Wanderlust

Posted on: January 8, 2013

Southwest-Road-Trip

photo from our Southwest Road Trip last May

I’ve been feeling a bit…uninspired by my actions around VV lately. Can you tell? It just seems like I get into a groove and then get bored with the formula after a few months. Perhaps it’s the prospect of the temperature getting into the 60′s (!!!) this weekend that has sparked my winter dormant self to feel energized with ideas. You know…the feeling where you want to stop wearing that same black sweater and pull out those high-waisted shorts and crop tops. The same self that wants to get lost in the woods and go skinny dipping in the lake. And pull out my 35mm and take a cross country road trip. You know, the feelings that makes your heart race and lets you feel alive? Those feelings.

Something else that sprung this feeling was reflecting on my life and music [sounds like the beginning of a cheeeeeezey memoir]. I went to school for music and then chased my dreams down to Nashville to try to pursue the music industry. I used to read music books non-stop in my free time (which has now turned into food books), watch rock documentaries with my morning coffee, go to shows every other night, and only date musicians. As time passed, I settled into working for a music distribution company that distributes dozens of independent labels. Pretty cool, right? Well, yes and no. Now it’s my job to go to shows every time our bands come through. And it’s my job to read Pitchfork and StereoGum daily. And it’s my job to schmooze with other musicians in our music scene. Somehow, when you stop doing things because it’s your hobby and you start doing things because you have to, they become less fun.

So, as we turn a new leaf [the year changing and all], I’m going to make it a goal to get back into music. Whether that means listening to a new album everyday or going to 1 [non-work related] show a month. Whatever it takes. I’m going to take my music taste back and stop being so knee deep in the daze that is popular indie rock.

Now, the weird part. How in the world do I incorporate that into my blog? Skinny dipping doesn’t exactly make my soup shots look more appetizing. Or adventuring cross country doesn’t give me more time to expand on what I’m doing here. And music certainly does not give my kitchen better lighting. Well, I’m not exactly sure how to incorporate all these feelings but I think I am going to start with matching a song to the recipes I post about. And posting more pictures from random adventures [which also means I will need to start taking more random adventures - score!]. And using some more color around here…and perhaps a new, hipper font? Caviar dreams – you don’t ALWAYS inspire me like you should. And stop looking for so much inspiration in other food blogs [which usually just leads to criticizing my own]… instead looking to travel blogs, vintage stores, and art exhibits. 2013, I am ready for you!

 

 

Song of the day:

Mini Winter Fritattas with Sweet Potato, Onion, & Parmesan

Posted on: January 7, 2013

I’m a big quiche fan and would be lying if I didn’t mention that I was rather hesitant to get on the ‘fritatta’ bandwagon. But as I cook with eggs more and more, I realize comparing a quiche and fritatta is like comparing whole wheat oatmeal cookies and double chocolate chip cookies. Quiches are rich and full of heavy cream and eggs piled on top of a buttery crust. Fritatta is like the healthy crustless sibling to the quiche with its easy preparation and delicious vegetable filling.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE me a cheesy and buttery quiche. But frittatas have been making their way into my daily routine more and more because of their simplicity. I don’t have to spend time making a crust or hoping I have heavy cream on hand (which I usually don’t). I can just stick in whatever vegetables I may have on hand and whisk up some eggs. So simple!

 

winterfrittata2

 

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Harissa Paste

Posted on: January 4, 2013

Happy Friday! Any big plans for the weekend? I didn’t start my work week until Wednesday so this week kind of feels like cheating…did I really earn weekend already? I could get use to this 3 day week thing! As for my weekend? The only thing I have planned to to make some homemade ravioli (now if I could only decide on ONE filling option…).

Continuing with my New Years resolution to eat less processed food, I decided to make my own harissa paste instead of heading to the specialty market to pick up a bottle of it. I needed some harissa paste because I received a beautiful Tagine for Christmas and have been cooking in it non-stop. It’s such an easy, delicious, and ridiculously healthy way to whip up a batch full of hearty veggies drenched in flavorful Middle Eastern or African spices.

So what exactly is harissa paste? It’s a condiment made out of chiles that will have varying ingredients depending on location. It’s been known to be used in African, Moroccan, and several other Middle Eastern countries. I added a few teaspoons of it to a butternut squash, raisin, and shallots combination I made the other day and it was delightful. I plan to use the leftover paste as a condiment on sandwiches (adding a little bit of honey bring the spice level down without compromising the wonderful flavor). I’ve also heard of peopling dipping fresh bread into it or adding it to cooked couscous.

This recipe can also be made with fresh chiles (just omit the soaking process). I am eager to grow some in my garden this summer so we can experiment more!

 

 

HarissaPaste

 

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Homemade Pumpernickel Loaf

Posted on: January 3, 2013

As I mentioned yesterday in my post on Pear, Brie, and Spicy Brown Mustard Grilled Cheese, this is the first time I have ever tackled making homemade pumpernickel bread. I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor complexity that went into this bread. Whoever first invented this must have either seriously known what they were doing or was trying to clean out their kitchen cabinet in the form of throwing everything into a loaf of bread. I like to think it may be my second theory.

