Spiced Baked Apples with Cranberries and Honey-Glazed Pecans

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Thanksgiving officially marks the beginning of all things cozy season.  Sure, some of us may have started our coziness quest early with the first hint of cold weather, but tomorrow, it’s official.  We’re taking a ride to cozytown!  Coziness is one of my core values.  If I were to have a personal mission statement, coziness would be one of the main tenets.  Sure, it’s no secret that I love the warmer times of year, when I can get my hands in the dirt and grow things and get out and adventure, but there’s something special about this time of year.  For me it’s a time of coming in for creativity, long days of cooking, and wrapping up on the couch with a book or some knitting.  

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Today I offer you the coziest of cozy recipes, my spiced baked apples.  I spent the better part of last week hanging out with my family in a condo in the mountains, knitting, playing games, drinking tea, cooking, watching movies and getting crafty.  One night, I put a batch of baked apples glazed with honey and  spices in the oven and retreated to take a bath.  When I rejoined my family to play games, and I took my first bite of warm apple, I nearly melted into a state of elevated goofy-grinned coziness, and not long after, sauntered in a sloth-like stupor to curl up in bed.  

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I love how quickly baked apples come together, and how flexible they are.  The version I made on my trip last week was very simple–halved honeycrisp apples, baking spices and honey with chopped pecans.  For this version, I decided to add a few special things to make them festive for the coming season of eating–dried cranberries which infuse the apple cider cooking liquid, and some quick honey-glazed spiced pecans to crown the top (they also make for very addictive snacking while the apples are baking).  

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I wish you much coziness in the coming days, whether you’re cooking, spending time with your special people, or just doing something indulgent and comforting for yourself!  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Spiced Baked Apples with Cranberries and Honey glazed Pecans

Serves 4-8

For the apples:

1 1/2 cups apple cider

⅓ cup dried cranberries

4 medium or large baking apples such as Honeycrisp or Jonathan

1 lemon, halved

1 tablespoon vegan butter, melted (optional)

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

⅛ teaspoon allspice

⅛ teaspoon ground clove

Pinch of salt
For the pecan topping:

1 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons granulated sugar*

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

2 pinches clove

pinch of salt

Additional equipment needed: parchment paper

 

For the apples:  

Preheat oven to 375˚F.  

Pour the cider and scatter the cranberries in a baking dish.  Halve and core the apples and rub the cut sides with the lemons to prevent browning.  Arrange the apples in the baking dish on top of the cider and cranberries.  Drizzle the melted butter and honey over the apples, and sprinkle the cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves on top.  Cover with foil and bake for about 55 minutes, until the apples are softened and steaming hot.  

For the pecan topping:

Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and set aside.  

Cook pecans in a medium frying pan over medium heat until fragrant and beginning to turn golden, supervising closely and stirring often.  Add the honey, sugar (if using), cinnamon, ginger and clove.  Stir constantly for about 2 minutes until the sugar dissolves and the liquid thickens, darkens slightly and coats the nuts leaving just a little residue in the bottom of the pan.  

Spread the nut mixture on the parchment paper and allow to cool for about 20 minutes until the coating hardens.  

Serve warm, spooning some of the cranberry-cider liquid over each apple and topping with the honey pecans.   
*The honey-only version tastes great and has a crunchy, slightly sticky texture.  The sugar version gives the nuts a slightly crispier texture.

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Penne with Kale Pesto, Almond Ricotta and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

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Eating out used to be a no-brainer.  Step one: choose restaurant.  Step two: decide what sounds good, debate a bit and order.  Step three: chow down.  Now, it’s a little more complicated.  When planning to eat at a restaurant now, first, I temper my expectations.  Second, I scope out the menu from the comfort of my own home to determine a few possible options.  Third, go to said restaurant and re-create the Spanish Inquisition, where I question my server (kindly of course) about how everything is cooked, looking for clues about hidden dairy.  I proceed with the cross-examination, asking if they know for sure that this piece of fish isn’t cooked in butter, or that masala doesn’t have the slightest swirl of cream stirred in at the end, usually requesting they double-check with  the chef just to be sure.  If only there were a restaurant that I could rely on every time to meet all my expectations of dairy-free deliciousness at any hour of the day, on the whim of this craving or that.  Well, if the restaurant can’t bring you the dairy-free food of your dreams, I say, bring the restaurant to you!

