The Awkward Olive Does Lunch: Autumn coleslaw and how to make a dressing without a recipe

Last month, one of my best friends got married in Hood River. The day after the wedding a bunch of us gathered for a communal cooking/ pot-luck style dinner on the porch of one of the houses we had rented for the weekend. We chatted, the laughed, we ate, we reminisced, we ate some more.  It was amazing to be able to spend some quality time with some of my closest friends, and it was also really inspiring to see what everyone was cooking.  I know I tend to get stuck in a food rut, always going back to my go-to salads and quinoa dishes, so it was really fun to see what some of my friends had in their culinary repertoire. And the thing I took away with me was this amazing fall slaw.  It’s the perfect transitional salad for this time of year. Cabbage and apples are starting to come into their prime, cooler days (we are going to get those soon, right?) crunchy textures, bright colors… it seems to be the epitome of Autumn in a bowl. the

Feasting

Feasting

IMG_4436

The sum of our efforts

The sum of our efforts

I’m kind of a sucker for good coleslaw… that being said, I almost never ever made coleslaw because I was a little daunted by the dressing. I know, its a lame excuse, but I’m not a huge follower of recipes, I don’t really like to measure, and since I didn’t have a go-to coleslaw dressing stashed away in my culinary knowledge, making coleslaw at home just felt a little in-accessible. I’m kind of a no-muss no-fuss salad dressing type of gal… a little fresh olive oil, a splash of balsamic, a little salt, maybe some fresh herbs… on rare occasions I will actually put these things in a jar with a little bit of stone ground mustard and actually “prepare” a dressing… but for the most part, I just drizzle the ingredients directly on the salad and consume. I’ve always felt that when you use high quality ingrediants they speak for themselves, and while I love the idea of “fancy” dressings with names like green goddess and roasted corn husk vinaigrette, I typically stick with the clean and simple flavors of olive oil and vinegar.  So being faced with task of pre-making a coleslaw dressing felt somehow hard… boy was I wrong.

I did a little bit of research AKA looked on pinterest to see what other people where putting in coleslaw dressing… some of it sounded interesting, some of it sounded unnecessary, and after about five minutes, I had a new found feeling of coleslaw confidence. “Oh… I can totally make this.”  So I headed off to the kitchen.  Per my usual style, I eye-balled everything, guessed on proportions, and was pleasantly surprised by how it tasted. Dressing success! Until, of course, I remembered that its a little hard to blog a recipe that isn’t actually a recipe.  Though I’m sure some people out there appreciate the “a little of this, a little of that” method to making things in the kitchen, I know it drives other people nuts… But I’ll try to meet you somewhere in the middle.

How to make coleslaw dressing without a recipe.
  • apple cider vinegar ( about 2 TBS)
  • greek yogurt (1 heaping spoonful) 
  • poppyseeds (a sprinkling)
    olive oil (a small drizzle) 
  • honey ( best guess is 1 TBS?) 
Put in a jar, shake it all around until the honey is incorporated. Refrigerate.  Put over slaw & serve.   If you like, you can add in chia seeds instead of or along with the poppyseeds. If your dressing feels too thin, the chia seeds will help, because they become a little gelatinous as they expand… also they are super amazingly good for you, so why not add them?
Notice I didn’t give you  firm amounts for anything… because really you can make coleslaw for 1 or you can make coleslaw for the masses.  Use your best judgement.  This amount of dressing usually is enough for me to make 2 GIANT servings of coleslaw (imagine if coleslaw were a dinner salad instead of a side. )   I like to pair this dressing with a simple, 3 ingredient slaw. It’s perfect for an easy lunch, its quick, easy, and delicious.

Autumn Coleslaw

Autumn Coleslaw

Simple Autumn Slaw
Chop desired amount of cabbage, top with cut up apple & toasted almonds. Dress, and eat!

Purple Cabbage

Purple Cabbage

Honeycrisp Apples from the local Farmer's Market.

Honeycrisp Apples from the local Farmer’s Market.

oven roasted almonds

oven roasted almonds

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Healthy Snacks: a quick guide to roasting almonds

 

 

oven roasted almonds

oven roasted almonds

Backstory. I’ve been on a healthy snack kick lately. Mostly because I seem to have completely blown my monthly budget on awesome things like trips to the dentist, and a sparkly bag, so I’ve been trying to be frugal (and healthy) in other areas of my life. I’m two days away from a five day vacation, so I’ve been pinching my pennies, skipping my morning lattes and being extra good about packing lunch. Almost every day my snack includes almonds… they are easy, nutritious, packed with fiber, protein, and good fats, they keep me full (especially when paired with a big old glass of water) and they are readily accessible. The ladies that I work with bring almonds quite a bit as well, and you will find us behind the counter at various points throughout the day munching on a handful of them.

A few days ago I shared some of my snacks with my boss and she turned to me and said “why do your almonds taste so much better than my almonds?!?!” the answer is all in the roast. I take an extra 15 minutes at the start of my week to toast my almonds to perfection. Its not really something I thought very much of, just something I always did. Raw almonds are fine, but roasted almonds are better, and growing up it seemed like there was always a bowl full of oven roasted almonds sitting on our kitchen counter. My boss then said “but wait! You can’t just talk about these things and then not explain how to do it!” she then went on a rant about how she didn’t know how to make mojitos, and didn’t know the proper way to roast almonds, and how I needed to start taking my basic kitchen intuition and writing it down. And at first all I could think was “ no one wants to read a blog post about how to roast almonds” and then about an hour later I got a text message from my other boss saying “ how long and what temperature do you roast your almonds? They are so delicious.” Ok, so maybe people do want to read about this.   So here I am, taking my little bit of kitchen intuition and sharing it with you… it might not be mind-blowing or life changing… but I promise you, your snacks are going to taste so much better!

 

Easy oven roasted almonds:

(note: I keep my bulk almonds in the freezer. If your almonds are room temperature you might need to adjust the roasting time)

 

Turn oven to 350 degrees and start to pre-heat.