This bread is not for the impatient. It has 2 rising cycles so I recommend whipping this up on the weekend when you are planning to be hanging around the house anyways. Or even if you weren’t planning on hanging out around the house all day maybe this can be your excuse? Don’t want to go visit that weird uncle you’ve been putting off seeing in St. Louis? Tell him you’ve got some bread to make that just can’t wait another weekend. He will…probably not understand but at least you’ll get some amazing bread out of it and your home will smell like a fresh bakery!

 

pumperbread

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Pear, Brie, & Spicy Brown Mustard Grilled Cheese on Pumpernickel

Posted on: January 2, 2013

pear grilled chee

One of my 2013 goals was to eat less processed food so I started my new journey today with some homemade bread. And not just any homemade bread – pumpernickel bread! Have you ever made pumpernickel bread before? I always knew that the flavor was complex but I was blown away by the flavor profile of this bread. We are talking coffee, chocolate, cornmeal, and molasses all going into this wonderfully delicious loaf. I’ll be posting the recipe for the bread tomorrow so make sure to check back if you are interested in making your own!

As for today? How about a seriously dangerous grilled cheese recipe? Like peanut butter and jelly, pumpernickel bread and spicy mustard were made for each other. There is something about the tangy mustard that lightens up the complexity of pumpernickel perfectly. Then throw in some sweet pear and melty brie? Irresistible! I thought keeping brie around the house was hard enough…now with this sandwich option it is going to be straight up impossible.

This recipe is like the winter version to my fall Apple, Brie, Arugula and Fig Grilled Cheese but with a bit more tang and less sweet. It still hits the spots with the salty/sweet pulling at your tastebuds and leaves you wondering why you would ever make a grilled cheese without brie again.

 

Pear Brie Grilled Cheese

 

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Quick & Easy Lentil Soup

Posted on: January 1, 2013

Did you have a wonderful New Year?! Did you get to kiss that special someone at midnight and maybe drink a little too much bubbly? Yeah, me too. Ah well. How about we start off the new year right with this super healthy and delicious lentil soup?

I usually make dinner for Wyatt pretty much every night and this has been going on for well over a year now. However, I just recently found out his favorite soup is lentil soup. That means all this time I’ve been making these elaborate and time consuming (and delicious… see Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Goat Cheese Croutons and Rosemary Soup with Rustic Bread) when I could have just made this simple lentil stew. Go figure!

This soup is not only easy but it’s packed full of vegetables and protein. Not bad, eh? And this recipe made enough for us to enjoy for two meals plus some for me to freeze for later! It’s dairy free so it freezes super well and will go perfect with a big salad or crusty bread or grilled cheese.

 

Lentil Soup

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A Look Back at 2012

Posted on: December 31, 2012

No food post today. Just a small reflection 2012 and thoughts on opening the door to 2013. 2012 was a year of change…for both the better and the worse. I graduated from Indiana University, moved in with Wyatt, scored a full time job working with indie rock music, adopted Tuko, and continued to blog almost daily here on VV.

Graduating from college was both exhilarating and a let down. I had spent my whole life dreaming of moving away and going to school but graduating made me realize that I probably should have dreamed bigger. I came out of college feeling lost and restless and full of doubt. Scoring a full time job out of school should have probably made me proud but instead it left me feeling empty and wondering if this was the climax of my life. It’s been six months since I graduated and I am in a much better place then I was but am still hoping 2013 will bring a bright and fresh outlook.

Despite being filled with so much doubt, 2013 was also an amazing year of learning and discovery. We had wonderful year raising our oh so hyper puppy Tuko, I took up yoga, many friends moved away and I met many new ones, we moved into our first official ‘home’ for me to decorate all by myself, we finally adventured to the southwest, and my cooking and photography continued to grow.

As we move into 2013, I am hoping for more adventure and new discoveries.  I tend to make goals every season but still wanted to make a few 2013 resolutions…here is what I’ve got so far:

1. More adventures close to home

2. Less doubt, More Risk

3. Less processed foods

4. Work on photography

5. Keep moving forward & always improving

6. Continue to surround myself with positive people

 

Hope everyone rings in the new year with their favorite people. And I hope you continue to follow VV in 2013… I’d like to think it’s only getting better every day! Annnnd to end the post, here are a few favorite photos from the year:

 

 

 

2012 Recap

 

Happy Holidays from VV

Posted on: December 22, 2012

 

No ‘Searchable Saturdays’ today because I am headed home for the holidays. I hope everyone has a wonderful break from their usual routines and enjoy some quality time with wonderful people!

Vegan Gingerbread Biscotti

Posted on: December 21, 2012

And its time to push on with the holiday baking! Yesterday I posted about those beautiful candied orange peels and last week there was the Peppermint Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread cookies…and now I’m here again with some biscotti! Are you sick of all the sugar yet? Yeah, me neither!

