Burnt Eggplant

Yes, I burnt the eggplant… but I was supposed to!

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Inspired by another Plenty recipe, I made a fun Sunday supper last night with some unique ingredients.

First things first, I put a couple of slits in a medium sized eggplant and baked it under the broiler for an hour — until the skin was completely black and burnt. ¬†Yum, right? ūüėČ ¬†The cool thing is that once the eggplant is burnt on the outside, the inside is soft, smokey, and totally full of flavor. ¬†I’m not usually a huge fan of eggplant, but this was delicious!

While the eggplant was cooking burning, I sautéed lentils and a jar of homemade canned tomatoes (remember my canning adventure?!)

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It was really fun to cook with homemade canned vegetables.  I clearly remember getting those veggies from local farmers at the Oak Park Farmers market not too long ago!

Once the eggplant was done, I cut it in half, scooped out the inside, and drained it in a sieve for about 15 minutes.  While the liquid was draining, I roasted a pan full of green beans, carrots, thyme, olive oil, sea salt, garlic and honey.

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I added about 2 T of balsamic vinegar to the lentils, and 1/2 T to the roasted veggies.  This brightened up the whole meal!

Last, I stacked each plate with lentils, roasted veggies, eggplant, and a tiny bit of greek yogurt (you could use a non-dairy sour creme or yogurt).

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About 5 minutes after we started, I realized I forgot the parsley. ¬†It was a great addition, but I think it’s a good sign that the dish wasn’t lacking flavor without it!

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We enjoyed this nourishing meal next to our cute little Christmas tree.

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Where is your favorite place to enjoy dinner at home?

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Souper Simple with a Kick

Tonight’s dinner was not fancy, but it served 2 purposes:

1. filled me up

2. cleaned out the fridge

By Thursday night I’m ready for a pretty clean fridge. ¬†Once the weekend hits it bugs me to have any leftovers or soggy produce lingering. ¬†Because of this, many Thursday night dinners are kind of a mishmash of whatever I want to use up before it goes bad.

Tonight I simply placed all of my close-to-going-bad veggies (spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, garlic, and tomatoes) in a pot with 4 cups veggie broth, 1/2 can of coconut milk, and 1 cup red lentils.  I cooked it for about 30 minutes, pureed it a bit with my immersion blender, and topped it with toasted bread.

The secret ingredient to this meal was the most delicious olive oil I’ve ever tasted (thanks, Bets!):

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I brushed a little of this Fustini’s spicy oil on whole grain bread before toasting it under the broiler. ¬†These homemade croutons were the perfect topper to my veggie soup!

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Is it the weekend yet?!

Green Couscous from Plenty

In case you missed my last post, I love my new cookbook, Plenty!  To go with our roasted vegetables and capers, I selected a simple green and grainy side.  I used the recipe as a starting point, but I tweaked it to fit what we had on hand. Here is the basic idea of my version of this recipe:

Cook 2C whole wheat couscous in veggie broth.

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While that’s cooking, puree fresh herbs (parsley) with mild greens (spinach) and oil (coconut oil).

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Combine green puree with cooked couscous and top with nuts (almonds).

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Stir in additional greens (spinach leaves).

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Enjoy with roasted veggie & capers dish!

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If I haven’t made it clear, I absolutely LOVE the cookbook, Plenty. ¬†If you’re looking for a gift for someone you love, and especially if that person loves to cook veggies, get them this book. ¬†It is beautiful and the recipes are surprisingly simple.

Have a good night!

 

 

 

Color and Flavor from Plenty

Last night we had company for dinner. ¬†Craig’s brother was in town for work, and since he loves unique flavors I decided to try out a couple of new recipes. ¬†Craig gave me this beautiful cookbook for my birthday:

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I spent the weekend reading through the recipes and drooling over the colorful photos, and I finally decided on Roasted Vegetables with Caper Vinaigrette.

This recipe was pretty easy and so delicious.  First, roast vegetables (parsnips, sweet potatoes, red onion, a whole head of garlic, cherry tomatoes) with thyme and olive oil.

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The recipe called for a head of garlic, halved and placed in the roasting pan with the other ingredients.  This was quick and added lots of flavor!

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While the veggies roasted, I threw together the caper vinaigrette.

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The dressing – also from Plenty¬†–¬†was an interesting mix of capers, maple syrup, lemon juice, olive oil and dijon mustard (I forgot to include this in the photo). ¬†If you like capers you will love this dressing. ¬†I think it made the dish!

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The veggies roasted for about 50 minutes total.  I first cooked the parsnips, onion, garlic and thyme for 20 minutes, then added the sweet potatoes, and with a few minutes left I tossed in the tomatoes.  The thyme was a new ingredient for me and it gave the veggies such great flavor.  Our condo smelled delicious!

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I served the roasted veggies with a flavorful green couscous salad that was also from Plenty. ¬†I’ll write more about that tomorrow!

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Somehow I didn’t get a picture of Craig and his brother, but I did snap a picture of Moxie trying to get in on the dinner conversation. ūüôā

Barefoot Contessa Birthday Dinner

Last week my mom and sister gave me instructions for my birthday dinner, which we celebrated last night.  They asked me to plan the menu, send them the recipes/ingredients, and then we would prepare it together as a family.  For someone who loves to look through recipes, and enjoys cooking with other people, this was such a perfect way to celebrate my birthday!

