Monday, May 16, 2016

Sunshine Kale Salad

I have a new recipe! It's like a Broccoli Raisin Salad/Kale Salad mash up. It was inspired by a salad we had at a restaurant recently. This is my attempt to recreate it. Dave and I went to Chattanooga several weeks ago for an overnight getaway! (A very rare occurance!) I haven't been there in years. What a great city! We loved it.

We went to Urban Stack, a local, cool, burger place our friends the Joneses recommended. We of course wanted to get a burger and fries, but this Sunshine Kale Salad on the menu looked really good. Dave suggested we split both...which is my favorite.  We got an incredible burger (with bacon, gruyère/ bleu cheese, and an onion compote) and fries.  
The salad was also so good and unique.  I tried to memorize it. I took a picture and when we got home I started looking up dressing recipes and merging a few to create this one.

Sunshine Kale Salad
(4-6 servings)
inspired by Urban Stack in Chattanooga, TN

the dressing (sweet onion vinaigrette)
makes more than enough- but you can save and use on another salad

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water (just to lighten in up)
1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 cup sugar (or honey or agave nectar)
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 small onion (chopped)

Finely chop onion in the blender.  Add all other ingredients EXCEPT oil.  Blend together until well incorporated and onion fully blended.  While blending, slowly add in oil until all well blended.

the salad
4 cups fresh broccoli -finely chopped
4 to 6 stalks of Kale washed, removed from the stalk and coarsely torn
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup sweetened flake coconut
1 mango- chopped
1/2 cup (or more) crumbled feta

Grilled chicken, optional (see HERE or HERE for recipes/instructions for that)

Prep salad ingredients (washing, chopping, etc.) Add diced chicken if including it.
Drizzle some of the dressing on top.  Toss it in and add more dressing as needed to reach desired taste.
You can make it ahead of time or serve immediately.  If serving it later, you might want to stir, taste, and add a touch more dressing before serving. Tweak as you wish- add, delete or alter portions to your liking.

Summer is upon us! Summer feels like salad season to me! I love to have salad as a main dish for dinner and my favorite lunches are prepared salads that can be made and kept in the refrigerator to be pulled out at lunchtime.  It's also Summer Reading time and I have made my annual Summer Reading Stack.  It's a little too ambitious- and some are from last year that I never read, or at best never finished, and there are many more that have been added to the stack.  In fact, I keep adding more books to the stack.  It's about to topple over.  If you are interested in meeting to talk about any of these books (if you too have read them or want to read them), let me know!   

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Gooey Fudge Pie

We had some excitement in the kitchen this past week. Monday was Pi Day. My son's terrific Geometry teacher put out a request for Pie donations.  I said yes, but wasn't sure what kind I would make.  It needed to be quick, simple, preferably non-in-need-of-refrigeration since that is limited at the school. The answer - Gooey Fudge Pie. This is one of my mom's signature pies.  She adapted the recipe from Entertaining with Friends Cookbook (written by and benefitting Vanderbilt Children's Hospital).

Of all of the baking I do, I don't end up making pies very often- I think the potential of crust burning and/or falling apart feels high risk to me and because I am often feeding a larger group than a pie can serve.  But I sure love to eat pie! This one is a winner (I especially love it when served with whipped cream or ice cream.)
Jennifer's pie photo she texted me

About the time my crusts were thawed on Sunday evening. (I used bought crust that I had in the freezer), I got a group text from my sister letting my mom and me know that she had just made 2 gooey fudge pies for Ben's math class for Pi Day, wondering how we would be celebrating Pi Day. It must run in the family!

a few hours later, my pair of pies 

They are so easy to make, with ingredients you most likely have on hand.  I didn't get to taste the pie this time (a downside to pies- no way to sneak a slice without it being obvious) but Asher gave a good report, and the plates came home empty.

