Entries Tagged as 'summer'

Summer Vibes // Driftless Magazine Giveaway

Posted on: July 28, 2014

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

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

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Farmer’s Garden Stuffed Pimiento Cheese Veggie Burgers

Posted on: July 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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Grilled Pretzel Panzanella Salad + A Summer Stock Up Giveaway

Posted on: June 30, 2014

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

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

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

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

Posted on: June 23, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Salted Date Caramel Cashew Tart with Mocha Graham Crust

Posted on: June 16, 2014

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

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

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Rosemary & Garlic Smashed Purple Potatoes

Posted on: June 12, 2014

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

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

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Citrus Biscotti with Hibiscus Glaze

Posted on: May 31, 2014

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

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

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

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Let’s Talk About Driftless Magazine

Posted on: May 27, 2014

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

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

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

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Here are the hard facts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boozy Citrus & Whipped Goat Cheese Popsicles

Posted on: May 16, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Posted on: May 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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Spinach & Radicchio Salad with Broiled Citrus Vinaigrette

Posted on: May 5, 2014

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I know, I know. You are all over winter citrus and have moved on to asparagus and ramps. However, I can’t resist a beautiful blood orange and had to pick up the last few at our local co-op since these are what I can only assume to be the last batch of the season.

I discovered the technique of cooking citrus this past winter and am basically hooked. There is a completely new, sharp flavor that the citrus takes on when caramelized slightly and its not to be overlooked. I recommend using broiled, roasted, and grilled citrus in something that will let the fruit flavor shine instead of burying it under a dish chocked full of too many ingredients. You can count on there being lots of outdoor grilling days ahead with grilled citrus over the open coals.

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We are dangerously fast approaching salad season here at the Blue Bush (that is the term for our bright blue house that we reside in). Our kitchen doesn’t have air-conditioning so we tend to live off of raw foods for much of the warmer months. Oh and grilling – did I mention how much Midwesterns love a good cookout? Yup, salads for lunch and grilling for dinner. That is our summer routine.

Although air conditioning would be super rad, I’m not too mad about it. This will be our third summer here and I’ve learned to really appreciate the diversity that can be made with a big bowl of raw veggies and some wonderful dressing.

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Chocolate & Toasted Coconut Olive Oil Cake [with vegan option]

Posted on: April 14, 2014

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Every year our local radio station puts on an all day music event in the park. To me, it always marks that first day of true spring in Bloomington. It is often times the first Saturday that its warm enough to grill out and enjoy a picnic in the park while listening to some wonderful local and national music. It also usually lines up with being the first Saturday that the outdoor farmer’s market is in full swing.

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This year’s event was this past Saturday and the spring fever did not disappoint. I started the day with a walk to the farmer’s market and enjoyed smelling all the budding trees along the way. The sun was out and we welcomed temperatures above anything we’ve felt in 6+ months. I spent the afternoon planting wildflowers and playing around in the kitchen with the sun streaming in (oh what a difference it makes!).

We grilled out for dinner and I whipped up a cake for our guests. Ha, I know – a cake for a grill out? You can tell I’m rusty since a well disciplined griller would have found something that could be made over the hot coals. Unfortunately, it’s still a little early for berries and our citrus bounty has long since disappeared so cake it was! Delicious, moist, chocolatey cake – I must add!

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Rosemary Walnut Ice Cream // A Recipe From Scoop Adventures

Posted on: April 4, 2014

 

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Well, we are finally past the ‘polar vortex’ phase of the year and have officially started moving into spring (which means constant thunderstorms and luscious greenery popping up everything for us Midwesterns). What better way to welcome spring than with an earthy ice cream flavored with rosemary, honey, and chunks of walnuts? My ice cream maker has been accumulating dust since I got it for Christmas and it’s about time we wore this puppy in.

