Monday, June 2, 2014

Aspen Grove and Much to Share


It has been quite a while, much longer than I anticipated, and I’ve missed being here. I can’t believe it’s almost summer – Happy June to you! As I mentioned in my last post, I’m embarking on an exciting new chapter. Well, the doors of Aspen Grove, my home and kitchen store, opened in early April. (Check out our new website!) The big day arrived and I officially hung the “Open” sign for the first time. It’s been a busy, happy blur ever since!


We kicked things off with an opening party. It was a joint celebration with our friend, Leslie, who had just opened her beautiful spa, Nectar, next door (lucky me!).  We had yummy food, Prosecco, a cookbook drawing


and, of course, cookies.


It was a festive day and wonderful to meet more of our community. My brother, Tim, even traveled from Washington, DC to be here! Since then, I have continued to learn and learn and learn. I have definitely pushed myself in new directions, way outside my comfort zone, and this has been a good thing.


I’ve been reflecting on the past nine years, how a love of food and cooking led to my becoming a chef, which then led to starting this blog three years ago. Now, a home and kitchen store feels like a natural next step to take in this journey. This has definitely been a family venture, with everyone pitching in. I’m grateful to them, our friends and our community for all of their support!


I believe it is good to challenge yourself, stay open and just see what life brings. But boy, it can be exhausting and overwhelming! Happily, I’m finding balance again and it feels good.


The valley exploded in yellow and green at the start of spring and now the farmers’ market is open. I’m really ready to plunge into cooking with some gorgeous produce!


I’m back in the kitchen, finding new loves like radish kimchi


and making old favorites like fudgy chocolate cake.


And if you’re ever in the Methow Valley, I hope you stop in and say hi!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chocolate Date Truffles


With the snow melting away and the sun shining, I feel warm and hopeful and glad to wear something other than snow boots.  My skis are put away and I’ve even slipped on some flip-flops. My toes are happy!

Spring is a time for new beginnings. Soon the wild flowers will emerge from the earth and there’s talk of planting seeds on the radio. I, too, am embarking on a new beginning. When we moved to this beautiful valley last summer, I knew I was starting on a journey but had no idea what direction it might take.


I mentioned previously that I’ve been keeping busy (an understatement!) with a new project. I’m delighted to tell you a bit about it now – it’s a kitchen and home store! A fantastic opportunity emerged and I decided to jump on it. I’m beyond excited! You never know what life will bring, do you? I’ve been learning and planning and painting and designing and ordering and falling into bed exhausted every night. But it’s thrilling and a whole new adventure to embrace.


Needless to say, I haven’t been cooking much lately and I miss it! One evening before I collapsed I just had to get back into the kitchen. I made a little sweet that didn’t involve any cooking but still scratched the itch (and was delicious!): Chocolate Date Truffles.


My dear friend, Tristan, gave me the original recipe (thank you again!). Raw cashews are whirled in the food processor with honey, cacao powder, vanilla and shredded coconut to create a rich, lightly sweet truffle to scoop and roll. I began nibbling right away! The original recipe calls for rolling in citrus zest, nuts or seeds, but I decided to stuff some luscious, plump dates with it instead. What an indulgent treat! These didn’t last long and I know I’ll be making them again soon.


Off to the shop now – I can’t wait to share details and photos with you in a couple of weeks after we’ve opened.

Chocolate Date Truffles
Makes about 22
Filling adapted from Nourish and Heal, 2014

1 cup raw cashews, soaked in a bowl of water for 20 minutes and drained
1/2 cup raw honey
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, plus extra for garnish
22 whole, plump Medjool dates

Add the drained cashews and honey to the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides once. Add the cacao powder, vanilla, kosher salt and coconut and process until well combined, stopping again to scrape the sides.

Scrape the filling into a small bowl, cover and chill for about an hour. You can prep the filling the day before serving and leave to chill overnight, too.

To assemble the truffle dates, slit each date open along one side and gently remove the pit. Place a small scoop of filling into each date and shape it to fit smoothly. Arrange the dates on a serving plate and scatter a little coconut over the top. Indulge!