Remove almonds from freezer and spread out the desired amount on a small roasting pan or cookie sheet. (I usually roast about 1.5-2 cups. )

Place pan of almonds in the oven (even if it isn’t quite pre-heated) and turn on a timer for 10 minutes.

You will need to check on/ stir your almonds about twice in that 10 minutes.

After the ten minutes is up, evaluate the almonds (Use your senses, appraise the color and how they smell… you can tell when they are done, trust me.) If they are still on the lighter side leave them in for 2-3 more minutes, and then shut off the oven. I usually let the almonds sit in the cooling oven for about 5 more minutes before removing the pan and letting them cool on top of the stove. Once they have cooled completely transfer them to a bowl, or mason jar and enjoy throughout the week!

 

Voila, roasted nuts.

 

 

photo 2-7

Watermelon sparklers and a shout out to fake summer.

 

watermelon juice

Since real summer starts tomorrow, let me just give a quick shout out to this  fake summer we’ve been having in Oregon. I’m still a little confused by what month it actually is, and why there has been this golden sphere hanging in the sky over the past few weeks producing 80-degree, but I will take it! We’ve had a few “typical” June-ish days this month and on one of them my mom was like “OH MY GOD IT FEELS LIKE WINTER!!!!” I stopped and said “no, actually, it feels like June.” Maybe just because the last few springs have felt a little extra long, or because as Oregonians we really are not used to any sort of consistent sunshine until after July…but either way, I’m not complaining! My tomato plants are happy, I have something resembling a tan, and I have been pretty much eating my body weight in watermelon. Tonight’s pre-dinner consisted of me leaning over the kitchen sink as I took a huge bite of melon and slurped the juice to keep it from running down my face and arms. It was pretty glorious. Thank you fake summer… you are kind of ok.

Back in October when I was researching which juicer I should buy, I was focused mainly on leafy greens. I had visions of juicing kale and spinach, and chard, and beets, and pretty much everything earthy (which I did.) but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I started to think about the summer juicing potential. Really, I wasn’t being narrow minded when I purchased my juicer, more ,I was living in the moment and trying to embrace the whole seasonal eating thing. =) (at least that is what I’m telling myself.) So last week when it finally dawned on me that watermelon + juicer= happiness and summer bliss, I was pretty stoked. And really, why had I not thought of it before? I know one of the dangers with at home juicing is sugar… you juice all the sugary fruits in all the land and then chug them, (because they are delicious) So I do appreciate that fruit juice should be consumed in moderation… but just stop for a minute and think about all the cocktail potential.

Even if cocktails aren’t your thing, Agua Fresca has already established itself as a seasonal staple on my back patio. Sort of….  Upon looking up Agua Fresca recipes I’ve found essentially ALL of them include super sweet fruits, sugar, and water… This is where I’m going to rant about sugar a little bit.  No, I’m not one of those crazy no sugar in anything ever, people. In fact, I had a raspberry brownie for lunch today, I put sugar in my coffee every morning, and I think that there is a time and a place for sugar (like gumdrops, hello.) That being said, just about every time I try to bake something sweet I have to run to the store, because for some reason I never seem to have sugar in my pantry… I just don’t use it that often (Sugar scrub, mojitos, lemon curd… these are the only thing that I make on a semi-regular basis that actually require sugar.)  I do try to read labels and make a conscious effort to try and cut back on sugar in processed foods… it just seems unnecessary a lot of the time, but I try not to get all nutty about it…BUT it absolutely boggles my mind as to why you need to add additional sugar to a refreshing summer fruit drink! When was the last time you sprinkled sugar over a slice of watermelon? The answer is never. (salt on the other hand… is there anything better at a picnic than I giant wedge of watermelon lightly sprinkled with Jacobsen Sea Salt? No, there isn’t. Seriously, try it with the pinot blanc salt… game changer!)  Don’t even get me started with honeydew melon… I mean for reals… you add sugar to that? It makes my teeth hurt just thinking about it.

SO I guess technically what I’ve been drinking on the patio is not Agua Fresca… it’s better. (I’m not about to call this here concoction sugar free agua fresca… doesn’t that just sound like an aspartame filled powdery diet drink mix or something? … Ok I’ll hop off the snarky train now… BUT really, if you even think about putting more sugar with your honeydew melon, just know that I am judging you.)

 

Lately I’ve been making a strawberry/watermelon “spritzer” sometimes there is vodka in it… sometimes not. (for example, when I take it to work… NO vodka. ) It’s not very often that Oregon strawberry season overlaps with watermelon season, and it’s a shame because this combo is fantastic.   Throw some mint, lime, strawberries and 1/4 of a watermelon in your juicer or blender and out comes this sweet nectar of the gods. You can drink it straight, add some sparkling water, or one of my favorite things to do is mix it with a Cucumber Dry Soda (scrumptious.)

 

Mint

watermelon strawberry

 

phonto-6

 

watermelon juice

Other ideas/ variations

  • Substitute Basil, cilantro, or lavender for the mint
  • Try with a cucumber (or some other delicious thing) instead of strawberries
  • Make into popsicles
  • freeze in ice cube trays to add to sparkling water
  • Add it to lemonade
  • Mix with any variety of booze to come up with a delicious cocktail.
  • blend it with coconut water

 

Get creative!

My Whole Life Needs a Juice Cleanse

I spent this past weekend away in Bend, OR with some of my girlfriends. Seems like I’m constantly reminded of how lucky I am to live in this beautiful state where nature is abundant and Food, Wine and Beer, are practically a way of life. I love being able to explore new restaurants, meet new chefs, try new wines, get to know beers I’ve never even heard of, all right in my backyard. Is anyone else counting down the days until Feast Portland? Needless to say, I spent the weekend over-indulging (as it is so easy to do in this neck of the woods) so now that I’m back home and back into my normal routine I’m taking a few days to detox… both mind and body.
Bachelorette festivities