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This recipe is from Scoop Adventure, a new ice cream book by Lindsay Clendaniel that takes you around the country to all the best ice cream parlors. I was so excited to open up this book and find my own hometown ice cream parlor, Hartzell’s, featured for the state of Indiana. This rosemary walnut ice cream isn’t the Hartzell recipe and I’m not even going to tell you what it is, so your just gonna have to pick up this book for yourself. Heck, I bet your town is in there..or maybe a town you grew up in or went to on vacation…I bet some ice cream shop you love is featured and you won’t even know until you pick up this 192 pager.

 

 

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Tell me you’ve made homemade ice cream before, right? Good. So then you know what I’m talking about when I say that homemade ice cream has the most wonderful fresh and creamy texture that you’ll never find in a carton of Kroger brand cookies and cream. It’s rich while tasting light and every bite is bursting with the flavors of your choosing.

 

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The honey I used in this recipe was a jar we picked up in Marco Island during our little adventure earlier this spring. It’s saw palmetto honey, which has a very distinct flavor profile to it. The distinct flavor reminds me of relaxing on a white sand beach in the everglades. That means I taste a little bit of adventure with every spoonful.

 

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Greek Goddess Celebratory Nachos

Posted on: April 1, 2014

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These aren’t just any nachos – these are celebratory nachos! These are ‘I just got nominated for a Best Food Blog Award’ by Saveur Magazine and am gonna treat myself to nachos and ice cream for dinner. I still remember the first time I voted for Saveurs BFBA three years ago and felt like I had such a strong opinion on who should win every category because I knew one blog per category. And I remember the first time I saw Oh, Ladycake’s badge on her site and was like ‘Wow. That would look mighty nice on VV’ (ha!). Fast forward several years and I can honestly say I follow 80% of the blogs nominated and consider a large portion of them dear blog friends of mine.

I guess what I am trying to say is that, if you are feeling it, you should hop on over and vote for VV in the ‘special diet category’ on Saveur’s site. But honestly, its okay if you don’t because I’m just happy to be a part of the club and mentioned among so many talented writers and photographers. I’m thinking of it as a win-win since I’ll be munching on Laura’s Quinoa Onion Rings if The First Mess wins and this Orange Chocolate Tart if Happyyolks is sent to Vegas.

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These nachos are like no nachos you’ve probably ever munched on before. According to Food52, the most important elements for nachos are quality ingredients and strong layering ethic. We’ve got both of those bases covered here. These are a mix between eating a greek pita sandwich and a faleffel burger.

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Chickpea Dumplings in Curry Tomato Sauce

Posted on: September 22, 2013

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I know you were starting to worry. You were starting to wonder if my diet really could consist of sugar and alcohol based on the recipes that have been posted on VV the last month or so. So, in an attempt to show you a some-what ‘normal’ side of my diet, I’m posting this dumpling recipe which is an evening go-to in our home. Curry is always welcome around here and we tend to make it about once a week in the cooler months. I like this recipe because it breaks up the usual vegetable-sauce-rice ratio and has protein-rich dumplings cooked right in. Also, the best part about the dumpling literally steaming into the sauce is that it doesn’t take any longer than it would for you to simmer a pot of homemade curry sauce.

This recipe is traditionally prepared by frying the dumplings but I’ve chosen to steam them in the tomato sauce instead for both time and health sake. Think of it as an Indian-curry version of chicken and dumpling stew. Except the sauce plays a much more flavorful part than in our traditional comfort stew. The dumplings end up gooey and steaming them in the sauce lends to the dumplings soaking up the flavors around them.

We serve ours over basmati rice but you can make it a little bit healthier by substituting brown rice. We also like to top ours with greek yogurt for an extra creamy consistency but it’s plenty flavorful without the yogurt if you are trying to keep it vegan.

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Vanilla Bean & Fig Shortbread Drizzled with Honey Glaze

Posted on: September 8, 2013

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This past week has been wonderful. It was my birthday on Wednesday and I’ve been spoiled silly by so many wonderful people. Packages in the mail, trips to the city, visits from my mother, late night dinners. All this positive attention reminded me that I can also spoil myself a little -I decided I was entitled to as much sangria and shortbread as I please during this week. I whipped up a big batch of sangria and peach shortbread last Sunday and spent the week picking away at it. Heck, I even ran out of shortbread by Wednesday and whipped up another batch; this time I whipped up these fig shortbread bars.