Gooey Fudge Pie
(from Elaine Williams- Mom)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup sugar
dash of salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 unbaked 9 inch pie crust

Toppings (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 ˚.  Melt the chocolate and butter in a glass bowl in microwave, stirring occasionally until blended.  Remove from oven and set aside.
Add whisked eggs, flour, sugar and salt. Stir. Stir in vanilla. Pour into the prepared pie shell (Mom suggests the Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie crust).  Bake for about 25 minutes or until the center is still slightly liquid.  Cool on a wire rack. Slice and eat.  Add toppings of your choice.
Toppings: ice cream, hot fudge, caramel sauce, toasted sliced almonds or whipped cream.  (Click HERE for whipped cream instructions).

If you want to make a homemade pie crust- I think Martha Stewart's Easy Pie Crust is a winner-here is the recipe and is a video with some great tips to making a perfect pie crust.  

I just heard from my sister that she ended up making 7 pies this week! 3 fudge, an apple, tomato pie, shepherd pie and a chocolate chip pie!  I love that!

In honor of St. Patrick's day, this week for our small group meal we decided to get crazy and have a "Green Meal". We have a google doc each week where everyone signs up for what they will contribute. So this week we just had a blank page where we all wrote what GREEN item we would bring (trying to make a balanced meal). It was an incredibly delicious meal. I don't know how I would describe it, but we are already thinking about the next color-themed meal we will share.  We agree that some colors would be less healthy than this one! 

I am hoping to get some of these recipes to share with you.  I keep thinking about this salad with warm bacon dressing. 

Next week is Easter Week! It has snuck up on me.  I need to do some Easter baking/cooking in the next few days.  There are so many clever and beautiful ideas on the internet, but if you need some easy tried-and-true ones, here are a few- an activity, a main dish, my favorite Coconut Cake,  Candies and treats. Enjoy!

Friday, March 11, 2016

A Season of Liminality: A Threshold

What do you write when it's been 3 months since you've written anything? It's been an unusual season for my family. And it feels like we are now in an "in-between".

I was already behind on blogging- I had a few batches of photos from foods I had made that were awaiting the day when I could write and post. January had been filled with some good eats: yummy Mustard Greens with Hoppin' John from New Year's celebrating, a lovely Chocolate Cake (via Barefoot Contessa) for MLK day, and homemade donuts from my Lucy's birthday and a few other snacks and goodies.

And then one Wednesday afternoon at the end of January we came home from work/school to find that our house had been robbed and ransacked.  It was a watershed moment.

You know, the moments that then mark time.

So we have been picking up the pieces, literally and figuratively.  We have been doing the logistical, spiritual, parental and psychological work of the aftermath of something like this.  Through this, though, we have been given a chance to reevaluate things- what is important, what's not, where we are "storing up treasures", the limits and illusion of safety, the complexity of life, the comfort of loved ones.

Sadly, the loss included my computer and my camera.  So my photos of those January foods I mentioned are gone.  And I have just now been able to buy a computer and camera to replace the stolen ones.  I'm still waiting for the wind in my sails to motivate me to blog-on.  It hasn't seemed to return yet.

It seems like we are in a place of liminality.

Li·mi·nal of or relating to a sensory threshold;  being in an intermediate state, phase, or condition. (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

An artist that spoke at Belmont several years ago, Makoto Fujimura, spoke of liminality and its challenge and opportunity.  About liminal spaces, places of threshold, he said,
These are dangerous places, filled with struggle.  Uncomfortable.  But places of unique perspective; fertile with creativity.  One who is courageous enough to live there can be a harbinger of truth.
It feels like that space between right now- not quite spring, but not quite winter.  Not quite settled after the break-in, but not in disarray; still replacing stolen items and awaiting another update from the detective, yet trying to find resolution without yet having reconciliation.

So, for this Liminal Space- I share these two recipes.  A great cold buster smoothie recipe that was passed along to me that I have been loving the past few weeks (a good any season breakfast) and an oatmeal cookie recipe that I find comforting.