This is a perfect accompaniment to your morning cup of coffee [or tea] for you to enjoy on your lazy holiday mornings. They are firm but soften up beautifully when dunked in a big cup of coffee and give a wonderful gingerbread flavor tint to your cup of joe! I topped my biscotti with frosting since I had just made some for sugar cookies but feel free to drizzle with chocolate or caramel or whatever you are feeling!

 

 

Vegan Gingerbread Biscotti

adapted from Isa Moskowitz
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 4 Tablespoons of unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used my homemade stuff)
  • 1 3/4 cup of flour
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a baking sheet.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the molasses, sugar, flaxseed, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into wet and stir until combined and crumbly. Finally, add in a the milk a tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together (you want to keep the dough on the dry side so you may not use all 4 tablespoons).

Roll the dough out into a 11 inch by 4 inch long and place on greased cooking sheet. Cook for 30 minutes or until the edges just start to brown. Remove from oven and let cook for an hour.

Reheat oven to 325 degrees and use a sharp knife to cut diagonal strips into the biscotti log. Turn the pieces so that the inside part is facing up (this will help dry out the middle) and stick back in the oven for  20 minutes. Let cool completely to reach that desired crispiness.

 

 

Candied Orange Peels

Posted on: December 20, 2012

 

If you live in the Midwest (like myself), you may be bracing yourself for the big Draco Storm (when did they start naming thunderstorm? I get naming hurricanes and tornadoes but T-storms?) that is planned to hit within the next two days. We had our first wave last night with constant rainfall all night long. What does this mean? It’s time to lock myself in the kitchen and get Christmas baking!

This is the first time I’ve ever made sugared peels and I was pleasantly surprised with the process. Yes, it takes awhile but it’s not labor intensive at all and is a super easy project to have on the side while you bake up other Christmas goodies.

I made these to go into a little gift box that I’m making for Wyatt. He loves getting an Old Fashioned cocktail when we go out for fancy dates so I thought it would be fun to make him a little kit for home. I’ve included a nice bottle of bourbon, bitters, some fancy maraschino cherries, and now these homemade orange peel. Even if these peels are too sweet for him to put in his cocktail, I’ll enjoy the extra touch of sugar when he makes mine!

I highly recommend using organic oranges for this. Since you are using the peel any sort of pesticides used to grow the fruit will have seeped onto the peel…better to be safe than sorry!

 

Candied Orange Peel

  • 4 organic oranges
  • 3 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cloves

Start by cleaning and scrubbing the oranges very well to scrap off any dirt. Next, cut through the orange in four different sections by slicing into the peel and pith but not going all the way through. Peel the oranges and set the insides aside for a different use (my “different use” was munching on them for an after dinner snack and again for breakfast).

Add the orange peels to a saucepan and fill with water until they are all covered. Bring the water to a boil over medium high heat and then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 20 minutes and remove from heat. Strain the water and let the peels cool until they are okay to touch.

Okay, this is the trickiest part! It’s time to remove the pith from the peels (the white part) or the end result will be tart. I used a spoon and scrapped off the pith as much as possible (don’t feel like you have to get the white part COMPLETELY gone but the more you scrape away the sweeter they will be). Cut the orange peels into long, thin strips.

Next, add 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of water to a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and stir often until the sugar has dissolved (about five minutes). Add in the orange peels and let simmer for 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let the peels cool in the sugar water (I let them cool for about an hour so they could continue to absorb the sugary syrup).

Once cooled, combine 1 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a shallow dish. Using a fork or slotted spoon, remove the peels (one at a time) and dip in the sugar mixture. Transfer to wax paper and repeat with the rest of the peels. Let them sit out at room temperature overnight to harden.

Enjoy as a snack or dessert or in your next fancy cocktail!

 

Honey Ginger Lemon Tonic

Posted on: December 18, 2012

 

So, all anyone is posting about right now is Christmas. Which is awesome. I LOVE Christmas and kind of wish I was posting the awesome homemade gifts I made for everyone. Unfortunately, I am not… because I am sick and cannot bring myself to think about all the 10000xxx things I still need to do before Christmas. All that is currently on my mind is getting more lemons from my local co-op (which seems soooo far away right now)….

Within my four years of college, I had the fortunate (and at times, unfortunate) experience of living with 12 different people. This exposed me to many different eating patterns, traditions, methods of cooking, and ideologies about ‘what is healthy’. I’ve lived with people who ate too much, who didn’t eat, who ate pills for meals, who wouldn’t eat carbs but loved downing a tub of ice cream, and who believed in only eating out. Living with people… you see them at their highs and lows. At one point or another, I probably saw every single one of these people sick, depressed, drunk, excited, and exhausted. Everyone has different ways of dealing with emotions;  although I’ve lived with a few who thought that sprite was the answer to any sickness (no, thanks!) or a greasy pile of french fries would cure any upsetting ailment, I’ve stuck by one of my roommates method. She lives by the idea that if you catch your cold or flu coming on early enough, it could be prevented with a whole lot of orange juice and a honey lemon tonic.