Bachelorette festivities

So I came home and started a juice cleanse. I know I know, you are probably tired of hearing about juice cleanses, so I won’t overly go into detail, but after 4 days of beer, and Goldfish crackers, my body was ready for some pure unadulterated raw juicy goodness.  Typically, I’m all about everything in moderation. I exercise and eat healthy so I can drink wine, and eat full fat dairy when I want to, and not really think about it… however the closer I get to 30, the more my body is telling me that I really need to start thinking about it.  I know when I eat blue cheese dressing that I’m going to feel it, and that gluten makes me more sluggish, and that eating a giant burrito at 10PM is probably not the wisest choice… and yet I still make these choices occasionally.  But the more often I make them, the more I’m aware that for a lot of people out there, feeling terrible is normal. So many people don’t even consider what they are putting into their bodies and how it makes them feel, nor do they have the correlation that food could make them feel this way… and it makes me really sad. I can’t really get on a soap box, because I know that my diet and exercise regime isn’t perfect. I know that I could be making healthier choices every day, But I’m also so thankful that I at least have the awareness that when I eat A I feel B, and its a choice that I’m making in this moment, but not one I’m going to make every day.  And I totally give myself permission to indulge once in a while, because we all need to go on brewery tours and eat an obscene amount of junk food from time to time.  But I’m also choosing to listen to my body this week, and make every effort to bring everything back into balance.

trio of juices

trio of juices

 

juice mise en place

juice mise en place

 

brunchy beet juice

brunchy beet juice

I had an amazing time away with my girlfriends… but as an introvert by nature, after 4 days I was ready for a few moments of solitude. We had a lot of great adventures, great meals, great conversations, but the older I get, the more I realize how much I need to honor the introverted part of myself… Thankfully, I don’t need epically long stretches of solitude and silence, but I was definitely  ready to come home, put my feet up and spend some time by myself…. I try not to play the “introvert card” too often, as I know quite a few introverted people who tend to use this as an excuse to cancel plans at the last minute, who can never follow through, and who tend to cling to their introvertedness as a crutch.  They over-commit, get overwhelmed and then out of no-where the introvert card gets played like a get out of jail free card  of “oh I have to cancel, I I’m an introvert, this is just what I need… you understand!”  And there is part of me that gets it, I mean really gets it… but there is still a little part of me that is endlessly frustrated by it…BUT after 4 days away with 6 other ladies, shared rooms, car-pooling, dinners, brewery tours, bachelorette parties and more there was a huge part of me that was telling me that I needed to take a moment to honor introverted tendencies, at least for a day or two.  So here I am, juicing up a storm and spending my evenings soaking up some alone time. And it feels pretty good both mentally and physically.

Here are a few of my favorite juice recipes.

Verdantly Green Juice
2 Cups shredded collard greens
1-2 Handfuls of Spinach
4 Persian cucumbers (or 1 regular sized cucumber)
1 lemon, peeled
1 sm bunch of cilantro
1 inch of ginger root
1/2 of a green apple

Brunchy Beet
1 medium sized beet plus beet greens
5 med/large carrots
1 green apple
1 inch ginger root
Green with Envy
1/2 fennel bulb
4-5 stalks of celery
1/2 bunch of parsley
1 small lemon, peeled
2 cups spinach
2-3 handfuls of kale
1/2 of a green apple
1 inch ginger root

 

Super Easy Rhubarb Curd: The only thing you need to eat this spring.

Here’s what I’m smitten with these days: Rhubarb.

I know this tangy tart vegetable (I actually had to stop and think about what rhubarb is for a moment… Is it a vegetable? Lets maybe just call it a plant) This tangy, tart plant can be an acquired taste, and thankfully one that my adult taste buds have grown right into (however, at this point, I think mustard is a lost cause… if I haven’t liked it for almost 30 years, I’m going to guess I’m not growing into that one… I am still undecided about radishes…. I WANT to like them… and mostly I do when other people prepare them. And then I get so excited every spring, and a plant a billion of them because they grow really fast and I can’t wait to have something growing, and then each and every year I harvest the perfect looking radish and am filled with more emotion than one should really have towards any vegetable, and I take a giant bite, chew it around for a bit, and then head over to the sink to spit it out…. EVERY YEAR I DO THIS! Maybe eventually I will learn that I should just eat other people’s radishes and life will be good. And yes, I’m totally aware of how that sounds as I’m reading this aloud, but I’m choosing just to leave it… I mean, I’m not the kind of girl who just goes around eating other people’s radishes…)

 

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Back to the rhubarb… thank you taste buds for getting this one figured out. And lets be honest… even if you are on the fence about rhubarb, aren’t you crushing on it a little bit this time of year? The contrast of the pale green and garnet hues alone have me swooning! For the last few weeks I’ve been observing my two rhubarb plants from a bit of a distance. Not because I am scared of them, though their very large poisonous leaves are always a little daunting, but mostly because I couldn’t think of anything overly creative to do with it. Last year I made rhubarb rosemary gin and tonics, (Amaze balls!) and I was already mentally planning out my rhubarb syrup, but other than that I was a little stumped. There it sat, out in the yard, challenging me from afar, taunting me even, to come up with some sort of amazing and worthwhile dish… I toyed with the idea of going savory (which I still may… I mean I’ve got a lot of rhubarb) But a few days ago I was searching on Pinterest for some bachelorette party ideas, and suddenly saw mention of Rhubarb Curd. Lights, bells, whistles, fireworks, bam, bang, hello! How had I not thought of this earlier? Lemon curd is only one of my most favorite things ever, and both lemon and rhubarb share that wonderful tanginess. I spent the rest of that day wistfully dreaming of rhubarb curd and magical it would be, and at the end of the work day I promptly came home and made up a recipe. It’s every bit as good as I hoped it would be. I’ve mostly been eating it with yogurt and strawberries, but it is also amazing on toast, mixed in with oatmeal, or just by the spoonful.

 


 

Rhubarb Curd- Author adapted from Dana Velden recipe.