Sometimes you are kind of nervous about getting older and the only cure is large amounts of butter and sparkling wine. Oh and having amazing people in your life.

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

Posted on: 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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Summer Recap Zine // Vegetarian Ventures Issue 1

Posted on: August 29, 2013

 

I already showed this on VV’s Facebook and Pinterest yesterday but I wanted to share it with all of you. I created a short Summer recap zine with some of my favorite highlights for what has been going on around VV this past season.

I am totally hooked on independent magazines right now. Having articles published in Chickpea, Incadenscent, and Remedy Quarterly has made me realize how fun it is to see your work in print. There is something so satisfying about being able to stack your pieces of creative work on a shelf instead of in a hard drive. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the internet but there is nothing better than being able to flip through pages of inspiration over and over again.

In addition to hoping to write a small recap zine every season, I’d really love to start making a collaborative publication in the near future. I really enjoy the community that is built around having a blog and would love to expand it beyond guest posts and re-pins. You know, something physical [eventually] and filled with recipes, adventures, tricks, tips, guides, drawing, a cute name (Toast? Hibiscus?), and (of course) beautiful photography. I realize that will mean recruiting a co-op of writers, adventures, photographers, taste-makers, bakers, and designers (these people could be YOU. Yes? No? Maybe?). Until then, I’ve got my VV recap zine to get my technique down.

What independent zines have you been lusting over lately? I’ve been SO into Kinfolk, Pure Green Magazine, and Weekend Almanac.

Currently Crushing

Posted on: August 11, 2013

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In an attempt to not completely fall off the grid during the ‘dog days of summer’, I thought I’d fill you in on a few things I’ve been up to aside from cooking. With my kitchen lacking air conditioning (UGH), I’ve been keeping the cooking to a minimum and mostly sticking to veggie centric salads, staple recipes that I know are quick, and grilling outside.

Anyhow,  I’ve been turning to other outlets of inspiration – mostly spending a large portion of my free time reading and thought I’d share a few recent favorites with you guys.

Top right: I found this back issue of Pure Green Magazine at a local bookstore and am totally in love. This particular issue is their ‘food’ issue and features articles ranging from the history of ancient grains to a step by step on how to make the best coffee. It has become a new indie magazine staple to add to my shelf alongside Chickpea Quarterly and Kinfolk.

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Grilled Maple Bourbon Glazed Panzanella Salad

Posted on: August 7, 2013

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My idea for this was to make a savory bread salad without it turning into bread pudding or baked french toast (which was sightly harder than you might think). But adding tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil (peppers would be good too!) – it creates that sweet and savory sensation which is irresistible in this salad!

This time of year is all about cooking with fresh-from-the-garden produce. It’s that time where salads shine and raw is more. This makes me appreciate the method more than ever. No 30 steps involved in getting to that end casserole or sautéing followed by roasted following by rolling followed by baking. With fresh summer recipes, it’s about slightly cooking (if at all) to achieve a hint of flavor that accents the fresh flavors of your colorful produce.

I think this is the reason I love grilling so much. It’s simple and feels very natural to grill veggies over an open fire to bring out their flavors. Or to slightly caramelize fruit until it melts in your mouth. This salad is bursting with raw flavors while meshing perfectly with the smoky nuance of the bread and fruit.

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And yes, I burnt some of the bread (see picture above – maybe it was because I was grilling in high heel sandals?!). That is one of my favorite parts about cooking… even after years in the kitchen (or in this case…the back yard), I’m still making mistakes and learning. I’ve been camping most weekends for the last month so my delusions about knowing my way around the grill were at a record high. Wyatt usually takes charge of the grill and you can most certainly tell by the state of that piece on the way left.

