The Best Gingerbread I’ve Ever Made.

This is gonna be short. I’m here to only talk about this gingerbread. The best fucking gingerbread I have ever EVER made. Seriously. This one has it all. A little gooey, a lot moist, a little sweet and a ton of gingery spice. It’s a mixture of spelt and barley flours, coconut sugar and brown rice syrup and (of course) molasses, seasonal spices with an extra hit of crystallized ginger and coconut oil instead of regular butter. Make it. It’s everything I dreamed a gingerbread to be. That’s it. I’m done.

Gingerbread

  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1 cup whole grain spelt flour
  • 1 cup white spelt flour
  • 1 cup barley flour
  • 1  1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp finely ground sea salt
  • 2 TB ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 2 TBS crystalized ginger, chopped

Preheat the oven to 325°.

Smear some coconut oil all around a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

In a small pot, over a low flame, combine coconut oil, molasses, brown rice syrup, and coconut sugar in a medium, non-reactive saucepan and place over low heat. Whisk the mixture frequently until the coconut oil is just melted and all of the ingredients are well blended. Remove from the heat, pour into a large bowl, and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Set aside.

When the molasses mixture is cooled or lightly warm to the touch, add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each egg. Then whisk in the milk until combined.

Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the batter without over mixing. Then gently mix in about 1 1/2 TB of the chopped crystalized ginger until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the remaining chopped crystalized ginger on top. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 45-60 minutes. Check at 45 minutes. When the top of the cake springs back when touched. If not done, bake and check after 5 minutes. It’s done when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool for a good hour. This is the kinda thing that taste better as it sits. I cut mine into squares but you can cut them any which way you want ‘em. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days then in the fridge after that for a few more

 

Persimmon Bread

The sweaters, the scarfs, the hats and coats are making their way out from the depths of the closet as fall is offically here! I adore this season. I get all nostalgic and cosy and comforted and inspired to nourish those around with delicious warming soups and stews and baked goods. The fireplace is the first thing I turn on in the morning (yes it’s manual) and then it’s the oven. The morning’s are chilly and still dark when I rise and my favorite favorite favorite thing to do is bake. Soooooooo many things to create with the abundance of the autumn harvest – persimmons being on the top of my list.

There are a few types of persimmons out here. The ones that you can eat hard or soft, Fuyu, and the ones you can only eat soft, Hachiya. I have tried this bread using a soft Fuyu with but much prefer the richer jammy flavor of the soft Hachiya.

The bread isn’t the prettiest, but it sure is delicious. It’s slightly sweet, super moist and the flavor reminiscent of carmel without the use of butter. We eat this bread as is or with some sheep yogurt and extra persimmons puree you’ll have left over drizzled on top. We also eat it as dessert, warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Persimmon Bread

  • 1  1/2 cups whole grain spelt flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 large, very ripe Hachiya persimmons
  • 1/3 cup plain goat milk kefir or buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup walnut oil or mild extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1/4 cup muscovado brown sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs


Preheat oven to 350°.

Oil a loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
Scoop persimmon flesh from skins into a blender. Purée until smooth. Transfer 1 cup purée to a medium bowl (reserve any remaining purée for another use or just snack on it while you make the bread). Whisk in milk. Set aside.


In a separate bowl, whisk oil and sugars until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until mixture is well combined. Add the vanilla then gradually add persimmon mixture; beat until well combined. Add dry ingredients in 3 batches, beating just until incorporated.


Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake until a tester inserted into center comes out clean. Check at 50 minutes; if not done, cook another 5 or 10 minutes.


Let bread cool in pan for 20 minutes. Store in sealed glass container and leave on the counter for about 5 days. Though I doubt it will last that long.


Quinoa Crispy Treats

My son loves nuts. I mean LOVES them. Walnuts, almonds, pistachios are his favorite at the moment. He eats them almost everyday as a snack with some sliced apples or pears or with some dried fruit or coconut chips. I just recently discovered these toasted puffed quinoa crispies in the bulk bin at my local health food store and was inspired to see if I could create a chewy, crunchy homage to the old school rice crispy treat using nut butter instead of marshmallows. Totally different, I know, but could be delicious and without the crazy sugar crash. Success! 

Yes, you can swap out the quinoa crisps with crispy brown rice instead – I like the Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Cereal – but if you can get your hands on some of these quinoa crispies (you can buy them on-line here) I highly recommend you give these ridiciously simple (throw everything in a bowl, mix, spread, chill, cut, eat!) recipe a go.

I made them with almond butter last week and they were delicious and then made them with sesame butter (tahini) this week and still delicious so I would guess they would be wonderful with any nut/seed butter you desire too. Either way you make them (and I so hope you do) no one did the sugar crazy dance after consumption. I am, however, guilty of doing the happy delicious yummy #theyworked dance while my son calmly took a bite, looked up at me and said with confidence, “Good Mama. Good.”

QUINOA CRISPY TREATS

  • 2 cups quinoa crispies
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 2 TB runny honey
  • 1/2 cup smooth almond butter or tahini
  • pinch of sea salt

In a small bowl, whisk the rice syrup, honey, nut butter, sea salt until combine. They will blend more easily if they are all at room temperature. If you are having trouble then just put them all in the food processor and give em a whiz. 

In a medium bowl, add the quinoa crispies then pour the nut butter mixture in. Mix together with a spatula until combine. 

Pour into a 8×8 baking dish or other desired shaped dish. Using a spatula or back of a spoon, flatten mixture until the top is even and smooth. Place in the refrigerator for a few hours until set. 

When set, run a sharp knife along the top to make the size bars you want then cut em and eat em! Store in an airtight container in the fridge in-between wax paper cause they will most likely stick together.

Broccoli Pistachio Pesto

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I’ve been having such vivid dreams lately. I’m no Freud but I believe that our dreams can most definitely guide us, allow us to possibly see things a little clearer. Lately I’ve been dreaming about my life before I had children. It’s hard to believe that I actually had one but I did and in that life - I was an actress.

I was living in the rat race - waiting for my career to be exactly (perfectly) the way I thought I wanted it to be before I was “ready” to start a family. And I’m pretty positive, had I not gotten pregnant with an IUD with my son (0.01% chance of getting pregnant with an IUD btw!) I probably would not have 2 utterly scrumptious children today. I very likely might have still been pounding the pavement of auditioning or I might have been performing on Broadway or the West End in London or starring in a Hollywood movie but then I’d be “too busy” to have children and then I’d wake up one day too old to start or maybe I’d be unemployed, alone and depressed sitting at the corner bar in the middle of the afternoon with a cigarette and a hat drinking pontificating about the good old days when I was pretty and young - who the heck knows - all I know is that presently, I could not and would not want my life to have unfolded any other way.

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I’ve always seen myself as a character actress. One that changes with each role. Always gravitated towards playing women much different from myself - from various classes, cultures and environments. When I first started studying acting, I was 20 years old and most of the roles I was given to play were boring to me. I wanted to play those women in their 40s who had been through some shit and had depth. So, if I look at this time away from that perspective - I’m almost 40 and I can now play all those delicious roles!

