Raw Onion Crackers

It has been forever. I haven’t been developing recipes. More just experimenting in the kitchen and enjoying the freedom of being in the moment with cooking.  Not taking notes or writing anything down.  But, it is back to recipe making for me.

Of late, I have been trying to eat more raw while at home. Out. It doesn’t matter. I feel like our bodies give us signs that we need to change our diet or our lifestyle. And for me it was my hair. It started to look dry and brittle. No longer any shine or luster. I wanted to make sure my diet had less of my favorites (bread, dairy, sugar, caffeine) and more whole foods. Thank goodness it is spring and I can barely keep up with the food that I am harvesting from the garden. Vegetables abound. Yet, this recipe does not happen to include any such vegetables. Instead, it is for onion crackers. Which are totally inspired by Matt Amsden’s Famous Onion Bread.  They do happen to pair quite well as a side to a fresh garden salad though.

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This makes a small batch. Just enough for snacking on over the week. However, it is easily doubled or even tripled for that matter.

I use my oven as it can be set at 100 degrees. However, you can also use a dehydrator tray lined with a Teflex sheet, but I don’t own one so I cannot verify the time and temperature.

Ingredients:

  •  1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbs sesame seed
  • 3 Tbs chia seed
  • 1 Tbs Nama Shoyu
  • 1Tbs olive oil, extra virgin cold-pressed
  • 3 Tbs water
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and mix until you get a smooth puree. It will still have bits and chunks so don’t stress. Just until it is mixed and the onions seem chopped.

Spread the mixture on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Spread it as thin as you can without being paper thin. Just think a cracker. Then sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. You can go ahead and lightly score them if you want perfectly square pieces. I never do. I just break them apart once they are done.

Dehydrate them on 100 for roughly 20 hours (depending on how thin you spread the mixture, it may take up to 24), flipping them halfway through. I usually put another piece of parchment paper on them and us it to easily flip the entire mass. If you are prescoring them, score the other side as well.

Enjoy!

Turnip + Kale Bean Soup

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The perils of winter and its shortened days.  The cozy warm fire beckons one inside.  The cold crisp air, although intoxicating to some even in its sharpness, acts to deter even the most beloved of activities.  Farmers markets are forgone for the ease and convenience of the grocery store.  As shamefully hard as it is to admit, I don’t know the last time I stepped foot at the farmers market.  Whole Foods on the other hand, has become a frequented location.

On these bitter cold days, when all I seem to want is to warm my bones, and baths have become a nightly ritual, soup seems the best choice for dinner.  Soup made of hearty ingredients.  Soup that has one dreaming of spring and warmer days.

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This soup requires a “bouquet garni”, or a bundle of herbs tied together with string and used to prepare soup, stock, and various stews. The bouquet is cooked with the other ingredients, but is removed before serving.  If it were spring, or even summer or fall for that matter, I would walk barefoot out the doors of our home, to the garden and wander along the beds, choosing an assortment of fresh herbs.  However, with winter at hand, I was at the mercy of the grocery store.

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Turnip + Kale Bean Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bouguet garni (with a sprig each of sage, oregano, rosemay, and tarragon)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 lb turnips, chopped
  • 6 cups water (or vegetable broth if you prefer, but the herbs bring enough flavor on their own)
  • 2 cans of cannellini beans (I much prefer to use dried beans and cook flavor into them myself, however, I did not have any one hand, nor did the store), drained and rinsed
  • 2 large handfuls of kale, chopped
  •  juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 Tbs parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Gently heat oil in a large stock pot adding the onions and sauté until they begin to color and soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, bay leaves, and bouquet garni and cook for another minute or so, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the turnips and cook for just a moment (like 30 seconds) adding the water to the pot.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until the turnips are soft but not breaking down.  Add the beans and kale and cook until they are heated through. Remove from heat as well as remove the herbs and bay leaves.  Add the lemon juice and parsley and stir to combine.

Serve immediately and enjoy.