Also, moving on from talking about this salad, I wanted to let you know that I know that I’ve been a little absent on here lately. It’s not my fault… well sort of my fault. Summer has brought house guests staying for days on end (and more coming!), random cross country adventures, and desires for new hobbies. But I do have to admit, even after having loads of fun with these out-of-the-ordinary adventures, I still always want to come back to cooking. Flying 10 hours across the country is really just an opportunity (in my mind) to gather new recipe inspiration from road side diners and produce stands by the ocean. Taking up sanding is just an excuse for me to build more shelving units for blog props. You get the picture…I miss being around here and am glad to be back. : ]

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Grilled Maple Bourbon Glazed Panzanella

Serves 2
  • 1 loaf of day old bread (I used a baguette), sliced in half
  • 1 large cucumber or 3 small cucumbers, sliced into bite size strips
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Combination of Stone fruit (I used 2 peaches and 2 plums), halved
  • Handful of basil, torn
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil

For the glaze:

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • dash of Salt / Pepper

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In a small saucepan, whisk together the glaze ingredient and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, remove from heat, and set aside to thicken (about five minutes).

Start the grill. Brush the bread and fruit with honey bourbon glaze. Stick on the grill (watching closely!) and brown on each side. Time will completely depend on how hot your coals are but mine took about a minute on each side for bread and 3 minutes for the fruit.

Dice the bread and fruit into bite size pieces and toss with cucumber, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, 2 Tablespoons leftover glaze, salt, and pepper. Serve warm.

 

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Pacific Coast Exploring – Part 1

Posted on: July 29, 2013

I apologize for the lack of ‘food’ posts this week but I have a good excuse. I’ve been 2,000 miles away from my kitchen on an epic road trip starting in San Francisco and trailing up through Portland. This last week has been a whirlwind; 12 hours of flying, 2 major cities, an epic ocean, 10 hours of driving, two picnics, one amazing friend, endless seasonal food, and dozens of mix CDs later…I come to you with a recap of my week in the form of photos.

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Let’s start with a little background to set  this photo story up. This is Ella – within the past five years, we’ve been friends, roommates, class mates, and now exploration partners. While I’ve been off having a day job and manning down this wonderful VV blog, she’s been busy living out of her car and traveling the country while working on organic farms and gaining wilderness training in dozens of national parks. Although I love my cushiony life in the Midwest, I couldn’t help but want to be a part of her adventures and made a promise to meet her in San Fran at the end of the summer. I flew from Indianapolis to Atlanta and then to San Francisco. She picked me up in her car-turned-home and we were off along the 101 for the next three days.

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And this is me. I probably didn’t need to introduce myself because you probably already know me – whether it’s through this blog, or in person, or from the gossip channels known as the internet (okay, let’s be real – you probably don’t know me because of that). But just in case, and for the sake of this picture story, this is me. The 20-something, sort-of-paranoid, adventure-lusting, food-lover.

 And this is the a photo tour of our journey through California (Part 1).

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Chickpea Cobb Salad Cups

Posted on: July 21, 2013

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It has been hot hot HOT here in the Midwest. It’s hard to get motivated to eat copious amounts of food (let alone turn your oven on) in this heat. I’m not complaining… this is always the time of year that I start to master my salads. When  you start eating the things three times a day, you are bound to get creative with them. Corn relish, seasoned chickpeas, baked goat cheese, preserved lemons, stuffed tomatoes, polenta croutons…the options with salads are endless!

 

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When imagining these cups, think Americanized lettuce wraps (and not the kind you get at P F Changs). These little cups are filled with a vegetarian Cobb inspired salad. You can fill the cups with goodies before hand or put all the toppings in individual bowls and let people pick and choose how much of everything goes into their cup. Or you could even do it lettuce wrap style and mix the salad ingredients together in one bowl and then let your guests scoop the desired amount into little raddichio leaves.

If you’ve never had raddichio before, it’s a must try (especially for any salad lover). They look like mini red cabbages but have a flavor profile closer to the endive. Raddichio is slightly bitter and is part of the chicories family along with endives and escaroles. You can mellow out the slightly spicy / bitter taste by roasting the vegetable but I personally think it gives the perfect raw edge to this, otherwise pretty tame, Cobb salad.