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Throughout these past few years (4 to be exact) my father would periodically ask me if I was going to start performing again, concerned I would wake up one day in regret. My response was always the same, “If I missed it Pop, I would be doing it.” And I never missed it. I’ve never woken up in regret that I’ve taken this extraordinary time to experience pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. Never. Not once. No desire to do anything else except be with my young ones, cook and write. Honestly. Until now.

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Here I am, almost 40, now living in the county, about to create an organic farm, with my sexy husband (pic below!), 2 kids, 2 dogs, 10 sheep, 2 pigs, far away from big city representation with incredibly cheesy community theatre all around. Surprisingly, being away from that grind (and also having a family I don’t want to be too far away from) has inspired a change of how I want to get back up under those lights again and perform.

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And so, somewhere in this farm of ours we are going to build a theatre. A farm to stage experience if you will. Pick your own snacks from our seasonal abundance, sip some amazing local wine and watch some badass theatre in the elements of nature. Like how Shakespeare did it back in the day. His audience would have to walk through town to get to the theatre - stopping off to get some food, some drink and some women. Well, this would be without the brothel though. Sorry boys.

 

Broccoli Pistachio Pesto Pasta

Any leftover pesto is delicious smeared on some really good bread along with some really good cheese and made into an old school grilled cheese sandwich. Amazing.

  • 1 medium head of broccoli (about 3 cups), cut into very small florets
  • 1/3 cup pistachios, toasted
  • handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/3 cup pecorino or parmesan, freshly grated
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon, or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon + fine grain sea salt
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • whole grain fusilli or other bite size pasta

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. I use the same pot to blanch the broccoli as I do cook the pasta in.

When the water is rapidly boiling, add the broccoli and cook just until it turns a nice green color, about 20 seconds. Using a small strainer, carefully gather the broccoli florets, put them into a larger strainer and run cold water over them to stop the cooking. Reserve about 1/3 cup of the small broccoli trees as a garnish.

Add the remaining broccoli to a food processor along with the pistachios, basil, pecorino or parmesan, garlic, lemon juice and sea salt. Turn on and drizzle in the olive oil while blending until smooth. Taste, adjust with more salt or lemon juice if needed. Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to the package - al dente. Reserve about 1/4 cup pasta water before draining. Drain pasta then transfer the hot pasta back into the pot you cooked it in along with about 1/2 of the pesto, the reserved pasta water and the reserved broccoli florets. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes. Taste, add more pesto if needed. Store any leftover pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for about 3 days.

Transfer pasta to serving dish, drizzle some good olive oil on top and a bit more freshly grated pecorino or parmesan.

Roasted Pumpkin Pudding

I can’t believe it’s already the end of the week. Again! Time is buzzing by these days. And it’s hot. Damn hot. Which makes this exhausted mother of 2 even more. At the end of the day I honestly am having a really hard time mustering up any extra energy to try new things in the kitchen. Lunch has been a quick corn quesadilla with sharp goat cheddar and a smashed avocado. This is actually my son’s favorite meal at the moment – which, by default, is now mine too.  

I bought a beautiful butternut squash the other day and decided to roast it up so my baby girl could have a little. Little being the operative word here. I was left with a ton of extra pureed roasted squash goodness. And since I don’ have any extra oomph in me, I decided to make this sans crust. So you can think of this recipe as a pumpkin pie without the crust. Yummy. It’s a whiz to whip together, last a good few days in the fridge and is, in my opinion, even more delicious cold. 

My husband harvested all the olives we had on our backyard trees and we are now in the process of brining them. Never done this before so who knows how they will turn out but the pictures turned out so beautiful I had to share some too.

Roasted Pumpkin Pudding

  • 2 cups butternut squash or other winter pumpkin puree, preferably homemade
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup plain goat kefir or buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup melted butter or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • nice pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, whisk all the ingredients together until smooth. Butter or oil a 9in baking dish of your choice and pour the pumpkin goodness into the dish.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about an hour or until the pudding is almost set in the middle and doesn’t wiggle around a bunch when you move it.

Cool for a good 30 minutes or longer. Serve with a creamy whipped cream of your choice and roasted walnuts or pecans if you so desire. The pudding is also delicious served cold as well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or dollop of yogurt too.

Little Gem Salad with Homemade Croutons and a Toasted Spice Vinaigrette

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The summer harvest season is almost over which means more and more of those gorgeous fall vegetables are showing up at the farmers market and I am incredibly excited about it. I know better not to pick the first of the season winter squashes (my favorite) cause they are never as good as they are in all their autumn glory. Somehow I have developed patience when it comes to this which is shocking.

I love everything about the fall season - the weather, the leaves, the holidays, the coziness, cooking my favorite autumn recipes, discovering new ways to devour the abundance of all those delicious root vegetables, slow cooked stews, soups, baking, roasting - mmmm mmmmm. But more on all that when the time comes (!) cause now I am in the future salivating on what is to come which is never a good idea and gets me nowhere - must enjoy what is in the present!

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This salad is a perfect late summer one that showcases the last of the season’s vegetables. You could use just about anything you like or have on hand cause the vinaigrette is really the star here. It has a bit of a middle eastern flare but the spice not overbearing. Just right. It also lasts a good week in the fridge making it super convent to drizzle it on just about anything you want. It’s pared beautifully with a number of things I have drizzled it over too; roasted beets, sautéed corn, string beans, chicken, steamed vegetables, cooked grains (quinoa, barley, rice), avocado… you get my point: incredibly versatile. I always love to have great dressings around in the fridge. It takes only a few minutes to make so I would double the recipe to enjoy longer.

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Little Gem Summer Salad with Homemade Croutons 

  • 4 heads of little gem lettuce, washed and leaves kept whole
  • handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium japanesse or persian cucumber, sliced in circles
  • a few green olives, pitted and chopped
  • a few TB feta, crumbled
  • 2 TBS fresh parsley, cilantro or basil, chopped

*homemade croutons *to make croutons: 4 thick slices of day old bread (about 1 inch) 2 TB olive oil and a nice pinch of sea salt. preheat oven to 400. In a bowl, toss the torn bread with the olive oil and sea salt. Spread the bread evenly on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Toasted Spice Vinaigrette

  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 TB apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt, or more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper

Toast coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool, then grind in spice grinder or smash in mortal and pestle.

Whisk ground spices with oil, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, sea salt and a few turns of freshly milled black pepper in a small bowl. Taste adding more salt if desired.

Baked Oatmeal with Walnuts and Prunes

My Gramps passed peacefully last week at the ripe age of 98. Ninety-eight. Amazing. About 10 years ago, doctors told us he wouldn’t be around for much longer due to some of his health conditions. But he was a strong and stubborn unshakably fierce Russian man, with hands thick and callused from working hard in factories and always spoke as though he knew everything about everything. No surprise to me that he proved us all wrong and decided to say good-bye when he was good and ready.

He and Gram used to babysit me a bunch when I was younger and I loved it when they did. Especially on New Years Eve when I slept over at their house and got to eat a huge bowl of Raisin Bran cereal with extra spoonfuls of sugar for dinner, watch the Lawrence Welk show, listen to old records as Gram and I danced around the room dressed up like 1920s flappers and then let me stay up late to watch the ball drop in Times Square on the Dick Clark new years eve TV special.