Make about 2 Cups

Ingredients

  • 5 medium stalks of rhubarb
  • ¼ C Water
  • ¾ C sugar
  • zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 stick of butter, cubed
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ¼ tsp salt

Method

  • Wash and trim the rhubarb stalks, and cut into ¾ inch pieces. Place in sauce pan with ¼ C of sugar, and ¼ C water, cover and turn on medium/ high heat. Cook for 10 minutes or until rhubarb is soft and begins to fall apart.
  • Remove rhubarb mixture from heat, and pour contents into a blender or food processor (or use an emulsion blender). And puree until smooth. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a food processor combine ½ C sugar and the lemon zest. Pulse a few times to combine. Add in the egg yolks, butter, salt, and lemon juice. Pulse a few times until combined. Add in the rhubarb puree, and mix. about 15-20 seconds. (The mixture may look a little curdled, don’t worry!)
  • Transfer mixture into a sauce pan, and cook on a low heat, stirring almost constantly using a heat resistant spatula. It is quite easy to burn/ curdle the curd, so be attentive. Cook until the mixture noticeably begins to thicken (about 12-15 minutes) or until it reaches about 170 degrees.
  •  Pour the curd into a storage jar, and let it cool to room temperature before closing and storing in the refrigerator. Rhubarb curd should last for about a week in the refrigerator, though chances are it won’t last that long!

 

photo 5

 

photo-24

* a note about the color. The rhubarb I have growing in my yard is mostly green… therefore my rhubarb curd looks like muddy lemon curd. However, I’m quite certain that if you are purchasing the glorious garnet colored rhubarb, your rhubarb curd will be a really dreamy light pink color.

The Awkward Olive Does Lunch: the joy of déjeuner. Easy orzo salad with smoked salmon and lemon

Awkward Olive Does Lunch: The joy of déjeuner.

Awkward Olive Does Lunch: The joy of déjeuner.

 

When I first announced that I was changing jobs one of my friends asked me “Does this mean that you are going to have more of a fashion focus on your blog?” To which I kind of had to laugh a little bit. Though my life is definitely headed in a more fashion forward direction, I realized that now I have a lot more time to cook for myself at home, and also cooking is going to become much more of a necessity. Gone are the days of eating anywhere between 5-10 meals at Red Hills Market, gone are the days of “oh I didn’t have time to get groceries, I’ll just go to work 30 minutes early and grab a bite.” Instead, I’m embracing the brown bag lunch mentality.

Though I’m sure my daily social media outlets are going to shift a little more towards fashion and a little less on food, I feel as though my blogging efforts might swing the other way, as cooking at home and feeding myself are suddenly a much larger part of my daily routine.  Also with gardening season just getting underway, and the start of the local Farmer’s Market in a few short weeks, I’ve decided to add a monthly or perhaps bi-weekly installment on the blog entitled “The Awkward Olive Does Lunch: the joy of déjeuner”  which will explore some of my lunch making and packing adventures, and hopefully be inspiring to those of you packing your own lunches from time to time.  Because let’s face it, sometimes lunch requires a little inspiration…

This past weekend I accidentally spent my entire grocery budget for the week on Quin candy.  Le Sigh. #sorrynotsorry  I’ve been savoring the cherry cola gumdrops all week, trying to convince myself that living off  of candy and water seems like a kind of magical lifestyle choice. (not really… but kind of really. )  So as I was planning out my lunches for the week I had to turn to my pantry and get a little creative.

All the Gumdrops and Dreams come Chew

All the Gumdrops and Dreams come Chew

Stopped into Sprinklefingers to stock up on all the Quin Candy Goodness

Stopped into Sprinklefingers to stock up on all the Quin Candy Goodness

This time of year I start to crave bright flavors like asparagus and lemon, simple sauces, and satisfying dishes that are a little on the lighter side. The weather last week was mostly beautiful, and I found myself eating breakfast, and sometimes lunch and dinner out on the back patio soaking up little bits of Spring. My herb garden is starting to come alive, and right now the chives are really prolific, so as I was riffling through the pantry trying to come up with a make-ahead, packable, last me all week dish that didn’t require a trip to the grocery store (which I think will be a re-occurring theme on  AODL) I was trying to be inspired by the light and bright flavors that I’ve been craving.

The Chives, going nuts

The Chives, going nuts

 

The Answer: Easy orzo salad with  smoked salmon and lemon.

 

Ingredients:

  •  Orzo pasta
  • 1  6 oz can of smoked salmon
  • 1 bunch of fresh chives
  • 1 lemon (for zest and juice)
  • Crème Fraiche
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Optional : Jacobsen Salt Co. Lemon Zest Salt.

 

  • Cook the Orzo according to package directions. I never measure Orzo, just eyeball how big of a salad you want to make, and call it a day.
  • While the pasta is cooking, wash and dice the chives and then put them in a large mixing bowl with the salmon.
  • Zest the lemon, and place the zest in a small bowl.   Juice ½ of the lemon and set juice aside.
  • When the orzo has reached it’s desired done-ness, strain and rinse with cold water.  Give it a light drizzling of olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking together, and continue to let cool.  Once the pasta has thoroughly cooled  add it to the bowl with the chives and salmon, and add in the lemon juice.
  • Add 1-2  large spoonful’s of crème fraiche to the lemon zest and mix together before incorporating in with the rest of the salad.  Add olive oil, and salt and pepper and mix together.
  • Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to let the flavors meld.
  • When ready to serve, or when packing for a lunch, add a light drizzling of olive oil, a dollop  of plane crème fraiche, and a sprinkling of  the lemon zest salt.
orzo salad with smoked salmon and lemon

orzo salad with smoked salmon and lemon

This salad was everything that I was craving last week.  The crème fraiche was a wonderful addition, because it added a little je ne sais quoi  to the salad without making it too heavy.  (I realize that you might not have a tub of crème fraiche sitting in the fridge… but this time of year you should! Its full fat dairy at its finest. You could also probably make the salad without it, but as I said, it’s the je ne sais quoi factor) The lemon and the chive pair beautifully, and the smoked salmon adds a bit of protein and healthy fat to keep you satiated throughout the day. It was the perfect packable lunch salad, and one I’ll definitely make again.

Also, as a side note, the Lemon Zest Salt from Jacobsen Salt Co. was pretty much made for this dish. I have it listed as an optional ingredient, but  do yourself a favor, and seriously consider it a secret ingredient for success.

Jacobsen Salt Lemon Zest

 

 

 

Roasted Beet Risotto, a shout out to chèvre, and some potentially awkward typos.