Since living with her, I’ve adapted her tonic slightly by adding ginger (which helps boost the immune system) and it’s fantastic (well..as fantastic as anything is when you are sick). The taste is not overpowering (am I the only one who hates the taste of EVERYTHING when I’m sick?), the hot water is soothing on your throat, and the ginger/honey/lemon juice are helping you to kick that cold.

 

 

Honey Ginger Lemon Tonic

Serves 1
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 lemon slices
  • 1/2 inch of ginger, roughly chopped
  • ~2 teaspoons of honey

 

Add water and ginger into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and squeeze the juice from the lemon slices in to the water (then throw the slices in). Let simmer for about 3 minutes and then remove from heat. Add the honey to your favorite mug (add more if you like it sweet) and transfer the water mixture to the mug. Drink warm so the water can soothe your throat.

 

Festive Rum Balls

Posted on: December 17, 2012

…And I’m officially feeling behind on holiday prep. When did Christmas become a week away? Yikes! Is it okay for me to admit that I have not started my Christmas shopping yet? Okay, let’s not talk about it.

Instead. let’s talk about these little balls of chocolate. We had our annual holiday party for work over the weekend and it was…I mean this politely…a shit show. Every year, we have a combined party with the three record labels that work in our building and a manufacturing company that manufactures our vinyl. We had three alcohol companies sponsor the event this year which meant cases of liquor and several kegs. Did I mention all the people who I work with LOVE to drink? Go figure. Well, I decided that these rum balls would go with the ‘alcohol’ theme of the party. And they did. They lasted a whole 15 minutes.. A success? I’d say so.

These rum balls have a texture somewhere between a super moist brownie and cakey fudge. And then there is the ever-so-slightest tint of rum flavor which makes it fancy (adding booze to anything classes it up, right?). I rolled mine in red sprinkles and cocoa powder but feel free to experiment and try any sprinkles you have on hand, coarse sugars, chopped nuts, etc.

 

 

Rum Balls

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
  • 3/4 cup butter (1 and a half sticks)
  • 8 ounces of semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup spiced rum
  • red or green sprinkles

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13 by 9 baking pan. In a double boiler, heat the butter and chocolate over simmering water. Stir constantly until melted and remove from heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, salt and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Next, add in the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Finally, fold in the flour. Transfer dough to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean from the center. Remove from oven and let cool.

Once cooled, break up the cooked batter into chunks and transfer to a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment. Turn mixer on low and slowly add in the rum. Turn the mixer up to medium and continue to beat until the batter comes together and forms a large ball.

 

 

Use your hands to roll batter into one inch thick balls and dip in sprinkles or cocoa powder. Repeat with the rest of the batter and transfer balls to a wax paper lined baking sheet. Stick in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Done!

 

Looking for other Christmas cookie options? Try these Peppermint dipped Brown Butter Shortbread cookies or check out my Winter inspiration board on Pinterest

Searchable Saturday

Posted on: December 15, 2012

 

A few inspirations from the week…

 

1. Have you ever wondered how much gingerbread it would take to build a life size gingerbread house? Yeah, me neither. But it’s still kind of fun to read about.

2. Pickled cherries? Talk about a snazzy way to jazz up those Shirley Temples and Tequila Sunrises!

3. Simplest homemade body butter ever. I’d add a little lavender oil for a nice aroma!

4. Young and wanting to start a business? NPR used Bloomington kids as examples in this article…I must have that Bloomington syndrome. The last statistic in the article makes me soooo sad though…

5. Eggnog AND cheesecake?!?! Yes, plz!

6. Awesome tutorial on how to make a super unique mood boards

 

And now I’m off to pick up our CSA, make some rum balls, and get ready for my Christmas work party tonight. Hope you have a fantastic weekend!

Homemade Grenadine // Tequila Sunrise + Shirley Temple

Posted on: December 13, 2012

 

Okay, I have a confession to make. I grew up on Shirley Temples. Any fancy occasion that I was out with my family and my Grandma would order her ‘Manhattan’, I would proudly announced my ‘Shirley Temple’ drink order. They would bring it out in a fancy cocktail glass and it would be garnished with a few cherries. Ah, I felt like such a sophisticated ten year old.

But this is where my confession comes in. I went the first 23 years of my life thinking that grenadine was cherry flavored syrup. Wrong. How can you blame me? After all, they did always garnish those Shirley Temples with cherries! It’s actually pomegranate syrup! Who would of thought I was so health trendy in my tweens? If only I knew French then I would have known that grenade means ‘pomegranate’. Ah well. Silly me.

Anyhow, so I’ve been on a drink kick lately. More specifically, I’ve been on a booze kick (see Boozy Stout Brownies, Cranberry Mojito, etc). And my fascination with simple syrups started this summer when I first whipped up that delicious Sparkling Blackberry Lemonade. And then the Rosemary Lemonade. and then the Lemongrass cooler. and so on. You get the point. So when I found out that grenadine was just an over-produced, over-sugared version of pomegranate simple syrup….I knew I had to try my own.

