Bacon Broccoli w/ Dijon Vinaigrette

Bacon BroccoliThere’s a reason to keep bacon on hand. It enlivens pretty much everything…Sundaes? Add bacon. Chocolate Chip Cookies? Add bacon. Kale, Broccoli, or any other good for you veggie? Oh yeah…definitely add the bacon.

Many of you have indicated you’re working towards incorporating more veggies into your diet, but that you can’t get past the idea you grew up with that veggies don’t taste that great. Inevitably, you reach for them last, not first, and they become the hurried afterthought, not the delicious dinner companion they could be.

Broccoli is a superfood that should be a mainstay in your weekly diet. It’s high in lutein (meaning it’s good for your eyes) and rich in antioxidants that may help prevent certain kinds of cancer.

We just think it tastes good- especially when paired with a little bacon, sundried tomato & shallots.. Not that we think you’ll have leftovers, but if you do, leftover bacon broccoli is perfect the next day in scrambled eggs. We often make extra large portions so that we can include vegetables in our breakfast the next morning. Any vegetable that works with scrambled eggs and cheese is a winner with the Kitchen Divas in Training.

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Creamy Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

Brussels BlanchedBrussels are so underappreciated.  They’re like the dentist of vegetables. Everybody needs them, nobody likes them, which is too bad because they’re a superfood and should be a staple in the vegetable rotation.

Part of the problem is that brussels are often overcooked. When this happens, they turn to mush and taste rather cabbagey…. Too bad really, because when they’re properly prepared, they’re soft, maybe even a little al dente, and sweet. Yes, sweet!

I confess, until several years ago, I was a hater.  But Mr. Kitchen Diva convinced me otherwise one evening when we were out on a date. I tried some of his- perfectly roasted, carmelized with cranberries & bacon, and I fell in love. We eat them regularly now, especially in the winter months when they’re in abundant supply here.

Tired of the same ‘ole, same ‘ole I started working on something new. Thanks to a perfect confluence of ideas from The Flavor Bible (if you don’t have a copy, get one!) and a segment I was reading in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (which is incidentally now available as an ebook) magic happened and we ate the whole bowl for dinner. The recipe relies on techniques outlined in the Legumes (vegetable) section of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but the implementation I’ve come up with is my own. I’ve created the recipe using ratios because some of you may want just a few brussels as an accompaniment to a protein, or you may want to go whole hog like we did and make a big bowl. I used 3 lbs of brussels. We’re brussels fans, and will eat that much with dinner, but for most people, that would be a great amount if you were bringing these to a potluck or hosting a dinner party of 6-8. The ratios are really easy to double and triple, so make whatever portion works for you.

Brussels with Cream and Bacon

One of the secrets of this recipe is taking the time to blanche the brussels prior to the main cooking. Several weeks ago we had a fabulous meal at a local restaurant here, and the roasted brussels came out brilliant green. Dying to know what they did, I begged our server to find out. She came back to report the chef said it’s all in the blanching.  Even though it adds a few more minutes to cooking, it’s worth it for the stunning visual effect- Bright green is so much nicer to eat that brownish-green.

Don’t be intimidated by this recipe- it is well worth the few extra minutes of time.

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Turkey Curry with Yummy Yammy Sweet Potato Salsa

YummyYammy_postcardSo my friend Lisa has this awesome company that sells sweet potato salsa- Yummy Yammy. Yeah- you read that right- sweet potato salsa. And it’s freaking delicious!!

In addition to running a boutique food company, Lisa- like me, has two amazing daughters, and divides her time between growing a company, her girls, and managing all the ins and outs of parenthood, homeownership, and spousehood. Plus she’s super cool, and she makes time to mentor other folks- like me. Ingredients for a super-hero as far as I’m concerned.

Yummy Yammy has been on my radar for well over a year. I LOVE salsa, but like many, I have to be careful about how much tomato I consume. These salsas have no tomato, but all the flavor you could want. They’re great on chips,  heated up over rice, with a fried egg (yeah we did that this morning!) or out of the container with just a spoon.

Added benefit? It’s good for you! They give you a huge dose of beta-carotene anti-oxidant love. Did I mention you won’t be able to stop eating it?

Yummy Yammy is in over 100 stores from Wisconsin to Florida- many of them Whole Foods! For those of you outside of that area, you can get them on Amazon.com though- and if you go to the Yummy Yammy Website and sign up to become a YAMBASSADOR (who doesn’t love that?!?) you can get a coupon for free shipping to try them. I recommend you try them all- they are that good! Also- any orders over $50 naturally come with free shipping. Guess what I’ll be doing for stocking stuffers this year?

YummyYammy Turkey Curry SauceNow about that Turkey…..

I’ve seen the facebook posts over the last few days- you all are sick of your turkey and ham. May I suggest an easy way to get rid of the rest of it that is so delicious you’ll stop eating long after your stomach screams it’s full?

I like curry, but I really like saying “turkey curry” because that reminds me of Bridget Jones- one of my favorite movies. One year I even had a turkey curry buffet birthday party (my birthday is close to Christmas). Of course, the curry was pork as I didn’t have turkey on hand, but who cares? And like the movie- I shamelessly orchestrated an introduction of two friends that culminated in their marriage last year 🙂 I wish all my matchmaking attempts turned out so well.

Onto the recipe! This is pretty fast to put together, and like many Adventuresome Kitchen recipes, there is plenty of room for creativity and modification. If you make some changes, let us know what you did in the comments below- we’d love to hear! And be sure to visit the Yummy Yammy website and check out all the fun things Lisa has going on over there!

Cheers & Happy Eating!

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Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie & Cranberry Pear Salad – 2 Easy Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes

Easy Make-Ahead Thanksgiving RecipesFor those of you who are working right up until the Holidays- I sympathize. For those of you who work retail, hospital shifts, night jobs, or more than one job- I really sympathize.

If you’re a working foodie- this time of year can be really tough to channel your inner Kitchen Diva, work, be attentive to family and friends, and take care of yourself… I know. I’m right there in the trenches with you this year… Happily, sales of my GF Pie Crust are out of control…I’m excited…but that also leaves little time for much else..blogging? Recipe development? Photography? Housecleaning??!!!?? Thankfully (or not-so-thankfully, depending on how you look at it) a malfunctioning mixer and a delay in an ingredient order left me with time to catch up on some much needed kitchen activity.

I am not hosting dinner this year..But, I still intend to eat well with a few friends and play in someone else’s kitchen. What’s on our menu? Easy stuff. Stuff I’m making tomorrow with the Kitchen Divas in Training so I can sleep in on Turkey Day and loll about in my pajamas taking in the Macy’s Parade with the girls while sipping a mimosa and enjoying a gluten-free scone! So what’s on the dinner menu??

  • Duck Confit (already made, you can check out the pics on our Facebook Page)
  • Smoked Chicken Liver Pate w/ Gluten Free Baguettes
  • Baby potatoes roasted in duck fat and truffle salt (pop in the oven at 400 and cook stirring occasionally until done)
  • Fresh Cranberry Pear Salad (Recipe Below- only 20 min to make and seriously delicious)
  • Roasted Brussels (Check out our Adventuresome Kitchen Recipe with Mint Sauce)
  • Roast Duck or Goose (we’re channeling our Pilgrim roots and dispensing with the Turkey (but I’m not making that!!)
  • Gluten Free Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie (Easy, No Bake, and all the Pumpkin Pie Flavors you love- Recipe Below)

Now that might seem pretty ambitious to some of you- but here’s the deal: With the exception of the baguettes which are a little more involved, everything else listed above is 10-15 minutes of prep and into the oven, or can be completely made in 20 minutes or less… My kind of food these days.. All of it can be made now or on Thanksgiving and still taste great.  My point? Even if you’re crazy busy this year and the thought of cooking makes you want to take a nap…pick one or two fast, easy recipes and eat well. Your tastebuds will be the first to Thank you!!

