The Kitchen Sink

For the love of food, life and everything in between.

Month: February, 2013

Spicy Roasted Vegetable Macaroni and Cheese

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If the papaya chunks did not give it away, I will admit I am craving a bit of color. The pure whites of snow, the deep greens of pine needles are wonderful. I have marveled at them for weeks now and I will be ready to do so again, come next November. But at the present time, I’m ready for a fresh pallet. Fortunately, tomorrow is the first day of March. My wishes will soon be fulfilled.

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I stood in front of rows of lettuce at the grocery store yesterday. I searched for the spinach, hoping the timed water misters would not open up while I was leaning in beneath them. Then it hit me. Thankfully not the water, but the scent of daffodils and hyacinths. It would be prudent of me to share with you that the produce section sits just beside the floral department. I lost track of the mixed greens and baby spinach, I was aloft in warmer days and dew drops on miniature daffodils.

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I resisted the urge to pick up one of each, for soon the daffodils that run abundantly in our yard will shoot up and be fresh for the picking. I also spent last weekend giving an update to my garden bench in my room, with a small ivy plant and some herb seeds. More on this in another post soon. I would walk away holding only spinach and kale, but the songs (and scents) of spring were awakened within my heart.

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With this encounter, I knew dinner needed to be colorful. I could not wish spring to come any faster, but I could liven up the dinner plate. It had also been a rainy, blustery day with lights flickering and threats of power outages. I wanted warmth and I wanted color. I wanted a bit of spice too. Thanks to pinterest and Food and Nutrition Magazine, I had found a satisfactory recipe. Spicy Roasted Vegetable Macaroni and Cheese. Comfort food meets fresh produce.

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Spicy Roasted Vegetable Macaroni and Cheese

Adapted from Comfort of Cooking Blog

Serves 6

1 cup broccoli florets, cut into small chunks

1/2  to 3/4 cup a large red pepper, diced

1 medium yellow squash, quartered and diced

4 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (whole grain if you’d like)

just slightly less than 1/4 cup olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

3 TBSP all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups skim milk

2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I used a mix of sharp and extra sharp, freshly grated)

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes smoked paprika

salt and pepper to taste

3 TBSP panko breadcrumbs

About 2 TBSP freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F. Set a medium pot of water to boil. Prepare a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Toss broccoli, red pepper, squash and carrots onto the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Once water is boiling, lower heat slightly and cook pasta, according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Whisk in flour and cook for one minute. Gradually add in milk, stirring constantly until slightly thickened. Stir in cheddar cheese until melted. Add in smoked paprika and cayenne pepper. Pour cheese sauce over pasta, mix in vegetables.

Transfer mixture to a large casserole dish and sprinkle with panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Place under the broiler (500F) for 3 to 4 minutes, until top is golden brown. Serve and enjoy.

Pepita, Papaya, Almond Museli

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One day you will learn how to give and receive love like an open window and it will feel like summer everyday.

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The other day I got to thinking about my favorite meal. Not salads, or seafood, or ice cream, more simple than that. More along the lines of breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s the type of wandering my mind does, nearly unconsciously, until I come to a realization worth marveling at. Then I tune in, listen to my mind, take a mental note to stow it away.

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It’s the kind of wandering I love the most. Lately I feel as though I’ve learned to incorporate it into the strangest of places. It used to only happen as I drifted off to sleep, then I would find myself doing it while I was on a walk or at the gym. Then it was while I was driving.

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To completely contradict all of this I will tell you that I am big believer in being present. I believe in showing up for everyday. Mentally, emotionally, any way you twist it, I think that “putting my best foot forward” also means “showing up” to participate fully in all that life has to offer. How can one’s mind wander but also be present in the current moment? I’m still tackling this question myself, but somehow I seem to have found a nice mix of the two, presence and absence and it has created quite a calming effect.

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I’ve always been a morning person so it should come as no surprise that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.  On a side note, my second favorite time of day, or perhaps very closely rivaling first place, is the late afternoon. From the light shadows cast by a setting sun dancing around tree trunks covered in snow, to the way my sun scorched skin feels as I settle a bit deeper into my beach chair on the sands of the Jersey Shore.

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I turn to my mother and we say “the longer we sit the less we want to leave” as if we have just discovered this fact of life that takes hold of us every beach day of the summer. The sinking sun seems to pull us closer to the sand and cloth chairs rather than back to the beach house where the tomatoes resting on the windowsill are waiting to partake in dinner.