I’ve been really into beets lately. And by lately, I mean my entire adulthood… as a child, not so much… (for unknown reasons my mom tried to feed me canned beets as a kid… definitely not the first exposure any child should have of this amazing root nugget.  Thankfully that is one of the picky eating things that I did outgrow…anyway.. )  Wednesday evening I was killing some time before heading off to yoga, and stumbled across this absolutely gorgeous cake from Local Milk.  Um, beets? Red Velvet? Chevre thyme frosting. SIGN ME UP!  Even though I still had to teach a yoga class, and even though I was looking at a trip to the grocery, an hour to roast the beets, and then making a cake from scratch, I could not be deterred.  (I should probably note that I accidentally took a nap in the afternoon… so I was feeling a little extra motivated.)

The cake was just as amazing as I expected, and you should all go out of your way to make it, or find someone who likes making cake and have them make it for you! Overall it wasn’t complicated, though a few aspects of the recipe didn’t work entirely the way I thought it would, mostly the part about reducing the beet puree,. Somehow I ended up with about 3 cups of beet puree rather than ¼ of a cup… I could have just put more in the cake batter, but was un-sure…. I mean I can improvise on most any recipe, but baking is one of those tricky ratio things, and I wasn’t going through all the trouble of making a late night cake from scratch just to screw it up!  So this left me with about 2 cups of roasted pureed beets… what’s a girl to do?

Also, before I go on about what I did with the beets, can I just say that chevre thyme frosting is a game changer. For reals.  Move over cream cheese frosting, there is a new star in town.  When I followed the recipe it was a little too thick to drizzle, so I did add a little bit of Meyer lemon juice. Perfection.

Tonight after I got home from work, I was hanging with the dog and trying to come up with some inspiration for dinner, and then I remembered the container of beet puree in my fridge. It was just begging to be a risotto, and after a few moments of flopping around and motivating myself to head out to the store for Arborio rice, I decided on a game plan. (note to self. If you mis-spell Arborio spellcheck will ask if you meant to spell abortion. It’s probably best not to mix these two words up when you are talking about trying to  get motivated to head out and get some of said word. Especially when you are blogging about it. And since I’m not always awesome at proofreading, if I accidentally talk about abortions later, you should just assume that I’m actually talking about rice )

I will fully admit, this was one of those thrown together dinners that wasn’t exactly measured, and almost no photos were taken, but once I sat down and took a bite I sort of sighed and said “well I have to blog about this…” But let’s face it. Some of the best dinners are the ones that aren’t well photographed and well planned out…. And as I sit here and try to backtrack and write a recipe, I will just say this… go with your gut. It’s risotto… if it needs more broth, add more broth. If you want more beets, add more beets. Trust your culinary instincts… but I’m rather confident that this recipe will at least be an appropriate guideline to get you to a magically delicious dinner.  I would apologize for the lack of amazing photos, but lets be real, it was too good to stop eating and stylize things… at least I got this shot with minimal spillage and some garnish  (#sorrynotsorry)

beet risotto with chèvre and mascarpone

beet risotto with chèvre and mascarpone

Beet Risotto with Chèvre and Mascarpone     (could easily be made vegan by omitting the cheese.)

  • 1 cipolin onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • olive oil
  • ½ cup of white wine
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 ½ cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup beet puree* (can be made in advance)
  • 2 oz chevre
  • 2 large spoonfuls of mascarpone cheese.
  • parsley for garnish
  • salt to taste.

* Beet puree:

  • 2-3 medium beets.
  • ¼ cup of water.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash the beets, and pierce a few times with a fork.  Line a pan with foil, add the beets and about ¼ cup of water. Seal the beets with additional foil and roast in the oven for about an hour.   Use a paper towel to peel the skin off the beets (be careful not to burn yourself) and  chop into large pieces. Place beet chunks in food processor and add the liquid from the roasting foil, and perhaps another ¼ cup of water.  Process until smooth.    Set aside.  (or use some for the Red Velvet cake.)

Risotto:

Drizzle olive oil in medium pan, and begin to heat. Add the onion, garlic, and celery and begin to sauté ( about 3-5 minutes)

Add the Arborio rice to the pan and cover with the olive oil. Sauté rice a few minutes until it starts to toast. It will smell a little nutty.

Add the wine, and stir… it will be absorbed by the rice fairly quickly. Add the remaining liquid ½ cup at a time, allowing the rice to almost fully absorb the broth each time. (stir stir stir… even if you don’t know anything about risotto you probably know that it required a lot of stirring)  After the final liquid has been absorbed taste a grain of rice. If it is still pretty crunchy you might need a few more rounds of liquid.

Once the rice has gotten to the desired texture and consistency, add in the beet puree. Stir, and continue to cook for 5 minutes (continuing to stir frequently).

Before adding the cheese... it looks like pomegranates... or ground beef... I swear to god its delicious.

Before adding the cheese… it looks like pomegranates… or ground beef… I swear to god its delicious.

Add the chevre and the mascarpone cheese and a splash more of vegetable broth. Stir until the cheese is incorporated into the entire dish.

Serve immediately with a sprinkle of parsley, a drizzle of olive oil, and a little bit of finishing salt.   (you know me… Red Ridge Olio Nuovo, and Jacobsen finishing salt)

Voila, Dinner.  If your friends are a punny as mine you too will be getting text messages that read  “risotto? I’ll “beet” right over”   (no joke… this is a real like story).

Easy Appetizer: Winter Endive Bites with persimmon and pomegranate

Winter endive bites with persimmon and pomegranate

Winter endive bites with persimmon and pomegranate

Happy National Appetizer Day!  (What? Really? There is such a thing? I had no idea until Sunday night when I saw a sign announcing it at Trader Joes, but since I had already been mentally composing this blog post about my favorite go-to appetizer, I thought it was kismet.)