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Grilled Peaches

Grilled Peaches side 2We are at the tail end of peach season here in Kansas City. The late varieties are showing themselves by the bushel at the farmer’s markets. Three years ago I took the plunge, decided we probably weren’t going to be moving anytime soon, and purchased three dwarf peaches for our backyard. I have been in peach heaven ever since. Why I waited so long to plant peach trees I will never know.

But, for those of you who own fruit trees, you know that when the harvest is in, it is IN! We have had peaches covering every available surface for the last 4 weeks. I know- my life is so hard. I will tell you though that the fruit flies are getting a little bit annoying.

So- what do do with all those peaches? Eat-em of course! We’ve enjoyed:

  • peach pancakes
  • peach sangria
  • peaches on salad, yogurt, and granola

But I think the new favorite would have to be grilled peaches. They are so easy, and are a great way to use up the less desireables- you know the ones I’m talking about- they may be bruised and beat-up. Perhaps you had to cut a bit out, or maybe they’re slightly green. Grilling brings out all the sugars and sweetness, and the flavor here was enhanced with a healthy sprinkle of cinnamon. Although I think cumin would be great too.

We enjoyed our grilled peaches plain, and over bitter greens. And the leftovers? They went into a boozy adult shake! Summer in the backyard doesn’t get much better than that!

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Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

A New ChapterAnd just like that, a new chapter has begun in the lives of the Kitchen Divas in Training- and therefore ours. Today, with a good measure of excitement and a few salty tears, my precious, magical, incredible daughters attended their first day of public school. They are happy, so I am happy. The nervous excitement was palpable this morning as we left the house, and when I walked down the street to collect them this afternoon,  they literally bounded home- brimming with stories of how their day went, what new friends they made, and how excited they are about all that lies in front of them. As a parent- can you ask for anything more?

Getting to this point was not easy. We have wrestled with this for months. First one way, then the other. In the final moments, when I just couldn’t stand the agony any longer- when my worry had exhausted me to the point of surrender- I finally said “I don’t care where you go or what direction you choose- I want you to be happy in your heart” I had asked this before, but I think they were worried about disappointing us.

It’s funny though, when given the freedom from adult repercussion, children are remarkably clear about what they need and what makes them happy. I think adults have a hard time hearing that…. We have baggage….We think we know better.

But we are not them. We haven’t had their experiences, their joys or their heartaches. And if homeschooling my children for 2 1/2 years has taught me anything, it’s taught me that my daughters are powerful. Resilient. Strong. Brilliant creatures who love me with the same fierceness that I love them. And that no matter what -we are here to help each other become fully who we are. They have taught me too.

This new direction means radical change for us in some ways. We’ve had complete freedom from traditional discipline. My children listen to their bodies- sleep when they’re tired, eat when they’re hungry. Unfortunately, the mass education of children in this country doesn’t allow for that- it would be too chaotic. And so we adjust. Earlier bed, earlier rising. Dinner before- God forbid- 6PM!! Discipline. Rigor. Schedule. Not evil words by any stretch of the imagination, but a new challenge.

Roasted Red Pepper HummusSo-as we move into fall, we’re attempting meal planning, shopping lists, schedules- left-brain orderly stuff. I’m grinning and laughing as I write this- because underneath this unruly artist is a disciplined, type-A planner… And I’m not one to shy away from a challenge.

What does this mean for my cooking? Fast, easy, bulk, finger food, etc… Lunches of hummus and veggies, extra big dinners so we can have leftovers, cooking extra on the weekends…all good- just different. And so today- I give you an easy, adaptable roasted red pepper hummus recipe. We live off of hummus in the summer- and make this with many variations. It’s so easy- even a 7 year old can make it- although they might need help with the can-opener! We hope you’ll enjoy this as much as we do.

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Welcome Note

 

Easy Coleslaw Recipe

Fruity Summer SlawThis super easy coleslaw recipe is from the oldest Kitchen Diva in Training. You’ve already seen some of her fabulous pictures, but she and her little sis are pretty regular recipe developers these days, and you really should benefit from their creativity.

All of the recipes from the Kitchen Divas in Training- since they’re designed by young ones- are super easy (which means they don’t take much time to whip up), and they taste great!

One thing I love about this recipe is that it doesn’t call for mayonnaise, making it the perfect picnic item. No chance of food spoilage here. Likewise, it’s paleo, vegan, egg free and dairy free. With all that ‘free-ness’ happening you might also think it’s free from flavor- but it’s not!! The sweet from the apples and raisins,  and the crunch from the cabbage, carrots, & nuts make this quite addictive!

So- without further ado- I present to you ‘A’! (PS- she took the food pictures too!)

DSC05564

Hey little chefs, it’s ‘A’  from the Adventuresome Kitchen!

Today I made a delicious Summer Salad. It works great for a refreshing snack, or even for lunch. I’m calling it ‘Fruity Summer Slaw’. It’s easy to make and tastes good too.

 

 

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Chickpea Salad (Garbanzo Bean Salad)

garbanzo bean salad

For many of us, the month of July is filled with celebrations. Canada Day (1st of July), Independence Day (4th of July),  or Bastille Day (July 14th) are just a few that come to mind. With celebrations including afternoon picnics, evening fireworks, and long hours in the hot summer sun, this is a perfect recipe for foodborne illness. So- what to bring to a picnic that won’t spoil or melt, and that will taste good warm or cold?

You could bring a summer pie. Gluten-Free pie is always a great option, especially when they’re packed full of fresh fruit. Check out these combinations here and here.

Gluten Free Maple Glazed Peach Tart

Or you could try out this colorful & delicious Chick-Pea Salad. This recipe is super easy and packed full of antioxidants. And, like most salads, the potential for variations is endless. There’s nothing in here that will spoil, and it tastes great both lightly warmed, or right from the fridge. A winning combination for an outdoor party. This recipe size is perfect for a complete meal for 4 people with leftovers, or to bring to a party. You can probably get 16-20 party sized servings

Chickpea Salad

Chickpea Salad

4 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained

1 large sweet potato, diced into cubes

1 large red onion, diced

1 pint of cherry tomatoes- the bigger ones sliced in 1/2

1 bag, or several bunches of spinach, de-stemmed if necessary, and sliced in large pieces

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil + extra for cooking

3 tbs red wine vinegar

1 tbs dried rosemary

1 tbs herbes de provence

salt to taste

gluten free chickpea saladDirections

Dice the sweet potato and onion. Place on a large cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and cook in a 350 degree oven until softened- about 30 minutes.

Drain chickpeas and place in a large bowl. For those of you who prefer to cook dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) soak 2 cups dried beans in water for 2 hours. Then cook over medium heat in salted water until softened- about an hour.

Add tomatoes. When the sweet potato onion combo has finished cooking, add to the bowl.

Place a large pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot add about 1tbs extra virgin olive oil and give the pan a little shake. Add the spinach and lightly saute until the greens are barely wilted- about 2 minutes. Add to the bowl.

Using a large spoon, gently toss all the ingredients together.

Drizzle the 2 tbs olive oil, and the red wine vinegar over the salad and gently mix again.

Sprinkle the rosemary and herbes de provence, and any salt you’d like to add over the salad and mix one last time.

Enjoy!

 

 

Mushroom Leek Frittata & Roasted Asparagus- Under 30 Mins.

Mushroom Leek & Goat Cheese FrittataSpring finally arrived with the Easter Bunny this past week. And we welcomed it in style! To see a round-up of some of the fabulous food we cooked up in The Adventuresome Kitchen for Easter, go check out (and be sure to ‘like’) our facebook page.

While this post does include an egg recipe, it won’t be a ‘what to do with your leftovers’ kind of recipe. For that- I recommend checking out my Pesto Deviled Eggs. I did toy with the possibility of a new deviled egg recipe, but that will have to wait for another day. We ate all our hard-boiled eggs!