 

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Fresh Squeezed Bloody Mary with Rosemary Infused Vodka & Goat Cheese Olives

Posted on: July 15, 2013

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I’m all about playing around and inventing new cocktails (see: Loaded Hibiscus Arnold Palmer, Blueberry Basil Peach Fizz, etc) but sometimes you just need to go with a traditional cocktail. And NOTHING (I mean NOTHING) is better than a fresh squeezed Bloody mary during peak tomato season. It’s savory and spicy and elegant and just darn right delicious.

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There is this AWFUL local sports bar that we used to go to on Sundays because it was right next to our old house. And when I say awful..I mean awful. Big screen TVs so loud that you can’t hear the person next to you, bland bar foods that leaves the one vegetarian option of french fries, and snooty blonde waitresses that pay you no attention knowing they’ll get bigger tips from the table of men across the room. But despite the terrible service and atmosphere, I became addicted to their signature Bloody Mary’s. I didn’t even know I LIKED Bloody Mary’s before I had one here. It was like a meal in a glass…savory, peppery, and full of spice. This is what got me hooked.

This takes quite a few tomatoes to make a decent amount of juice so this is a recipe you’ll want to make at the peak of garden season. Plus, this cocktail will taste the best with in-season, right off the vine, tomatoes. None of the ‘recipes’ below are exact. Unlike baking, making cocktails is all about experimenting and working in your personal preference. Like it spicy? Add more sriracha. Like it strong? Up the vodka ratio.

Also, I recommend not wasting the leftover tomato skins – I just put mine in the freezer for the next time I make some vegetable broth but you could also use them to make tomato paste or even just chop up and throw in a salad.

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Rosemary Infused Vodka

  • 3 large rosemary sprigs
  • 1 cup clear vodka

Combine vodka and rosemary in a clear glass jar and seal. Stick in the fridge and let infuse for several days (I did mine three days ahead of time). Shake once a day. Strain rosemary and use the infused vodka in all your favorite drinks.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Olives

  • 1 jar of green olives, drained and rinsed
  • 3 ounces of goat cheese (or chèvre)
  • Salt/Pepper

Mash the goat cheese with a little salt and pepper. Stuff the peppers with cheese. (Yup – that’s it).

Fresh Squeezed Bloody Marys

  • Assortment of Heirloom tomatoes (amount depends on size and desired servings. I used 4 large tomatoes per a serving), halved
  • 1 ounce of Rosemary infused vodka (see above) or any vodka you have on hand
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • dash worcestershire sauce (vegetarian version)
  • dash of Sriracha (you can even make your own over at Reclaiming Provincial)
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Juice from half a lime
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • Celery sticks, for garnish
  • Rosemary, for garnish

Squeeze the tomato insides into a blender and do a quick puree until smooth. Add in the vodka, lemon juice, lime juice, horseradish, worcestershire sauce, sriracha, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust with more salt / pepper / sriracha to your liking. Fill a glass with ice and pour cocktail into glass.

Garnish with celery, rosemary, and goat cheese olives.

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The Blue Bush

Posted on: July 12, 2013

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I had so much fun reading Baker Bettie’s post on their new home that it inspired me to give you guys a little peak into our lives.

It’s been one year since I started the ‘post college’ stage of my life that I’m currently knee deep in. It’s been a year since I moved into The Blue Bush with Wyatt and our peanut butter loving dog, Tuko. The Blue Bush (as we like to call it since…well…the outside of the house is bright blue) is a cozy little Midwest home that was built in 1910. Yup, that’s what the records say…1910. So, as you can imagine, the place isn’t exactly in tip top shape. We’ve worked hard to transform it into a home that reflects us and it’s been fun to watch the process unfold. I’ve collected quite a few pictures of the last year so I was thinking this could be a good time to show you around.

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This also means it’s been one year since we owned a microwave or a dishwasher. Can you guess which one we miss the most? What my nails wouldn’t do to have a rest from being drenched in soapy dish water for just ONE night.