Gramps would always tell me stories about how he escaped Russia when he was very young, his difficult life in Chicago, how happy he was to be in sunny California and how wonderful my parents were for bringing them both over here. My favorite time though was when he would tell me bedtime stories. I was so entranced by each and every story he created (improvised on the spot I later learned) that I couldn’t fall asleep until the story ended and found out what had happened. He was an incredible story teller, embodying each character as brilliant as any fine Shakespearean actor does.

And though he drove a car, he would always talk about the one of his dreams – a silver Cadillac. One year, when I was like 7, I gave him a small plastic one for his birthday and he kept it on his shelf ever since, always referring to it as the best gift he ever received. And now Gramps, all I imagine is that you are joyful and free and have reconnected with all the family and friends you had lost, laughing and telling stories – driving everyone around in your very own deluxe silver Cadillac in the sky.

I love you.

Baked Oatmeal with Walnuts and Prunes

Adapted from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson.

This is a easy delicious new way to enjoy your oats. Raisins or dried apricots are also a nice substitute for the prunes. I’ve also made this with much success without walnuts and it’s still yummy. This is a wonderful recipe to make if you should need some help in increasing fiber into your diet – wink wink – something grandparents seem to be very conscious of. And so, if I were to make my Gramps breakfast, this probably would be it. And this probably would be the healthiest breakfast the man ever had. He ate like utter crap. Seriously. And he lived to almost 100 years old. Go figure.

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped (optional)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1  1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup prunes, pitted and sliced
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond, soy or milk of choice
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 TBS coconut oil or unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 tsp real vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the top third of the oven.

In an 8-inch square or round baking dish, mix together the oats, the nuts, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Scatter the prunes evenly over the oat mixture.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk, maple syrup, egg, coconut/butter and vanilla. Mix in the sliced prunes. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture over the oats.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden and the oat mixture has set. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for about 20 minutes to set. Any leftover keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days and is also delicious eaten cold too.

Black Mission Fig Tart

About the only thing I miss about our old house in LA is the black mission and heirloom zebra fig trees we left behind. I was seriously contemplating digging them up and bringing with us on the moving truck. Seriously. I actually had to be talked out of it.

Figs are one of my favorite fruits. Might even be my favorite. Fresh, dried, baked, roasted, jammy, sweet, savory, any which way I’ll happily devour them. Little did I know that the place we were moving to would actually have an even better more abundant fig tree than the trees we left behind. Score.

For the past few weeks, the tree has been exploding with ripe beautiful sweet figs. We’ve been enjoying picking and eating them sun-kissed and tree ripened or slicing them over some morning yogurt. But the tree is popping with so many ripe figs I was inspired to pick all the ripe ones off before the birds got to them first and make a tart.

When I was in Italy, a common treat I seemed to find in many bakeries were freshly dried large white figs stuffed with 2 blanched almonds inside. So simple, naturally decadent, nutritionally rich and utterly divine.

Almonds pair wonderfully with figs and I had bought some fresh marzipan at the farmers market and thought it would be a lovely addition sprinkled on top of the figs. I was right (!) but if you don’t have any it’s delicious without as well.

When ever I make a crust that uses butter, as this one does, I always make it the day before since it has to chill in the refrigerator before baking – making the tart come together in a flash the next day. And for those that don’t eat dairy, you can substitute this crust with this one.

 

Black Mission Fig Tart

  • 1 stick (8 TB) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup muscavdo sugar
  • 1 large egg 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup whole spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup white spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • about 20 fresh black mission figs or enough to cover, stemmed and quartered
  • 2 oz marizpan (optional) 2 TB raw sugar

Beat together butter and sugar until well-combined. Mix in the egg, egg yolk and almond extract.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder. Gradually add the dry ingredients, just until the mixture just comes together.

Pat the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
Preheat oven 350.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to room temperature slightly. With the heel of your hand, press the dough into the bottom and sides of an unbuttered removable bottom tart pan (9″ or 10″), patting it evenly.

Scatter the sliced figs, flesh side up, evenly over the dough. Sprinkle marzipan on top of figs. Then generously cover with coarse raw sugar, about 2 TBS.

Bake on a cookie sheet until the pastry is golden brown. 25-30 minutes. Let cool before serving, and serve at room temperature.

 

My Favorite Mushroom Soup

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The weather is starting to cool down a bit up here, with the essence of the fall season swimming in the breeze. Fall is my favorite time of year and the time I start to make one of my favorite things to eat - SOUP!

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I took advantage of a cool rainy day last week and made a huge pot of chicken stock from the insane amount of chicken parts I had in my freezer. I always do this when soup season is approaching. I make the stock and then I freeze it, making it very convent to whip up a delicious soup anytime.

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Stock is one of the most important things to making a soup delicious. In the height of autumn I throw in some nice winter squash or other root vegetables but my basic stock is: a large yellow onion, whole head of garlic, few stalks of celery, few carrots, large potato, handful of parsley, thyme, nice hefty pinch of sea salt, TB apple cider vinegar, chicken necks, wings, drumsticks - I collect a few of each parts from whole chickens I buy that the butcher chops up, roast the thighs and breasts and freeze the rest of the chicken parts. Then I top everything off with filtered water, bring to a light boil, skim off any foam that comes to the surface and then turn flame down to a simmer and let sit for a few hours. Strain and put in the fridge until cold to then skim off the layer of fat that rises to the top. I freeze the stock in small to medium containers which makes it easy to defrost the amount I need to make soup. I also pour the stock into large silicone ice cube trays (props to Martha Stewart for that brilliant tip) and freeze to pop into a pot of beans or cook vegetables or anything that you desire to add some extra protein and flavor.

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SO, with my homemade stock in the freezer, I had soup on my mind. I picked up a few beautiful bags of crimini mushrooms (baby portobella) at the farmers market and found a mushroom soup recipe by Mr. Anthony Bourdain that sounded perfect and super easy to make. I changed a few things and added a few things and it turned out to be the best easiest most delicious mushroom soup I have made. Seriously. Simple, tasty and truly came together without much effort. When I read his words, “This is a ridiculously easy soup to make. It's tasty and durable, and it gets even better overnight”. I was ready to jump into the kitchen and give it a go. I hope you do the same.

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Mushroom Soup

adapted from Epicurious via Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook

  • 3 TB goat butter or regular butter, divided
  • 1 TB extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large shallots or small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 12 ounces crimini mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 TB mirin 1 TB tamari or soy sauce
  • 4-5 cups homemade chicken stock or really good low sodium store bought
  • sea salt
  • freshly milled black pepper

Top each bowl with cooked farro or other grain like brown rice or quinoa sautéed greens and sliced crimini or shiitake mushroom

In the medium saucepan, over a medium flame add the olive oil and 2 TB of the butter. When butter has melted add the shallot. Cook for about 5 minutes or until soft and translucent, then add the mushrooms, dried thyme and last remaining TB of butter. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. Add the mirin and tamari/soy sauce and stir around a bit then add the chicken stock and bring to a light boil. Reduce the flame and simmer for 45 minutes.

Let the soup cool for a few minutes, then transfer to the blender and carefully blend at high speed until smooth. Do I have to remind you to do this in stages, with the blender's lid firmly held down, and with the weight of your body keeping that thing from flying off and allowing boiling hot mushroom purée to erupt all over your kitchen?