I’ve always thought that as an adult, one should have a go to, meal, dessert, and appetizer in his or her cooking repertoire. Ideally the dishes should be easy, tasty, and just a little bit unique…  ( Mine are: endive bites, coconut oven fried chicken, rosemary thyme sugar cookies. ) Even if you don’t cook for yourself on a regular basis, you still need to be able to have those meals you can pull together to impress a date, the in-laws, or survive a work potluck or bake-sale.  These items don’t necessarily need to be cohesive, and they most certainly don’t need to be complicated… but having these go to meal components up your sleeve will most definitely come in handy.

Tangent: You might also want to consider adding a vegan dish to your repertoire.  Because lets face it, we all have vegan friends, and they like to eat delicious things too, and though they are choosing to miss out on things like crème fraiche, you also don’t want to be the friend who serves them things that taste like cardboard because you can’t figure out something delicious and plant based to make. Fact: Cooking vegan is NOT THAT HARD… and yet I know so many people who down right panic at the idea of eliminating meat, and dairy.  Last year I had two Vegan and gluten free friends over for dinner… we had a delightful meal of black rice, raw zucchini noodles and tahini dressing with roasted vegetables…(ok, confession, I rarely cook meat a home, because it grosses me out, and since I rarely cook it it makes me nervous… so when I’m at home I’m mostly a vegetarian… so I’m allowed to go off about how vegan cooking isn’t that hard… because  if you take eggs and cheese out of my diet… I pretty much live in a land of quinoa and roasted veggies…) and as we sat there, they told me about all the dinner party horror stories they had from people who just couldn’t quite get a grip on vegan cooking. Here is a hint… just because you are limiting your ingredients does not mean you have to limit the flavor.  Plants are delicious, seasonal plants are even more delicious… you can still use things like salt, and spices, seeds and a myriad of other things to make your food taste awesome.

Also, to all my vegan friends out there. Don’t freak out when you cook for non-vegan people. You don’t need to defend how you eat or what you made for me… and don’t sit around fretting about if I’m going to be satisfied with the meal, or if I am judging you… I will be satisfied, and I’m not judging you (and most other people probably aren’t either). Fact: you eat this way, and it satisfies you, Cooking for someone is a wonderfully nice thing, and educating someone on new ways of thinking and eating is pretty neat too. Just because I choose to eat eggs and cheese doesn’t mean I think you are crazy for choosing not to eat those things.  So just relax, keep doing what you do…

But I digress, and this IS supposed to be about appetizers.. and is, in fact, not a lecture on life skills and eating habits….  So onto Winter Endive Bites.

Here is what I love about endive bites. Everything.   They are ridiculously simple, but  seem a little bit fancy, so you kind of get extra bang for your buck. You can make them in about 5 minutes, put just about anything in them, and they act as their own cup, so they are a completely self contained nibble that works great for passed apps, or stationary h’orderves.  The endive is crunchy, so you automatically have texture built in, and the bitterness of the green is remarkably versatile.

You could come up with hundreds of different fillings to put in endive bites, but one thing to consider is texture, color, taste and overall presentation. (another favorite is roasted beets with walnuts and blue cheese… or blood oranges with fennel, parley and chévre) What I love most about this particular recipe is the marriage of sweet and savory. The persimmon has a little sweet nuttiness to it, and the pomegranate is simultaneously sweet and tart. The pistachios add some texture, and then the gremolata brings in a little zing.  There are a lot of flavors at work, but they all meld together to present this really gorgeous bite.

persimmons, cubed.

persimmons, cubed.

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Winter Endive Bites with persimmon and pomegranate 

Serves 5-6

  • 2-3 heads of endive
  • seeds from ½ of a pomegranate
  • 2 persimmons
  • 1 handful of shelled pistachios (pulsed in a food processor a few times, or lightly smashed)
  • 2-3 spoonful’s of gremolata*
  • olive oil (I recommend using a slightly fruity olive oil in this recipe. I used the 2013 olio nuovo Koroneiki olive oil from The Oregon Olive Mill… which was very ripe, and has a lot of green banana flavor. )
  •  Finishing salt to taste (obviously I use Jacobsen Sea Salt Cause it’s amazing.)
  1. Cut the bottoms off the endive and separate the leaves. Wash and dry the endive leaves and set aside.
  2. Cut the persimmon into small chunks and place in mixing bowl with pomegranate seeds and pistachio. Lightly mix together and then add 2-3 spoonful’s of gremolata. Drizzle with olive oil. Taste, and add salt as needed.
  3. Scoop the mixture into endive cups, and serve immediately.

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*Gremolata

  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • 1 bunch of parsley, chopped.
  • Mix gremolata ingredients together in small bowl and set aside.

*Gremolata is one of my new favorite things. It is great in soups, on salads, mixed in with rice, on fish… the list goes on. For this recipe, I recommend making it separately and adding it to the rest of the filling, that way you can keep the excess gremolata to garnish other dishes throughout the week.

Note. The gremolata will last a few days in the refrigerator but due to the texture of the persimmons, the fruit mixture doesn’t keep as well.

5 tips for at home juicers

 

$141 worth of produce

$141 worth of produce

Here we are, day one of Juice Cleanse extravaganza 2014 (It’s a working title) I’m going to spend the next five days not eating solid food, living off of juice, water, tea, and coconut water! Hooray! (no really, I’m excited) This will be my 3rd juice cleanse, and by far the longest, and though I’m a little nervous (I work in a restaurant surrounded by amazingly delicious things all the time… hello temptation) I’m mostly just ready to get this show on the road.

I wrote out menus for each day, made a grocery list, and made a few decisions about what sort of cleanse I was going to do.  After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to try and do all organic. I’m not about to get on my high horse and preach the benefits of organic eating, but eating organic whenever possible makes a lot of sense to me, and especially when juicing. Juice allows the nutrients to enter into your blood stream rather quickly, because your body doesn’t have to break down any fiber etc. Call me crazy, but it seems like anything that is essentially going to be directly entering your blood stream should be organic (I know my logic is flawed. But so what!)

