26 January 2012

Butternut, Baby. Butternut.

Have you ever made a soup that changed your life?  So mind-blowing that you could imagine feasting upon it each and every day, not unlike the folks featured in The Tale of Despereaux?  I’d wear a spoon on my head for this soup, my dears!  It is sweet and savory, delicately creamy (without involving any dairy in the experience), and ever so slightly addictive.  This recipe is a great way to sneak in all of those ‘good for you’ bits in a thoroughly enjoyable dish.  Did I mention you can whip it up in no time at all?  Sheer perfection.  In the words of Kate DiCamillo,“Reader, it is your destiny to find out!”

Spiced Butternut Squash + Apple SoupJanuary2012 058
Whole Living


2T olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 inch fresh ginger, grated (2T)

½ teaspoons turmericJanuary2012 012

1/8t cinnamon

1/8t cardamom

Dash ground cloves

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 tart apple, peeled, quartered, and chopped

4c peeled and chopped butternut squash

Coarse salt and pepper

DirectionsJanuary2012 045

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add carrots, apple, squash, and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil; cover partially and reduce to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly. Working in batches, puree until smooth in a blender. Adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Yield: 6 servings

Variations: Slow-roast the squash at 425° for approximately 20 minutes, or until tender, before adding to the saucepan.

Pineapple Zucchini Bread: An unexpected + delightful Discovery

There’s something special about zucchini bread. Is it the shifty look that you get from a curious pal, seemingly scolding you with, “No thanks, I don’t like veggies hiding in my sweet treats” or that you are just suspicious of all words that start with the penultimate (i.e. most pretentious) letter in the alphabet?  Well, fear not!  This recipe is for your nay-sayin’ pals as well as all of the veteran, zucchini-bread fans.  The pineapple is the unexpected delight, keeping this bread sweet (but not in excess) and moist (while still maintaining firmness) all the live-long week.  Well, maybe not a week…it will be devoured quicker than you can say, “Zacharia Zebra played the zither as he twirled -
zigging and zagging all ‘round the world!  In fact, it didn’t last long enough for a photograph!  One loaf went to the teacher’s lounge, and Mr. Trek + I snorkled down every last crumb of the second loaf within just a few days!  There’s an excellent shot of the treat over at Simply Recipes, if my step-by-steps aren’t enough to inspire you to immediately put this in your oven and bake it!

Simply Recipes – Zucchini Bread with Pineapple

3 eggsJanuary2012 019

1 cup olive oil

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups coarsely grated zucchini

1 can (8oz) crushed pineapple, drainedJanuary2012 038

3 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamonJanuary2012 048

3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup raisins


Preheat oven to 350°F. In a mixer, beat eggs. Add oil, sugar, and vanilla; continue beating mixture until thick and foamy. With a spoon, stir in the zucchini and pineapple.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. A third at a time, add dry ingredients into wet and gently stir (by hand) after each addition. Add the walnuts and raisins, blend gently.

Divide the batter equally between 2 greased and flour-dusted 5 by 9 inch loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in to the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool thoroughly.

Yield:  2 loaves.

Adapted from a 1974 Sunset Magazine recipe, quoted on Simply Recipes

17 January 2012

Viva la Frida!

Jan2012 219Twenty-twelve…the year of the auspicious dragon (and the phoenix)!  I find that it can be helpful to name a year, and allow all New Year’s intentions to be fulfilled by the chosen moniker.  2012 = My Year of Strength.  What are your intentions for this new year, and what would you choose for its name?

To begin with strength of mind, Mr. Trek and I joined the Goodreads 50/50 Challenge: to read fifty books, and view fifty films, (all new to us) during the year.  Pinterest is a great spot to track the progress, if you’re doing this challenge or one which is similar. 

One of the first reads that I chose for 2012 was The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait.  Talk about starting off the year true to theme!  Frida Kahlo always has fascinated me, and she truly embodied strength through perseverance and self-awareness.  “The body is the temple of the soul. The face is the temple of the body. And when the body breaks,the soul has no other shrine except the face.”

Such an inspirational and reflective piece of art and poetry requires a cozy meal that will snuggle you right in!  Enter a newly discovered recipe from a *fantastic* cookbook, Clean Food, loaned to me by Patricia.  With the earthiness of the mushrooms and the heartiness of the beans and legumes, it’s basically the love child of a good veggie soup and a bean concoction.  The barley puffs up during the simmering process, and the kombu basically eliminates the unpleasantries (ahem, can we say, “Toot City”) sometimes provided by our friend, the lentil.  Feel free to throw in any veggies from your pantry or fridge, but plan ahead.  This delightful dish, called Goodness Soup, takes approximately three hours to simmer to its fabulous potential! 

Goodness Soup

2 thumb-sized pieces kombu*


1 onion, chopped

1 lb. mushrooms, chopped

5 carrots, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 ½ c cooked navy or great northern beans

1c hulled barley, rinsed

1c lentils, rinsed

1T dried parsley

1T dried basil

1 bay leaf

¼ c mirin or white wine

2T tamari

12c water

Sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Place kombu* in bowl with enough water to cover, soak 10 minutes until soft. Drain, mince and set aside.

In large pot over medium heat, sauté onion and mushrooms in olive oil for 5 minutes. Lower heat and add carrots, celery, beans, barley, lentils, parsley, basil, bay leaf, mirin and tamari. Stir to combine, add water and bring to boil.

Reduce heat to low, add kombu and continue cooking covered for a minimum of 3 hours – the longer it cooks, the thicker it will get. Add water as desired to thin, particularly when reheating leftovers.

Remove bay leaf (if you can find it), season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. Soup will keep in fridge for up to 1 week or can be kept in airtight containers in the freezer.

*Kombu – a type of dried seaweed/sea vegetable found in Asian markets; infuses foods with minerals such as iodine and iron. Also known for its ability to tenderize legumes and reduce their gaseous properties.


Stir one tablespoon miso dissolved in three tablespoons of water into each serving.

Yield – 8+ servings