Winter Granola

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I rarely eat a hot breakfast, even in the winter.  Those are kept for special occasions.  The times the table is full of family and loved ones.  Most mornings (confession), I spend eating breakfast while I am getting ready to head out the door or eating while I sit down to begin the work of the day.  Either way, it is usually something that requires little more than putting things together in a bowl.  Granola is a perfect example of that.  Hence, it is pretty much a staple in my mind.  Keeping a bag in the freezer at all times just seems like a good idea.  Plus, cereal and granola have always been a favorite dessert or post dinner late night snack.

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Winter seems to me to be the best time for granola.  When no other fruit, besides the obvious citrus family, is fresh and in season, bananas are my staple.  And what better accompaniment to a banana then granola and yogurt.

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This recipe is dairy free and could easily be gluten free by substituting or omitting as necessary.

Winter Granola

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups oats
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
  • 1/3 cup chia seed
  • 1/3 cup flax seed
  • 1/3 cup buckwheat groats
  • 1/4 cup sucanat
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, plus extra for baking sheet
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbs coconut milk

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The directions here are the same for every granola I make (see here and here).

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil rimmed baking sheet with extra coconut oil.  Combine oats, pumpkin seeds, coconut, chia seed, flax seed, buckwheat groats, sucanat, spices and salt in a large bowl.   Set aside.  In a small saucepan over low heat, whisk together honey, oil, milk, and vanilla until mixture is completely melted and combined.  Pour over oat mixture and coat well.   Spread out on baking sheet.  Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring often.  Let cool on baking sheet on wire rack for 1 ½ hours undisturbed.  Break up and store.  (I like to keep it in the freezer.)  Makes over 5 cups.

Colcannon…a Winter Staple

Well, maybe staple is too strong of a word. These days, nothing is really a staple.  I don’t know if I could even tell you the last five things I cooked.  Other than bread (which if we are being technical, I know, it is baking, but I am not into technicalities).  Bread has been my staple.  But I am trying to break that habit.  Thus far successful.  I have not baked a loaf of bread since Thanksgiving.

Colcannon.  My mother mentioned it the other day.  It is a word that creates instant craving.  A word that stays in my head until it has been satisfied.  Colcannon is one of those dishes I was introduced to later in life and was sold from the first bite. A simple dish of potatoes and cabbage, it is easy to cook. Rustic, basic, delicious. My only experience and knowledge with Colcannon is from Jane Brody’s “Good Food Book”. For me, that is all I know. Her’s is not the authentic (apparently, traditionally it is made sans the cheese and milk but I can’t imagine it without).  So, this recipe is an adaptation of an adaptation.  And with a French twist to an Irish classic.

Colcannon

serves 6

  • 1 3/4 lb russet potatoes, washed and left whole
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 c green cabbage, chopped
  • 2 c dinosaur kale, chopped (or similar hearty variety)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup + 2 Tbs whole milk
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 5 oz gruyere, shredded
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by bringing a pot of lightly salted water to boil.  Add the bay leaves and whole, unpeeled potatoes.  Cook until they are tender and not overcooked and mushy.  Remove from water (but do not drain water) along with bay leaves,  setting aside potatoes to cool.  Discard the bay leaves.

Add the cabbage, kale, and onions to the potato water and boil for 5 minutes under tender.  Drain the vegetables.

Once the potatoes are cool and can be handled, peel of the skin.  Place in a bowl and add the milk and butter and mash until smooth.  (I actually don’t mind if they aren’t completely smooth…it adds a little texture.)

Add the cheese and nutmeg to the potatoes and mix until combined.  Add the vegetables and again mix.  Season with salt and pepper as desired and transfer to a casserole dish.

Heat in the oven at 375 until it begins to slightly brown on top and is heated through.

Vegan Pumpkin Soup

With October came the cold. As if the earth awoke and realized fall had not yet descended.

I have fantasies of the changing seasons.  Fantasies based upon expectations.  Of excitement for what is to come.  Of being curled up before a bonfire. Of nights spent before the fireplace. Of crisp morning air. Of walking in the woods and the crunch of leaves underfoot. But there is always a bit of adjustment. The first cold is too cold. It is a shock. My body and soul call out involuntarily for the warm rays of the sun. My dreams belie my heart.  It is too sudden.  I am not ready for change.  I don’t welcome it.  I am not ready.  I am never ready.