My colleague Debbie sold me on this "cold buster smoothie" that her husband has been making for her this winter.  I was fighting cold symptoms so I took her recommendation.  This is an adaption of their recipe,  so of course, adapt even more as you like.  Debbie described this as "bright", and I think it depicts it perfectly! 

(And my cold was busted!)

Cold Buster Smoothie (inspired by Debbie and Steve)
Blend together:
  • two fists-full of fresh Spinach leaves
  • a peeled whole orange
  • 1/2 of peeled lime
  • a small slice of fresh ginger root
  • 1/2 banana OR frozen mango- for creaminess and vitamins
  • frozen pineapple- a handful
  • brewed green tea-(I brewed a pitcher and kept it in my refrigerator the week of my cold) some mornings I just use water instead of green tea
  • honey- if you need a little sweetening

Mix together in a blender until smooth.  Drink immediately.  Makes 1 large or 2 small smoothies.

And a quick, easy, and comforting cookie recipe.

I was talking with my friend Lindsey on Sunday about baked goods and she mentioned loving those decadent chocolate chip cookies with frosting sandwiched between them that they sell at the mall. You know those?  And she said one of her favorite treats is Oatmeal Cream Pies.  I didn't know.  I will tuck that little information in my memory for some day when a treat might be in order.  She said she loves Oatmeal Cookies.  I told her that I make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies- THIS delicious go-to-recipe my sister developed.  But I usually don't make traditional oatmeal raisin cookies.  For 2 reasons- my kids don't love raisins and I don't especially love cinnamon in cookies (unless they are snickerdoodles...but that's another story).  

My dad loves oatmeal raisin cookies.  His birthday was this week. So I decided, because I had two people to share with, I should make them.  I searched in cook books and online and decided to go with Smitten Kitchen (which is always a low-risk choice).  I made a couple of slight changes.  I used golden raisins and omitted the cinnamon.  The recipe calls for using all brown sugar (no granulated white sugar), a little extra salt and chopped walnuts.  All of these were the keys, I believe, to their yumminess.  They are nice and chewy (with all the oats and brown sugar) with a golden edge. The cookies turned out tasty and my kids gobbled them up! Which was a bonus.  

Oatmeal Golden Raisin Cookies
adapted from
(makes about 2 dozen)

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. kosher salt (or a little more if you are using unsalted butter)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (old fashioned oats)
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth.  Add in the flour, baking soda and salt and mix together.  Stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts.  CHILL the DOUGH.  (You can do this in the refrigerator for an hour or more, or in the freezer for 20 minutes, or you can scoop them into balls and freeze them for future baking.)

Once dough is chilled, scoop them out and place on parchment lined baking sheets.  Place in preheated 350˚ oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Let sit for a few minutes on the pan and then slide them off with a spatula to cool on a rack.

As we wait for winter to pass and the spring to arrive, for seasons of liminality to pass, I want to courageously embrace the unique perspective and fertile ground that is the present. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Quinoa Bowls...Pass it On

When I find something great, I can't wait to pass it on!
We have a new favorite meal at our house that I have been wanting to share with you for several weeks.  These early dark dinner hours have made it really hard to capture the meal in photos in order to post it.  So, this weekend I made it for Saturday lunch so that I could get photos with natural light.

This meal, Quinoa Bowls, was generously made for our family by my friend Maureen, while Dave was out of the country several weeks ago. It was so delicious, we all devoured it.  She had gotten the idea from Lane, when they and their husbands had eaten together a while back.  So, thank you Lane and thank you Maureen for passing it along!

after meal Jenga

after meal fire in a real fire place
I wondered  if it just tasted so good because I didn't make it and it was so special to have someone cook for me and my kids, or if it was the loving company.  My mom has always said, "It's the company that seasons the meal." I believe this is true.

That being said, I have since made it for my family several times and they love it.  So I think it's a great meal regardless of whether it's with special company or just everyday family members.