 

 

If you are use to making your own simple syrups, you will notice that this process is a bit different because we are starting off with pomegranate juice instead of having the fruit boil and steep into a juice. But anyhow, it’s not complicated and more on that later. Oh! And last thing – don’t wear white while making this. The juicing part is both fun and messy.

 

 

 

Homemade Grenadine

method adapted from Reclaiming Provincial
  • 2 pomegranates
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar (depending on how sweet you like your syrup)

 

First, the fun [and messy] part! Making the juice. I used a citrus squeezer and sliced the pomegranates into quarters to juice them. You could use a hand held squeezer if you have it or even a zip lock bag (break the seeds up as much as possible and then strain out the seeds). The goal here is to get as much juice out of the pomegranate without 1. breaking the tiny white seeds within the red seeds because they will release a bitter flavor (hence why a blender wouldn’t work) and 2. separating the juice from the tiny seeds and whites of the pomegranate. If you don’t have a juice squeezer, this may take some creative thinking on your part but it’s not impossible. Using my citrus squeezer yielded about 2 cups of juice from 2 pomegranates so try to achieve around that amount.

 

 

Next, transfer the juice to a small saucepan and add the desired amount of sugar (I started with a cup and a half).  Bring to a boil over medium heat and then immediately remove from heat. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved (if it has not dissolved already). Let cool completely then transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge.

 

Annnnd, in case you were wondering what MY favorite ways are to use grenadine are…

 

Shirley Temple

  • 1 ounce grenadine
  • 2 maraschino cherries
  • ginger ale or lemon-lime soda

Place the grenadine and cherries in a glass. Fill the remainder of the glass with ginger ale / soda and enjoy!

 

Tequila Sunrise

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 2 ounces grenadine
  • Orange Juice
  • maraschino cherry or orange slice, for garnish

Place grenadine and tequila in a cocktail glass. Fill the remainder of the glass with orange juice. Garnish with cherries or orange slices.

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

Posted on: December 12, 2012

So I curated (doesn’t that sound so much more important than planned?!) 90 percent of my family’s Thanksgiving dinner menu this year. The only thing I did not pick out was the Wild Rice Stuffing which my aunt made. And it was probably my favorite thing that was served that day. I don’t really have much experience with wild rice and I was blown away by the added texture it gave to the stuffing.

And so this experience made we realize I want more wild rice in my life which led to me making these stuffed squashes. And let me tell you….this stuffed acorn were great but I probably ended up eating 50% of the wild rice mixture before I could even get around to sticking  it in the acorns. It was chewy and savory and sweet (thanks to the maple syrup!) and oh so addicting. I’m already dreaming of quick winter salads that are really just a healthy (throw the term ‘salad’ at the end of anything and it becomes guilt-free) way to talking about this wild rice mixture!

 

 

Anyhow, this is great as a side dish or even as a main vegetarian entree at your next dinner party (which, according to The Kitchn, are dead these days)!

 

 

Wild Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

Serve 2 as a side. Adapted from My Daily Morsel
  • 1 acorn squash, sliced in half
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (I used my own from this recipe)
  • 2 scallions
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries (or any dried fruit), chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • Juice from half an orange
  • salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet and place squash cut side down. Cover the squash with tin foil and roast for 40 minutes or until cooked all the way through.

In the meantime, prepare the inside. Heat oil over medium in a large saucepan. Add onions and saute until soft (about five minutes). Next, add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, wild rice, and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook until all the stock has evaporated/ been absorbed (about 20 to 25 minutes).

Remove from heat and fold in the pecans, scallions, cherries, maple syrup, and orange juice. Season with salt and pepper. Once the acorn squash is finished cooking, stuff with the wild rice mixture and enjoy warm!

 

 

Peppermint Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread

Posted on: December 11, 2012

We put our tree up the Saturday after Thanksgiving but my Christmas spirit didn’t really kick in until I whipped up these cookies. There is something so calming about waking up on a sunny, snowy day and hiding from the cold in your warm kitchen with the lingering smell of butter cookies. We haven’t had any snow yet here but the weather was certainly chilly enough for me to stay inside and bake this past weekend.

We had a few friends over on Sunday night to watch ‘Christmas Vacation’ and I made these cookies to go with it. Nothing like a Christmas comedy and overloading on sugar to get you ready for the holidays! The movie put me in the spirit and I am now ready to Christmas shop, wrap gifts, and drink peppermint lattes. Hmmm… if only my family would tell me what they want already….

 

 

Peppermint Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread Cookies

  • 2 sticks of butter (1 cup), divided & at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 box of peppermint candy canes, unwrapped and crushed
  • 8 ounces of white chocolate

Start by browning half (one stick) of the butter. Place butter in a small saucepan over low heat and let cook until small brown flakes form. Stir often so the bubbles don’t bubble over the pan or so that it doesn’t burn. Once the butter has browned, immediately pour it into a glass cup and let cool completely.