The house feels cold. Aggressively cold. Not the cold of my dreams. Not the cold that is soothed by warm blankets, a fire, and the company of loved ones. No, this cold creeps into your bones. The constant longing for a bath. I know it will soon pass. I will get used to the cold. It won’t seem like much a month from now. Layers will continue to pile on my skin and seem as if my they in fact have become my skin. It will feel foreign to think of summer days and the sun’s rays baking upon my exposed skin.

So, for now, as all I seek is warmth and comfort from the constant chill, I will make soup. Soup will not cure the chill.  But it will do.  Because that is all that can be expected of it.

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Vegan Pumpkin Soup

Serves 6 as appetizers or an accompaniment

*of note, this soup has a kick…adjust according to taste

  • 1 medium pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, divided
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2-1 Tbs + another 2 Tbs organic, cold pressed olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbs garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs ginger root, minced
  • 1 tsp turmeric root, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups vegetable broth (homemade preferably)
  • 1 tsp orange peel
  • 1 Tbs orange juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2c coconut milk

Preheat the oven to 4oo.  Slice the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds etc.   Place on a baking sheet and cook until the flesh is soft and the skin begins to wrinkle.  Roughly an hour.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Combine the ground ginger, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, and 1/2 tsp salt.  Whisk in enough olive oil and mix with the pumpkin seeds to coat.  Toss onto a baking sheet and cook until toasted.  Don’t forget them!  Allow to cool while you continue with the soup.

Gently heat the remaining 2 Tbs olive oil in a soup pot.  Add the onion and cook over medium low heat for about 5 minutes until tender.  Add the garlic and cook another minute.  Now add the ginger, turmeric, cardamom, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, bay leaf, salt and pepper (just a dash of both…to taste later).  Continue to cook until the spices meld.  Just a couple of minutes.  Add the cooked pumpkin (removing skins first…they should peel off easily).  Stir to combine.

Add the vegetable broth, orange peel and orange juice.  Bring to a boil.  Then simmer, covered for 20-25 minutes.  Remove from heat and remove the bay leaf.  Using an immersion blender, blend the soup.  Once smooth, add the coconut milk and stir to combine.  Taste for salt and pepper if need be.

Serve the soup with the toasted pumpkin seeds on top.

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Basics: Yogurt

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Growing up I was teased (ever so gently mind you) by my sisters for being basic. I liked my food straightforward and simple. I didn’t like mixing flavors or ingredients. It wasn’t that I was picky about the items, I just did not want them melding together.

As I have grown older, I don’t mind the mixing (most definitely prefer it now), but some things still seem best left plain, simple, just as they are. One thing. Yogurt. I love plain yogurt. Now, don’t mistake me here. That doesn’t mean I don’t put all sorts of fruits, seeds, and nuts in it, because I do. But, I like to start with plain simple yogurt.

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Plain Yogurt

makes 4 cups, takes roughly 13 hours

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups good, local whole milk (I love to use Cruze Dairy Farm…makes it super rich and creamy…and the best part, gets a layer of cream on the top if you are lucky)
  • 1/4 cup yogurt with active live bacteria (try not to use skim…whole or at least 2%)

Supplies:

  • thermometer
  • pot with lid
  • towel
  • whisk
  • mason jars or containers for the yogurt
  • large covered casserole or Styrofoam container with lid (something water proof and heat safe)

Begin by heating your milk gently in a pot to 150 degrees.

While the milk begins to heat, I sterilize the jars for the yogurt.  Typically I use four 8 oz mason jars.  There is something so French about using glass for one’s yogurt.  Maybe because we have a collection of glass jars from the summer in France.  We ate yogurt just so we could have the jars.  Total side note.  Back to sterilizing glass.  Boil water and carefully pour the water into the jars and let sit while you finish making the yogurt.  One note.  I have never had the glass crack on me.  But add the water with care.  You can run hot tap water over the jars first, or heat the water, but not let it boil.