Friday, February 28, 2014

One Spice, Two Spice


A fire, a blanket, a snowy day, a cup of tea and a new cookbook. What could be better? Especially when the cookbook’s title is a surprise, arriving in the mail just in time to curl up for a cozy weekend of reading with a furry friend.


My new cookbook came compliments of Joanne, of the lovely blog Eats Well With Others. We are participating in the Food Blogger Cookbook Swap, a terrific event being hosted by Alyssa of Everyday Maven and Faith of An Edible Mosaic. The idea behind the swap is to share books from our collection with other food bloggers. I sent a book to someone and received one in return. So much fun!

Joanne chose well for me. She noticed from my blog that I revel in spices (so true!) and thoughtfully selected one called One Spice, Two Spice by Floyd Cardoz.  The author grew up in Mumbai and Goa and now cooks in New York City. He shares some personal bits throughout the book and gives a little history of each recipe.


Right away the title intrigued me and I knew I’d enjoy diving in ... I was right. The book brings together two cultures, American food cooked with Indian spices. I traveled in India seven years ago and really appreciate Indian flavors. The first section I flipped to was the condiment chapter. Chutneys, pickles, raitas and dressings – yes, please! I began marking recipes to try and Boodie’s Ketchup, named for the author’s mother, is top of the list. This tomato-based condiment is flavored with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, shallots, garlic, cayenne and vinegar. Need I say more? And as I perused other chapters in the book many other recipes leaped out.  Come summer, this pretty Chilled Cucumber Soup with Mint and Basil is sure to refresh.


I’m always happy to add fresh inspiration to my cookbook shelf and appreciate this chance to meet fellow food bloggers. Thank you for your delicious choice, Joanne! And thank you to Alyssa and Faith for hosting. Now back to my menu planning!

A lovely group of bloggers joined together for this fun cookbook swap. Please feel free to stop by for a visit and check out some of the new inspirations they received:

A Baker's House
An Edible Mosaic
avocado bravado
Blueberries And Blessings
Cheap Recipe Blog
Confessions of a Culinary Diva
Create Amazing Meals
Cucina Kristina
Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Cupcake Project
Dinner is Served 1972
Done With Corn
Eats Well With Others
Everyday Maven
Flour Me With Love 
From My Sweet Heart 
girlichef 
Great Food 360° 
Healthy. Delicious. 
I'm Gonna Cook That! 
Je Mange la Ville 
Karen's Kitchen Stories 
Kitchen Treaty 
Olive and Herb 
OnTheMove-In The Galley 
Our Best Bites 
Paleo Gone Sassy 
poet in the pantry 
Rhubarb and Honey 
Rocky Mountain Cooking
Shikha la mode 
Shockingly Delicious 
Sifting Focus 
Spiceroots 
Spoonful of Flavor 
Tara's Multicultural Table 
The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler 
The Suburban Soapbox 
The Whole Family's Food 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Steak and Zhoug


I enjoy discussing homemade condiments here and I’m delighted that this month’s Tasting Jerusalem features one of my very favorites, zhoug. I’ve shared my love of zhoug before, the fiery, green herb sauce that I discovered through Bob’s host mother many years ago during my first visit to Israel. Just a bite transports me away from the winter chill here back to those hot summer days.


This versatile condiment is popular in the Middle East and a true pantry staple. A quick whirl of fresh cilantro, parsley, olive oil, garlic and chiles in the food processor is all that is needed to create zhoug. Fragrant, spicy and vibrant, it livens up any dish it graces. Especially welcome during this time of season!


We usually dollop some in chicken soup or scoop a bit onto a plate of scrambled eggs. This past weekend, though, steak was on our menu and I started thinking about chimichurri sauce, the Argentinian green sauce traditionally made with parsley, olive oil, garlic and vinegar and served with grilled meat. Why not serve zhoug with steak in a similar manner? I grabbed my bunches of herbs, smashed some garlic cloves, chopped chiles (I had red fresno chiles on hand rather than jalapenos, which added pretty little flecks of red) and glugged olive oil and soon we had steak and zhoug on the table.


