Monday, October 31, 2011

orange soup is following me

On Halloween, a day with orange as its theme color and dark and mysterious overtones, this post seemed fitting:

Orange soup is following me.

It’s the only thing I can think of.

I was at Steve’s and we were hungry (obviously).

He had some pre-roasted sweet potatoes… Orange Soup Of Leftovers.

I did my usual “pot lid” (Steve’s kitchen is sort of a man cave…)


Started with green pepper and carrot..


Then said, what the heck, let’s throw some onion and tomato in there too…


Plus some curry powder, cumin, other spices to add general excitement.

Lots of broth, a roasted sweet potato mooshed in surprisingly well sans blender.

This was totally delicious!


Next, we have Orange Soup That I Needed for Warmth.

I arrived home from work fah-reezing, as I always do.

I hate winter. I hate fall because it’s Winter Lite and it sometimes does things like taunting you with beautiful sunny days (like earlier this week) and then SLAMS YOU WITH SNOW IN OCTOBER (as is anticipated later today, Saturday, as I write this).

Anyway, soup is an essential on raw days. I still had more of my 15 lb. pumpkin to deal with, so I threw a cup or so of it on the stove along with another half cup or so of milk to thin it into brothiness and some spices (let’s see… cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger powder, cumin, chili powder, salt- a lot! This was plain pumpkin, uncanned!)


I also had a nice warm sweet/savory sandwich of a fried egg on a blueberry bagel thin. Kind of like a healthier McGriddle, eh?! Also some celery and hummus.


Rounded out with, as is essential this time of year, a veritable cauldron of tea.


More orange! More!

Orange Soup that Isn’t Actually Orange Soup!

Pumpkin+yogurt+stevia+pumpkin pie spice!


Identical! I’m beginning to fear I will be turning orange from this diet! I also can think of at least three unphotographed occasions upon which I have eaten this stuff, because it’s suuuuuuuuper delicious. With Greek or regular yogurt. It’s all light and fluffy and subtly sweet. A bit like a pumpkin chiffon pie, without the Frankenfood coolwhip.

I rounded out the meal with some mashed white beans and rosemary on toast (I love beans on toast so much. Never regret eating it!)


Annnnd some raw kale salad (massaged with olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and red pepper flakes), and an apple picking apple.


All together now.


I went to another tremendously inspiring work event. I am super in love with my job right now!

It was held in an apartment complex in Ward 8, one of the more economically disadvantaged areas of DC (though there is a really concerted effort right now by both city developers and the area’s residents to push for progress there).


The woman who runs this place, Ms Clark, is as radiant as the bright yellow they have painted their community center.

I arrived to a tantalizing poster of yummy and healthy looking foods.


Upon my enthusiasm in viewing that, she brought me out her recipe and ingredient binder. I totally love this idea: as part of our program, we were distributing farmer’s market vouchers at the end. However, I understand that particularly in a part of the city that only has one farmer’s market, people probably get a little overwhelmed seeing a lot of unfamiliar foods. (Haven’t we all looked at a random pile of greens like, uh, wtf is this?)

This binder makes it all make sense, and has recipe tips for everything! Love that!


Ms. Clark makes a daily supper for the kids at the community center in this:


That’s the entire kitchen. Oh, and that mini toaster and microwave? The extent of the kitchen equipment.

There used to be a larger toaster oven and a hot plate, but both were used and a little careworn looking. Someone inadvertently, in an effort to clean up, put them out with the garbage!

It made our cooking demo a leeetle tricky.

But Grace just did everything in the microwave, rather brilliantly I thought.

Micro-sauteed onions…


Which served as a flavor base for, you must have seen this coming, YET ANOTHER ORANGE SOUP!

On-the-job, Cooking-Demo Orange Soup.


This was sweet potato black bean soup. Super simple, healthy, cooked quickly, and as you can see by the dearth of options here, you really could use basically any cooking method.



Grace, my boss, was totally candid with the crowd that massaged kale salad is sort of an adventurous food, but it was also one of her favorites and she wanted everyone’s opinion.

What ended up happening? Everyone mixed the green salad with the orange soup :D Colorful, tasty, superfood.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

foodie pen pal!

Who loves getting packages? Everybody! Right?!

You know what are the best packages? Packages with FOOD in them! Thus the brilliance of Foodie Pen Pals.


A pen pal primer: the mastermind of this venture is Lindsay. She matches up food bloggers (or even just food blog readers who also want to participate) with someone to send a package to and someone to receive a package from. Here are the deets borrowed from her blog!

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact each other and get mailing addresses and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.

I was paired with another Lindsay, a denizen of Normal, Illinois. She hooked me up with, as she put it, “a little slice of the Midwest”!