As for the microwave… I always just forget they even exist these days. I still remember the look on Wyatt’s face when I first purposed not having a microwave in our new home…the look of bewilderment followed by complete disbelief. But he agreed and it’s been wonderful. I’ve learned SO many new things since having to go back to cooking ingredients the way they are supposed to be cooked (i.e. using a double boiler, boiling water over the stove top, etc). My favorite part about not having a microwave is that you always have to work for your food around here. Sure, if you REALLY want to just eat a frozen dinner of (veggie) nuggets then that’s fine…but you’ll have to bake them for 20 minutes in the oven which means you could just whip up some polenta / sautéed veggies in that same amount of time. It really has helped me to not take short cuts and prepare real food in the kitchen.

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We’ve filled the house with lots of vintage furniture…

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…And vinyl records..

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..And have filled our sunroom with house plants (which is a perfect little hideout full of green in the middle of winter)

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This is the studio room…

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<— Wyatt’s desk and (can you tell who is the clean one in this relationship? ahem, definitely not me…) and my desk —>

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We spent a lot of our time in the backyard. I’ve managed to build two gardens…one with herbs and one with vegetables. The cucumbers and zucchini have been going crazy and it’s finally time for the tomatoes to start ripening (!!!).

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Well, I just wanted to take the opportunity to show you around a little. It’s crazy it’s taken a whole year to get around to telling you about my obsession with house plants, my love for vinyl records, and show you a peak of our little cozy home. Thanks for reading!

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Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Posted on: July 8, 2013

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I don’t know about you but the term ‘enchilada sauce’ doesn’t exactly conger up fresh and summery images. It mostly makes me think of that dark, musky isle in the already dingy international grocery store where you have to brush the dust off the can before picking it up and throwing it into your cart. This off-putting imagery doesn’t happen with all mexican food. In fact, tamales conger up wonderful memories of watching my step-mother whipping up several dozen in our kitchen when I was little. And tacos make me think of fresh grilled pineapple and strong margaritas. But I don’t know – there’s something about that enchilada sauce…something about the old-fashioned design on the cans that make me think it’s been on the shelf since that art was in style in the 80s (maybe even 70s?).

That was until I decided to start making my own. And everything changed in the enchilada world for me. It doesn’t taste like the enchilada sauce from the can…it taste so much fresher. And though it’s not the flavor your tongue is expecting at first, you will glow with the realization that this is how enchilada sauce is supposed to taste. Fresh and spicy. A little tomatoey, peppery, and full of heat. Of course, the amount of heat you’d like to create is up to you. Different peppers will result in different spice levels so go ahead and get acquainted with what peppers work for you (okay, so maybe that link is a little over-kill but it’s sort of fun to realize that all these peppers exist..)

This recipe isn’t challenging but there are lots of little steps – mostly simple ways to remove the outer peels from the tomatoes and peppers to create a creamier sauce. Don’t feel discouraged by the wordy directions below – it won’t take long and you’ll have deliciously fresh enchilada sauce in no time!

PS – Oh…and it’s vegan!

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Homemade Enchilada Sauce

  • 2 fresh red chilis, sliced in half with the seeds removed
  • 1 1 /2 cups vegetable broth (I used homemade)
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut a large X in the bottom of both
  • 2 jalapeños (or 1 poblano pepper)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chopped oregano
  • salt/pepper, to taste

Add vegetable broth to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add chili peppers and let simmer for about 15 minutes or until soft. Remove from heat but DON’T drain the broth. Set aside.

Chard the jalapeños by placing them directly over a gas burner flame until blackened on all sides (or broil in your oven). Remove from heat and immediately transfer to a plastic sandwich bag. Let steam in the bag for about 15 minutes and peel the skins right off. Cut in half and remove seeds. Set aside.

Bring another saucepan full of water to a boil and get a bowl full of ice water ready. Add tomatoes and blanch for a minute or two or until the skins peel right off. Remove from heat and transfer tomatoes to the bowl of ice water. Peel tomatoes and then dice.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until translucent (about 7 minutes). Add tomatoes, tomato paste, chillis with the vegetable broth liquid, jalapeño, oregano, and cumin. Let simmer for 10 minutes and remove from heat. Once slightly cooled, transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.

Use right away or store in the fridge for up to four days.

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