I have to say, steak and zhoug is absolutely delicious! A few years ago I learned the best way to cook a steak using a combination of stovetop and oven and have been doing it this way ever since. The spicy kick of zhoug complemented the simple taste of the beef beautifully and seriously got my taste buds tingling. As I look out at our gorgeous white wonderland and watch our cute pup bounce around in the snow, I savor the spicy flavors of the Middle East and feel warm inside.

Steak and Zhoug
Steak recipe from The Week

Steaks, let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes
Kosher salt
Grapeseed oil
Zhoug to serve (recipe here)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sprinkle a bit of kosher salt over each steak. Heat a cast iron pan large enough to hold all the steaks over high heat and let it get hot. Pour a very thin layer of grapeseed oil in the pan. Lay each steak in the pan and let sear for a minute or two. Flip the steaks and let sear for another minute.

Take the pan and place in the oven for five to six minutes, depending upon the thickness of each steak and your preference for how cooked you like them (if you use a thermometer, 115 degrees is the rare end of rare).

Remove the pan from the oven and let sit for five minutes to collect the juices. Spoon on dollops of zhoug and serve.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Moroccan Popcorn


We are doing a happy snow dance here! While we’ve had cold temperatures, the snow has not been falling, making for a very unusual winter. Happily, though, today it’s snowing steadily and I’m feeling quite cozy watching the pretty flakes float down. We can ski and sled! 


It’s been awhile since I shared what’s cooking in my kitchen. I have a new project in the works and can’t wait to share it with you (soon!). In the meantime, here’s what we’re cooking with for Tasting Jerusalem this month – ras el hanout. 


My love of homemade spice blends is well known and I am quite pleased with this month’s ingredient. I’ve written about ras el hanout before and, since discovering how versatile this Moroccan blend is, I have sprinkled it liberally. Ras el hanout literally means “head of the shop” in Arabic, and you can personalize your own mix easily. The blend I make includes cumin, paprika, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger and black pepper. A little sweet, a little spicy, a pinch instantly jazzes up a dish.


Or a snack. We pop a lot of corn on the stove top and like to try different toppings (nutritional yeast is a favorite one, although we think it could do with a better name - we’ve been calling it “Sunshine”). Why not sprinkle some ras el hanout on popcorn? With flaky sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil? Well, I gave it a whirl and Moroccan popcorn was born.


Warm, crunchy, smoky and salty, this is some good snacking, especially while watching football. We’re getting our blue and green on around here and will be wildly cheering for the Seahawks on Sunday during the Super Bowl. I love all the Seahawks spirit and energy I’ve seen both in the valley and in Seattle! Happy munching and go Hawks!


Moroccan Popcorn
Makes a large bowl

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
Olive oil for drizzling
Ras el hanout (homemade recipe here)
Flaky sea salt

Have a large bowl ready. Warm the coconut oil in popcorn maker over medium high heat. Add the popcorn and start turning the handle. When corn stops popping, immediately pour the popcorn into the serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with ras el hanout and flaky sea salt to taste. Start munching!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Collard Greens with Pickled Pears


An abundance of winter greens lies ahead! Eating locally during the colder months doesn’t offer nearly the bounty of the warmer seasons, but fortunately we have a wide variety of hearty greens such as chard, kale and collards to keep us going.


Around now, after a bit (or rather, a lot) of indulgent eating during the holidays, I am usually craving crunchy fresh greens and lately this salad of Collard Greens with Pickled Pears has been topping my list.


Eating collard greens uncooked in a salad was new to me until introduced by my friend Deb, a truly talented cook. She made Collard Greens with Pickled Apples and I think I had at least three servings over the course of our dinner together! Pickled apples? I was shaking my head wondering why I hadn’t thought of doing this sooner. I’ve since made the salad on a few occasions and this last time decided to use pears in place of the apples.


The sliced pears are steeped in a warm bath of apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt and water. When ready to eat, they are tossed with thin ribbons of grassy green collards, a drizzle of fruity olive oil and a scattering of toasted seeds or nuts.