When blended, return the mix to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and bring up to a simmer again. Serve as is or top individual bowls of soup with some cooked grain, sautéed greens and sliced crimini or shiitake mushroom.

Roasted Applesauce

I went to the beauty parlor the other day to get my hair done. The last time I think this happened was probably a year ago. A year! You see, my husband used to be a hairdresser back in the day – when he was 20 – and so he has been the one cutting my doo and it’s fantastic and convenient and he’s pretty darn good but there is something about going to the beauty parlor that I didn’t realize I missed. Utterly enjoy actually.

I’m the type of gal who also loves going to the spa and get pampered. Massage, sauna, nails, toes, waxing, ya know, girl stuff. But since I’ve had children I‘ve neglected that part of me in a major way. Other things have taken precedence over my spa time and hair free hygiene I guess.

When my son was a little over a year, I started to get back into the groove of pampering. However, that only lasted for a few months cause then I got pregnant again and my pampering fizzled. But NOW, now, I’ve opened the door and I am ready, READY, to get myself looking good again. I’ve reached that place where I just couldn’t stand to wash my hairy arm pits or deal with my 70s cha cha or put lotion on my hairy legs or look at the abundant amount of fucking grey hair any longer… I just couldn’t take it anymore! Ya feel me ladies?

And yes, if you’re curious, since I’ve had children, the large village of grey’s have appeared. For awhile, I was actually thinking about just letting the grey be and rockin that look. I’ve always admired those fabulous women who embrace their beautiful grey hair. But, for the most part, they are much older than me. I mean, I’m still in the last year in my 30s remember? :) I have time to blossom into that look.

My point: I went to the beauty parlor, got waxed and washed that grey right outta my hair. How wonderful that with certain things you can have instant gratification and viola – no hair and no more grey! Oh and I not only went to the beauty parlor…I went ALONE. I was freaking all by myself for almost 2 hours. 2 hours! And in mommy hours that’s like a whole day. Seriously.

However, before I left the house, I did what most of us mama’s do – multitask! And when I got back, my house smelled divine and my roasted applesauce was ready to come out of the oven. This is one of the only recipes I’ve gotten from my mother. Now, my Ma is not a cook. Just being in the kitchen can overwhelm the woman. That’s what makes this recipe extra special to me. And if she can make this, so can you! This applesauce is incredibly delicious and incredibly easy to make. Roasting the apple allows them to naturally caramelize, which creates a wonderfully rich, sweeter applesauce without the addition of sugar. She keeps her’s chunky and l like to blend it up. Either way, delish. Apples are starting to show up in the markets so I like to use an assortment of sweet and tart but you can of course use just one variety.

Roasted Applesauce

  • 4 pounds assorted apples, cored and chopped
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 TB filtered water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • a few pinches of sea salt

Preheat oven 375°.


Wash and core the apples, discarding any seeds, then chop. You can leave the pieces on the medium side in size as they will break down when roasting.


In a large ovenproof pot with lid, add the chopped apples, lemon juice, water, cinnamon sticks, and sea salt. Mix around and cover pot with lid and bake on the middle rack of oven for about an hour and a half.


Remove the cinnamon sticks and keep chunky or, when cooled a bit, blend in a high speed blender until smooth. Store applesauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This applesauce lasts a good while in the fridge and has endless possibilities for enjoyment.

 

Peach Yogurt Popsicles

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For as long as I can remember I’ve always loved to write. I started writing in my diary at an early age about boys and girls and dramas and friendships and love and betrayals. It always helped bring clarity and shed light on feelings unclear. I've continued journaling through the years and now, I’m schmuck sharing my personal woes and thoughts with all of you people.

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I started this blog as a place to share recipes and life adventures with friends old and new. I didn’t plan on it becoming so much more than that in the process. But I guess that’s what happens when you just jump in and begin. There was a time in my life that I used to wait for things to be “perfect” before I would start something. As you can imagine, I would wait and wait and wait and many things never began.

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But I began this (not at the perfect time of course) and I'm incredibly grateful I did. Nowadays, I obviously no longer have blocks of quiet time to reflect within so I’ve learned to integrate the loud chaos and still shockingly be able to express a coherent thought and (sometimes) a sentence! You see, most of my writing is done while baby is napping and my son is preoccupied or with one of my favorite people in the world - his amazing nanny BFF. Love you girl. You help me to infinity and beyond. Then, over the course of a few days I re-work my thoughts again and again and again usually when I’m nursing the baby with one hand as I type with the other. I do the same when I eat too. And yes, food does fall on the baby. I just make sure I’m not eating hot soup!

At any rate, writing and cooking have been keeping me sane cause let me tell you folks - being a stay at home mommy mommy mommy is wonderful but it’s fucking hard and constant and utterly mind numbingly draining. I am left, at the end of the day, without feeling any sense of accomplishment. I want to just curl up under the covers and sleep for like a week. Heck, I’d be happy with a good solid nights sleep! But I can’t and that’s ok cause I know this period isn’t permanent and yeah yeah I know that they will grow up quickly BUT in the present moment of my life now - it’s challenging and thrilling and delicious and incredibly tiresome to say the least.

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This blog has kept me creativity challenged and has allowed me to continue exploring myself and hanging onto the last remaining parts of my brain. Sometimes I’m inspired and sometimes, most of the time, I just begin, having no idea what I’m going to write or cook. And all ya'll out there in the unknown hold me accountable and I want to thank you. Thank you for stopping by and having a look see. Thank you to those who comment and especially to those who don’t. I was someone who, for years, read certain blogs and never commented - waiting for the “perfect” thing to say. But now I don’t give a shit. I just jump right in and begin. Impressed and delighted I did.

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Peach Yogurt Popsicles

You can most defiantly substitute the goat and sheep yogurt for 1 cup whole and 1 cup greek yogurt. You could use 2 cups whole yogurt but I like the consistency and a bit more creaminess added the 2 different kinds take on.

  • 1  1/2 cup peach puree *
  • 1 cup plain whole goat yogurt
  • 1 cup plain or vanilla sheep yogurt
  • 1/4 cup + 2 TB runny honey
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • nice pinch of sea salt

*to make peach puree simply pit, chop and blend about 3 large ripe peaches. Done.

Put all the ingredients in a high speed blender and blend. Fill popsicle molds and freeze until frozen. Enjoy.

Indian Summer Quinoa Salad

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Since the baby arrived a few months ago, a slice of silence has been rare. A moment for myself has been even rarer. From the second I open my eyes in the morning it’s go go go and will continue to go go go all day and into the nursing night. When a moment of “alone” time presents itself, I've gotten into the habit of immediately rushing off to try and accomplish as many tasks as I could with the fleeting time I had. But nowadays, thankfully things have changed. I have found a way to take MY much needed moment of pause in the only room in the house that I can - my closet. Of course.

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Yep, when my son is playing and baby is napping and the dogs who always lay down on my yoga mat every time I try and do some much needed stretching (!!) are out back - it is then that I make myself a hot cup of oolong tea, go upstairs, sit quietly on the floor of my closet and listen to the sound of my own breath - reconnecting to the fact that my body is actually my own. There is a beautiful budding tree outside my closet window, which I have become very fond of staring at too.