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Here’s a pasta recipe for all my dairy-free compadres, because sometimes we just want to eat like the normals.  Back in the day, I used to love the creamy tang of goat cheese.  There’s just something about the way that it adds a contrast to the bright flavors of pesto and tomatoes that I just love.  Alas, those days are gone, and anyways, why cry over spilled milk?  And I’m armed and ready with a lemony almond ricotta that has the tang of the creamy cheese I’ve missed for so long.   The cow has left the station, and here I am, ready to get creative with my end-of-summer garden, bursting with cherry tomatoes and kale.    

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Recently, I shared my recipe for kale-pistachio pesto.  I just love bright green kale pesto, blended together with the perfect combination of greens, basil, lemon, garlic and pistachios.  It’s my go-to when I find myself with a hearty crop of kale.  I’ve used this kale pesto on crackers as a snack, on my morning sprouted grain bagel, and just eaten it by the spoonful from a mason jar in the fridge.  Last post, I shared a recipe for a creamy vegan almond ricotta, and now I’m ready to unveil the pièce de résistance, putting all the pieces together.  

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This is a dish I could have only dreamed about before.  This is the type of pasta that, at a restaurant, I would ogle on the menu, only to have to interrogate the waitress and regretfully adapt to make edible for me (removing all the things that give it balance and excitement).  Well, welcome to restaurant Chez Spoon.  I’m your chef, Jenny, and surprise–in this magical place, the pesto comes perfectly balanced thanks to the sweet creaminess of the pistachios, and that cheese you’ve been ogling…well, it’s nuts!  Literally and figuratively.  We toss the penne of your choice– whole grain, gluten-free, you name it–in this glorious pesto creation, and dollop it with a lemony ricotta that will take you right back to a place and time where such things didn’t cause so much strife.  Thanks, Chez Spoon!  

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Penne with Kale Pesto, Almond Ricotta and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Once the pesto and almond ricotta are made, this pasta comes together very quickly.  Be sure to pre-plan to soak the almonds the night before for the ricotta.  The pesto can be made a day ahead.  Any extra pesto or ricotta make a great addition to sandwiches, wraps, or on a cracker as a snack.  

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt to taste

1 recipe Kale Pistachio Pesto, about 2 1/2 cups

1 recipe vegan almond ricotta

1 pound whole wheat or brown rice penne

crushed red pepper to taste, optional

Preheat oven to 425˚F.  Toss the cherry tomatoes with the olive oil and salt to taste on a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast the tomatoes in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until wrinkled and golden in spots, shaking the pan occasionally during the cooking process to toss them around for even cooking.

Cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions.  Toss the cooked pasta with enough pesto to coat, top with the roasted cherry tomatoes and a dollop of almond ricotta.  Sprinkle with a pinch of crushed red pepper if desired.

 

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Vegan Almond Ricotta

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Hello fellow spoonies!  Today’s post is in preparation for the pièce de résistance of vegan end-of-summer pastas coming up next.  It’s the first day of fall (yay!) and I love the transition of the seasons.  Just a bit of chill in the air, the golden sideways light makes it feel like magic hour all day long!  My garden is at its proudest moment, offering up Parisian gherkins for pickling, heirloom tomatoes, hot chilies, and the biggest sweetest onions I’ve ever grown.   Although this lemony almond ricotta is going to leave your mouth rejoicing in my next recipe, I wanted to post it first, all by itself, because it’s such a good stand in for ricotta or goat cheese in so many dishes.  I love it when layered in lasagna, and have visions about using it in arancini or zucchini cakes.  I also intend to experiment by sweetening it with honey and using it like mascarpone would be used in tiramisu or other creamy desserts.