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Thanks to dried papaya, this take on museli seems to perfectly catch that hue of sunset among beach chairs and the warmth that I’m dreaming of on a rainy, blustery morning of late winter, marrying my two favorite hours of the day quite perfectly.

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 Pepita, Papaya, Almond Museli

Makes about 4 cups

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup roughly chopped almonds

1/2 cup unsalted pepita’s (shelled pumpkin seeds)

1 cup roughly chopped dried papaya chunks

Preheat oven to 375F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. On one baking sheet, toast the oats. On another baking sheet, toast the pepitas and chopped almonds. Toast until each is lightly golden, about 5 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool and then combine with chopped dried papaya.

Serve over milk or plain greek yogurt. As you can see, this also makes a great on-the-go breakfast once packaged in small jars.

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Whole Wheat Crepes

DSC_0012For one reason or another, the work week always has me bustling and buzzing, ah the life of a working girl. If I’m not careful, the weekend can be just as hectic in the form of tying up loose ends of the week, only to have to prepare the beginnings of a brand new week ahead.

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It might take a bit of work to slow it down on the weekend, but it’s well worth the conscientious effort.

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Remember that post when I mentioned my efforts of incorporating a bit of the things that I love into each and every day? I’m still at it. Every. Single. Day. And the best part is…it’s working.

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My good mood is the option I choose every single morning. A bump in the road, spilled coffee, a detour on my drive in to work, these tests of attitude are fierce. Some mornings I want to throw in the towel, call it a bad day and grumble on through. I choose not to though, for the sun hasn’t even risen yet. There is so much time to redirect my day and cultivate happiness in ways both big and small.

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Sometimes I like to think that the weekends are my time to build up my energy – and my happiness – reserves to stow away for the days when my mood is challenged to withstand obstacles and negativity. On days like these, I can take a mind retreat back to a relaxing Sunday morning, filled with crepes, bursting at the seams with berries and creme.

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Though these berries are not fresh from the farms of Maple Lane as they would be in July, they are still sweet and juicy from the California coast. These berries remind me that the days of harvesting them myself will come again soon. I think of making these crepes when the sun is truly warm and the misty mornings of August are spent sipping coffee overlooking a low stretch of fog, resting on sail boat masts. Mornings when the low tone of the channel marker is barely audible but we know it’s there. Just like we know that relaxing weekends and berry season will come again.

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Whole Wheat Crepes

Adapted from Well Balanced.Food.Life.Travel Blog

Makes about 5

For the crepes:

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 tsp granulated sugar

3/4 cup skim milk

2 eggs

1 1/2 TBSP unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

Fillings of your choice! As you can see, this morning was one of blueberries, strawberries, a few chocolate chips and some freshly whipped cream.

Place all ingredients for the crepes into a blender and blend for 1-2 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a small drizzle of canola oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1/4-1/2 cup of crepe mixture and swirl pan so that the batter evenly coats the bottom of the pan in a thin layer.

Cook for about 1 minute and carefully flip over. Cook for about another minute and transfer to plate.

 Fill as desired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pistachio Crusted Salmon with Broccoli Pesto

It’s relatively early for a Saturday in my book. I awoke at my regular time; and four am still appeared as four am does, with a very faint rainbow, the makings of a sunrise on the horizon. I took a deep breath and crawled back under the sheets, for today I can sleep in.

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 It’s a balance though, an uncomfortable battle in my mind. I want to be rested and I want to sleep in, but when I awake and it’s ten in the morning I feel I have missed the best parts of the morning, with only two hours left. I get out of bed already wearing a blanket of angst because I couldn’t get up at seven or eight like I would have wanted to.


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But this morning is different. I awoke again at seven, three hours of sleeping in felt pleasantly sufficient and I drew back the curtain. The way the dim grey light of a cloudy day floated onto my floor was euphoric.

 On Wednesday the radio voice filled my car with words of spring making it’s approach in one month’s time. I have found so many things to love about winter I don’t want to sound hypocritical here. But I just love the spring.  If you are any sort of follower to my page then you likely have just realized I have a deep, undying love for all seasons.

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 It’s as if they are my four pseudo-children, and I couldn’t possibly love one any more than another but I love them for reasons so different from each other.