So in the spirit of fast meals- which seems to be how we’re rolling in the kitchen these days (With the exception of super-fancy-snobby-food-extravaganzas like Easter), it was breakfast for dinner again the other night. I tend to gravitate towards frittatas over omelets because I confess, I have trouble flipping the omelets. Julia Child might say that I’m not committed enough to my flipping- and that very well may be the case. There has to be no fear when it comes to flipping the omelet. Incidentally, if you want to read the best-ever description of flipping an omelet, go out and purchase Deariea biography of Julia Child by Bob Spitz. His description of her first television appearance will have you crying with laughter.

At any rate, I like frittatas because they’re fast and they make a great canvas for whatever leftover food pieces you need to rescue from certain death in the back of the fridge.  Oh yeah- and they’re naturally gluten-free, so they’re a no-brainer. Quiche, omelets, risottos and polentas can all work in the same manner, but I say frittatas are the fastest and easiest- hence their continual appearance in my kitchen.

This mushroom leek frittata also includes goat cheese. If there had been any leftover bacon from Easter (there wasn’t), I would have added that as well. The roasted asparagus literally took 10 minutes and cooked while the frittata was finishing in the oven. So delicious there were no leftovers!

The Adventuresome Kitchen is working on some long-term and very exciting projects, including collecting stories of people’s gluten-free experiences. If you are interested in sharing your story, or know someone who would be willing to share their story, please contact me at: adventuresomekitchen (at) gmail (dot) com

Mushroom Leek Frittata w/ Goat Cheese

Ingredients

See how the egg is starting to pull away from the pan? This mean's it's ready to go into the oven!
See how the egg is starting to pull away from the pan? This mean’s it’s ready to go into the oven!

6 eggs

1 1/2 cups chopped leeks (about 2)

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

1/2 cup goat cheese

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil- about 2 Tbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Heat a large pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, drizzle a generous swirl of olive oil in the pan (this is not an exact science). When the oil shimmers add the leeks and mushrooms. Cook about 5 minutes, until they are softened. Allow any juices to cook off so the pan is fairly dry.

While the leeks and mushrooms are cooking, beat the eggs and whisk in the goat cheese. Most of the goat cheese will ‘melt’ into the eggs, but there will be some pieces that don’t. This is fine.

When the leeks and mushrooms are ready, add in the eggs and give the pan a quick swirl to evenly distribute the egg mixture. Don’t stir the eggs- unless you want egg scramble (which would be okay). Sprinkle salt and pepper over the mixture and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes.

When the eggs start to pull away from the pan, and begin to get a little firm in the middle, place the pan in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes.

The eggs are done when they are firm in the middle- 10-12 minutes.

Oven Roasted Asparagus

Oven Roasted AsparagusThis is one of my favorite ways to prepare asparagus. For a small batch, use the toaster oven,  for a larger batch, use the regular oven.

Rinse the asparagus and snap the bottom ends off. If you’ve never snapped asparagus, it’s pretty easy. Grab the woody end with one hand, and hold the stalk with the other. Bend until it snaps. This gets rid of the tough woody part.

Place asparagus side by side on a cookie sheet and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to your desired taste. Cook at 375 degrees fahrenheit for 10 minutes. Et Voilá! Finger licking good.

Gluten Free Fondue

Kansas City Blizzard 2013Before I get going, I must thank my friend Steve, author at Oui Chef, for inspiring me to hop on the fondue bandwagon last night. Kansas City has been buried under snow again. This is highly unusual- especially considering that the last two winters left us with less than 11 inches of snow combined! Steve is one of my favorite bloggers. He trained at Le Cordon Bleu, and is passionate about subjects such as local food and food sustainability. And most importantly, teaching his children to cook- as am I. While not everything on his blog is gluten-free, it’s a place I go for inspiration and encouragement to explore new flavors and techniques. If you don’t subscribe to his blog-you should!

Yesterday, Steve posted a great fondue recipe by Rachel Ray (it also happens to be gluten-free!). As I was sitting at home wondering what to cook as the snow started to fly- fondue seemed perfect. It brings up images of snowy chalets, cosy fires, and decadent eating.

gluten free fondueNow, I am probably the only fondue fan in the world who doesn’t actually own a fondue pot. They’re unitaskers, and I am firmly opposed to unitaskers. Until I can justify a rarely used piece of equipment taking up precious space in my cabinets, I won’t be buying a fondue pot. But don’t despair. If you find yourself in the same boat, a good stainless steel pot or my favorite- enameled cast iron, will do the trick nicely. I pulled out my small Le Creuset and went to town. If you opt to use a regular cooking pot, your fondue will thicken as it cools and get a bit stringy. If that bothers you- simply place the pot back on the stove for a few minutes to melt everything again.

My gluten free fondue recipe was adapted from The Bonne Femme Cookbook. Many cheesy fondue recipes call for the addition of a few tablespoons of flour. You can easily substitute sorghum flour, rice flour, or even cornstarch in these instances, and not compromise the flavor or texture of the end result.

herbes de provenceI also opted out of the traditional nutmeg seasoning in favor of the sunnier and warmer flavors invoked by herbes de provence. I happened to be lucky enough to receive some freshly dried herbes from my dad, and they’ve gone into everything I’ve made over the last few days. They are a great way to jazz up everything from broccoli to eggs to soups and salads.

Lastly, there are no hard and fast rules about what to serve with fondue. We enjoyed broccoli, mushrooms, gluten-free toasted garlic bread (directions will appear below), pears & bresaola. Basically- anything you enjoy with cheese is a candidate to dip in the fondue pot. As always- feel free to modify this recipe as your heart desires. Fondue is a fun finger food to enjoy with the people you love!

Gluten Free Fondue (a main dish for 4 or an appetizer for 8-10: adapted from The Bonne Femme Cookbook)

gluten free fondue with gluten free garlic toastIngredients

1 1/4 lbs shredded gruyere, emmental, or comte cheese (or a combo)

5 tbs sorghum flour (other gf flours would work too)

1 garlic clove, + 2 tbs minced garlic

1 1/2 cups dry white wine (we used a burgundy)

3 tbs herbes de provence

2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup milk

Directions

Toss the shredded cheese with the flour. Make sure that the flour is evenly distributed and coats and many of the cheese shreds as possible.

Rub the whole clove over the inside of the pot. Place the minced garlic and the wine in the pan. Bring to a simmer. Add the cheese one handful of a time and allow to absorb completely before adding the next handful. It is really important to not let the mixture actively boil. Your pot needs to be hot enough to melt the cheese, but not so hot that it boils. For my stove, this was just under the half-way mark on the stove.

When the cheese has been fully incorporated add the milk, herbes, salt & pepper, and continue to stir. The fondue is ready when it’s a thick, liquidy (ie non-stringy) mass. Bring to the table and enjoy with your dipping ingredients.

Dipping Ingredients

raw vegetables or fruit, gluten-free crackers, or gluten-free garlic bread. Gently roasted vegetables (enough that they’re partially cooked and softened, but not so much that they’re mushy- you want them to hold up in the sauce)

roasted broccoli & mushroomspears & pomegranates

To Make Gluten Free Garlic Toast

gluten free garlic toastTake 4 (or whatever number you like) pieces of gluten-free bread. Place them on a toaster oven tray or a cookie sheet if using the oven. Brush olive oil over the tops- make sure you get into the little nooks and crannies. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or until you start smelling the bread toasting.

Remove from the oven. Take a clove of garlic, cut off the end, and rub it vigorously over the toasted top. One clove is usually good for about 4 slices. Of course, if you like bread that is more garlicky- you can be more generous, or scrape the garlic on both sides of the bread. Discard the skins and enjoy!

