you are like me)

 

  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt / pepper

 

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (from a can or from dried)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • salt / pepper
  • oil (I used olive but you could use vegetable as well)

In a food processor or very powerful blender, combine all the pesto ingredients and blend until a smooth paste forms. Add more olive oil if needed to reach your desired consistency. Set aside.

In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add polenta and lower heat to medium low. Whisk continuously until the polenta has become thick enough that it won’t stick to the bottom. After fifteen minutes of simmering, stir in the cheese and remove from heat. Cover to keep warm and set aside.

In a large cast iron skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium. Add chickpeas, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Sauté for ten to fifteen minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined tray. Let sit for a few minutes to crisp up.

Mix the polenta, chickpeas, and pesto all together and enjoy!

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Cantaloupe Caprese

July 1, 2013

It’s July…just barely but still July. July means I’m entitled to consuming copious amounts of juicy, flavorful, plump tomatoes. And all the cravings that go along with it…cravings for say… salsa and tomato jam and  bruschetta and Caprese salad. Yup, Caprese salad. That is what I’ve been craving the most. An excuse to buy those irresistible bite-size fresh mozzarella balls that end up half gone before you can even put them on a stick. And basil so fresh that you can still smell the herb on your fingertips from the leaves being picked only a few minutes earlier.

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But…oh wait. There’s one problem. The tomatoes aren’t ready…they are plump and round but mockingly green. The green is a glaring reminder that they are so close…but not close enough. So what’s a girl to do when she impulsively bought a big tub of mozzarella thinking she’d come across heirloom tomatoes at the market? Eat them anyways, of course!

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This is a sweet twist on the caprese salad appetizer that you so often times see around the later summer months. It’s still a juicy excuse to splurge on fresh mozzarella and douse your food in balsamic. It’s just a bit of a sweeter excuse.

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PS – Yes, I did take the time to make these into shapes so it spelled out ‘Vegetarian ‘Ventures’. To be fair, it was a rainy Saturday and I didn’t have much else planned (besides sunbathing at the lake…which I repeat…it was rainy). So, you obviously can just cut these up into little squares or use a mellow scooper to make them circles. Or take the time to cut out cute shapes using cookie cutters you obtained from an antique shop. Whatever suits your fancy.

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Cantaloupe Caprese

makes about 2 dozen Caprese kabobs
  • 24 chunks of cantaloupe (from one small melon)
  • 24 fresh bocconcini (bite-size mozzarella) balls
  • 24 basil leaves

 

  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 12 kebob sticks (I broke mine in half for smaller kebobs)

 

Let kebob sticks soak in water for an hour before preparing.

Stick two of each cantaloupe piece, bocconicini, and basil leaf on a kebob stick in whatever order you’d prefer. Repeat with the rest of the pieces and sticks.

Drizzle with Balsamic vinegar before serving.

Doesn’t get much easier than that, huh?

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Baked Sweet Potato Poutine

June 26, 2013

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I totally get why eating healthy is so important. You feel great after, it gives you energy, makes your skin glow, wards of sickness, and keeps the extra pounds at bay. But sometimes, and just sometimes, you just want a big pile of french fries lathered in gravy. And no matter how much you try to convince your taste buds otherwise, they don’t listen. No matter how many salad ingredients you pull out of the fridge, your hand still reached for those big hunks of cheese you were ‘reserving’ for a special occasion.

This is what happened to me on Monday night. I had everything prepped and ready to go for a big ‘ol taco salad dinner. But the drooling happening in my mouth was demanding poutine. Demanding it so fiercely that I knew if I ignored my desires, I’d end up eating a pint of ice cream later because I’d be left unsatisfied. So, my mind and stomach battled it out for about 10 minutes before we settling on making BAKED Sweet Potato Poutine….not a salad but also not deep fried starch. A fair compromise, I told myself.

And, to be honest…it blew a salad out of the water. A big pile of baked fries lathered in peppered gravy and big hunks of gooey cheese was exactly what my Monday night needed. The only thing that made it even better was serving it with a Gin & Tonic and re-runs of the X-Files.

If you are new to Poutine, you need to try it! We are pretty used to eating Chinese and Middle Eastern food in America but how often do you try out some Canadian food? Traditional poutine consists of deep fried fries, gravy, and cheese curds. It’s traditionally made with meat gravy so unless you have a wonderful vegan restaurant that serves up a vegetarian version, (Thanks, Owlery!), you’ll want to take a stab at making your own.

 

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Baked Sweet Potato Poutine

  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into wedges
  • 1 medium russet potato (or another sweet potato), cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt/Pepper

Peppered Thyme Gravy:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 cups almond milk (or regular)
  • 3 sprigs of thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup cheese curds

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss potato wedges in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on two baking sheets (don’t crowd them or they won’t cook evenly). Bake for fifteen minutes, flip fries, and make for an additional 15 minutes or until fries are crispy. Remove from oven and let cool.

In a large skillet, whisk the flour, nutritional yeast, and milk together. Once it is a smooth consistency, add all the spices. Place the skillet over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Next, add in the butter and reduce to medium low. Stir constantly until gravy thickens. Adjust to taste with salt/pepper.

Assemble by drizzling gravy over your huge mound of fries and topping with cheese curds.

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Coriander Hummus

June 17, 2013

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Did everyone have a fantastic Father’s day? What wonderful thing did you do for our Father? I drove eight hours to see Fleetwood Mac in Chicago with my Father on Friday (although…he paid for the ridiculously over-priced tickets so we are probably even). My father ALWAYS had a Fleetwood Mac album on in the car when I was little and it’s one of the rare moments I remember singing and dancing with him. It was awesome growing up on Fleetwood Mac, I’ve always wanted to see Stevie Nicks in person and she did not disappoint.

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Here’s a simple hummus recipe for you. I decided to put the ‘flavoring’ in the top and keep the hummus itself super basic (mmmm garlic garlic hummus). You don’t HAVE to peel the chickpeas but I read about doing it over at Smitten Kitchen a few months back and am totally hooked. I’ve ruined 2 blenders by overheating them when making hummus and this takes the majority of the work off the blender. Plus, it leaves your hummus so smooth that you’ll never need the store bought stuff again.

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Coriander Hummus

  • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 cup olive oil

 

  • 1/4 cup coriander seeds, toasted and crushed (instructions below)*
  • 3 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped

 

Peel the chickpeas by lightly pinching the bean and the outer shell should come right off in one big peel. Repeat with the rest of the chickpeas. Transfer the beans, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, water, and olive oil in a blender (or food processor) and blend until smooth. Taste and season with salt, pepper, or more lemon juice. Transfer hummus to a big bowl.

Place the coriander seeds in a saucepan over medium low heat. Stir constituently for about two minutes or until they are fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from heat and immediately transfer to a mortar and pestle to crush. Sprinkle crushed coriander seeds over the hummus followed by sprinkling the cilantro.

Serve with pita and fresh veggies.

 

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