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I look forward to new faces taking seeds from the bird feeder. Flowers shooting up in unexpected grassy mounds, replacing snowy drifts. Greens and blues and pastels of Easter. The strong desire to implement traditions in the celebration of spring.  But for now, I will relish in the final days of winter, for they hold a beauty that will melt away with the snow and ice.

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Salmon is a fish I enjoy all throughout the year, though its garnishes tend to vary based on the season. I think of mustard’s tangy sauce in the fall, walnut honey dressing in the winter. I find it difficult to think of salmon in the summer, for there is fresh flounder and striped bass to dine on docks. Recently I discovered a recipe that I think will be just perfect for the springtime. A fresh take on basil pesto, thanks to broccoli. A  salty crunch of chopped pistachios. Who can argue with that coral salmon flesh anyway, it wears it so well.

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Pistachio Crusted Salmon with Broccoli Pesto

Adapted from With Style and Grace Blog and Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low Sodium Cookbook

Serves 2 (but can be easily doubled by adding to additional salmon fillets, the pesto remains unchanged)

3/4 cup pistachios, shelled

1 garlic clove 1 cup broccoli florets, stems trimmed

1 cup fresh basil, washed and patted dry

3 TBSP olive oil

2 (generous) TBSP pine nuts 2 salmon fillets

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the salmon, skin side down, onto it. Set aside.

Add the pistachios to your food processor and pulse until chopped. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Add garlic, olive oil, basil, broccoli and pine nuts to your food processor and pulse until pureed but still chunky.

Using a spoon or a small rubber spatula, transfer the pesto to the salmon fillets, covering the top surface, be generous, as you will have leftovers should you choose to keep the serving size to just two.

Using your fingers (or the back of a small spoon), press the pistachios onto the pesto.

Place the baking pan of salmon into the oven to bake for about 12 minutes.

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Remove and serve over salad, pasta, rice, etc. We chose to serve over a bed of couscous with a side of roasted asparagus.

Roasted Sweet (Chick) Peas

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It amazes me how quickly and effortlessly the subjects of my posts evolve from ideas to paragraphs and photographs. A steady stream with a winding queue of entrees, treats and crafts awaiting the accompaniment of some kind words. One of my primary hesitations about starting up a blog was a fear of writer’s block and forced creativity. I’ve pleasantly surprised myself with quite the contrary.

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Sometimes I think about future projects and recipes (interchangeable at best) while I’m exercising, and other times it’s the could-be, would-be monotonous drive down I-95 into a sky set ablaze that awakens my mind to new ideas and potential postings at the end of day well spent tending to patients.

I’ve had a desire to make up a batch of satisfactory roasted chickpeas for a few months now, not without hesitation though. I might go as far to say they’re trendy, something I would normally shy away from. While I don’t strive to reinvent the wheel, I certain prefer to contribute some of my personality to most recipes and endeavors, which can prove to be difficult when every foodie out there is roasting up chick peas (and likely posting about them).

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I attempted a smoky and a sweet batch a few weeks ago, I think impatience played a role in the slightly soggy, less than optimal batch of smoky chick peas. The sweet version was close, but still left me wanting a bit more. More flavor, more personality maybe? I struggled to figure out what I was looking for.

But one fine Sunday afternoon, without any rhyme or reason, I stumbled on some renewed hope for success in the chick pea arena.

Luckily, I had kept a can on hand for the spare-of-the-moment inkling I predicted would come. It’s nice to know thy self, isn’t it?

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I also have a bag of dry chick peas, ready for soaking on a day with a bit more time to spare. However, when well-rinsed, the canned version can certainly suffice.

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Though I am still working on a spicy/smoky version, this sweet recipe has gotten me one step closer to wrangling a take on such a popular snack, and with it’s fiber and protein content, I certainly support its snacking capabilities.

Roasted Sweet (Chick) Peas

1- 15oz canned chick peas (also known as garbanzo beans)

1 1/2 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP maple syrup

1 TBSP honey (preferably local)

1/2 tsp salt, a dash of pepper

2 TBSP sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 375F (I suppose 400F could work with alternate cooking times but we also had a roast going and I was committed to 375F). Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Thoroughly rinse the chick peas in a colander and pat dry with a paper towel. Transfer onto prepared baking sheet, spread in a thin layer. Roast for about 30 minutes, until dry.