A tempting wedge of blue Stilton cheese (always tasty with pears) was on the kitchen counter, so I crumbled some in for a luxurious touch.


This hearty salad is a bold one – sweet and tart, crunchy and creamy. It is virtuous eating at its best and will deliver you into the new year happy and satisfied.


Wishing you all a delicious 2014!


Collard Greens with Pickled Pears
Adapted from Epicurious. com
Serves 4-6

3 medium sized, firm pears (I used red and Bartlett)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup pepitas or pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and thinly sliced across into 1/4 inch ribbons
Olive oil to drizzle
Salt and pepper to taste
Small wedge of Stilton cheese, crumbled (optional)

Core and slice the pears into eighths and set aside in a heatproof bowl. In a medium sized saucepan, bring the cider vinegar, water, coconut sugar and salt to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the pears and return to a boil, then pour the whole mixture back into the heatproof bowl. Chill the pears uncovered for at least an hour. If using later, cover and keep cold for a day or two.

To assemble salad, drain the pears and reserve a few tablespoons of the pickling liquid. Gently toss the pears, seeds and greens together in a serving bowl. Drizzle on a little olive oil, add a couple tablespoons of pickling liquid, salt and pepper to taste and gently toss again. If using, crumble some Stilton cheese over the top and serve.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Chocolate Peppermint Stick Mousse


Christmas lights are twinkling around town, snow is falling, we’re going to see Little Women performed at the local theater and, best of all, Sam is home from college and our family is together for winter break! It’s a happy time and I’m delighted to be here in the valley for this festive season.


It’s also time for seasonal treats! Isaac’s girlfriend made incredible homemade eggnog for us and let me just say, it’s the best eggnog ever and I’m never going back to the carton stuff (I may have snuck spoonfuls of fresh cream off the top when no one was looking, too).


More indulgences that somehow make their way into my shopping basket during this time of year are peppermint bark and peppermint stick ice cream. I really can’t resist. Peppermint stick and chocolate are a classic combination no matter the season. When I was little my favorite ice cream cone at Brigham’s was always peppermint stick with chocolate jimmies. But in December they are especially tempting flavors, which led to this mousse.


Coconut cream has been my go-to dessert topping for some time. It whips up light and creamy, and (like many things!) when chocolate is added it becomes sensational. With peppermint on my mind, I blitzed some candy canes in the food processor, added chilled coconut cream, cocoa powder and maple syrup and gave them a whirl.


What emerged was billowy and downright decadent. This mousse also happens to be vegan, raw and gluten-free and would be especially nice as part of a holiday dessert buffet. Luscious and rich, with creamy chocolate and little hits of refreshing mint, it’s deeply satisfying and so easy to make. I spooned it into tiny bowls with a sprinkle of crushed candy cane and then dove in.

Wishing you all a warm, happy Christmas!

Chocolate Peppermint Stick Mousse
Serves 4-6

3 candy canes, wrappers removed
1-14 ounce can thick, unsweetened coconut cream (I find it at Trader Joe’s) or 2-14 ounce cans whole, unsweetened coconut milk, chilled overnight in the fridge
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Break two of the candy canes into smaller pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor. Blitz the candy canes until they form a fine powder. Dump the peppermint powder into a small bowl and set aside. Break the remaining candy cane into pieces and pulse it in the food processor a few times until smaller rough pieces form (this is for garnish). Dump this into another small bowl and set aside.

Open the can of chilled coconut cream and scrape it into the bowl of the food processor (no need to clean after the candy canes). If using coconut milk, open the 2 cans and carefully scoop out the solid coconut cream from each into the food processor. Reserve the clear liquid to use in smoothies.  Add the remaining ingredients and whiz until smooth and creamy. Stop a couple of times to scrape down the sides and make sure any chunks of coconut are blended. Sprinkle in the powdered candy canes and pulse a few times to mix in.

Spoon the mousse into small bowls. It can be eaten right away or kept covered in the fridge overnight. When ready to eat, sprinkle with the crushed candy cane pieces to garnish (if you do this too early the candy canes start to soften and cause red streaks).