It's really more of a "concept" than a recipe, as you can adapt it anyway you like to make it as simple or elaborate as you want! 
There are some WARM ELEMENTS and some COLD ELEMENTS.
The point is that you make the warm ingredients and prepare/chop the cold toppings and then set it out to pile in bowls and devour.  It's build your own bowl.

For the Warm- 
Quinoa- start with this.  If you have a rice cooker, you can use it to make your quinoa, if not, just make it on a pot on the stovetop.  Just make it according to the package.  Portion-wise: I would suggest 1 cup dry for every 4 portions.  For my family of 5, who usually returns for seconds, I usually make 2 cups dry.

Black BeansI usually open cans of black beans, rinse and drain beans.  Add a little water and season with kosher salt, cumin, garlic powder, and Cholula (or Tabasco) to taste.  Place on medium heat and stir until warm, turn heat down to low and stir occasionally. 

Kale- This is the last step of the process.  Sauté a couple of cloves of fresh garlic in a Tbsp. of olive oil in a skillet.  After a couple of minutes add roughly chopped/torn raw kale.  Stir around occasionally until kale is wilted, and soft but not mushy.  It shrinks drastically.

If you have carnivores that can't handle a meatless meal, or if you just want to add another element- We have warmed chicken sausage (sliced and browned on the skillet) to add to our bowls.  If you want to go meatless, you can forgo this! 

For the Cold-
Green Onion- thinly slice

Cilantro- wash and pluck leaves off


Limes- dice (to squeeze on top of the bowls)


Tomatoes- dice

Then just line it all up, put out a stack of deep bowls and spoons and let people pile their own creation.

The other night when we had this for dinner, we were discussing what ingredient was the "most essential" and we really couldn't decide (or agree).  We'll let you be the judge- but something about the flavor combination is just right.

(Sprinkle some salt and pepper on top- and Hot Sauce if that's your style.)

I love meals where you can make a bar and people can fix it like they wish, and I really love a meal that is comforting and nourishing and beautiful!  

Here is the line up at my house:

The Asher
The Julie

The Lainey

The Dave

The Lucy

Speaking of passing it on, and speaking of comforting, nourishing and beautiful...

Several weeks ago, I saw via Instagram that our very talented artist and designer friends, Jay and Kristi Smith, had designed and produced a spiritual/therapeutic coloring book!  I was so excited to hear about it and wanted to get a few for Christmas gifts.  I emailed Kristi to ask her the best way to purchase a few and she ended up coming by the house to bring some for me to buy.  She said she had heard about the CD, Amazing Love,  that Dave had produced for our church's 5th Anniversary and wanted to buy one.  So, they came and we made the transaction. It's beautiful and I can't wait to get my pens and pencils in it!   It is beautiful, spiritually encouraging and therapeutic!

(If you need any last minute Christmas gifts- both this album and this coloring book are lovely!)

Click here to view their blog and read about the story behind the Coloring Book.

Wishing you health, beauty and comfort this season.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

Mind Body Soul Nourishment

My mind is full of thoughts these days.  It feels like it's on overdrive sometimes.

The things I'm reading, for work and for personal growth have been rich and thought provoking. I want to underline and highlight it all and meet up to discuss every insight! It's inspiring and overwhelming! It feels like a feast.

Parenting my kids, each with unique needs and ever-changing situations, is requiring me to dig deep and get creative and think hard.  No coasting going on here, no cruise control- being fully awake is a must. It is purposeful and deep, joyous, exhausting and heart wrenching.

All the while, I'm trying to physically nourish my family and myself every day.

On busy days I am looking for fuel.  One of my go-to’s is Granola.  I try to always keep it on hand.  I love it for a power snack and it is one of my favorite breakfasts- especially with plain Greek Yogurt and fruit.  When my body feels out of whack, it’s usually because we are out of granola. 