 Mix olive oil, maple syrup, honey, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the roasted chick peas after initial baking and toss to evenly coat. Return chick peas to baking sheet, sprinkle with sesame seeds and roast for another 20 to 25 minutes, stirring about 10 minutes into cooking. Test for optimum crunchiness and caramelization starting at 21 minutes. A crunch similar to wasabi peas was the crunch I was after, which was achieved at 24 minutes.

Feel free to comment, as I am open to any suggestions for a spicy version!

Sea Glass Earrings

Beach Glass. Sea Glass. Mermaid’s Tears.

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I happen to think it is quite important to have a vast array of interests. As much as I love throwing on an apron and pouring over recipe after recipe, tweaking and molding them into the perfect science experiment of a muffin; I also find a great deal of satisfaction from nature. Sometimes it is the nature right outside my window, and other times it’s the way the sun filters through the pine tree on my walk to get coffee.

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And sometimes it’s the beach on vacation at the jersey shore. But one of my favorite places to travel to is the little sand spit across the state border in Rhode Island.

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Here, nature gives me a little piece of itself as a keepsake of summer days even on the coldest, darkest days of winter.

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I like to think of this little jewel-ridden piece of land as a secret. I like to think that it is only I who harvests its treasures, carted home to be stored and displayed.

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For years, I have placed my sea glass in jars and vases, shoe boxes and baskets, with no intention other than recalling the thrill of the hunt, when a green gem shines among a rocky tide line, a quick swooping action is needed to pluck the shard from the sand before the relentless tide comes and sweeps it away for another hunter. A sea glass hunter that is.

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It was about two years ago that I finally put my sea glass into something other than a display jar. I put it into a sponge and I drilled, and drilled, and prayed that I would not crack this coveted treasure of the sound.

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I then twisted sterling wire round it’s smooth edges and although I had no idea what I was doing and don’t exactly identify with artistry, I was overwhelmingly satisfied with the result.

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I could wear this memory of the sea whenever I wanted, displaying it for more than just those who happened to walk past my bookcase.

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For those of you who may wish to turn your sea glass collection into something more than home decor, here are some of the recommended supplies:

Dremel Tool fitted with a .084 to 1mm ball tipped Diamond drill, found at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

A small pyrex dish

A large kitchen sponge, cut to fit inside the pyrex dish

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 Top Tips:

Soak the sponge with enough water that when pressed, the sponge releases water but does not over flow the dish. This will keep the glass from overheating (and shattering) and also lubricates the drill bit.

Drill a hole about halfway through the glass, then flip it and drill on the opposite side, if you only drill from one side the hole is less likely to have clean edges.

Do not apply excess pressure to the dremel while drilling, let the weight of the tool dictate the pressure applied on the glass.

Press the sea glass into the sponge to release water to wash away any sludge from accumulating around the drilling site.

Should you be a bit hesitant, practice a few pieces of broke or less desirable see glass first to get the technique down.

Be patient while drilling! Applying too much pressure to the dremel may cause the glass to shatter.

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Blueberry Coffee Cake

With or without a valentine at my side, I have always liked valentine’s day. It’s an excuse to be crafty and make cards, and break out the glitter. I happen to like red and pink hues. And for some reason, I always remember this day quite well.

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I remember the year in elementary school that we decorated card board boxes to act as envelopes for the valentines that we would receive from our classmates. I remember in first grade when one girl decided to only give Valentines out to her true friends and I was devastated when I couldn’t find her really cool, jeweled card in my shoe box.

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I remember the year that my mother and I went shoe shopping and she joked about finding a boy for me in one of the store aisles. I found the shoes I was looking for and I recall this day like it was yesterday. I was 14, and without a valentine, but it didn’t matter.

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I remember the year my mother was sick in the hospital and she sent my father out to the store to find me small heart lollipops from Whyevernot downtown, I had had my eye on them. I then went to her best friend’s house – she may as well be my second mother – and we made chocolate dipped strawberries together. Though my mother hospitalized, she wanted to make sure I still had a good day.

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I remember various quirky gifts scattered through the years like those red and pink balloons that adorned the quaint tavern ceiling the year I spent valentine’s day with some of my close friends, sipping wine and trading stories.

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I won’t walk you through all twenty four years of my valentine’s day memories, I will however leave you with one sweet treat. Ironically, no chocolate is involved. And quite frankly, I wasn’t planning on baking anything for valentine’s day this year. However, I was asked to make a cake for one of my mother’s coworkers and the heavenly smell that drifted about the kitchen as the cake was baking had me whipping up a second cake for our own enjoyment.