Back to the milk and the stove.  Remove from heat and cover the pot with a lid and a towel to keep nice and warm.  Hold for 30 minutes.  Remove the towel and lid and let cool down to 115-118 degrees.  Make sure the milk has lowered to under 120 degrees before adding the yogurt or you will kill the live bacteria.  Add the yogurt, stir and pour into sterilized jars (emptying the water prior).

Now, this is the key part.  The water bath.  Compliments of Dawn Raburn.  Whenever I have a question of life and health and homemaking, she is my go to resource (after my own mother of course).  She has seen and done it all and seems always ready with an answer.  So, carefully and gently put your glass jars, lids tightly secured, into your container and pour the hottest tap water possible or a mixture of tap water and a little boiled water around the jars, filling with water until just under the rims of the jars.  Now cover and let sit.  I usually put my yogurt in our oven.  Just someplace it won’t be disturbed and that is warm, away from any drafts.

You wait.  For 12 hours.  You can wait less.  8 hours if you like.  But I recommend 12.  Honestly, I forgot the yogurt one night and left it an additional 6.  I don’t recommend that.  It was okay.  Nothing bad happened.  I didn’t get sick and it tasted slightly more sour.  But still held the same smooth creamy consistency.  So, back to the yogurt at hand.  Remove from the water bath and put in the fridge.  That’s it.  You’re done.  Now, enjoy.  Eat and be glad.

 

 

 

Heading West…again

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The warm rays of the sun draw me back. Into a place of peace, excitement, joy, abandon. I close my eyes and try to remember. The feeling of leaving. The feeling of going. To leave the cares and the constant. The constant flow of thoughts and to do lists. I am sitting here, back home in Tennessee, with the gentle breeze softly dancing across my bare skin as I sit under the hot sun. I cannot help but want to go. The stirring which I thought had stilled remains. Always the temptation. Always the dream. Of places yet traveled. Of places so little explored. My list keeps growing. The more I see, the more I want to see and explore and soak in. I want to feel the sun’s rays from a million different places. To smell. To taste. To listen to the world and understand its differences.

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My heart seems easily wooed these days. One city after another captures it, if only in that moment. For mine is a fickle heart. Or maybe my love is not really love. Only infatuation. Only a crush.  The thrill of the moment.

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LA won my heart.  So much so, I was ready to pack my bags and leave my life here in Tennessee behind and start a new.  To find a new home.  To make a new life for myself.  But for now, I am here.  Learning a lesson in choosing contentment.  Sitting under the blue skies of Tennessee dreaming of our drive across the country and through the southwest.  A drive to move my little sister out west.  To her new home.

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Our Route: Dayton, TN to Los Angeles, CA

Summers are not really the best time of year to take road trips through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California, but that is exactly what we did.  Being the shortest route, there wasn’t much debate.  We didn’t want to spend all day driving.  We wanted time to see and do and explore.  We didn’t want to feel rushed.

Day 1:  Dayton to Memphis

We hit the road late in the day.  Of course.  We knew that we weren’t going to make it very far that day, so we didn’t feel pressure to head out early.  First pit stop, Nashville.  Dinner and conversation with my aunt.  Followed by the first of many latte stops.  Steadfast Coffee turned out to be one of the best stops during our trip.  Not because of the delicious lattes, but more for the conversation had.  We left happy and high, with a list of coffee shops to hit down the road and people to connect with in LA.

Day 2:  Memphis to Stillwater, OK

So, our plan.  Stop by 8pm each night and hit the road by 10am the next morning.  Don’t think we ever really accomplished that, but we tried.

Memphis surpassed our expectations.  The customer service and hospitality at the Double Tree in downtown was wonderful.  Sincere service.  And conveniently located, just minutes from the river walk which was perfect for a pre-drive exercise.

But, we couldn’t leave Memphis without two things:  coffee and BBQ.  First stop, City & State for lattes and some shopping.  Then to Central BBQ for a brunch made of a BBQ sandwich, BBQ nachos, and ginger beer.