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This version of almond ricotta was created after a conversation with Amelia, the loveliest, warmest person I think there ever was, who owns the most adorable tiny restaurant Little Spoons cafe outside my favorite yoga studio, Karma Yoga in Denver.  Her menu is filled with sandwiches, soups, and savory and sweet baked goods, lovingly made from the best simple and whole organic ingredients.  She’s wonderful about adapting her menu for different dietary needs.  In fact, the most valuable piece of advice I could give you, if you are looking for something vegan, is to ask her to make you a delicious sandwich, with whatever strikes her fancy. Last time I ended up with freshly baked ciabatta spread with a bit of avocado, good olive oil, salt and pepper, topped with sauteed locally grown wild mushrooms tossed in walnut pesto and fresh arugula.   She added a bit of blueberries at the end–I know, blueberries?!  They were the perfect bright contrast to the earthy mushrooms and creamy pesto.  

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Amelia and I often find ourselves geeking out about the latest freshly grown garden and farmers market food, and describing in detail how to weave together the ingredients to elevate them to the most nom-worthy status.  After a conversation we had about cheese (and how I can’t eat it), and how hard it is to find legitimately good vegan versions made from whole ingredients, I knew I had to bring Amelia my version of almond ricotta.  I was a little nervous–I mean, Amelia is from Italy!  She worked in tourism for a long time and has the inside info about all the best wineries, restaurants and cheese makers in Tuscany.  

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One morning on my way into yoga class, I dropped off two little mason jars–one filled with kale-pistachio pesto, and the other with almond ricotta–for Amelia to try.  When I emerged from class all happy and zenned out, she was raving about how creamy and smooth it was, and what a good substitution it was.  She suggested adding a bit of lemon zest and a bit more lemon juice for a bit more of that cheesy tang.  Hence was born this lemon ricotta, creamy enough to make a vegan weep with joy and non-vegans happily devour!  Just perfect for a pesto pasta with roasted cherry tomatoes…More on that next time!

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And P.S: If you’re in the Denver area, be sure to visit Amelia at Little Spoons cafe!  In the meantime, you can check out the menu and some pictures of her lovely creations on her website or instagram @theselittlespoons.  

Lemony Almond Ricotta

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 cups blanched slivered almonds, soaked overnight with water to cover by an inch
  • Grated zest from one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
  • ½ teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1 cup water

Drain the soaked almonds, and place them in a blender with the lemon zest, lemon juice, nutritional yeast , salt and 1 cup water.  Blend, pushing down the mixture as needed–it will take a while to get the mixture to blend smoothly. Blend until the texture is smooth with just a little bit of graininess  left, like dairy ricotta.  Add an additional few tablespoons of water if needed to achieve the desired texture.  Season with salt to taste.  

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Kale Pistachio Pesto

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My garden is often a good indicator of where I am in life.  Last year, I allowed the “pretty” weeds to flourish, congratulating myself on my cleverness and ability to tolerate a certain amount of chaos.  This year has been Weed-mageddon 2017, due in no small part to my extra permissive new-agey gardening style of yesteryear.  I’ve had to show tough love on the various flowering weeds, pulling them one after another, clearing the way for the plants I want to flourish. How’s that as a metaphor for life?   There are rich lessons to be learned amongst the germinating seeds and tangled weeds.    

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A new friend and I were geeking out over gardening and food, and as I described my garden, she said, You’re not a gardener…you’re a FARMER!  Besides the fact that I like digging in the dirt, and that I LOVE the payoff of a juicy heirloom tomato still warm from the sun, growing things gives me much more than just perfectly crisp cucumbers and fragrant herb clippings.  Gardening gives me time and open space in my day and my mind.  It’s one of the few places where I can process life, uninterrupted.  In our modern day of constantly being plugged in, these “quiet” places are becoming harder to find… Or maybe they’re still there, but we just don’t think of going there, because we’re so distracted by what’s easy and right at our fingertips.  

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Our ancestors’ lives depended on working the land. When I think of it, I was always meant to be a “farmer.”   My grandpa Duncan lived in Oklahoma on his family’s farm during the dust bowl.  He shook his head and grew quiet when he described the dust storms that would roll in.  No matter what measures his family took to seal the house against the dirt, it would find its way into the house.  On the day of a particularly bad storm, my grandpa saw a black cloud like a wall approaching from the north, as high as the eye could see.  His father Luther thought it was the end of the world.  The family hid in the root cellar as the storm blew for hours on end.  Upon returning back to daylight, my grandpa and his family surveyed the scene–cabbages, cotton and all manner of other crops completely covered by dust, and all of their sheep dead or close to it.   