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Roses are red, violets are blue, here’s the blueberry coffee cake recipe for you too. But truth is, I prefer tulips!

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Adapted heavily from The Eating Well Dessert Cookbook & Pastry Affair Blog

Cake

1 egg

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup non fat plain greek yogurt

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen – I used frozen given the time of year)

Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease a bundt pan or a large cast iron skillet.

In a large bowl, add the egg, buttermilk, yogurt, oil, and brown sugar and whisk until completely combined. Fold in the flours, baking powder, and salt, stirring just until mixed. Be careful not to over mix or you will be left with a tough cake. Fold in the blueberries and transfer batter to the prepared pan.

Almond Crumble

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients until mixed. Sprinkle over the top of the batter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes (or 30-35 minutes if using frozen blueberries) Run a knife around the edge of the cake and let cool for 10 minutes in pan before flipping onto a plate. Serve hot or room temperature.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Roasted Veggie Wraps

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Though I walked a fine line of near misery this weekend, I am happy to report that I successfully survived the historical blizzard, in a house with no electricity and no heat for the better part of the weekend. This of course did not mean that there was any lack of cooking.

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I am tempted to glamorize this for you all, and tell you I dined on roasted veggie wraps, sipped on chilled white wine, a bottle freshly plucked from the snow pile, in front of a roaring fireplace.

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In fact, I will tell you this because this did really happen. But I must be honest and tell you I was adorned in a winter hat and wool socks at all times and I was usually muttering something about the cold that had settled quite suddenly over our home as the lights went out.

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It was not until late Sunday, when the electricity was restored, that I was truly able to see and marvel at the down comforter of snow that had coated most every viable surface as far as the eye could see.

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The roads looked like something out of an Alaskan landscape, the trees laid down to rest under ice and snow-ridden branches and the birds, oh the birds were just giddy with the sudden abundance of berries brought to the ground and the generosity of a certain someone who kept the black oiled sunflower seed flowing and suet aplenty.

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I was unable to adequately document most of my cooking endeavors as the glow of the hearth just does not do the trick and the temptation of a hot meal was too enticing to illicit a full photo session.

Quinoa cooking

I will leave you with this. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you cannot cook quinoa tacos in the dark. A camping stove saved me and my sanity this weekend. I will post the recipe soon, when I am able to actually capture this meal under adequate lighting. For now, I will share my roasted veggie wrap.

Roasted Veggie Wraps

Serves 2

 2 whole wheat wraps of your choice

about 2 cups of spinach, washed and spun dry

2 cups of chopped vegetables, your pick (I chose carrots and broccoli because thats what we had on hand)

1 TBSP olive oil

1-2 TBSP goat cheese

For the glaze (this will make extra which can be easily stored in a jar for future use):

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1-2 TBSP light brown sugar

 I would recommend preheating and oven to 375F and tossing the chopped vegetables with the olive oil. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast until for tender, about 20 minutes. However, given my resources, I used a cast iron skillet over medium heat to saute the vegetables about 10 minutes, until soft but still with a bit of crunchiness or to your liking.

In a small cast iron skillet over medium heat, heat the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, stirring frequently until the mixture has reduced in volume by about half. Remove from heat to a small bowl.

Assemble wrap with roasted vegetables, goat cheese and spinach. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and enjoy!

Cranberry Flax Muffins

DSC_0031In the past year, I’ve made some really big strides in the kitchen. I’m not sure why it was that I didn’t familiarize myself with the kitchen sooner, but I’m sure glad I have now. After years and years of watching food network, I have finally taken on some recipes of my own. And now, I rarely watch food network because I’d rather be in the kitchen, experimenting and executing meals, instead of sitting down, watching someone else cook.

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Unfortunately, I’ve been called a food snob, but I’d really call it more of a food skeptic. This is something I can be proud of. I know a big part of this comes from my education in dietetics. I know a great deal about food, the science of food, the misinformation on food, the benefits and preventative effects as well as the detrimental effects of food. And so I trust few others to prepare an equally satisfying, healthy meal, snack, dessert. But of course, I’ve identified a few.

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I wish I could say I don’t let the misconceptions about food get to me, but now and again I hear a remark from a family or friend (and sometimes a total stranger) and I cringe. I want to correct them, I want to inform and educate them. The misconceptions about dieting seem to get under my skin the most.