Beat together the butter (browned and regular) and the brown sugar. Next, add in the flour and salt and continue to beat until a thick ball of dough forms. Wrap dough (with parchment, wax paper, etc) and let chill for at least 30 minutes (this will help keep the dough together).

Once chilled, transfer dough to a floured surface and roll out to about 1/2 inch thick. Use a biscuit cutter or the top of a round glass to cut out circular shapes. Transfer to a greased cookie sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place the cookies in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes while the oven preheats (this will help the cookies keep their shape). Cook cookies for 15 minutes or until they are golden brown around edged. Let cool completely.

Crush the peppermint candy canes anyway you see fit. I put mine in a ziploc bag and went to town using a meat tenderizer (also known as the kitchen hammer!) until they were in tiny pieces.

Melt the white chocolate in either your microwave or over a double boiler. I don’t have a microwave so I used the double boiler method which consisted using one saucepan inside the other and letting water simmer under the first pot while I constantly stirred the white chocolate over it until melted (this was a terrible explanation. If it is your first time using a double boiler, use this as a reference). Once melted, dip half the cookie into the chocolate and then roll in the peppermint chunks. Place on wax paper (this prevents sticking) and repeat with the rest of the cookies. Let cookies chill in fridge for 15 minutes or until the chocolate has hardened.

Enjoy with a peppermint latte or some eggnog and baileys!

DIY Kitchen Article /// New Chickpea Quaterly

Posted on: December 10, 2012

 

 

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Monday. I have some exciting news! The preview winter issue of Chickpea Quarterly is finally done and viewable online! I have an extensive article in it on how to stock your kitchen with homemade staples. My article has recipes for how to make homemade almond milk, vanilla extract, and vegetable broth so hop on over to check it out. Oh, and there are some other AMAZING recipes for cookies, winter stews, holiday gifts, and so much more! Plus, the photography is oh so gorgeous and inspiring.

Okay, enough ranting about how much I love Chickpea. But honestly, it’s a beautiful magazine and I love being a part of it. Okay, done (for real this time). I’ll be back tomorrow with a new and delicious recipe for you!

 

Searchable Saturdays

Posted on: December 8, 2012

Oh man, I have not been this excited for a free weekend in a long time. This week was super exhausting and I can not wait to spend today getting my life back in order and (of course) cooking up some delicious things in the kitchen.

Here are a few links I found inspiring this week…

 

1. Making some holiday treats for friends? Here are some adorable gift tags to jazz them up!

2. I’ve been intrigued by making cocktails lately and am working on making some bar staples. Has anyone had any experience with making homemade bitters? I am thinking about trying out these Fig Orange bitters? What about homemade Maraschino Cherries.

3. I stumbled upon this super comprehensive guide to doing your own screen printing. New winter project? Why not?!

4. VV was on TheKitchn again (YAY!) this week. The link is here (along with several other tasty recipes!) if you want to check it out.

5. Love the style of this recipe card on how to make Midnight Milk Punch!

6. Scared you might eat all that Trader Joe’s cookie butter with a spoon the night you get it? Turn it into cookies and share with all your friends!

7. Drank all the alcohol in your house during that little get together you had last Friday? Here is a great article on substituting when recipes call for alcohol!

 

Well, I’m off to start my day. Going to take this cold/wet weather as a sign to be productive. Christmas shopping time? I think so! Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend.

Honey Pepper Vinaigrette

Posted on: December 7, 2012

The word ‘vinaigrette’ always throws me off…I always have to look up how to spell it EVERY time I use it. You’d think that common kitchen words would be automatic in my vocabulary but damn, that is a weird one. Why in the word of it not just be spawned from vinegar and be vinegarrette? Am I crazy? I guess so.

Well, last week I had the November Wrap Up and one of my winter goals from that post was to start making my own salad dressing. What can I see? I am crazy about homemade staples (see homemade vegetable broth, DIY ketchup, DIY BBQ Sauce, etc etc etc). There is something so satisfying about knowing exactly what is going into your food and to realize how something is actually SUPPOSE to taste instead of what it’s additive infested counterpart has conditioned you to be use to. Take, for example, the homemade ketchup I posted about over a year ago (woah! Such a loooong time ago), you can actually taste that the sauce was made from tomatoes. Crazy, huh?

This dressing is wonderful. The honey adds the slightest bit of sweet to the otherwise savory salad dressing giving a wonderfully subtle and delicious overall flavor. I topped this over raw kale, carrots, pecans, and onions but I bet this would be great lathered over some grilled asparagus or roasted winter squash!

 

 

Honey Pepper Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup vinegar (white, sherry, etc)
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons mint, minced

Combine everything in a container with a lid and shake vigorously until everything has blended together. Store in the fridge for up to a week.