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They just couldn’t handle the conditions any longer, so the family packed up; all 10 of them piling atop a mattress in the back of their truck, and sold their farm–240 acres of Oklahoma future oil-rich land for $5000.  Like 83,000 others at the time, they migrated to California where they found a job harvesting zucchini.   The “Okies” as they called them at the time faced a lot of prejudice as they scrambled to pick up odd jobs just to survive.  My grandpa went on to join the Navy at age 17 as an aircraft mechanic during World War II.  When he returned from war, he went to school and then got a job working on planes for General Dynamics until he retired.  Throughout his life, his farming roots never left him, and his  garden remained a source of pride. Even into his last years of life, he still had one of the best I had seen.  I think of my grandpa often, when I’m protecting my tomatoes with hail screens like he always did, or pulling the seemingly endless crop of weeds.  

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This year, my garden is bursting with Red Russian Kale.  As much as I love my kale, I don’t want to eat quite as much I grow right away.  I love creative uses for my summer crops that are versatile and also able to be frozen and enjoyed later in the year.  Enter kale pesto; vibrantly green, scented with basil and garlic and a hint of lemon, with a touch of rich “cheesiness” from the raw pistachios.  Toss it with pasta, swirl it in hummus, spread it on a slice of baguette, dot it on pizza, or do what I do and sneak cracker-fuls from the mason jar hanging out in the fridge!  Now this is what we call real food!  

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Sitting here eating a spoonful of kale pesto, I think with satisfaction about this process, come full-circle.  In gardening and in life:  Plant some seeds, pull some weeds (well, lots of weeds), and make room for what you intend to let grow.  Pretty soon, if the weather is right, that seed and that dream just might come to fruition.

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(P.S:  My grandpa Duncan is the twin on the left)

Kale Pistachio Pesto

Adapted from Andrew Weil’s Fast Food, Good Food

Makes about 2 ½ cups

The first time I made this pesto, my garlic scapes were curling whimsically like flamingoes’ beaks out the center of my hard-neck garlic.  Weil’s original recipe calls for using garlic scapes.  As they can be fleeting and hard to find, this version uses regular garlic-cloves.  However, if you can get your hands on some garlic scapes in the spring, they make a wonderful addition!

  • 1 pound (about 16 leaves) kale (lacinato, “dino”, or Russian work best), stems removed
  • 1 cup raw, unsalted pistachios
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped (or 6-8 garlic scapes to taste, buds removed, coarsely chopped)
  • ½ cup basil leaves, packed
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from one lemon)
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the kale and cook for 30 seconds to a minute, or until it is just wilted and bright green.  Remove the kale to a strainer, and rinse with cold water until cooled.  Gently press out the excess water.  

Place the kale, pistachios, garlic, basil, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt to taste in the bowl of a food processor or blender.  Blend to a coarse paste, and add extra olive oil to thin out if needed.  Adjust salt to taste.  Store in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze for up to 9 months.  

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Spinach and “Ricotta”-Stuffed Pasta with Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce

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When I have people over for dinner, different types of recipes typically get responses that fall into a specific category.  Some are the Oh, this is so healthy!-category.  Others, the this is sinful, just give me a tiny slice-category.  There’s the I can’t stop eating this-category, usually related to appetizers. There’s the, this is so rich, you might have to roll me out the door-category.  Anytime I use tofu-ricotta in a recipe, my dinner guests usually fall into the I’d better not eat too much of this-category, but are delighted when they realize that this recipe actually falls into my favorite recipe category: the, this is so healthy but it’s satisfying all my cravings right now category.  