The goods, all arrayed on my dining room floor (where I RIPPED THE PACKAGE OPEN. Guys, getting packages is so exciting).


For reasons best understood by me, I photographed the cookie BOX rather than the cookies themselves up close.

Suffice it to say, by the time I realized that, it was too late. Cookies were GONE.



Aaaaaaaagh you know those wonderful rich dense sugary bakery cookies? That are then sent over the edge by having beautiful and delicious icing atop? Yeah, that was these Jack O’ Lanterns. SO AMAZING. I sincerely hope to visit this bakery when I head to Illinois for Thanksgiving.

Next, the cutest chocolates I have ever seen:


As if the adorable Halloween-themed devil, mummy, spider, and cauldron of witches’ brew weren’t great enough just to look at, they topped SUBLIME chocolate. Three milks and a dark. Wonderful :D I had fun sharing these—the devil was the first to get claimed!

Sweet little honey bear of local honey (this is weird of me, but I am super into local honey. Since it’s so good for allergies, and I have such sucky pollen allergies. I’m hoping that if I just eat local honey from all over the United States, I can travel ANYWHERE without needing Benadryl).


With a recipe to go along! I love getting salads with honey mustard dressing when I go out to eat but somehow never combine the two things when cooking at home. Now I have a recipe to help me out!


So finally, let’s talk about those beer nuts.

Being such a clueless non-Midwesterner, I thought initially that they were literally beer-flavored nuts. Which I would’ve been totally down with. I don’t like beer but I do like beer bread, chocolate stout cupcakes, etc. Why not nuts?

But rather, they are nuts one can eat while drinking beer (though based on their deliciousness and my utter disregard for preserving my girlish figure after having imbibed in alcohol, I wouldn’t recommend it per se). A little sweet, a little salty, oily, and utterly addictive.

Okay so… remember the nut butter I raved about while at sea?



I saw that the beer nuts were

1. Already roasted
2. Already infused with sweet and savory flavors so integral to peanut butter

And I thought, it is finally time for me to make some homemade nut butter!

A big thank you to Sarah from The Smart Kitchen for posting with such frequently about making homemade nut butter. It made me much less intimidated.

Because I wanted to save some of the beer nuts for regular beer nut eating, I decided to do a mixed nut and seed butter, with all kinds of delicious things contributing.

To that end, the plurality of nuts in the nut butter were the beer nuts. But I also added smaller amounts of roasted almonds, walnuts, pecans, and, taking a cue from Trader Joe’s, sunflower seeds.

Obviously, this made my kitchen smell awesome.


I actually wonder if putting the roasted nuts in the food processor while still slightly warm (though not hot) helped speed up and ease the butterifying process, because it took a few minutes but the blade seemed willing enough to make it happen (there was no ominous shaking or smoking from my food processor).

Anyway, it came together beautifully, a wonderfully gritty texture reminiscent of Trader Joe’s plain peanut butter.


How it’s Did:

1 cup beer nuts
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

Roast walnuts, pecans, almonds, and sunflower seeds. Start with the walnuts, pecans, and almonds- they take around five minutes, whereas the sunflower seeds only take about two. I did this in my countertop toaster oven, at about 350 degrees.

Throw everyone in a food processor. Whirr away to desired consistency!



This nut butter was crazy tasty and utterly addictive. Slightly sweet, slightly salty, with a heavenly well rounded flavor of smoky depth. No one nut dominated (though I have the beer nuts to thank for a lot of the flavor, I’m sure); it was just totally synergistic nut butter delight.

Thank you so much, Lindsay!

Friday, October 28, 2011

hostesses with mostesses

If you come and stay at our house, you WILL eat well.

Watch. Out.

We had some Romanian missionaries staying at our house. Obviously. Because we are heathens. I jest! Because my mom had read about their work through our church (rest assured, that if your opinion of missionaries has been culled, like mine previous to this, from reading The Poisonwood Bible, these are nice missionaries. Non-forceful, non-judgmental, helping-orphans-and-alcoholics missionaries), and had supported them for a long time, and invited them to our house.

And they were completely lovely and, as with any houseguests, I had to make sure they ate better food at my house than they ever had at anyone else’s house because I have to be the Best Hostess In The World. (We’ll call it the Martha Stewart complex)

Like so much of life, I have decided to begin this post with dessert first.


It all began with my megabag of apples from apple picking. I tend to become daunted when there is a large quantity of any one food item in my house, because I fear things going bad and food getting wasted. Food cannot be wasted.


So I cut up some apples… pretty red apples, adorably tiny green apples…


I mixed together the wet and (half whole wheat!) dry ingredients for Lots O Apple Cake, a recipe I’ve made before and loved.