Vegan Tacos w/ Quinoa & Black Beans

This post is a little bit special to me, as the recipe was developed with great enthusiasm by the Kitchen Divas in Training. I love more than anything that my girls are expanding their culinary horizons and working to create delicious, nutritious meals. I also love watching how a recipe idea takes shape and then morphs as they move through the process. This originally started out as a quinoa-salad, but as the flavors combined the girls thought it would be even better in a taco- and I have to say I wholeheartedly agree! The recipe is pretty simple, and could be used as a salad if you don’t have taco shells available. Enjoy, and don’t forget to play with your food!
Vegan Tacos- serves 4 with leftovers

Ingredients

1 cup red quinoa (white is also okay)

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 large tomato

1/2 large onion

1 can black beans

1 small cucumber

1 small red pepper

1/2 cup cilantro

2 tbs apple cider vinegar

2 tbs lime

salt and pepper to taste

8-10 cabbage leaves

Avocado and hot sauce for garnish

Taco Shells

Directions

Rinse quinoa, and place in medium pan with stock. Bring to a boil and turn to low. Cook about 20 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Meanwhile, chop the tomato, onion, cucumber, pepper, and parsley and set aside. Thinly chop the cabbage leaves, squirt with a 1/4 lime and set aside for garnish.

When the quinoa has cooked, pour into a large bowl. Add all the vegetables except the cabbage and combine.

Fill taco shells, and garnish with cabbage, avocado, and of course- New Mexico Red Chile Sauce! Squirt with a lime and eat your heart out!

Citrus Fennel Salad

To coin a Cole Porter phrase- It’s Too Darn Hot. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found as I’ve matured that I have an increasingly smaller temperature gradient that works for me… not too hot, not too cold…and truthfully, if I had to choose- as much as I love hot weather, I’m more comfortable bundling up in silk long johns, furs and mukluks, than I am spritzing myself with cooling spray and sticking my head in the freezer. Quite frankly, I don’t know how you folks who live in hot areas do it… Heat just makes my head want to explode.

So when the thermometer goes way up what do I do? Pop the wine in the freezer, make a batch of gazpacho (something we’re doing in June these days thanks to an overly warm winter), and follow it with a fennel-citrus salad. Super-fast, super-easy, super-cool. It’s all I have energy for. And for dessert? Fresh peaches from the trees in the backyard. Pure unadulterated sweetness. Eat your heart out Julia Child. Sometimes the best recipe is food the way nature intended it. Until my next post- stay cool- whether by pool, air-conditioning, or basement.

Citrus Fennel Salad 2Citrus Fennel Salad

ratio: 1 orange to 1 head of fennel

1/8th lemon & lime

1 tbs + olive oil

drizzle of champagne or other light vinegar

1 tbs sesame seeds for every fennel/orange combo

Directions: Slice fennel and orange into small pieces. Drizzle olive oil and vinegar over the mix. Squeeze the lemon & lime over the mix and toss. Add sesame seeds and toss again… This is a very laissez faire type of recipe- meaning do what is easy and what feels right to your tastebuds. It’s too hot to do anything else. Really- if you could twitch your nose and have the ingredients mix themselves- that would be best.

Parsleyed Potatoes

Bonjour! It is SO nice to be back writing again! My deepest and sincerest thanks to  all of you who have sent me notes of encouragement over the last 11 (yikes!) months. For those of you who are new readers, or who have wondered why I dropped off the face of the earth last summer, here’s a little re-cap:

Last year I embarked on the most rewarding and challenging adventure of my life- homeschooling my two beautiful daughters. After a year, we’ve all agreed it’s been the best thing we’ve ever done as a family; but the Kitchen Divas in Training were not the only ones to learn. I learned too…. a lot! I’ve had the hardest lesson ever in the realization that I cannot do it all. I’ve had to prioritize, take on, let go of, develop a sense of humor about, look the other way, worry about, and not worry about pretty much every aspect of my life.

Through it all, food has been the constant. We’re obviously still eating. And quite well, I might add. It was this realization that led me back to writing again: I cannot be the only Gluten-Free Food obsessed foodie who struggles with balancing all the demands of parenting, self-care, house-care, significant other-care, career-care (whatever that looks like), with food discovery, styling, photography and recipe development.  However, just looking at that list gives me an anxiety attack!

And so, for the last 11 months, I have ruminated, struggled, and made some significant changes:

  • Recipe development, which I love, pretty much flew out the window. Most of my creative time and energy now goes into teaching, although I do have the occasional flash of creative kitchen inspiration.
  • Food styling- I no longer have time for hours of styling and photo editing. I want to get a big flood light for my kitchen- light boxes and I do not do well.
  • The crock-pot and leftovers have become my best friends.
  • The Kitchen Divas in Training, and my awesome husband have cooked more this year, and come up with some delicious originals on their own.
  • We have eaten more simply, using herbs and spices over techniques, and eaten more locally/seasonally than ever.

I think, in my efforts to maintain a creative and original blog- and because I had lots of time on my hands, I’d forgotten that many folks eat simply prepared fare as a matter of necessity. Simple food in no way equals ‘blah’ food, and in fact, it is often the simplest preparations that highlight the inherent beauty and flavor of the food presented.

So, moving forward, most of the recipes featured here will be simple, delicious, easy to prepare, and ideal for families who, like us, find themselves scrambling for dinner at 6:30pm. I also plan to highlight many of the wonderful new gluten-free eating opportunities that have sprung up around Kansas City, and in other areas across the Continent as we travel regionally and nationally in the coming months.

I’d like to claim I’ll be regular about blogging- but I refuse to make an empty promise. However,  I will state it’s my goal to post something at least monthly, if not more frequently. For now, it’s good to be back. Please do stop by and say hello, or share what easy fare is simmering on your stove-top or growing in your garden. Life is a celebration and meant to be enjoyed around a table!

Easy Asparagus & Spring Parsleyed Potatoes

Spring arrived early here in Kansas City, after a non-existent winter. The farmer’s markets never closed this year, and thanks to the hoop houses, we’re already seeing early summer fare . My May and June flowers started blooming before Easter, and we’ve already had one 90-degree day! We even pulled out the patio furniture in March this year- a first. Easter took me by surprise this year. The week before Easter was filled with filming a music video for my daughter’s robotics team (more to come on that front!), planning a surprise party for my husband (more to come on that front too!) and a multitude of Holy Week rehearsals and services to sing.

By the time I staggered home after my last service on Easter Sunday, I was greeted with a mimosa and the smell of locally raised and cured ham in the oven!  While the ham was finishing, we whipped up a batch of asparagus, and spring potatoes with parsley- all locally grown, and a fabulous al-fresco Easter feast was borne in less than 30 minutes!

Easy Asparagus

This new way of cooking asparagus happened quite by accident several weeks ago when I turned on the burner, but forgot to watch the heat in the pan, and made it too hot. I threw in the butter which sizzled and browned, tossed in the asparagus, covered it,  and immediately pulled it off the heat. I shook the pan a few times to coat the asparagus, and when we were ready to eat, discovered perfectly cooked, al-dente asparagus inside! Yes, necessity is the mother of invention!

Directions:

Slice (or snap) the woody ends of 1 or 2 bunches of asparagus, and set aside. Place a medium saute pan that has a lid on a burner and turn the heat to medium. When the pan is good and hot, add 2 tbs butter and one tbs extra virgin olive oil –this is not an exact science- just add a blob of butter that is sized to your liking, and a swish of olive oil. The olive oil helps prevent the butter from burning.

Add the asparagus, cover and turn off the burner. Shake the pan vigorously to help coat the asparagus. Remove the pan from the burner after 2-3 minutes.If you have a gas burner, you can leave the pan in its place.When you are ready to eat, plate the asparagus and season with truffle salt, fleur de sel, lemon pepper, or a squeeze of lemon.

Spring Parsleyed Potatoes

These aren’t really mashed potatoes, they are more rustic, and some of the pieces are larger. The point is to taste the fresh flavor of the new potatoes and the parsley, not to drown them in butter and salt.