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I know, I know, some people have an aversion to even the slightest mention of tofu.  Everyone’s had soggy unflavored cubes of tofu at some point.  Those little guys give this versatile protein a bad rap!  In this case, the tofu is blended with a variety of ingredients to give it the taste and feel of real ricotta.  The best part is, it tricks the mouth into thinking it’s cheese, but is full of protein!  Even my little brother, for whom pizza is a food group, approves of my tofu ricotta–here’s my recipe for kale ricotta lasagna that had him fully convinced that the world was not as he had previously imagined–I ate TOFU?  And I thought it was CHEESE?!  Mind blown!!!

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Most of my recipes are born out of food daydreams, and this one was no exception.  I picked up a box of brown rice manicotti (which I had no idea even existed) and began to dream of my pre-lactose intolerant days and the deliciously creamy stuffed pastas I had enjoyed in the past.  In that instant, I knew what I must do.  I whipped up a batch of tofu ricotta and lightly sauteed some spinach to stuff inside–creamy, garlicky and full of vibrant greens.   For the top, a fire-roasted tomato sauce filled with garlic and fresh oregano, and basil to garnish.

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I’m of the mind that one shouldn’t eat (or avoid eating) from a place of guilt or shame.  Sure, some foods are very occasional sometimes foods.  I certainly have my share of nope, definitely can’t/won’t eat that foods, mostly of the highly-processed variety.  Sometimes a little sweet treat or crunchy snack is just the thing I want, and I allow myself that every now and again.  I’m highly unlikely to jump on the Paleo, Ketogenic, or any other kind of diet-philosophy band-wagon, but what feels best to me is the way Michael Pollan sums it up:  “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.” For me, being healthy always comes back to using real whole ingredients to make real, flavorful and soul-satisfying foods, and to giving yourself the flexibility to give your ever-changing body what it needs when it needs it.

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To all my vegan, lactose-intolerant compadres, I hope this stuffed pasta takes you back to the pre dairy-avoiding days that only exist in your dreams!  Enjoy!

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Spinach and “Ricotta”-Stuffed Pasta with Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce

I love the freshness of the oregano in this recipe, but if you don’t have any on hand, dried herbs will work just fine and can be substituted using a ratio of  1:3 dried to fresh.  

For the tofu ricotta:

  • 1 (14-ounce) block extra firm tofu, drained
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mellow white miso
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the pasta and sauce:

  • 4 tb olive oil, divided
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 5 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup dry White wine (optional)
  • 1 24 ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 24 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 ½ tsp dried basil (or about a tablespoon and a half chopped fresh basil)
  • ¼ tsp Crushed red pepper
  • splash of balsamic vinegar to taste
  • 3 tb finely chopped Fresh oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 7 ounces brown rice or whole wheat manicotti (I like this kind)
  • 8 oz baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • salt to taste
  • Fresh basil to garnish, optional

Process:

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Sauté for 3-5 minutes, or until translucent.  Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute.  Pour in the white wine if using, and cook for a couple minutes to burn off some of the liquid.  Add both cans of tomatoes, and dried herbs (fresh herbs are added later), crushed red pepper, and salt to taste.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes slightly darken and the flavors meld.  Add a splash of balsamic vinegar to taste (about 2 teaspoons), and stir in the fresh oregano.  Adjust salt to taste.

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add 2 tablespoons salt and par-cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.  If pasta will be sitting for a while, lightly toss it with oil so that it doesn’t stick together.

To make the tofu ricotta, combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, stopping to push down the sides with a rubber spatula if needed.  Adjust seasonings to taste and set aside.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium frying pan.  Add spinach, and generous pinch of salt  and cook for 2 minutes, or until the spinach has just wilted and is still bright green.  Allow to cool slightly.

Combine the spinach and tofu ricotta in a medium bowl and stir until evenly incorporated.  Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag or large freezer bag, and cut off a small corner at the bottom of the bag.

Spread half the sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Pipe the spinach-ricotta mixture from the bag to fill each noodle, and arrange them in a single layer in the baking dish. Spread the remaining sauce over the top of the noodles, cover with foil and bake according to the pasta package directions, about 40 minutes.   Garnish with fresh basil right before serving if desired.