And even though I’m on a tight budget I figured I would let myself splurge on organic. After all, I don’t have a family to support, I won’t be going out all week, and I won’t have expenses like coffee, takeout, and sadly I won’t have Wine Wednesday.  I set a budget for myself, and shopped around a little and tried to find the best bargains. This was a little labor intensive, and I ended up going to 5 different stores, but overall I was successful.  (I know five stores sounds like a lot. I could have narrowed it down, but I knew some stuff I wanted to get in bulk, some stuff I could only find at Whole Foods, some stuff I knew Trader Joe’s had at an excellent price… This is why planning is key. ) I couldn’t find organic grapes, and I opted to get a case of Meyer lemons at Costco rather than conventional organic lemons. I also did not buy organic fennel bulb ( I feel like I’m confessing my sins… but its my blog, so I’m not going to justify why I bought the fennel that I did..) And I was able to get everything I’m going to need for 5 days (and then some) for $141. I This breaks down to $28/ day.  Manageable. (my professional juice cleanse ended up being about $50 a day including delivery, so I’m thrilled with $28).

 

super delicious OM juice from Portland Juice Press

super delicious OM juice from Portland Juice Press

golden beets, meyer lemons, ginger and turmeric root, kale.

golden beets, meyer lemons, ginger and turmeric root, kale.

I’m not planning on eating anything, though I might supplement with chia seeds, coconut oil and, depending on how the first few days go, nuts.  I’m also going to practice oil pulling while I’m on my cleanse. I haven’t done any research about a combination of the two, but it seems as though they would go hand in hand. (you can read more about oil pulling here.)  I know that my hardest day will likely be Tuesday, since I’m working a 10 hour shift. If I can make it through a day at the restaurant, and a staff meeting where everyone is drinking beer and eating cheese, than I can make it through anything.

I thought a bit about what I wanted to say in this post, and decided that I’m not going to ramble on about how wonderful juicing is, why I’m doing it, the health benefits, the pros and cons etc. I’m not a nutritionist /doctor/health coach/ expert in any sense of the word, and there are about nine gazillion other websites and blogs you can visit to get menus, facts, benefits etc. I really like the way juicing makes me feel, and after the holidays my entire life feels like it needs a mini-detox.

I am going to offer up 5 pieces of advice for anyone who is embarking on, or thinking about embarking on a juice cleanse, and hopefully these little nuggets of information will help make your life a little easier.

1)   Do your research. Whether you are going to be juicing at home, or juicing through a company, you need to spend a little time looking into things. How much will it cost? Do they deliver? what kind of juicer are you going to get? How long will the juice last? Do you have time to juice?  These are all pretty basic questions, and all things you should probably have a pretty good grasp on before you commit to a cleanse.   My first 3 day cleanse was through Portland Juice Press, and I really cannot say enough good things about it. They were so wonderful to work with, they offered a group rate, delivered it all the way to us in Dundee, and the best part is that there is no mess. You don’t have to spend hours a day making juice and cleaning up, you just open up your fridge every few hours and reach for the juice. They even tell you what order to drink them in. The flavors were really interesting, the juice was satisfying, and the entire process was pretty much painless.   From there I became a little addicted, and since I’m an hour outside of the city, I decided to invest in my own juicer.  There are countless different brands, makes, and models out there, so again you really have to know what it is you are looking for in a juicer. My priorities were juice quality, and easiness to clean.  I ended up with the Omega 8006 juicer, and I’m so in love. A little on the pricey side, but it has 15 year warrantee, is super easy to clean, and it is what they call a masticating juicer. Essentially it crushes the juice using a very slow rpm, which helps keep the juice from oxidizing, and it maintains more of the healthy enzymes and benefits. Juice from a masticating juicer also has a longer shelf life, so you have up to 72 hours to drink your juice (other types they recommend consuming the juice right away or within 24 hours) This type of juicer is perfect for doing a cleanse because you can make juice for a couple of days in advance. Once you know what you are wanting out of a juice cleanse/ juicer it is easier to commit. Also keep in mind that juicing is not a quick process. You are going to need to block off some time to make the juice (its like cooking) you have to chop everything, juice it, clean the juicer etc… If you are going to be juicing for the entire day, it could take up to two hours ( including all the prep and clean up…masticating juicer do go a little bit slower, but they also extract more juice.)

2)   Make a Plan: sit down and write a menu. Seriously, treat it like you would a dinner party. List out all the days and exactly what juices you are planning on making (you can always switch it up) and from there make a grocery list. Its easy to see exactly what you are going to need once everything is listed out, and once the grocery list is made its easy to write out notes about where you are going to look for each item. Spending 15 minutes making a menu and grocery list will make it so easy once you are actually out shopping, especially if you have to go to multiple stores, you will know exactly what you need to get.

3)   Plan Ahead (this goes hand in hand with Make a plan).  Though I’m sure there are people who just jump into a detox like this, I think you will be a lot happier with the results and the entire process if you take a little time before and after the cleanse to make some minor changes to your diet and lifestyle. For me the biggest things to cut out in advance are alcohol and caffeine.(  Of course it is recommended to cut out dairy, meet etc. beforehand, and to try and eat a clean and unprocessed diet at least a few days in advance) All I know is that I drink a lot of coffee, and the last thing I want to do is be on a juice cleanse while suffering from caffeine headaches. Save yourself the headache (sorry, couldn’t resist) and get off caffeine a few days before you start. I switched to tea about a week ago, and stopped caffeine entirely two days before.  Look at your calendar, because the last thing you want is to be in the middle of a juice cleanse while you are out at a birthday party, wedding, or other social engagement. I mean its fine, its not like you are on house arrest when you are juicing, but if everyone around you is drinking, eating, and having a grand old time, you will probably hate your life a little bit, and be tempted to cheat.   Also, clean out your refrigerator before you go shopping.  You are going to need to place to store the produce, and all the juice, and it takes up quite a bit of space.  How are you going to store your juice? (I personally use mason jars, they are the perfect size for one 16ish oz serving, and they fit well in the fridge) Are all your jars clean?