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There was a time in my life that I thought I was wasting it if I did such a thing like just stare at a tree. That I needed to use up every bit of the hours in my day with “doing” something. Learning something. Working on my art. Little did I know that life IS art and that these times of pause replenish and inspire. That this silent reflection of being is where the golden light of enlightenment lives. Yeah, I know. Deep thoughts with Aria but whatever - this is some profound shit!

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Indian Summer Quinoa Salad

This is such a refreshing salad on a hot summer day and comes together in a flash when you make a big pot of Quinoa the day before and have leftovers already cold in the fridge. This salad also works well with pretty much any leftover cooked grain: brown rice, farro or barley. Avocado is a great addition as well but didn't have any ripe ones around.

Quinoa

  • 1 TB coconut oil
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1 ½ cup filtered water
  • nice pinch of sea salt

Rinse quinoa very well, swishing it around with water to get the bitter film off. In a small pot, over a medium-high flame, heat the TB coconut oil and add the quinoa. Toast quinoa, stirring constantly, for a few minutes then carefully add 1 1/2 cup water, a nice pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cover pot with lid, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to sit, undisturbed, for another 5 minutes. Take off lid and fluff quinoa and spread on baking sheet to cool.

Salad

  • 1 box cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium persian cucumber, halved and diced
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 TB fresh mint, chopped
  • 4 TB feta cheese, garnish on top
  • In a large bowl add the cooled quinoa and everything above, except the feta.

 

Garam Marsala Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon
  • 2 TB apple cider vinegar
  • 1 TB runny honey
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1 tsp sea salt, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp ground garam marsala
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, whisk together everything except the oil. Then, while continuously whisking, slowly pour the oil into the bowl, whisking until incorporated.

Pour the dressing into the large bowl, mixing well with the quinoa/ vegetable mixture. Allow to marinate, at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle the feta on top of the salad.

Olive Oil Cake with Ginger Root, Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt

It was my birthday last week. I have lived 39 years on this earth. Thirty nine years. Holy moly. When I reflect on all the different phases I have gone through to get to where I am at this ripe age – it feels quite looooooooong. So many moments in there. Some fresh and clear, some cloudy and grey.

Honestly, I am amazed I’m still alive at some of the dangerous circumstances I found myself in. I mean really stupid unconscious shit I was, for some reason, drawn towards being a part of. Dated more than my fair share of insensitive self-involved but handsome assholes, drank too much, smoked too many cigarettes, always wanted to explore dramatic situations, dramatic people, experimented with some drugs and thankfully knew better to stay away from other drugs that took the life of many of those around me way too young. I grew up in Hollywood, remember? Where everything was like a fantasy and nothing seemed real enough to hurt. But it did, and I was, and I lived to tell many many many tales. Crazy, sad and fun tales that all made me who I am today so I guess I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe just a few… :)

That’s what my 20s and 30s have been – figuring things out and surviving. And here I am, in the best place of my 39 years and what, you ask, did I want for my birthday? A bicycle. A freaking bicycle! If you know me, you will understand how out of character this actually is. I am not, if you haven’t guessed it already – an outdoorsy kinda woman. Not yet anyway. For one, I don’t feel comfortable as I have no outdoor survival skills. I’d be the dumb ass who would run like hell if faced with a wild animal. But hey, I have a ton of city survival skills. Drop me off in the middle of the concrete jungle of NYC and I know how to survive. Get off at the wrong subway stop in a shady area and some girl wants to start a fight with me… No problem! My white ass knows how to survive. (Tell her you love her outfit and she’ll be thrown by the compliment. Worked every time!)

And now, with only 1 year left in my 30s, living in this beautiful little town with my beautiful family, I am finally enjoying life and living it instead of surviving it. SO here I am, a woman of 39, married to a man I never thought I would end up with and a mother to our 2 delicious kids. Here’s to a brand new year friends. The last year in my 30s (!!) I wonder what my 40s will be like. I can’t freaking believe I’m gonna be 40 next year. WTF?! Cheers.

Olive Oil Cake with Ginger Root, Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt

  • 3/4 cup whole grain spelt flour
  • 1 cup white spelt flour or all purpose
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 3/4 cup muscavado sugar
  • 1  1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup plain goat kefir or buttermilk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 TB fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • a scant TB turbinado sugar a scant tsp flakey maldon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Rub a 9 1/2-inch tart pan with olive oil .


In a large bowl, whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder and sea salt until combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs then whisk in the olive oil, kefir/buttermilk, vanilla and grated ginger.


Using a spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry, gently mixing just until combined. Stir in the chocolate.


Pour the batter into the pan, spreading it evenly and smoothing the top. Sprinkle top with some turbinado sugar and sea salt.


Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

The cake can be eaten warm or cool from the pan, or cooled, stored in an airtight container on the counter for 2 days.

Wildflower Blackberry Syrup

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This is gonna be short and sweet people. Sometimes I have a lot to say and sometimes I don’t. Well, that’s not completely true - I am a very opinionated bitch - but this week I’m gonna keep it simple and not talk about anything else but this incredible blackberry syrup I made using the wild blackberries my boys harvested.

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To be brief, these blackberries are growing wild all around the land we purchased. Yep, we moved to the country and now we’re gonna become farmers. I know, such a cliche right. I want goats too but not sure if I really have the patience to milk them everyday. At any rate, more on that endeavor later. I promised to keep this one short cause this recipe is most definitely sweet.

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I was intending to make a blackberry jam sweetened only with some local wildflower honey but in the final process of pouring the cooked goodness through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds - this syrup took center stage and became the star. This is one of the most delicious simple easy scrumptious diverse things I have made to date. And with berries exploding in the market these summer days, you have no excuse but to make it.

Here’s some ideas on all the many ways to enjoy: Use instead of maple syrup for pancakes and waffles Drizzle on top of yogurt or ice cream A few tablespoons into a smoothie On top of morning porridge Mixed into sparkling water for a homemade fruit soda Make a blackberry cocktail!

Would love to hear what you do with this syrup so get yourself out of the house and pick some berries up at your local farmers market or go explore and pick some wild blackberries and make this shit!

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Wildflower Blackberry Syrup

  • 3 cups blackberries, washed
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup wildflower honey, using more or less depending on how sweet berries are
  • nice pinch of sea salt
  • fresh juice of half a small lemon

Put everything into a pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim off any foam that rises to the top. Turn down the flame to a low and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Carefully pour through a fine mesh strainer and, using the help of a spatula or spoon, mash the berries to extract all the juice - leaving only the seeds behind.

Store in a glass jar in the fridge and use on everything you want.

Roasted Chicken with Herbs, Onions and White Wine

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There is something about the way my little girl smells that just melts my heart. Her skin, her breath, her mohawked little hair, her baby fat rolls - I forgot how much I missed this baby sniffing phase. When my son was born, the breastfeeding consultant at the hospital said to me that I should smell his hair as much as I could as it will help balance my hormones during the postpartum time. I did it and maybe because of that I swiftly eased back into balance. Who knows, but I loved every sniff of him and am now loving every sniff of her. And the dirtier her hair gets, the stinker and the better.

Smelling her has also become a meditation of sorts. It immediately brings me into the present moment - grounds me, nourishes me, comforts me and instantly awakens me to how much I ridiculously love this little being. It’s true, until I had kids, I never felt this kind of love. It’s endlessly deep, primal, uncontrollably scary and utterly delightful.