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes

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It’s about time we got some spring going on up in here!  I’ve been a little sporadic here, and not because I haven’t been thinking about all of you, my wonderful Spoonies!  In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot about you and your ability to access all my recipes more easily.  I’m working hard in the background to do a total revamp of Spoon With Me, to be unveiled in the near future!  I can’t tell you how excited I am!  Besides that, let me assure you that I have not been huddled in front of a microwave waiting for my frozen meal to be finished.  Quite the opposite, actually.  I started feeling a little stumped on what to post for the past couple months.  Sometimes when we’re at a loss and inspiration seems like it’s not as free-flowing as we would like it to be, the best thing to do is feed ourselves–the inspiration will grow from that.  

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I love listening to The Good Life podcast, and Jonathan Fields explains it like this–we have 3 buckets–contribution, connection, and vitality.  In short, each bucket can only be as full as the least-full bucket, so if our vitality bucket is empty (how we nourish and take care of ourselves), we don’t have enough energy to connect with others or contribute our ideas and talents to the people around us.  For me, it seems counter-intuitive to pause and step back when I really really want to create, create, create!  I think that if I could just think hard enough, a golden goose egg of an idea will just pop out of my brain.   However, for me, the hamster wheel of spinning thoughts seldom produces the best ideas.  Ideas need space to grow and breathe, then they just seem to appear on their own.  Recently, I’ve been setting the table for creativity, and waiting for it to come (thanks Elizabeth Gilbert!).   For me this happens when I slow down and allow myself to enjoy what I enjoy without pressure.  There’s been a lot of recipe ogling, cooking, playing in the garden, and art-making going on all up in here!  I may not have been posting, but man, I’ve been eating, and creating just to create, and little by little, I’ve felt my blogging inspiration come back!

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With the weather being warmer than any spring I remember in Colorado, I’m starting to crave lighter, brighter fare.  Here’s a recipe I improvised on a night I wanted dinner fast.  It only takes a little chopping, one sheet pan, and in under 30 minutes, voila!  You’ve got dinner!  Perhaps I was feeling a bit Mary Poppins-ish, but I  wanted the sauce to practically make itself as it cooked.  The basic gist is to toss the asparagus, cherry tomato, mushrooms,  an almost-obscene amount of garlic and lemon slices with olive oil on a sheet pan, and broil it until the veggies are slightly blistered and golden.  Deglaze with a little white wine, and what you have in the end is perfectly roasted vegetables and a little pan sauce.  Everything, including the lemon slices gets thrown into a bowl with the pasta, and the last step (almost) does itself–you’ll stir everything together, making sure to push the softened lemon pulp out of the rinds where it will join with the white wine and cherry tomato juices and shallots to form a light and lemony sauce that coats the pasta.  

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  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, about 10 ounces
  • 8 ounces asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 6 ounces crimini mushrooms, halved and thickly sliced
  • 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced, about 4 oz
  • 8 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 lemons, sliced thick, seeds and ends removed
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 8 ounces whole wheat or brown rice penne (this is my favorite gf pasta which can be found at many local grocery stores)
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine (vegetable or chicken broth will work too)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • a couple pinches crushed red pepper, optional

 

Preheat broiler on low.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Toss the cherry tomatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, shallots, garlic, lemon slices and thyme in olive oil, and season w/ salt and pepper to taste.  Broil on low 4 inches from the heating element for 10-15 minutes.  Cook the pasta according to package directions while the veggies are broiling.  You want the cherry tomatoes to pop and be darkened in spots, the asparagus crisp-tender and slightly under-done. If the vegetables don’t seem to be cooking enough, broil on high for a few minutes, watching carefully.  Add the white wine and put back in the oven for a few minutes to reduce slightly.

Toss all the vegetables, including the lemon slices in a large bowl with the hot pasta.  As you stir, press the inside of the lemons against the sides of the bowl– the lemon pulp will come out of the rinds to create a sauce. Remove the peels from the pasta.   Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of crushed red pepper.  Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve while hot. 

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Hearty Vegetable Mushroom Stew

 

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Brrrr-zee-pants:  an exclamation often used in my house as an expression of extreme coldness.