Like last time, the batter was wiiiiiiiiiiicked sticky.


And the combining of the batter with the apples left me wondering, like last time, whether I was really going to pull this thing off.


And lo and behold, just like last time, they did indeed come together, and quite beautifully.


And two delicious apple cakes emerged from my oven. I actually froze them prior to the arrival of our guests, planning them for some sociable future occasion, which indeed emerged.


I highly recommend this recipe. It’s reasonably healthy, reasonably easy, a great way to use up a glut of apples, and a big hit.

Now, as it turns out, our church event attracted a rather tiny crowd (weeknights are tough), but as is typical for Greek women who see people going away hungry from a place in which we served food as the ultimate evil in the world. So I also made a double batch of my chocolate truffle brownies.

No, they didn’t mold. That’s white chocolate up top. Just for kicks.


We ended up serving NONE of those at the event (there were leftover sweets from a lunch at the church earlier in the day) so we sent some on the road with our missionary pals, I took some in to work to feed my grateful coworkers, and I froze the rest. I’m choosing to forget that for the time being. I’ve been on a real sugar attack lately.

As for dinner- a real treat!

My mom made my grandma’s sausage soup, mmmmmmmmmmmm.


This thing is so simple and so the ultimate in winter comfort. I don’t know what it is, but she chose to use BREAKFAST SAUSAGE in this soup (those little links with no particularly distinctive flavoring), and with the tomatoes, beans, potato, and pepper-onion flavor base, as well as a tickling of fresh and dried herbs, it is SO UNBELIEVABLY DELICIOUS.

So satisfying, too :D

Guests were also treated to pieces of my pumpkin spelt bread. To die for. Excellent for soup dippage.

(I was also carrying on a tradition, because my grandmother- a seriously amazing bread baker- always served this soup with her homemade baguettes).


Though I didn’t take pictures at the dinner table, since I try not to impose my awkward blog photoshoots on houseguests, I had the leftovers for lunch the other day, so I got to ogle at the gorgeousness of this soup.


I will gladly post the recipe, but please don’t make any healthy substitutions. My grandmother lived to be 87 and she attributed much of her longevity to eating chocolates in bed :D

She was a healthy person and ate a mostly Mediterranean diet, but also ate food that was SATISFYING. And sometimes that means full-fat pork sausage. You’ll drain it. Get over it.

My Grandmother’s Sausage Soup

1 pound pork breakfast sausage, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 14-ounce can sliced stewed tomatoes
2 cups water
1 large onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained
1 teaspoon dried thyme (can use a mix of fresh and dried)
2 tablespoons dried basil (see above)
1 large potato, diced (we use red potato, unpeeled)
salt and pepper to taste

Brown sausage in a 2-quart pot and drain off fat. Deglaze the pan with the stewed tomatoes, then add water, onion, and green pepper. Bring to a boil.
Lower heat, return sausage to pan and add beans and herbs, with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 45 minutes.
Add potato and cook covered for 20 minutes or until potato is tender.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

all aboard (with bread that’s way better than hardtack)

I had a Captain Jack Sparrow experience last Saturday!

No, I didn’t get really really drunk on rum. I went SAILING! 

Woke up at a wee hour in a foul mood, which seemed unfortunate, but that gave me time to hit up the farmer’s market before heading to my aunt’s. And the farmer’s market can cause any bad mood I have to evaporate (I think it was just bad dreams- I had one about a twelve hour bus trip. Eesh.)

So I headed to my auntie’s, and we headed up to the marina, where her husband Tim had spent the night sleeping on the boat!

We enjoyed some short-lived sunshine as we prepared to set ourselves afloat.

View of the stern of the boat (because this boat is in AMERICA!) The name of this boat is Terrier II. There is a photograph of Roger, my aunt’s Scottie, gracing the inside of the boat like a mascot.


The insides of boats are SO FUN. My aunt compared it to a dollhouse, and it really is similar. Everything is fun and miniaturized! However, unlike a dollhouse, everything is also fully functional!

Surprisingly comfy beds:


I really want to spend the night on the boat sometime; Jeanie says it’s the coziest thing ever tucked in, rocked by the waves, reading under the gas lamp. She says she even craves different kinds of books when she’s on the boat; like poetry!


The kitchen/living area.


Lots of little clever shelves and cupboards and things to stow everything. Hidden little nooks; things pulling out; shelves to keep things from rattling around when there are big waves. It’s funny; my aunt has a clearly demarcated system (“This is the pots and pans department!” “This is the cutlery department!”) but then Tim throws WD-40 cans and stuff in the wrong departments. Very big trouble.