I tried this new Granola recipe recently (though I am very loyal to my granola recipe I’ve been making for years).   I thought I would give it a go.  I got the inspiration for the recipe from My Father’s Daughter cookbook by Gwyneth Paltrow, which I checked out of the library.  She calls it "Favorite Granola" so I thought it was worth the shot.  It doesn’t have refined sugar and has substantially less oil than my regular recipe. I added and deleted a few things, but used her instructions, sweetening with real maple syrup and agave nectar.  It is really good. (After my last post of Monster Bars/Slice with gobs of sugar, chocolate chips and M & M's, it seemed like a good balance.)  Everything in moderation is a guidepost in my life. 

Here is the recipe for the Granola.
And HERE is my "standard" granola recipe.  And HERE is a Peanut butter granola recipe that I love. 

(I always double the recipe if I have enough ingredients because it freezes so well.  I leave one batch in a jar on the counter and the other in a ziplock in the freezer. ) 

2 cups whole rolled oats (Old Fashioned Oats)
½ cup whole raw almonds
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup shredded coconut
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
(I sprinkled a couple of tsp. Chia seed in mine too, or you can sprinkle wheat germ for some added umph!)
½ cup real Vermont maple syrup
3 Tbsp. light agave nectar
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (or coconut oil brought to liquid temp)

½ cup Craisins and dried cherries (and/or golden raisins), roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Stir together the oats, almonds, seeds, coconut, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.  Combine the maple syrup, agave, and vegetable oil in a small bowl and then mix with the dry ingredients.  
Spread the granola out on a baking sheet LINED WITH PARCHMENT PAPER (I learned the hard way about the importance of this). 
Bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until evenly browned.  Remove the pan from the oven and push the granola so it's about 1/3 inch thick, letting it cool completely and then breaking it apart into small pieces. 
Combine the cooled granola with dried fruit.  

Keeps well for several weeks in an airtight container and in a ziplock in the freezer for a few months!

And here is some mind/soul nourishment from some of my current readings:
(I highly recommend each of these books.)

From Mary Pipher’s The Shelter of Each Other about counseling with families:
 “Whatever the family is ashamed of must be discussed.  As Adreienne Rich wrote, ‘That which is unspoken becomes unspeakable.’ We are diminished by living with problems we try not to see.  Secrets keep families from dealing with reality.  They create alliances and estrangements.  They keep things from changing and make people feel ashamed.  Secrets teach people the destructive lesson that certain events cannot be handled.  For families or individuals to be healthy, they must be able to integrate all of their experiences into their lives. “
And from Brene Brown’s fabulous new book, Rising Strong about “rumbling with disappointment, expectations and resentment“, she says this:
“Here is what you need to know about disappointment: Disappointment is unmet expectation, and the more significant the expectations, the more significant the disappointment. The way to address this is to be up-front about our expectations by taking the time to reality-check what we're expecting and why.  Expectations often coast along under our radar, making themselves known only after they have bombed something we had high hopes for into rubble."
And Anne Lamott’s classic, Traveling Mercies, a section about coming to terms with her aging body.
“Over the years, my body has not gotten firmer.  Just the opposite in fact.  But when I feel fattest and flabbiest and most repulsive, I try to remember that gravity speaks; also, that no one needs that plastic-body perfection from women of age and substance.  Also, that I do not live in my thighs or in my droopy butt.  I live in joy and motion and cover-ups.  I live in the nourishment of food and the sun and the warmth of the people who love me.”
I am hoping you too can feed your body or your mind/soul on some of this, and "live in the nourishment of food and the sun and the warmth of the people who love (you)".

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Monster Slice (Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip M & M Cookie Bars)

Last weekend our family braved our first family camping trip. We went with our friends the Snaders (who are experienced campers)! It was a success, though I am not so great at sleeping on the ground.