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In other news, we all are getting into our own groove together too which is fucking wonderful! Like last Sunday afternoon: she was peacefully hanging out, my son was watching Toy Story, daddy was plowing the field with our new tractor (more on our farm endeavor later), and I was in my office writing. Yes, you heard it folks - my office - my new office!

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Since we moved here, my office had been in the bedroom which worked for awhile 'cause I was pregnant and my brain didn’t really function. But then the words of the brilliant Virgina Woolf “a room of one’s own” - screamed out within. Even if the door doesn’t close due to the warped 1915 year old foundation of the house - it doesn’t matter - what matters is that I have a room of my own!! If that wasn’t exciting enough for you all, I have something that might be. One of the best, easiest roasted chicken recipes I have even made. Period. SO simple, moist and flavorful.

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I came across the original recipe in the July issue of Food and Wine magazine. I made it as is first and then I altered it again and again to make it even more simple. When ever I eat meat of any kind, I always buy organic. I am not gonna go into the why’s of this as I gather you all have heard a thing or two about the why. And if buying organic chicken parts are to expensive for you I would say try this: buy a whole bird and have the butcher cut it up for you. It’s always cheaper that way. And then you can freeze the remaining parts in a freezer bag to have ready when you decide to make a homemade chicken stock. Multitasking. That's what we mama's do.

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Roasted Chicken with onions, herbs and White wine

  • 2 bone-in chicken breast, with skin
  • 2 whole chicken thighs/leg
  • 2 TB extra-virgin olive oil
  • flaky sea salt freshly
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried basil, thyme or herbs de provance
  • 1 medium yellow or 1 large spring onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 450.

In a deep roasting pan, scatter the onions evenly on the bottom of the pan.

Rub the chicken with olive oil, generously with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and dried herbs. Place the chicken, skin side up, on top of the sliced onions.

Roast for 30 minutes then carefully add the 1/2 cup while wine to the roasting pan. Cook for another 5 minutes or until the skin is golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes.

Serve with any seasonal veggie you have in the fridge and be sure to pour all the roasting juices as well as onions on top of the chicken.

Whole Grain Waffles

Everything was going great. The baby was in blissful slumber and my son and I were in the kitchen getting all the ingredients together to make some waffles for breakfast. But once we finished mixing, that’s when I smelled it. My son poo pooed in his pants. In his diaper-less big boy underwear pants to be specific. And he, forgive the pun, didn’t give a shit. He carried on playing, as he always does, without a care in the world that he has a sack of stinky stinky POO POO in his pants. Again.

We have been trying this potty training thing for a little over a month and he really really doesn’t seem to get the swing of it. Obviously. Wet diaper or poo poo he don’t care and everything I’ve read about potty training says, to attempt success your child has to be interested in it and, most importantly have some body awareness. Nope. Not our boy. Not yet anyway. I really really wish it was different but it’s not. I really really wish I could do something to change it but I can’t. So, I decided the best thing to do for all involved is just to throw away the nasty underwear and put a damn diaper on him. Screw it. He doesn’t care one bit about his bodily functions and quite frankly, at this frustrating point of trying, neither do I. Messy business this potty training is but I digress… back to the waffles.

SO, just as I was about to pour the batter into the hot waffle iron, the baby woke up crying – of course. I changed her diaper and then sat down on the couch to nurse her. Now, for the most part my son has been wonderful with his new little sister. Obsessed with her, quite frankly. Wanting to kiss and hold her all the time. It’s adorable but sometime a little too much. He hasn’t learned about private space yet. And honestly, I don’t trust him with her. Not that I think he is gonna intentionally hurt her or anything like that, it’s just that he might. And he has. And when he does, he gets my full attention. You get where I’m going with this? He used to be the only show in town and now he ain’t. And, because of this, he has become a bit more of a crazy pants then he was before she arrived.

Like when I nurse her on the couch, as I always do; he has begun to crawl all around the couch then the floor then couch and then back to the floor pretending to be a dog and licks my foot like they do. And, most importantly, during this whole time he doesn’t listen or take any of my pleas to stop seriously. He laughs. He thinks mommy is hilarious when she gets frustrated or mad. The dogs always seem to chime in too when mommy’s patience is being tested as they start barking at every sound they hear and then THEY begin to lick my toes too. When this happens, and it happens often, I have learned to take a deep breath, not take anything personal and charge on. We mommies always ALWAYS charge on. We have to. We’re tired, have to go to the bathroom, hungry, frustrated, too fucking bad. Suck it up and charge on!

And with 2 kids, the sucking up never ends. You go and go and go until you find yourself, as I just did, crying in the kitchen making waffles while baby was in her holder strapped to my chest and my son was playing his annoying talking Buzz Lightyear doll and chanting mommy mommy mommy mommy – ahhhhhhhh.

Whole Grain Waffles

  • 1 cup barley flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour
  • 1 TB baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 TB maple or coconut sugar
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1 cup plain kefir or buttermilk
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil or butter, melted and cooled a bit

Preheat your waffle iron to medium heat. I have the Cuisinart waffle iron and I set it to the middle number, 4.


In a large bowl mix the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, milk, kefir/ buttermilk together, then whisk in the melted coconut oil or butter. Using a spatula, gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry until combined.

Brush a bit of coconut oil onto the waffle iron with a basting brush so the batter doesn’t stick then use a small ladle to pour the batter into the middle of each waffle iron section, about 1/2 cup. Close the iron. My waffle iron beeps when the waffles are ready, which makes it super easy and they are perfectly cooked every time.

Serve with syrup, preserves, or as is.

*If you have left over waffles, freeze them in a plastic freezer bag and push out as much air as you can get out of the bag. They toast up beautiful in a toaster.

Preston Plum Almond Tart

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I don’t wanna jinx anything but for the past few nights my little girl has only woken up once to nurse giving me a solid 6 hours of sleep. 6 hours! I could cry with joy. I feel like I’m getting away with something. The secret you ask? Daddy swaddled her ass up like a tight package in 3, yes 3 blankets, popped the only pacifier (finally) she likes into her mouth and gently put her into the crib all warm and toasty. Bada bing.

Listen people, she has a ferocious appetite all throughout the day so does she really need more than 1 feeding in the night?! I mean seriously. I’m sure my little porker is just fine. I feel hopeful. I feel rested. I even kinda feel sexy. OMG I’m back bitches. And what better way to celebrate my rebirth, if you will, then to go wine tasting!

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I know what your saying - you’re breastfeeding you can’t have wine?! Yes, there is quite a debate on drinking and breastfeeding. The concern being if alcohol can have an affect on baby and if “pumping and dumping” is actually necessary or really does anything. My european friends with kids say they start them young. Dip a little wine in the pacifier to soothe a crying baby. Knocks em right out. And since we are living in the wine country, we might as well follow suit and "spike that milk" as a friend said.

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With my son, I was an overly concerned first time mom and didn't have a sip of wine for months. He was also a skinny little thing, very slow to put on pounds and in the 5% of weight, so I was nursing and pumping non-stop until he started to pack on the baby rolls. However, with baby number 2, our little heffer is in the 80% of weight (!) and I am much more confident and relaxed with her feedings, so I say a little wine won’t hurt. It’s not like I’m hitting the clubs and getting wasted. I’m just having a civilized glass of wine with dinner or lunch or brunch - heck, whenever the opportunity strikes while she is napping!