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Pit stop:  Little Rock, AK…we weren’t fans.  Please, tell me what we missed and what we should have explored.  We did take the time to walk across the pedestrian bridge and run the steps to get our blood going.

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Final destination:  It is amazing how quickly a day can pass.  We only made it to a small town outside of Oklahoma City and late at night at that.

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Day 3:  Stillwater, OK to Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Albuquerque was on route.  However, we were so close to Santa Fe, we all thought an hour detour out of the way was worth it.  Who knows if or when we will be back this way.

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But first, pit stop in Amarillo, TX at Palace Coffee.  Definite recommendation from Steadfast Coffee.    Seriously such sweet owner and staff.  Wish we weren’t running behind schedule because we could have spent some serious time here.  But, we were hitting the road again to try to make Santa Fe before the sun went down.  Which we did, but barely.

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Day 4:  Santa Fe, New Mexico to Phoenix, Arizona

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We spent the morning in Santa Fe exploring the little compound we were staying at.  Santa Fe is wild and natural.  So much smaller than I expected, especially for a capital.  We were happy to stay outside the city as it was way more touristy than expected.

Before hitting the road for Arizona, we made one quick stop at Iconik Coffee.  I opted for tea.  I am a tea girl first thing in the morning, and was thoroughly pleased.  However, my sisters did vote the lattes as some of the best on the trip.  So, definite recommendation.

Next stop:  Flagstaff, Arizona and the meteor crater.

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Pit stop:  who knows where…we made a pact to stop every two hours no matter what to switch drivers and to do a set of five exercises.  We didn’t want anyone to ever get burnt out or struggle with sitting in a car all day.  The first couple of times might have been slightly embarrassing doing jumping jacks at a gas station but it was worth it.  Definite recommendation for any road trip.

So, our trip got pretty wild at this point. We were headed to the meteor crater when we hit our first massive storm.  Now, if we were at home, cozied up with a cup of tea, it might be one thing, but to be driving straight into a lightning storm in a seemingly deserted desert, pretty much we felt like we were either storm chasers or in some scary horror movie.  None of us actually felt like staying at the crater, let alone pay, to be out in the middle of a massive storm.  So back in the car and on the road we went.  Maybe the one time I longed for a bit more civilization and humanity (maybe also when we tried jogging in the back country of New Mexico).  There is something about feeling like we were the only ones out in the wild, that made us all a bit tense.  There were some definite screams as the lighting crashed down around us, and as I was driving, some very white knuckles.  But, then there was peace.  Even amidst the storm, we finally embraced the storm and waited for the beauty of each lightning strike.  God’s creation is amazing.  Powerful and mighty.  And so seemingly uncontrollable even though He is in complete control.

Final Destination:  The Boulders outside of Phoenix

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Hand down my favorite stay and probably my favorite stop on our trip.  If only we have had more time.  Such a peaceful respite.  We spent the evening lounging at our abode and the morning swimming in the pool, along with enjoying all the spa amenities.  This is a must return to.

We didn’t see much of Phoenix as we were on route to Joshua Tree and Palm Springs but we did stop at Cartel and loved it.  Definite recommendation.  Like I would take a trip to Phoenix based off of the vibe there.

Pit stop:  Joshua Tree.  How we thought this could just be a short pit stop, I am not sure.  But we hit it at just the right time.  Right before sunset.  Enough time to take a hike and then watch the sun light up the sky as it slowly sank between the hills.

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Final destination:  The Avalon in Palm Springs.  A perfectly cute boutique hotel.  The morning was spent lounging poolside once again.  Oh, if only more time, we would have been so sunburnt.

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Day 6:  Palm Springs to Los Angeles

Our final leg.  And once again, L.A.  Oh, just as good as the first time around, just more cozy.  More like home.  And lots of new favorites and recommendations.

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Coffee:  Verve

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Food:  Kitchen MouseLeo’s Taco Truck, and Van Leeuwen Ice Cream Truck

And then it came to a crashing hault.  Back to life in Tennessee.