4)   Drink so much water. Seriously. Drink it. You are essentially releasing a ton of toxins from your body, and they need to be flushed out. They are looking for any way to get out of your body, and chances are they are going to be flooding out of your pores (breakouts, and bad breath are common side effects of juicing because of this) drink water, drink water, drink water.   (this is probably the hardest part for me. Especially when I’m at work, and literally have to get someone to cover my station every time I go to the bathroom. Its not like I can discretely slip away and have no one notice, I actually have to tell someone, sometimes multiple people “hey I’m going pee, cover the front”  On normal days this is fine, but on busy days there are lines out the door, and sometimes abandoning your post, even for a 2 minutes bathroom break, just isn’t happening. )

5)   Make your own rules, and give yourself a break.  Juicing is hard, and you know your body. If you need to eat, then eat. You have just stocked up on all this great stuff to put in your juice, if you absolutely need a snack, then eat one of the oranges, have a handful of nuts, do what you need to do, and don’t judge yourself for it. I always carry a handful of almonds in my bag when I’m doing a juice cleanse, just incase I need a little boost of texture and protein.  Maybe on your juice fast you juice during the day and have a healthy meal at night. Maybe you eat nuts and solids all day. Maybe you are just juicing as a supplement. Find what works for you. Also have fun, try some new ingredients! Have you juiced asparagus? Tumeric root?

*Side Note:  Because I feel like it has to be addressed, because everyone always asks me in person: Does a juice cleanse make you poop a lot/ give you the runs? Though it seems of-putting to be talking about brown-towning in a blog about juicing/ being healthy, I get why people ask that question.  My simple answer is: everybody poops. Lets just think about it… you are drinking liquid for days… what do you think that would do to your bowel movements? Everyone’s bodies and eating habits are different, and I think if you eat enough fiber on a regular basis you aren’t going to really notice a big difference.  Some days were looser than others, and I’m just going to leave it at that. I never felt like I had to stay close to a restroom, or like I couldn’t go out and do things, there were no emergencies.

 

And just because I don’t want to end a blog post with everyone thinking about bowel movements here  is a recipe for one of my favorite juices .

5 carrots

¾ of a red bell pepper

1 apple

1 inch of turmeric root

 

cranberry, orange, fennel bulb, pomegranate

cranberry, orange, fennel bulb, pomegranate

 

golden beet, carrot, orange, fennel bulb and ginger juice

golden beet, carrot, orange, fennel bulb and ginger juice

Rhubarb Rosemary Gin and Tonics

 

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One of the most fun things about my house, is discovering the things that are coming up in the garden. This is my first spring here, so there are a number of surprises. One of my favorite things thus far, has been the two huge rhubarb plants in the back yard. I have no idea how old they are, and if they have a story (I’m sure they do, but it isn’t mine) and I’ve spent the last few weeks, harvesting, and prepping the rhubarb for some delicious thing. It isn’t the “best” rhubarb in the world, the stalks are a little gangly and woody, and they are mostly green-ish, but I still managed to get quite a harvest, and have put quite a bit in the freezer for future jams, bread, and pies.

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Yesterday I was feeling like I needed a domestic project though, and so I wandered out to the garden to see if there was anything interesting to harvest. I ended up picking a handful of rhubarb, and immediately came inside to start on a simple syrup. I wanted to create something fresh, and herbal, and decided that rosemary would pair wonderfully with the tartness of the rhubarb. I tend to lean away from using rosemary in conventional ways, because the flavor can be really overpowering, and generally speaking I think it gets overused… but give me a rosemary pairing that is a little outside of the box, and I’m all over it (rosemary thyme sugar cookies are my favorite things on the planet). Rhubarb rosemary gin and tonic anyone?

My  favorite part (or one of my favorite parts)  of my new job is playing bar tender, and coming up with new and unusual cocktails that have a fresh market flair to them. The lemon-basil vodka tonics have been a smashing success, and have a permanent home on the menu, and the Cucumber rosemary gin and tonics have had great reviews as well… Now if only the summer weather would stick around. Hello Oregon, we are ready for the refreshing cocktails!

As I simmered the rhubarb with sugar, water, rosemary and lemon I started to scheme all the tasty things I could do with the concoction. My immediate thought was of course the gin and tonic (because it sounds delicious, right?) but there was also a bottle of Prosecco in my fridge staring me down, and what better to pair with a bit of bubbles than a wonderfully pink and herbaceous syrup? (I’m actually drinking this right now, hello-wine Wednesday! its fabulous. I don’t usually drink in the middle of the day, but I had to take some photos for this post, and when in Rome/ when it is your weekend you drink the rhubarb rosemary bubbles for lunch).

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For those of you who have not cooked with rhubarb, it disintegrates into a stringy mush of swamp water fairly quickly. Don’t let this deter you… the end product is totally worth it. Once the syrup was fully infused with the rhubarb and rosemary flavor, I strained off solids, and the result was a beautiful pale pink liquid. No more swamp water, hello cocktail possibilities. (plus the rhubarb mush is totally delicious, and I would highly recommend eating it by the spoonful, spreading it on toast, or putting it in a crepe.)

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I’m totally obsessed with the blush color of the syrup, something about it just makes me feel very lady like… perfect for brunches, bridal showers, or just a Wednesday afternoon. The party-thrower/ hostess in me wanted to add a little more flair to the cocktails, so I froze some rosemary in my ice cubes. It is so simple, and presents amazingly, and can be done with any herb or edible flower. I love adding mint or lavender to ice cubes for lemonade, and borage blossoms and rose petals make a beautiful addition to any punch.

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Rhubarb Rosemary Simple Syrup:
Equal parts sugar and water (I used 2 cups of each)
roughly two cups of diced rhubarb
juice from 1/2 a lemon
4-5 small sprigs of rosemary.

Combine water, sugar, rosemary, rhubarb and lemon juice in a sauce pan. Slowly bring to a boil, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain out solids and save for some delicious snack.

I’d love to see what other delicious ideas people have for this syrup, and highly encourage you to share them here!

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Rhubarb Rosemary Gin and tonic:

2 oz gin (I used Ransom gin, my absolute favorite)
1 oz rhubarb rosemary simple syrup
tonic water to taste
garnish with lime wedge & sprig of rosemary.

Rhubarb Rosemary Prosecco Sparkler
1-2 oz of rhubarb rosemary simple syrup (or to taste)
top off with prosecco & a rosemary garnish.