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 I know that for the rest of my life I will watch what I eat, and watch my weight, while thinking about and taking control of what I let past my lips. I also know that I really like to cook, and I also love to bake. Some people think that “being on a diet” means that they can’t have baked goods. In fact, a realistic, healthy diet, one that is meant to instill lifetime eating habits, improving a person’s relationship with food while maintaining (or losing) weight certainly can include sweet treats.

I want to feel good about the food I eat. I don’t want to feel deprived. I want to have my cake and eat it too. I know I’m not alone here.

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And so I bring you, cranberry flax muffins. These muffins provide the satisfaction of a baked good with sweetness, while sneaking in some beneficial fiber and quite frankly, they make for a nice accompaniment for my afternoon cup of tea.

Cranberry Flax Muffins

Adapted from The Pastry Affair.

Yields 12 muffins

3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (90 grams) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (53 grams) milled flax
1/3 cup (66 grams) brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup (60 ml) canola oil
1 cup (235 ml) 1% milk
1 cup (120 grams) dried cranberries (or any other dried fruit, think cherries, apricots or a mixture…)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.

Whisk together the flours, milled flax, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the egg, vegetable oil, and milk, mixing until combined. Gently stir in the dried fruit.

Pour the batter evenly between the baking cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Israeli Couscous with Maple Kale and Sweet Potatoes

Noticing life only enriches it.

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DSC_0020I know I am not alone when I share my thoughts of noticing the finer details of life. The way the snow flies behind the Amtrak train like a shimmering ghost. Or catching a devoted photographer out on the streets of town in the predawn hours as I begin my daily commute.  Wool socks. Dancing candle flames. And like catching those small moments to stow away for gloomy days, I get a little bit of joy when I cross paths with another person who feels the same way I do.

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I’ve always been one for paying attention to detail. Sometimes it crosses over with my perfectionism and other times it reveals itself in my thoroughness and mindfulness approach to most everything. Often times I find happiness among the finer threads of a woven life. While I also believe in creating happiness, these small details add up, paving the way for continued happy thoughts ahead.

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I realize I am a total foodie. Through and through I love food, for sustainability, for pleasure, for comfort, for career. Food plays a substantial part in my life. I like to think I have a great relationship with food, but like any relationship, it requires tending to, modest effort, and patience.

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Tonight I was home by myself, with a big empty kitchen, a (nearly) fully stocked refrigerator, and some kale that was about 24 hours from becoming unsatisfying mush. I could have gotten take out. I could have had a bowl of cereal. Instead, in true foodie style, I cooked up a well rounded meal for four, guest of 1. With leftovers for lunch (paired with some fresh fruit – see below) and family.

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The way the kale cooked up to a grass green in the cast iron pan and the warmth of cinnamon and cayenne wafting from the oven brought both comfort and satisfaction to such a lonely kitchen. I could have chosen to focus on the exertion from my depleted energy stores, or the clean up of non-dishwasher safe pots and pans. I could have. But I didn’t. The finer details of this meal were the real key players here. Aside from the disease fighting vitamins, minerals and fiber of course.

Israeli Couscous with Maple Kale and Sweet Potatoes

Adapted from Poor Girl Gourmet

1 pound of sweet potatoes (about 1 large, or 2 small) skin on, sliced into 1/2 inch discs then cut into 1/2 inch chunks

1 1/5 TBSP olive oil (for potatoes)

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1 TBSP fresh thyme leaves

1 TBSP olive oil (for shallots)

1 medium shallot, coarsely chopped

4-6 chives, chopped

1 Bunch of curly kale, washed, dried, with leaves ripped from stems and torn into pieces

1 cup dry israeli couscous – cooked according to manufacturer’s directions

3 TBSP Maple Syrup

Goat cheese as desired

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F. After cutting sweet potato into 1/2-inch chunks, toss in a medium bowl with olive oil, cinnamon, thyme and cayenne pepper. Mix well. Place in a single layer in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Cook the Israeli Couscous according to manufacturer’s directions – this should take about 10 minutes.

With about 20 minutes left on the sweet potatoes, heat remaining olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add shallots and chives and saute about 3 minutes, until shallots are translucent. Add kale and cook 5 to 7 minutes. Add in couscous and sweet potatoes and drizzle maple syrup over top. Mix to combine and serve. Topping with goat cheese and seasoning with salt and pepper as desired.