 

Cheddar Corn Biscuits

Posted on: December 5, 2012

How has your week been going? Mine has been fine but I know it’s been a little quite around here. I’ve done a bit of traveling this week and have more to go which is a nice change of pace but can also be exhausting. It’s the type of exhausting that makes me want to just curl up on the couch with my leftover chili and watch Veronica Mars (corniest 90s show ever but we are addicted) all night. Sorry VV, you take up too much energy for me right now.

But I promised and I usually like to be a girl of my word. So here I am! And as I promised, here is the buttery and addictive biscuit recipe that complaints that healthy Black Bean & Wheatberry Chili recipe perfectly. If you missed the chili recipe, it’s featured on The Kitchn today so hop on over and check it out!

We even used leftover biscuits to make biscuits and gravy with Wyatt’s favorite Sage Gravy! Mmmmm. And I have a feeling that breakfast sandwiches are in our very VERY near future. Breakfast for dinner? Well hello evening plans!

 

 

Cheddar Corn Biscuits

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup frozen corn (or fresh!)
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), cubed
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I made my own out of the milk I had on hand)

Grease a baking sheet (it may take 2 sheets depending on how thick you make the biscuits). In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, black pepper, baking powder, and baking soda. Next, add in the butter and use your hands to incorporate the butter into the dough until it resembles a coarse meal.

Next, fold in the cheese, onions, and corn. Finally, add the buttermilk and mix until just combined (don’t over mix or the dough will become tough).

Transfer dough to a slightly floured surface and roll out to about an inch thick (more or less depending on how you like your biscuits) and use a cookie cutter or glass to circle cut outs. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.

Stick the cookie sheet (with the prepared dough) into the fridge and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Let the biscuits chill while it is preheating because the cold butter will help to make the biscuits flakier.

Bake for about 25 minutes (mine took 30 but my oven ALWAYS takes longer than what a recipe recommends so check often).

Serve warm with soup or gravy or by themselves with a little butter!

 

 

Black Bean & Wheatberry Chili

Posted on: December 3, 2012

 

Morning, Morning. Can you believe it is already December? It sure does not feel like it. I don’t know about where you live but I’m located in the Midwest and we are suppose to have some 70 degree weather today (such a weird introduction to winter…). Not that I’m complaining but I would have considered making something a little more…light and refreshing had I known it was going to be so warm. Ah well, this chili is oh so delicious regardless of the temperature.

I’m not going to lie. I am really proud of this recipe. It’s packed with so much nutrients I can hardly wrap my head around it. We are talking loads of protein, fiber, vitamin C, iron, potassium, vitamin A, etc etc etc. The list goes on and if you make the beans from scratch… this chili is packed full of fresh and non-processed foods as well. I’ve never felt soooo good about gobbling down a bowl of food. And not to mention, it is absolutely delicious. The wheat berries give it slight chewy texture while the cocoa powder (learned that trick thanks to a very good friend of mine) bring a new complexity to the flavor.

Oh and don’t worry! If my over zealous attitude towards super healthy eating is freaking you out – I made some oh so irresistible Corn Cheddar biscuits to go with packed full of two sticks of butter and loads of gooey cheese [recipe on that to follow tomorrow!]

This recipe is vegan (unless you add cheese and sour cream) and makes about six serving. You could even double the recipe and plan to have leftovers for lunch the rest of the week.

 

 

Black Bean & Wheatberry Chili

adapted from Eating Well
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups black beans, cooked (I used dried but feel free to use canned)
  • 1 24 ounce can of diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (I used homemade)
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked wheat berries, cooked*
  • Juice of 1 lime

 

  • Avocado, optional
  • sour cream, optional
  • cilantro for garnish, optional

Heat olive oil over medium in a large pot. Add in the onion, carrots, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 7 to 10 minutes or until all the vegetables has softened. Next, add in the tomatoes, broth, black beans, and cocoa powder. Bring the chili to a bowl, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Add wheat berries and let cook for another two minutes.

Remove from heat and squeeze in lime juice. Serve with garnish options (avocado, sour cream cilantro, plain yogurt, etc).

*To cook 1 1/2 cups of Wheatberries: Rinse 3/4 cup of berries and letting them simmer for 45 minutes or until softened.

 

 

 

 

Searchable Saturdays

Posted on: December 1, 2012

Okay, let’s try something different. So I’m a visual person and there is a good chance that you are too. I resisted using photos in my Searchable Saturday’s posts for a long time because 1. I feel uneasy about using other people’s work and like to try to keep it strictly original around VV and 2. I am very particular about all the photos being uniform and the same size, shape, etc.

But you know what? Screw it. There are some REALLY gorgeous photos from the links this week and I’m going to show them off.

1. Already prepping for the Holidays? Me too! Click here are some beautiful (and free!) printable gift tags for all your holiday gifts!

 

 

2. I call myself a baker but have never made a pie with a lattice top. Shameful? Probably. Perhaps this tutorial is just what I need to push my baking boundaries….