1-2 lbs small new potatoes (usually about 12-16) 

1 cup chopped parsley – more or less if you prefer

2 tbs butter- or more to taste

salt to taste

Directions

Boil potatoes until the skins split-about 20 minutes. Drain, remove to a bowl. Break the potatoes apart with a large fork. Add parsley and stir to incorporate. Add butter. Season with your favorite salt. We used truffle salt.

Strawberry Gazpacho

It’s 5 Star Makeover time again, and this month’s subject was Gourmet Picnic food. This subject is near and dear to my heart, as I love nothing more than dining al fresco. My inspiration? The movie Anne of Avonlea (renamed Anne of Green Gables, the Sequel)- a sweet, albeit somewhat cheesy and not very accurate adaptation of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of the Island and Anne of Windy Poplars….but my favorite scene involves a picnic that is simply inspiring. Not only do the blankets and picnic baskets come out, but so does the porcelain, the silver, and of course, delicious food. I have enjoyed some pretty epic picnics in my time, and had high hopes that this evening would be another one for the annals of picnic lore……… of course the weather had other ideas.

Today was a day that I hope not to repeat for years to come, if ever. Tornadoes and Spring go hand in hand in this part of the country. If you’ve been following the news at all over the past few days, you know what I mean. In some ways, the frequency of the sirens creates an attitude of nonchalance. Of course, as we have witnessed in the tragedy of Joplin, Missouri- a few hours to my south- some who chose to ignore the sirens and go about their business did not survive. This has weighed heavily on my mind this week, as the other night I had to wake my children up at 11:30 pm and get them down to the basement. As usual, at least until today, the area of concern- while still in our county- was miles away. Nothing to worry about. And so we let the girls fall asleep in the basement in front of our favorite weatherman, and went about our business.

Today was supposed to be a day for celebration- and indeed, it turned out to be- but not in the way we intended. The big girl lost another tooth today- her last that the tooth fairy will visit for- and we were to have a beautiful picnic outside to celebrate a dear friend who is moving across the country this week (complete with pictures of a resplendent table for this post!). While we were out and about this morning, we heard the radio mention more tornado warnings for the area. But, as we didn’t hear any sirens in the vicinity, we decided to make a last stop at our local Lowe’s to grab rabbit repellent for the veggie garden.  The bunnies and squirrels have been having entirely too much fun with my beets and strawberries, and need to be redirected to the other plants in my garden set aside for them. Not long after we arrived- about 45 seconds actually- the sirens blew. My first reaction was to get home as we were less than 5 minutes away, but the big girl was very anxious due to all the tornado activities over the past few days, and so we decided to stay. Honestly, I didn’t think much about it because every time the sirens have blown in the last 8 years the storms have been in a far corner of our county.

As the training room began to fill up with customers and shortly after, employees, it became clear to everyone present that this was the real deal. The sirens really were for us this time. Tables were broken down and moved to the far wall, chairs were pushed to the corner, head counts were taken, and we sat down on the floor against a wall to wait and hope we’d be missed. I thought about the Home Depot in Joplin that had been flattened, and tried to reach Mr. Kitchen Diva to let him know where I was and that we were safe. But apparently everyone in the metro area had the same idea and the phone lines were completely jammed. There would be no contact with my husband until this event was over. The radar showed circulation over my neighborhood and I realized that if I was at home, the girls would be in the bathtub in the basement wearing their bicycle helmets. This was a day we had practiced for. This is why, even in our homeschool, we go over our tornado protocols once a month. Thirty minutes slowly ticked by as the sirens cycled off and on. We could hear the rain pick up, then the wind, and then calm. The girls were scared, and I was scared for them. The last thing you want to see as a parent is your children terrified, knowing you’ve done everything you can to protect them, and realizing that against the forces of nature, it’s not very much.

We were lucky today. I am grateful for my 85 year old house, and the 100+ year old houses a block away. They stand as a reminder to me that the chances of my house getting flattened by a tornado are astronomically small- even in an area like Kansas City. I’m grateful for Spring- even with the threat of tornadoes lurking in the back of my mind- for fresh strawberries, mint, and arugula, and for picnics with porcelain, delicious food, and dear friends- today the indoor kind because of the ongoing rain. You can’t tell from the pictures, but it’s actually raining quite steadily in them!

 

This month’s inspiration came from one of the best meals I’ve had in my life. I honeymooned on Prince Edward Island, and enjoyed a stellar meal at the Inn at Bay Fortune, a beautiful estate once owned by Colleen Dewhurst who played Marilla in the aforementioned Anne of Green Gable Movies. The inn specializes in producing incredible meals using as much locally sourced food as possible, and a different version of this strawberry gazpacho (in one of my favorite cookbooks), using balsamic vinegar and strawberry salsa, was one of the most memorable components of our meal there. I changed the recipe and used champagne instead of vinegar, and paired it with an arugula salad and a champagne-mint vinaigrette. I love the contrast of the slightly bitter arugula against the sweet acid of the strawberry. The mint brings a freshness and brightness to both. For transportation purposes, place the gazpacho in a mason jar, and pour into bowls, or even glasses. I often picnic with glass and porcelain- unless I have to hike a distance- then I use acrylic. Good food deserves good dishes. These recipes are simple and easy to prepare, and their flavor will leave you asking for seconds. You can use the salad as a garnish to the soup, or serve it on its own. If you are uncomfortable using alcohol that’s not going to be cooked out, you are welcome to substitute champagne vinegar. You will get a similar brightness and delicacy from the vinegar. Enjoy, and may your picnics be sunny and warm!

Be sure to stop by Lazaro Cooks and Five Star Foodie this Friday, for a complete round-up. You’ll be sure to discover some fabulous picnic food!

Strawberry Gazpacho

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

2 lb strawberries, cleaned with the stems removed

1/2 cup champagne, or champagne vinegar

1/2 cup grapeseed oil

Directions

Puree ingredients in a food processor for 3-4 minutes; until soup is glossy and smooth. Remove to a pitcher or jar and refrigerate until serving.

Arugula Salad with Champagne-Mint Vinaigrette

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

3 cups arugula, washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces

1/2 cup mint leaves, finely chopped

2 tbs  grapeseed oil

1/4 cup champagne, or champagne vinaigrette

juice from 1 lemon

2 tsp sugar

Directions

Place arugula in a bowl. Place remaining ingredients in a small jar. Cover and shake vigorously. Just prior to serving coat arugula with dressing and toss. Serve as a garnish to the gazpacho, or on its own.

How to Make Dill Pickles- EASY Recipe

Today I’m going to share with you my grandma’s recipe for how to make dill pickles. And the best grilled cheese sandwich to accompany them. The last few weeks have been a perfect storm of birthdays, blizzards, chaos, and life-changing events. The kind of stuff that drives you to the cupboard looking for chocolate, marshmallows, popcorn, and well- if you’re me- Pickles.

I didn’t consume a store bought pickle until I was in college. Seriously. I grew up on homemade pickles- jars and jars of them- stored in our basement. The recipe was my grandmother’s, received from a friend of hers, and adopted by every member of our family. They were so good we could house an entire jar in less than 15 minutes. Needless to say, when I moved into my first apartment and I used up the last jars of pickles that had been sent with me from the supply in the basement, I was sorely disappointed. There’s nothing quite like the crunch of a garlicky dill pickle. My kids now have the pleasure of snacking on them after school, and a jar is always lurking somewhere in the ‘fridge.

So why are pickles comfort food for us? Because the sour crunch alone is enough to knock you out of any stressed-out reverie; because they elevate a grilled cheese sandwich from mere comfort food to something achieving comfort food Nirvana. On a cold, confusing day is there anything better than a snobby grilled cheese sandwich, a cup of cocoa overflowing with marshmallows, and a crispy pickle on the side? I think not… And these sandwiches aren’t your everyday grilled cheesey goodness- they’re loaded with mustard, ham, mayonnaise, 2 kinds of cheese, and plenty of pickles….sigh……I feel better already.