Totally functional stove where we brewed tea.


Sweets and coffee cupboard! Have people had those lemon ginger cookies? They will be the death of me.


An extremely efficient icebox. That sheet ice and those bags had been in there for eight days. Still cold for your brewskis :D


Even a bathroom! You close in little collapsing drawers around yourself. And there’s this complicated thing with pumps and pipes. The boys, as you would imagine, just go off the side of the boat. (And, I think relish that. Do not get Steve started on indoor plumbing. He thinks it would not exist were it not for women. And that men would quit having jobs and wars and just play sports all day hahahahaha)


And we were off! Gentle waves rocked us back and forth. We headed towards Annapolis, admiring birdies and scenery on our way.


Tim had a very nifty autopilot; I got to steer for awhile! Very fun. Also very weird- Tim had me steer right straight in the direction of a white buoy. I was SURE we were going to hit it and then he took control literally a second before we did and we had a huge gap to spare. Everything moves much more slowly than you think it does. Kind of a cool optical illusion happening there!


Autumnal splendor.


But, I must confess, it wasn’t the warmest day. So the fact that they had a wonderful wonderful kerosene heater meant that it was sort of easy , once that had warmed up (like so)


… to then just vegetate below deck with my auntie :D

And other quality companions (hey—Captain Jack made an appearance after all!)


Jeanie and I discussed many important things, like Somali pirates on drugs, our crazy family members, the How to Cook Everything Vegetarian cookbook that I’m currently so obsessed with (she has an iPad, which she had on the boat, which does all the navigating!!! So cool right?!!! So anyway she was so sold on my raving about the cookbook that she downloaded the HTCEV app right then and there!).

I enjoyed many snackin’s, many of which do not appear here, so picture me and my auntie companionably splitting an apple, picture lots and lots of Irish cheddar cheese, a taste of sausage roll (which, unrefrigerated, I’m now wondering whether could’ve contributed to my later stomach woes), more than one of the Diet Cokes you see above, refills on the rooibos tea you see below…


My BODY WEIGHT in the fascinatingly addictive specimens seen below. These are dried OKRA, which Jeanie and Tim picked up visiting his family in Alabama.


And best of all, my homemade nut butter (!!! Which will be a blog post but must be included in my foodie pen pal post!!!!), and my homemade PUMPKIN YEAST BREAD!

So. Amazing.


So here’s how this amazing bread happened: I had tons and tons and tons and tons of pumpkin in my fridge. I wanted to make a bread, but I was feeling kind of sugar’d out and was intrigued by a pumpkin yeast bread. Poking around on the Internet led me to this recipe for pumpkin pumpernickel bread, which I adapted by replacing the rye flour with a mix of spelt and white whole wheat and also other things, due to it being a slightly confusing recipe.

I was wayyyyyyyy apprehensive about it turning out. But, it rose, though slowly, quite beautifully.


And then, though its loaves turned out kind of wonky looking, it was great!


(in all honesty, that is the same loaf at different angles. The other loaf was so wonky it was embarassed to be in the blog. So I cut it up to get the interior texture shot below).

Beautifully chewy crust, blissful crumb within. GREAT toast bread, GREAT, sandwich bread, GREAT nut butter bread :D


I have included the recipe because this bread is too good not to share, but please do proceed with caution; I am not a bread making expert and this is a rather loose adaptation!

Pumpkin Spelt bread
Adapted from this recipe

1 cup cold water
1 package yeast
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cup boiling water
1 1/3 cups pumpkin puree, heated in the microwave til lukewarm
1 Tbs salt
2 cups spelt flour
4 cups white whole wheat flour, plus more as needed
1 TBS plus 1 tsp. sugar
Pumpkin seeds for topping (press these in- I didn’t and mine fell off!)

Stir cold water into cornmeal. Add boiling water and stir together. Add salt and sugar. Let stand until lukewarm.
Meanwhile, sprinkle the yeast over the lukewarm water. When the yeast has puffed up and gotten all globby, stir pumpkin and yeast into cornmeal dough. Add spelt and whole wheat flour and turn onto a floured cutting board. At this point, the dough is kind of a sticky mess. Mine stayed sticky— because this dough was so high in whole wheat already, I didn’t want to add too much flour and make it totally, totally dry. So, I sort of kneaded for 10-15 minutes until it basically held together. Then, put dough in a large cooking sprayed bowl and turn it over so the greased surface is facing up. Let rise until doubled (this took me about an hour and a half). Gently fold the dough into itself and form into two round loaves. Grease the tops of the loaves, and let rise, covered with a damp kitchen towel, until doubled. Slash loaves in an x pattern with a sharp knife or razor blade and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven about 1 hour.