 

 

3. This week I have been enormously inspired by Cannelle et Vanille’s food photography. As I continue the journey to find my aesthetic and grow my photography, I’ve noticed (thanks to Pinterest) that I am drawn to “busy” food photography overloaded with colors, shapes, and textures.

4. I’ve been craving some DIY projects in my life. Adding making this geometric garland to my weekend goals!

5. Don’t know the difference between bread and pastry flour? Check out this great quick flour reference for all your flour needs!

Well, I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend! I’m off to pick up my winter CSA box…

November Wrap Up

Posted on: November 30, 2012

…And there goes another month. Isn’t it crazy how fast time seems to be going by? Thanksgiving has come and gone, the Christmas shopping is underway, and holiday cookies are on the mind. How about a quick recap of the past month before we jump into cookie cutters, green/red sprinkles, and chocolate covered everything?

 

Some favorite highlights from the past month:

     

1. Rosemary Vegetable Soup with Rustic Bread – Fresh bread and a hearty vegetable soup. Cannot think of a better way to bring in the cold evenings.

2. Cranberry Mojito – Festive and delicious! This drink was the perfect starter at our Friendsgiving party.

3. Pumpkin Dog Biscuits – Tuko turned 1 so I had to spoil the crap out of him with homemade biscuits and a new sweater. Believe me, I will be making these again very soon for Christmas gifts for all the adorable pups in my life.

4. Dark Chocolate Raspberry Espresso Scones – they were an extra amazing breakfast treat! The flavor was rich and complex with a flaky texture that was pretty much irresistible!

 

And that sums it up!

 

Moving forward… here are a few winter goals I am planning to tackle in the dark, cold months ahead:

1. Make homemade ricotta cheese (this has been on my list forever and I am going to do it this time!)

2. Get into a morning yoga routine

3. Make more homemade salad dressings

4. Work on my photography skills // work on lighting

5. Learn basic CSS (or at least enough to get my logo up in that corner where the V is!!)

6. Get into Twitter

7. Make homemade cleaning supplies

 

Okay, that is a start. Should keep me busy for awhile [I hope]. What you are hoping to accomplish this winter?

 

Boozy Stout Brownies

Posted on: November 28, 2012

I was soooo excited to receive the newest edition of Chickpea Magazine in the mail last week that I instantly had the urge to start cooking out of it. I could have chose the healthy Wild Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash or the hearty Butternut Squash Fennel Lasagna but instead I was drawn to these Boozy Stout Brownies. Alcohol and chocolate? Go figure.

These vegan gems were extra rich and gooey. I’d suggest munching down on these with a big glass of Homemade Soy Milk and plan on sharing them with your friends. These are perfect for that Holiday vegan potluck coming up or to bring in to work (Am I the only one who works with handful of vegans? I bet not!).

 

 

Boozy Stout Brownies

  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup canola or coconut oil
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup soy yogurt
  • 1/2 cup stout beer
  • 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a 8×8 pan with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and cocoa powder. In another bowl, combine the brown sugar, oil, yogurt, and beer. Make a well in the center of the dried ingredients and add in the wet ingredients. Fold dry into wet until a thick batter has formed. Lastly, fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and cook for 30 minutes or until the center has set.

Let cool slightly and serve warm!

 

 

Spiced Sweet Potato Hummus

Posted on: November 26, 2012

Did everyone [From the US] have a wonderful long weekend? Are you all busy Cyber Monday shopping for the best holiday deals instead of working right now? Don’t worry. I won’t tell! I would be as well but I spent all my money on Black Friday (yup – I’m one of those that goes out at Midnight to save myself 50 bucks). Ah well. It’s all part of the adventure, right?

Oh! Please disregard the shamble that is my ‘recipes’ page right now. It’s in the process of being re-vamped and should hopefully be back to normal tomorrow. Cool? Cool and thanks for being so patient!

Anyhow, wanna talk hummus? Remember when I made that amazing Spicy Jalapeno Corn Hummus? Damn, that stuff was sooooooo good. Well, I’m back with more funky flavors and this one might take the cake. The soft sweet potatoes create the perfect texture for a creamy and flavorful dip. Seriously, this stuff is crazy good. And smother it on top of those homemade Sesame and Poppyseed Crackers and you are golden!

Impress your guests at your next holiday party with not only homemade crackers but homemade dip as well! Or save it all for yourself….that is what I did.

 

 

Spiced Sweet Potato Hummus

Adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon
  • 1 large sweet potato, cubed
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (I made mine from dried beans but feel free to use canned)
  • 4 Tablespoons tahini
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil (you may need more if the hummus comes out thick)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha
  • dash of nutmeg
  • dash of cinnamon
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Lower to medium low and add in the sweet potatoes. Cook until softened (about 10 to 15 minutes). Strain and let cool.

In a large blender or with a food processor, blend all the ingredients together until a desired consistency is reached. Taste and add more olive oil if dry, more sriracha if not spicy enough for you, or more lemon juice to bring out the flavors more.

Serve with homemade crackers!

 

 

 

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