I made some bar cookies for the trip and when I pulled them out for an afternoon snack at the campground, Melinda said, "Oh that reminds me of our Australian friend Rachel.  She always bakes for every occasion, including camping."  Evidently you always want Rachel at an event because she brings delicious baked goodies. I asked Melinda what all she makes and she said mostly Slices.  I asked what a slice was.  She said "Slice" is what they call "bars" in Australia.  Not plural, "Slices"- singular, "Slice".  She said she makes different types of Slice: Lemon Slice, Chocolate Slice, Raspberry Macadamia Nut, etc. So fun.

I looked up the definition when we got home and had access to Google again to see what constitutes a Slice.  (One of the refreshing parts of being in the woods was not having phone service!)

Here's what it said: Slice: (Australia, New Zealand) A class of heavy cakes or desserts made in a tray and cut out into squarish slices.

Why do words seem so much cooler when they have an international influence?

Cheers instead of Hello,
Holiday instead of Vacation,
"throw that in the bin" rather than the trash
stand in the queue rather than the line

I think I'm going to have to adopt the name "Slice" for bars.

I've been wanting to post this bar cookie recipe for some time, but needed to get some photos before I could post it.  I got it from Kathryn who kindly made these last year for her Sunday School class in honor of Lucy's birthday.  Lucy was so honored that Kathryn, her teacher, made a birthday goody and I was so happy that she shared one with me!

I asked for the recipe and held onto it, wanting to make it.  The hang up was that I never seemed to have M & M's when I wanted to try the recipe.  There is a reason for this.  I can't keep them in my house.  People snack on them and then they are gone...or at least not enough to make the recipe.  So, this summer, I bought M & M's and declared them "off limits" for sneaking.

Little did I know the recipe makes a huge amount- an entire jellyroll baking sheet!  I shared them with neighbors and we had them for several days until I froze the rest.  Since then, I have halved the recipe since, to make a more manageable size. Another bonus to this smaller batch is that you only need 1/2 cup of M & M's.  So that means in my house, there's a better chance of being able to have enough to make it.

This recipe is Gluten Free if you use Gluten-Free Oats (not all watch it, if you need/want GF).
They are hearty and healthy-ish, in that they have peanut butter and oats and no flour.  But I'm not deceived...they also have butter, sugar, chocolate chips and M & M's! But most of all they are yummy, easy to make, and they travel well.

Monster Slice 
(Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip M & M Cookie Bars)

16-20 bars

5 ½ Tbsp. butter, room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp.pure maple syrup
1 cup peanut butter (crunchy or creamy- I use natural peanut butter)
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup M&M's candies, for topping (I like Mini M&M's)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs, vanilla, syrup, and baking soda. Stir in the peanut butter. Add the oats and stir again until well combined. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Press the dough into the bottom of a 8 1/2 X 11  or 9 x 13 baking dish- depending on what you have- the bigger just will make bars a little thinner. Top with the M&M's and lightly press them into the dough. Bake for 16-17 minutes, until the bars are lightly browned and just past looking wet on top. They will not be firm, but they will set up as they cool.


Monster Cookie Bars -BIG BATCH RECIPE
Makes 32-40 bars

2/3 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. real maple syrup
2 cups  peanut butter (crunchy or creamy- I used natural creamy)
6 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup M&M's candies, for topping (I like using the mini ones)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs, vanilla, syrup, and baking soda. Stir in the peanut butter. Add the oats and stir again until well combined. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Press the dough into the bottom of a large baking sheet, or jelly roll pan. Top with the M&M's and lightly press them into the dough. Bake for 16-17 minutes, until the bars are lightly browned and just past looking wet on top. They will not be firm, but they will set up as they cool.

If you were hoping for something more seasonal, instead of Monster Slice,
maybe you should click back in my archives and find a pumpkin recipe... click HERE for my favorite Pumpkin Cake 
or HERE for Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

 or HERE for consistently delicious Pumpkin Muffins
or HERE for How-To-Roast your Pumpkin Seeds

Or if you would rather read about our Halloween Traditions and recipes, you can click HERE.