In my house growing up, my dad liked to keep the thermostat at around 60 degrees.  The lowest temperature I remember seeing was 56˚.  I’d walk around the house in layers, blankets swathed around me like a linen closet beauty queen, shivering.  Back in those days, you could usually find me in the Bahamian paradise of my bedroom, space heater on full whack, swim suit, sunglasses and towel. When it was time to forge out into the tundra (the rest of the house),  I’d layer up to go on my covert mission, creeping down the stairs in my blanket to the mission control panel in the downstairs hallway.  Can’t get caught–Oh hello dear brother.  Just walking in the hallway.  Where’s dad?  Beep beep beep beep beep–think he’ll notice an extra 10 degrees?  Let the back and forth heater games begin!

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Warmth is a core value of mine, and although my house isn’t cold now–luckily, the Mister and I are compatible on our thermostat preference setting (MFEO, I tell you), my most favorite spot in the house is in my zen den, in front of my space heater.  It makes even the most mundane tasks appealing.  When I visit dad’s house now, I wear my Antarctic hooded coat, and bring my emergency preparedness blanket.  I may have gotten a lot of my creativity and imagination from my dad, but one thing I sure didn’t inherit is his tolerance for cold.

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The weather out here in Denver has been bipolar these days.  One day it’s 75 degrees.  The next, a howling snow storm.  On the days I would classify as BRR-ZEE-PANTS, I like to cook something filling and warming.  Before I stopped eating meat, I used to love a good beef stew, although it wasn’t really the beef I was after.  I was always a vegetable hoarder growing up.  Mom would make a pot roast in the slow cooker, with carrots, potatoes and celery, and I’d pass by and sneak forkfuls before dinner.  I also have fond memories of making really hearty stews in my early cooking days.  My diet has changed substantially since then, and although I don’t crave the beef, I do crave the taste memory of a good beef stew–dark, rich and hearty with lots of vegetables; the kind of soup that warms you up from the inside out.

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This stew is perfect for the most brr-zee-pants-iest of days.  Melt-in your mouth carrots, parsnips and potatoes suspended in a thick, rich mushroom broth.  You can simmer it on the stove, or as I like to do with any soup or stew recipe, sauté the vegetables and assemble the soup completely, and save the simmering step for the slow cooker.

There are still some blustery days to come, so next time you think to yourself, “gee, I feel quite brr-zee-pants right now”,  I hope you’ll cuddle up in the Bahamian paradise of your space heater, and try a big bowl of this stew!

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Hearty Vegetable Mushroom Stew 

Makes: 12 cups,  6-8 servings

  • 2 TB vegan butter2 TB olive oil
  • 1 1/4 lb  small onions such as cipollinis, ends trimmed, peeled and quartered (or use the same amount of yellow or sweet onions, diced)
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch
  • 2 med parsnips, sliced 1/4 inch (8 oz)
  • 4 stalks celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 pound crimini mushrooms, chopped 
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine or dark beer
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • 1 quart mushroom broth
  • 1 quart vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried wild mushrooms, woody stems removed
  • 1 1/2 pounds fingerling, yukon gold or red potatoes, cut 1 inch x 1/2 inch
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 TB Braggs liquid aminos or soy sauce, more or less to taste
  • 1 tsp worchestershire sauce (check for vegan if needed)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 TB arrowroot starch or cornstarch, whisked into 1/4 cup cold water or broth
  • 1 TB apple cider vinegar

Heat butter and oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the onions and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with salt, and cover and allow to sweat for 3-4 minutes.  Uncover and sauté for 2 minutes until softened.  Add carrots, parsnips and celery.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Add garlic and fresh mushrooms.  Sauté for a few more minutes, .  Deglaze plan with the  marsala wine or beer, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add tomato paste.  Stir to coat the vegetables.

Add the broths, dried mushrooms, potatoes, bay leaf, thyme, liquid aminos and worcestershire sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, but careful not to over-salt because the stew will cook down and concentrate a bit.    Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 40 minutes, or until potatoes are tender, or put in the slow cooker on low for 8 hours.  Stir in the arrowroot or corn starch slurry. Remove 2 cups of the soup to a blender.  Puree.  Add back to the soup.   Stir in the apple cider vinegar.  Adjust salt, pepper and liquid aminos to taste.  

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