Obviously we’ve consumed more than grilled cheese and pickles these last few weeks, and I have done some playing in the kitchen- the results of which will be showing up soon on these pages. But in general, we’ve run through our entire list of comfort food, a freezer full of stocked up soups made from recipes you already have, and have laid low- weathering more than blizzards. And now, with the driveway shoveled, a new direction determined, and a hint of sunshine peeking through the clouds, we’re ready to embark on a new chapter of this adventure called life. Personally, I’m glad that the pickles are never far away.

Snobby Grilled Cheese Sammies

Makes as many as you need

Ingredients

Your favorite sliced bread

ham- one slice per sandwich

mustard

mayonnaise

cheese- this uses a combination of Jack and Cheddar

dill pickles

Directions

Lay out the bread pieces facing each other. Smooth mustard on both pieces of bread. On the ‘bottom’ slice, place a slice of ham, a layer of cheese, a layer of pickles, and another layer of cheese. Place the ‘top’ slice on the bottom slice. Coat the outside of the ‘top’ slice- the slice that will go face down in the pan- with mayonnaise.

Heat a griddle or saute pan over medium and place a pat of butter in the pan. When the butter foams, place the mayonnaise side of the sandwich on the pan. Spread mayonnaise on the facing-up side. Mayonnaise burns faster than butter, so it’s important to regulate the temperature of the pan. You don’t want to scorch your bread. Another trick to regulate the heat is to add a second pat of cold butter to the pan. You can gently lift the sandwich with a spatula so the butter gets underneath. When the bread has browned to your desired doneness- flip the sandwich and repeat for the other side.

For the ultimate comfort, serve with Grandma Natalie’s Dills and a cup of hot cocoa filled with marshmallows.

Grandma Natalie’s Easy Dill Pickles

Makes as many as you like

Ingredients

Cucumbers- smaller ones may be left whole, larger ones may be quartered into long spears, or sliced in disks

Fresh dill – 2 heads per quart jar

garlic cloves – 1 peeled per quart jar (I always use 3-4 per jar)

alum- about 1 tsp per quart jar, about the size of a pea (1/8-1/4 tsp) for smaller jars

mustard seeds- about 1 tsp per quart jar

white vinegar

water

salt- coarse sea salt or kosher pickling salt is fine. If you use fine salt, you will need less.

Directions

Sterilize quart jars, lids and rings. You can purchase canning supplies at any hardware store. I recommend using wide-mouth jars- it’s easier to get the pickles out. While you can sterilize everything on the stove in boiling water, it’s just as easy to throw everything in the dishwasher (by themselves, and without soap). Many dishwashers today have a sterilization button too. This keeps the jars hot too. Use your own judgment here- if you’re worried, then you should sterilize the old-fashioned way.

While the jars and lids/rings are sterilizing, make the brine using a large stockpot. How much brine you need will depend on how many jars of pickles you are using. As this is just vinegar, water and salt, I always make extra and then pour the remainder down my drain to help clean the drain a bit. This is the proportion you want to remember.

1 cup of vinegar, 2 cups of water, 1 tablespoon coarse salt. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer gently while you are preparing the pickle jars.

Once the jars are sterilized, scrub the cucumbers, slice if you want spears or disks, and pack them in the hot jars.

Next, add to each quart jar the dill, garlic, alum, and mustard seed. While you’re welcome to play around with the ingredient proportions- adding more garlic like I do, or adding hot peppers, tarragon or whatever else stirs your fancy- DO NOT change the alum proportions… alum is key to the crunchy success of your pickle. If you add too much alum your pickle will be bitter, and you will be sad. If you don’t add enough alum your pickle will be limp- and does anybody enjoy a limp pickle?

Fill the packed jars with the boiling brine- all the way to the top. Seal the jars- the heat from the brine will create the vacuum. If you like, you can write the date on each lid. Place the pickles in a dark, cool place and allow to cure for a month.  The pickles will last a really long time- I’ve had pickles that have cured for a year- but usually they don’t last that long. If you have a bumper crop of cucumbers this summer, consider giving these as Christmas gifts- they’re delicious, and who doesn’t love a homemade gift?


Borscht

January in these parts tends to bring its fair share of snow days. And with the temperatures in the basement, we’ve been craving all sorts of hot food to keep our insides warm and toasty. There’s really nothing better than coming in from shoveling the driveway and enjoying a nice hot meal! But as cold as it is here, I really can’t complain. It’s waaaay colder in other places- especially, say……. Russia?

Natasha over at 5 Star Foodie has been inspiring me lately with all of her Russian dishes (incredible Beef Stroganoff and Herring under the Blanket, and it’s really been making me miss my friends on the other side of the world. Several years ago, my husband and I had the very good fortune to spend a week in the Russian Far East. The friendships we made there are the kind that last a lifetime- even over such a great distance! (Thank God for email and cheap international phone cards!!) I also have to say that the food was an incredible experience. Someday I’ll have to recreate the mushroom dish our friend made- with a bucket of wild mushrooms purchased on the side of the road for about 2 dollars. The mushrooms were delicious, and like none I’ve ever seen- or likely will until I return to Russia someday- their name literally translated is “Mushroom that grows under birch trees”- go figure.

But on this particular snow-day, I decided to recreate something a little more accessible than “mushrooms that grow under birch trees”. The year following our big adventure in Russia, our dear friend Olga paid us a visit. One night we hosted a Russian dinner for several friends, and she made the best borscht I’ve ever tasted. Borscht tends to get a bad rap in many circles. Many people are likely to turn up their noses when they hear ‘borscht’. They think of watery, weakly seasoned cabbage soup. However, borscht is anything but that! Properly created, borscht is a richly flavored, deeply colored, vibrant and delicious (like you can’t stop eating it delicious) soup. And it’s even better on the second day!

This soup isn’t exactly traditional- I did add a few extra ingredients, but it’s definitely borscht-ish, and a mostly faithful recreation of the delicious borscht that Olga made. I added a little red wine, some dehydrated tomatoes, and some dried chanterelles to my soup. I can’t bring myself to buy fresh tomatoes out of season- they’re just awful. So in the winter months I tend to reach for dehydrated, sundried, or stewed/strained tomatoes- the kind in the glass jar- they taste more like summer to me. This particular recipe makes a lot of soup- you can freeze half and still have enough for dinner and a few leftover lunches. Regardless of what the weather brings you in your area, may this soup help connect you to those you love! Enjoy!

Borscht 

Makes 5 quarts

Ingredients

3 tbs olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 small potatoes, diced

1 large carrots, shredded

1/2 head cabbage, cut into thin ribbons

2 beets, shredded

16 cups vegetable stock

1/4 cup red wine

2 tbs salt

freshly ground pepper (about 10 twists from the pepper mill)

1/2 cup dried chanterelles

1/3 cup dehydrated tomatoes

1 tsp celery salt

Directions

Place a large stockpot over medium heat. Add olive oil, onion, and garlic. When the onion starts to turn translucent, add the potatoes. Stir briefly, adding a little water if the potatoes begin to stick. Add the carrots and continue to stir. Add the red wine, cabbage and beets, followed by the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, and turn the heat to low. Allow soup to simmer for 30-40 minutes. 10 minutes prior to serving, rinse the chanterelles to remove the grit and add to the pot, along with the tomatoes. Season by adding salt, pepper and celery salt. Allow flavors to mingle for a few more minutes and serve. If you choose, you may garnish with sour cream or plain yogurt.