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Last weekend we ventured out into Dry Creek Valley and had a picnic at this amazing organic vineyard and farm Preston. I packed up some simple avocado, cucumber sandwiches on dark rye, fresh strawberries, roasted almonds, green olives and a hunk of sheep cheese. We all sat outside, under a beautiful old tree, our son ran around the grass and played while our little girl snoozed swaddled up in her stroller and we, leisurely ate and sipped wine. Well, maybe not leisurely. Only for about 5 minutes - if that. It’s pretty impossible to causally lounge with a toddler and a 2 month old but nonetheless, it was a lovely afternoon.

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Before heading out we went into their farm store to shop and this is where I encountered these stunning green and purple plums. They were ripe, freshly picked and still warm from the hot summer sun. They screamed “baked me up in a tart”. I've wanted to try this plum tart recipe I found in one of my new favorite blogs, The Bojon Gourmet. I changed a few things around from her original recipe but it's pretty similar. It’s a very easy tart to whip together and quite adaptable with swapping out the plums for other summer stone fruits. It's also very delicious the next day, cold from the fridge, with a dollop of yogurt on top for breakfast.

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Rustic Almond Plum Tart

Adapted from The Bojon Gourment

I like to have my fruit desserts on the tart side so I used only 1/2 cup sugar to her 2/3 cup. Also I didn't have any butter on hand and thought that coconut oil would overwhelm in flavor so I opted for a mild olive oil, which worked great. I’m sure you could also make this tart GF by swapping out the spelt flours for a GF all purpose. If you do, let me know how it turned out!

  • 1/2 cup ground almonds or almond flour, lightly toasted
  • 4 TB mild extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup whole spelt flour
  • 1/4 cup white spelt or all purpose flour
  • 1/2 - 2/3 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 6-8 small ripe plums, halved, pitted and quartered
  • 1 TB turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat to 375º.

Oil a 9 or 10” tart dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the almonds, flours, 1/2 -2/3 cup sugar, salt and baking powder.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, egg and almond extract. Then, mix and incorporate into the flour mixture until combine.

Pour into the tart dish and press evenly over the bottom only. Arrange the plum slices in a pretty way over the dough. Sprinkle the tart with the remaining tablespoon of turbinado sugar. Bake the tart for about 45 minutes, until the plums are oozily collapsing and the pastry turns golden brown.

Let the tart cool a bit. Serve, with ice cream, yogurt, whipped cream or creme fraiche.

The keeps wonderfully in the fridge and is relish for breakfast with a cup of strong tea!

Strawberry Corn Muffins

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I visited a friend last week who just had her baby 3 weeks prior. She not only looks amazing but has slid into motherhood nursing her adorable little guy like an old pro. Bravo N! She is also one of those women who gained only like 20 pounds when she was pregnant so no one would even suspect she just popped him out. Truly. Her stomach even looks flat already. I, on the other hand, am a completely different story.

I gained 45 pounds with my son and it took me most definitely more than a minute for my body to bounce back. Surprisingly when it did (months later) I was in even better shape than I was before I got pregnant. I didn’t work out or diet or anything like that so it shocked me. I chalk it up to breastfeeding and being overwhelmed and all consumed with my new role as Mommy. A dang tired mommy who laughed at the thought of working out. My body looked fab too so I wasn't motivated to do it. But then I became pregnant with my daughter and my familiar preggie body slowly began to creep back in. I had heard from other mother’s that they didn’t gain as much with their 2nd so I was hopeful. Ha.

Though I only gained 5 more pounds then I did with my son - I felt and feel heavier. Could be a reflection of the incredible amount of butter, heavy cream, cheese, meat and ice cream I consumed and craved. But that’s what she wanted and now we both have the booty to prove it! Or as my dear friend David expressed when I walked in front of him- ‘badonkadonk’. Thanks so much for pointing that one out darling. As if I didn’t know! Bitch.

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I used to exercise all the time before I became pregnant with my son. Yes, I said BEFORE my son. It’s been way too long. Don’t get me wrong I want to get my body moving. Get back into the swing of things. Sweat and work it out. If only I had an ounce of extra energy to spare. And I’d love to do a fucking cleanse but I can’t. Not while I’m still nursing anyway. There was a comic strip I saw the other day that sums up these early years brilliantly. It’s of a tired looking woman on the phone, her greasy hair pulled back in a pony, holding her screaming baby in one hand, the phone in the other and her older child pulling at her shirt. The caption read “ Can I call you back in 5 years.” Yep, that pretty much says it all. Cause as wonderful as this mommy ride is, it’s constant. Leaving little time for much else. Soon though, it will be different. But, until then, let’s just say I’m doing my best to embrace my extra padding and soft play dough belly. (ARGH!)

Let’s also not forget that I’m sharing my body with this hungry hungry little creature and she is sucking everything EVERYTHING outta me. She is the keeper of my voluptuous boobies. They are hers. Period. If you mess with them, they will spray you in defense. Shame cause they look great and have only ever looked this good when I was nursing my son. And being that this is the last babe I will bore - my boobs will never look this good again. Soon they will be shriveled up raisins. Wish I could fit into my sexy dresses and proudly display them. Then again, they would probably leak breastmilk and it stains so I guess it’s for the best. So for now, I’ll just have to stick to my boobie accessible washable cotton t’s and enjoy eating some delicious muffins to compliment my muffin top!

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Strawberry Corn Muffins

  • 3/4 cup plain goat kefir or buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • zest and juice of one medium lemon
  • 1/4 cup mild extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine ground sea salt
  • 2 1/2 cups strawberries, stemmed and sliced

Preheat the oven to 350

Line 12 muffin tines with paper.

*Set aside 1/2 cup sliced strawberries to top off the muffins before baking.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the kefir or buttermilk, applesauce, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, eggs and vanilla. Mix well to combine and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk the spelt flour, cornmeal, coconut sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt to combine. Using a spatula, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until combined in as few stirs possible. Then gently fold in the strawberries.

Scoop batter into lined or greased muffin tins and sprinkle remaining sliced berries on top of each muffin. Bake on the middle rack for about 25 minutes or until golden on top and you insert a thin knife and it comes out clean. Cool in tin for a few minutes then transfer to rack to cool.

White Bean, Fennel and Red Radish Salad

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I must be honest with all of you, I haven’t had the energy to cook much lately. It pisses me off that I’ve been too exhausted to do it. Of course I’m not taking any of the obvious into account like simply birthing a child, chasing around another, not getting a good nights rest and breastfeeding every oh hour! However, I’m the type of woman who loves to cook, bake and feed those near and dear with my creations. I still cook (obviously I’ve been documenting it in this blog!) but it’s not as much as I usually do. I usually cook ALL the time. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Now a days you'll find me in the morning quickly making myself a pot of tea and my son his whole grain porridge before the baby wakes up to feed AGAIN. Or you'll find me there while my son is napping and the baby is snuggled in her baby holder wrapped around my body so she can nap while I rummage through the fridge to find something for me to eat. I laugh at that saying “make sure you nap when the baby naps”. HA. If only….