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I love the Barefoot Contessa cookbook, How Easy is That?, so I searched through and came up with a delicious vegetarian dinner that I thought my family would enjoy. ¬†It was fun for everyone – even Gavin and Hudson – to help out! ¬†They are cute little cooks. ūüôā

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Below are the links to each recipe.  We followed them pretty closely and loved all 3 dishes!

Herbed Ricotta Bruschetta

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Wild Rice Salad with Oranges, Grapes and Pecans

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Sausage (we used veggie sausage) Stuffed Mushrooms

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We served all three of these dishes together with a simple green salad on the side.  Yum!

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I couldn’t have asked for a more fun or delicious birthday dinner with my family!

Squash & Veggie Soup

I try to keep ingredients on hand for quick, simple dinners.¬† Frozen potstickers, eggs and salsa, and occasionally mac-n-cheese gets thrown in the cart when Craig’s doing the shopping.¬† In the midst of a crazy week or super long day, it’s nice to know that there is a mindless option for dinner.

This organic, low sodium butternut squash soup caught my eye last time I was at Trader Joe’s.¬† Sure, I’d rather make soup from scratch, but for a night when homemade soup isn’t an option I thought this would be a good alternative.¬† I decided to use it as a starter for a big batch of soup last night.

I sauteed a variety of veggies that I had on hand — cabbage, onion and broccoli.

I poured the soup into a big pot and added about a cup of red lentils to bulk it up and add some protein.

I’ve been loving these red lentils lately!¬† They are so beautiful in the jar, and they add a flavorful, nutritious boost to any dish.¬† I simply added them to the soup, heated it up to a boil, and then let it simmer as I added the other ingredients.

I wanted to add a little zip and avoid adding too much salt, so I sprinkled in a bit of crushed red pepper.

With all the extra veggies and lentils, I poured in about 1/2 C coconut milk, just to increase the liquid and keep the creamy texture.

Eventually, I added everything to the soup, including 1/2 bad of mixed greens.  Once everything was in the pot, I used my immersion blender to puree the soup.

This soup was not totally homemade, but I think I added enough healthy, whole foods to make up for it!  Not only was it packed with nutritional goodness, but it was delicious!  Ripe avocado was the perfect topping, and we enjoyed this with crunchy pretzel crackers and hummus on the side.

On a totally different note, I’m curious what you listen to when you’re cooking.¬† Every night I listen to the Tracy Chapman station on Pandora, and I love it!¬† Totally random — I never really listen to her music besides when I’m cooking, but it has become a habit.¬† What music puts you in the cooking mood?

Gift Ideas

Compared to some super holiday shoppers I’m probably behind, but I’m feeling ahead with my Christmas gift giving this year!¬† I’ve only actually bought a few presents, but I have a game plan for everyone on our list!¬† One thing that I’m trying to do this year is to focus on gifts that are meaningful and make some sort of positive impact — either directly on the life of the recipient, or to the artisan who made the product, or to a community that really needs the help.¬† Here are a couple of organizations that I plan to support this year:

Noonday Collection

Our passion at Noonday Collection is to connect you with the lives of artisans struggling for a better future while styling you along the way. Fashion and design are a vehicle for opportunity and change. You, too, can be a voice for the oppressed! (from Noonday Collection’s website)

In addition to being an amazing company worth supporting, Noonday’s products are beautiful!¬† I received a necklace as a birthday gift, and it’s one of my favorite accessories.¬† The story behind the gift, and knowing that it helped to make someone’s life better, makes me want to wear it even more!

*If you decide to make a purchase from Noonday, feel free to list Holly Wimer as your ambassador — she is the reason why I know about Noonday!

Heifer International

Heifer International’s mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth. (from Heifer International’s website)

I love the idea of purchasing an animal (or a share of one), a stove, a flock of ducks or making a donation towards clean water projects — gifts that can truly impact the health and prosperity of a community.¬† I’m amazed by the information, educational resources, and success stories that Heifer has to share.¬† It is definitely an organization worth supporting!

What organizations do you plan to support this holiday season?  Please share!

 

 

 

Switch Things Up

Sometimes just thinking creatively and switching things up can make a big difference.

Boring, leftover mashed sweet potatoes + tart, fresh pomegranate seeds = a fun, seasonal and super simple side!

An old piece of furniture that my sister and her husband were about to sell on Craig’s List + a new location in our kitchen + stuff we had around the kitchen = my new favorite nook in our condo!

If you feel like you are in the midst of a cooking rut, or a workout rut, or a decorating rut, or even a work or friendship rut Рswitch things up.  Make the most of your situation, think creatively about the ingredients, resources and opportunities in front of you, and make something better.

 

 

Strawberry Scones

A couple of weeks ago I stopped into Todd & Holland Tea Merchants in Forest Park.¬† It’s always fun to look at (and sample!) their amazing selection of teas along with other specialty items.¬† As someone who loves scones but is not the best baker, I was especially drawn to their strawberry scone mix.

This Iveta scone mix was super simple and came highly recommended by the staff at Todd & Holland’s.¬† The Iveta website has lots of helpful information, recipes and photo tutorials.

All I had to add to this mix was 1 C heavy cream or cashew cream (read my previous post for more details!).

I simply added 1 C cashew cream to the dry mix, formed the batter into 4 small circles, and cut each circle into 4 wedges.  I followed the baking instructions and ended up with 16 delicious strawberry scones!

These were the perfect start to a wonderful Thanksgiving day with my family!

If you are in the mood for foolproof baking, I would definitely recommend Iveta’s scone mix.¬† I would also suggest substituting cashew cream for heavy cream if you are looking for a healthier option in your holiday baking recipes.

I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!