 

 

 

 

Baked Fennel a lá Française

Credit for this recipe belongs to a dear, dear friend of mine who came to spend New Year’s Eve with us this year. Kelly loves Italy the way I love France, and she made a version of this for our New Year’s Eve feast. I, of course, don’t know how to leave a recipe alone, and so the next time I made it- because it is very delicious and very easy to make- had to change it up. I’ll give you the French inspired version first, followed by the traditional Italian way taught to me by Kelly. Either way you prepare it, you will not be disappointed! And, if you feel so bold, you can change a few things and make it your own. Bon Appétit! Or, as the Italians say- Buon Appetito!

 

 

Baked Fennel a lá Française

Serves 4 as a small side dish- if this is dinner, make more!

Ingredients

one fennel bulb, chopped lengthwise

3-4 tbs olive oil

2 slices of cured ham such as jambon d’auvergne, jambon serrano, or prosciutto, diced

1/4 cup of shredded comté (preferably aged), parmigiano reggiano will also work

1 tbs breadcrumbs (gluten-free if need be)

Directions

Place fennel in an oven proof baking dish. Drizzle the olive oil over the fennel. Sprinkle on the meat, then the cheese, and lastly, the breadcrumbs. Bake in a 375 (fahrenheit) degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the fennel has softened. How easy was that??

Italian Version

Chop one fennel bulb lengthwise and place in an oven proof dish. Cover with 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs and drizzle with olive oil- about 5-6 tbs. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, or until fennel is thoroughly softened. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately. How’d I do Kelly??


 

Cream of Zucchini Soup & Haricorts Verts with Shallot Mustard Viniagrette

Joyeux Noel!!

In this household we celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, and although we’ll have to leave our mini-tree here in the beaucoup petite Paris apartment, the Spirit of Christmas we’ve encountered here will follow us all the way home to Kansas City! It is remarkable that The Adventuresome Kitchen’s first-ever roadtrip is beginning to wind down- just as my french is beginning to show signs of improvement! Today nobody asked me if I prefer to speak in English! Of course, I am far from being able to converse about topics other than food, but I am happy with small improvements!

One of the things that has really impressed me about cuisine here is the availability of high-quality fresh produce in every neighborhood. I think it is one of the reasons that as a culture the Parisians tend to be far healthier than their city-dwelling American counterparts. For example, in Kansas City, there are vast stretches of the city that have no grocers- so no fresh fruits and vegetables, no quality meat or dairy.. How can you be healthy if the only option close to you is a QT or a DQ?? Here, the produce is so fresh, and so beautifully and artfully displayed you can’t help but fall in love with an attractive looking clementine, or a beautiful leek. I think we’ve actually eaten more produce here than at home- and that’s saying something! When you have access to quality ingredients, often they demand a simple preparation. Fresh greens with a simple vinaigrette, or even just a squeeze of lemon. Or a few veggies brought together in a simple soup. Being here for two weeks, and living with a dorm fridge has radically altered how I approach meals- and I have to admit, I like it. There’s a local grocer I go by every day on the way home from picking up the girls from school, and when I get home I plan to try to shop like I have here. We’ll see if it works stateside. But I digress…

For our family, Christmas Eve has always been the pinnacle of Christmas Preparations. As a former full-time Church Musician, the entire focus of my fall, starting in about October, was Christmas Eve. In years past, Christmas Eve began with a festive family luncheon of seafood and champagne before heading off to several hours of services, culminating in a late-night drive home through the Christmas lit streets. Now, even though there is no marathon of Christmas Eve services to oversee, the tradition of seafood, champagne and Christmas lights still continues. Here in Paris, among other things, it’s oyster season (it’s also Truffle season, but that’s a future post!) So what better way to spend Christmas Eve than visiting my local market street in search for stellar ingredients including freshly harvested (as in that morning!) seafood? We enjoyed a lunch of fresh oysters and lentil salad (also a new favorite!) right on the street, then bought a dozen to bring home. Champagne is always a stellar accompaniment to oysters, but we’ve also learned that Muscadet, a white wine from France’s Atlantic coast, is an often suggested pairing with oysters here. If you love oysters, it’s certainly worth checking with your local wine vendor to see if you can purchase a muscadet- it’s a briney, mineraly compliment to a fresh oyster!

Christmas Eve in Paris wouldn’t be complete without Foie Gras!  I confess, that I absolutely Love foie gras. Can’t get enough of it, and I’m also proud to say that my girls seem to be following in my footsteps. How lucky were we to learn that the local butcher we’ve befriended makes it in house? Maybe it was knowing the maker, maybe it was the excitement of being in Paris for Christmas, but it was the most heavenly foie gras I’ve tasted- like silk, with a perfectly seasoned flavor that just melted in your mouth! We paired it with fresh greens and a simple mustard vinaigrette (recipe below!). You can see from the picture, that a little goes a long way- and that really is the key with any rich food- be it foie gras, caviar, oysters, chocolate or macaron- indulge moderately.

Our evening ended by celebrating Christmas Eve with our temporary neighbors at the parish church- for us, St. Eustache. Although this church was built during the 1500’s, there’s been a parish present there since the 1200’s… talk about history. The soaring gothic cathedral houses an enormous pipe organ, and every window and side chapel was lit with candles. It was quite an  experience to sing ancient carols in such a place.

Christmas Day dawned, and the first sunny day of our whole visit shined gloriously down on us. We enjoyed a second round of feasting, including the pinnacle- a Bresse Chicken! The bird is every bit as delicious as it’s rumored to be, and deserving of its own post. But as a teaser, here are the preludes- a creamy zucchini soup recipe given to me by a dear friend of my grandfather’s here in Paris, and simple haricorts verts (that’s green beans for the rest of us!) A delicious and necessary contrast to the preparation of the Bresse Chicken. It’s only the third day of Christmas, so keep feasting, wherever you are!

Mustard Vinaigrette

use for salads or over vegetables

Ingredients

2 tbs olive oil

1 tbs good quality mustard

2 tsp sherry or red wine vinegar

Directions

Mix ingredients together vigorously until an emulsion has formed. Adjust mustard/vinegar to taste and drizzle over fresh salad greens.

Cream of Zucchini Soup

This recipe came to me from a dear friend of my grandfather’s. The original recipe calls for zucchini, bouillon, and Vache qui rit (laughing cow) the small triangle processed cheeses that you see in the grocer. I couldn’t find at my local grocer, and opted for creme fraiche, as well as adding a few extra ingredients. Whatever incarnation you choose to use with this recipe, the end result is a simple and tasty soup.

serves 4

Ingredients

2 small-medium zucchini, peeled and diced

2 shallots, finely diced

2 tbs butter

2 cups water

1 bouillon cube (I used chicken, but vegetable is okay too)

1/2 cup creme fraiche, or 2 triangles of vache qui rit

1/4 cup fresh tarragon, finely minced

Directions

Place butter in a 4-quart sauce pan. Heat on medium until butter foams. Add shallots and gently stir. When the shallots have begun to turn translucent, add the zucchini. Stir to incorporate, and cover. Allow to cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Zucchini is a high-water content vegetable, so the water in the zucchini should be enough to prevent them from sticking. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them, and add a little butter or water if necessary.

When zucchini has softened, add 2 cups water and one bouillon cube. Bring to a boil and turn heat to low. Using a heavy fork, or an immersion blender, puree to your desired degree of thickness. Add creme fraiche or the cheese and stir gently to incorporate. Add tarragon, stir for another minute, and serve immediately.

Haricorts Verts (Green Beans) with Shallot Mustard Vinaigrette

serves 4 as a side dish, double for more substantial portions

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups green beans, stems removed

3 tbs butter

3 shallots, diced

1 tbs sherry or red wine vinegar

1 tbs good quality mustard

Directions

Bring a medium sized pot of water to boil. While you are waiting for the pot to boil, place a bowl in the sink, fill it halfway with water, then fill the remaining part with ice.

When the pot is boiling, add the beans. Cook for 3 minutes, until the color has turned bright green. Pour off the boiling water and add the hot beans to the ice-bath. This stops the cooking, and preserves the brilliant green color of the beans. When you are ready to serve the beans, place a saute pan over medium heat. Add the butter, and when the butter is foaming, add the beans. Sautee for 1-2 minutes and add remaining ingredients. Cook until beans are warmed through and still bright green. Serve immediately.