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I’ve become reacquainted with some of my forgotten favorite things like the fantastic quesadilla. I toast up a sprouted tortilla in a hot skillet, melt some sharp goat cheddar, smash a half an avocado with a sprinkle of sea salt on top. Yum. So simple, so easy and so tasty. If my nursing wee one wasn’t so affected by spicy foods I’d be adding some hot sauce into the mix too. But I gotta admit, there has been something quite satisfying about the pure taste of all those flavors together without the heat.

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Thankfully I still get inspiration from recipes I come across that propel me to get up offa my tired ass and get cooking in the kitchen though. It usually comes when I’m breastfeeding being that this is the only time I have to catch up on e-mails and search around the web on my iPad. I was reading the NY Times dining section the other day and was immediately enticed by this chickpea recipe by David Tanis. That recipe really has nothing to do with the salad I actually ended up making but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the idea inspired my creative juices to play around. And when my eyes came upon these beautiful large dried heirloom white beans in my pantry - the result was this delicious white bean salad. This salad would be great with any bean too so use what you got. Cooked beans also last a good few days in the fridge making them incredibly convenient to just grab and eat in many ways. I added some into my quesadilla mentioned above, on top of a bed of arugula, along side some organic rotisserie chicken my hubby picked up and also mixed into some cooked quinoa. The only real planning this recipe takes is to soak the beans overnight OR - as I mostly do - start soaking them in the morning to make for dinner. Soaking the beans not only helps speed up their cooking time but some also say it helps make them more digestible and less gassy. But you be the judge of that one. I, again, laugh at that thought...

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White Bean, Fennel, Red Radish Salad

  • 2 cups dried large white beans, soaked overnight in cold water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • sea salt
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, tops removed for cooking beans and bulb sliced for after
  • 1 bunch red radish, tops removed and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley, leaves only
  • juice of 1 lemon

Drain soaked beans, discard soaking water and rinse with fresh. Add beans to a medium pot, cover them with about an inch of fresh water and bring to a boil. Add bay leaf, garlic cloves, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 TB olive oil and the fennel tops. Skim off and discard any rising foam. Lower heat and simmer gently for about an hour or until tender. Pour hot beans into a colander to drain off cooking liquid. (You could reserve the broth if you plan on making a soup). Discard the bay leaf, garlic cloves and fennel tops. Add a few TB of extra-virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and the juice of 1 lemon. Let beans cool a bit then add them to a large serving bowl if you are planning to serve right away. If not, you could prepare the beans ahead of time before adding the rest of the ingredients. Mix in the sliced fennel, radish and chopped parsley. Taste and adjust - adding more salt, olive oil or lemon if desired. Serve.

Apricot Blueberry Tart

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There was a period of time in my youth when I hated my name - Aria. It was just too weird. On top of that, no one really ever knew how to pronounce it. At school or doctors offices, the adults calling out my name would most often address me as “area”. My peers would call me everything from R to oreo to di-aria-rhea. Lovely, I know. I longed for having a normal name like Jenny or Christy - anything but Aria. But then I got over it and moved onto something more important, like my hair. You see, I had a natural wave but this was the 80s and I really needed a perm. I convinced my mom and, if memory serves me right, we both got one together. And yes, we ended up looking like standard poodles. I’ll spare you the visual. After I got over the perm and the teasing and the aqua net hair spray, I wanted bone straight hair with bangs. Oh and I wanted to be a blond too. My point: the grass always does seem greener.

It's like when you have your first child. You go through this learning process where you are all consumed and don’t know shit about anything and way too precious and are overwhelmed by everything. But once you get over the anxiety, you get into a rhythm and baby begins to grow and blossom into becoming an independent little person. You start to ease up and integrate this new person into your life and, though it’s still exhausting, you are pretty much able to end your days very shortly after bath and story time. To which then, you can crawl into bed (yes I go to bed at 9pm!) and generally have a good nights rest. However, when a newborn gets into the mix - you can forget about a good nights sleep. At least I can anyway since my milk shop is open 24/7. Also, forget about winding down at the end of the day. With 2, there really is no rest. This reality now makes only having 1 seem easy peasy.

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So, now a days when my baby girl is sleeping, being with my son is a breeze. Well, kinda. He has entered into the repeating every single word phase which no doubt tests everyones patience and keeps me and my potty mouth on my toes. I'm trying the best I can but damn it's F'in hard! Anyway, lately, when it's just me and my little talkative man, I've been putting him to work in the kitchen. He's becoming quite my little sous chef too. This is our first tart together. It was initially just going to be an apricot tart but he demanded some “boo”berries sprinkled on top which I think was a brilliant touch. Wove vou!

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Apricot Blueberry Tart

Simple, rustic, delectable, and incredibly easy to make. Toasting the flours for the crust adds a depth of flavor reminiscent of a graham cracker. This tart also has, I am happy to say, one badass, butter-free, easy-to-press crust that goes directly into the oven without needing to roll or chill. Then you have this almond marzipan-like center. It’s not only incredibly delicious, but it looks stunning, and I am sure the people lucky enough to be served it will think you were in the kitchen for hours.

Crust

  • 1 -1/4 cups whole grain spelt flour, toasted
  • 1/ 2 cup ground almonds or almond flour, toasted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup mild extra virgin olive oil pinch of sea salt

Filling

  • 1/3 cup ground almonds or almond flour
  • 1/3 cup maple sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 TB mild extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Topping

  • 2 cups fresh apricots, pitted and sliced
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 TB fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 TB maple sugar
  • 2 TB orange marmalade

Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly oil a rectangular or regular tart pan with removable bottom.

For Crust:

On a parchment paper-covered baking sheet,evenly spread spelt and almond flours. Place in oven and toast flour for about 8 minutes or until lightly golden and fragrant. Remove from oven and use the parchment paper as a funnel to transfer the flours to a medium mixing bowl. Let cool a few minutes.

Add baking powder and pinch of salt to the flour bowl and whisk to combine. In a small bowl, whisk the maple syrup and olive or almond oil until throughly combined and emulsified. Add the maple/oil mixture to the flour mixture and gently stir with a spatula to incorporate.

Press the dough evenly into the  pre-oiled tart pan. Be careful not to make it too thick on the bottom as the dough will puff up a bit in the oven from the baking powder. Press the dough against the sides of the tart pan with your thumb to evenly distribute along the sides.  Then, using a small fork, gently press down on dough and carefully poke holes throughout the bottom of the dough.

Pre-bake crust in the oven for 10 minutes. Keep oven on while you prepare the filling.

For Filling:

In a small bowl, mix almond flour, sugar, egg, olive oil, and almond extract. Mix until batter forms and is smooth. With a spatula, evenly spread filling into crust.

In a small bowl, mix almond flour, sugar, egg, olive oil, and almond extract. Mix until batter forms and is smooth. With a spatula, evenly spread filling into crust.

In a small bowl, mix the apricots, lemon juice, and sugar.

Lightly place the sliced apricots on top of the filling in a pretty manor then add a handful of  blueberries where ever you wish.

Bake for about 35 - 40 minutes or until filling is lightly golden and set.

Stir orange marmalade in small saucepan over low heat until melted. Brush over still-hot apricots and blueberries and cool tart 1 hour before serving.