Broccoli Rabe w/Polenta

Broccoli Rabe– a veggie that defies classification. Kind of like myself actually- a little bit hippie, a little bit diva, although depending on the context I might be a lot of either of those…More closely related to the turnip than broccoli, it’s a little bit like broccoli met turnip, took a whirl on the dance floor and ended up with some unique collaboration that no one knew how to classify. My kind of veggie. And how can you turn up your nose at something so glorious and enormous?!?- Notice mine is as big as my stovetop! And to top it off, nobody can decide if it’s native to China or the Mediterranean…. It’s called Rapini, Broccoli Rabe, Broccoli Raap or Raab….it all depends on the context, or perhaps the veggie’s mood….a woman of mystery if you ask me. Since I originally heard that this lovely specimen was native to Italy, I chose a traditionally Italian presentation, briefly sautéed with lots of garlic, olive oil and tomatoes, served over a creamy polenta.  If I see it next spring in my CSA bag, I’ll certainly make this again. It was gobbled up like there was no tomorrow, which is a good thing, given that we’ve had some funky meals lately in an effort to clean out the refrigerator for our upcoming adventure.

There are parts of the fridge that haven’t seen the light of day, or a sponge, for quite some time, and there’s no time like the present to do a little spring cleaning, right? What else are you going to do when the temperatures are in the basement and you don’t have a fireplace to sit in front of while enjoying Christmas music and Hot Toddies? Actually the real reason is that I hate to come home to a yucky house. (and I won’t leave the housesitter with a fridge full of nasty leftovers) I will be the first to confess publicly that I am not the world’s neatest person. I’m a creative artist whose creativity can’t be contained in the brain, and so it spills over.. But I do have enough of an organizational streak to make sure I have a nice clean house to come home to, and to start packing for a big adventure days in advance.

You can see here from this picture, that the Adventuresome Kitchen is hitting the road for the first time ever- to Paris!! Not only will I be celebrating a milestone birthday in the shadow of the Tour Eiffel, I will be blogging about all things gluten free! There is an idea in the allergy world, and a perception in the non-allergy world that travel and adventure are impossible if you’ve got serious dietary issues. Not so. More challenging, yes- but I really look at this as an opportunity to get a little creative, as well as dive into and experience cuisine on a new and deeper level. There are celiacs who live quite happily in Paris. And yes, some people can enjoy all that Paris has to offer and never eat a croissant- not that I won’t be trying to duplicate one gluten-free…. I’m working on it! In the meantime, in addition to being a little entertaining for you, I hope that this type of documentation becomes a resource and an inspiration for people with food allergies. The world is your oyster- you just have to know how to shuck it!

Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Garlic & Tomatoes 

Serves 4-8

Ingredients

1 large broccoli rabe plant (about 6-8 cups)

1 bulb garlic, minced

3 tbs olive oil

1 32 oz container of stewed, chopped tomatoes (fresh is even better, but they’re now out of season)

Directions

Chop broccoli rabe- leaves and stems, discarding the thickest part of the stems.

In a sauté pan, heat olive oil on medium heat. When oil is hot, add the minced garlic. Stir for about 1 minute. When garlic is fragrant, add broccoli rabe stems. Saute for 2 minutes. Add broccoli rabe leaves and florets. Saute another minute. Add stewed tomatoes and heat through-about 1-2 minutes. Serve over creamy polenta.

Roasted Carrot Soup

Just a quick pictoral of our Thanksgiving meal, and a few links to some fun blogs. As many of you who are food bloggers know, if you’re working all the time developing your own recipes, it’s hard to find time to play in the kitchen with other people’s creations. And, if you’re like me, your in-box is filled with some pretty tempting recipes! So for Thanksgiving this year, my friend and I picked out a few tempting recipes to add to our own and came up with a pretty fun tasting meal with paired wines… We started off with a pan-roasted carrot soup. If you have the time to pan roast your vegetables prior to turning them to soup, it’s so worth it, as the flavors deepen and marry. This was paired with champagne, and the contrast between the smooth rich soup, and the sharp bubbly champagne was a real treat!  Whatever you ate for Thanksgiving, I hope it was delicious,  that your tastebuds were in heaven, and that your tummy was full!

Thanksgiving Morning started off with warm strawberry scones compliments of Jacob’s Kitchen. I converted to gluten-free of course, and the result was pretty tasty.. The kitchen divas in training were licking their fingers and asking for more.

 

Then it was on to the main event- an afternoon of cooking, wine, laughter and much food. My friend and I decided on a multi-course tasting meal so that we wouldn’t get too stuffed. It was a leisurely and fun way to spend the afternoon.

First up: pan roasted carrot soup with creme fraiche. Recipe below.

 

 

Next up: Scallops Two Ways. We chose a fun recipe with peas and cilantro from Michael Toa via a guest post from one of my favorite bloggers Chef Dennis at More than A Mountful and a very unusual, yet very delicious preparation of scallops poached in herb infused rioja from another of my favorite bloggers, Lazaro from Lazaro Cooks. This pairing really stumped the sommeliers, who looked at me like I had eight heads when I said that I was poaching scallops in rioja- but don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it- it was delicious, and worked well with the riesling we poured with it.

Next came an earthy chestnut tagliatelli with mushrooms sauteed in a brown butter sage sauce. This was adapted from a guest post that Pattie from Bramasole provided to More than a Mountfull. I’m particularly happy with this, as it was my first attempt in 12 years at gluten-free pasta. This was a much more successful endeavor than my last attempt. So much so, that I’m inspired to try making other kinds of pasta.. The dark brown color in this dish comes from the rice bran I added to my gluten free flour mix.

To cleanse our palates before the main course, we created mini goat cheese souffles and served them on a bed of arugula with a simple lemon juice vinaigrette and pomegranate pips. Served with Sauvignon Blanc, this was indeed the perfect palate cleanser! Recipe will be forthcoming!

 

And for the main event: Roasted turkey breast with pancetta and sour cherry glaze, my gluten-free stuffing from my guest post at Lindsey Evenson’s blog Fresh Air+Fresh Food, and pan roasted butternut squash, also with a sour cherry glaze. The glaze was simple and one I’ll use again on other meats:

 

 

 

1 quart tart cherry juice

3 tbs sugar

1/4 cup Honey Wild Turkey (this is delicious, almost like cognac!)

1 sprig rosemary

leaves from 3 sprigs sage

1 teaspoons white peppercorns.

Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and let reduce by half.

After all that food, dessert was simple- homemade ginger ice cream with crumble topping……

And now- for the carrot soup recipe! Enjoy, and may this kick-off to the Holiday Season be the first of many delicious meals you share at your table!

Pan Roasted Carrot Soup

8 Servings

Ingredients

2 lbs carrots

1 large red onion

2 medium shallots

2 cups chopped apples

5 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 cup champagne

1 cup milk

Spice Mix

1 tbs poultry seasoning

1  1/2 tbs cumin

1/2 tbs salt

1/2 tbs pepper

1 tsp oregano

olive oil

creme fraiche

parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Scrub the carrots, chop the onion into large segments, peel the shallots, and place all three ingredients onto a large cookie sheet. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle entire spice mix over the cookie sheet. Cook until carrots are fork tender, about 1 hour.

Remove to a large stock pot, and add chicken stock. Bring to a simmer. In a smaller pan, place chopped apples and champagne. Simmer until apples are softened, and add to the soup mixture. Add the milk, and puree with an immersion blender. For a super smooth texture, place a portion of the soup in a food processor and run for 2-3 minutes. Keep doing this until the soup is as smooth as you’d like.

For presentation, garnish with a dollop of creme fraiche and sprinkle with a little fresh parsley.