Cooking with Family and Friends

My kitchen remodel is nearly done and it’s looking great! We have had a ton of fun cooing together this past week and learning where things are as we go. The contractors will return after the New Year but for now it is just my kitchen. Sharing it here with my daughters, Hannah who flew in from California and Kristen who came over to bake.

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I hope you all are enjoying this season of family and friends. It has been quite busy in my kitchen and I’d like to share a couple recipes with you that we like to make. The first is so delicious and yet so simple and comes from The Kind Diet Cookbook by alicia silverstone.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups:

 ½ cup Earth Balance butter

¾ cup crunchy peanut butter (preferably unsweetened and unsalted)

¾ cup almond meal

¼ cup maple sugar or other granulated sweetener (I used regular sugar and it was fine)

1 cup grain-sweetened, nondairy chocolate or carob chips

¼ cup soy, rice, or nut milk

¼ cup chopped pecans, almonds, or peanuts

  •  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.
  • Melt the Earth Balance butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the peanut butter, almond meal and maple syrup and mix well.
  • Remove the mixture from the heat. Evenly divide the mixture, approximately 2 tablespoons per cup, among the muffin cups.
  • Combine the chocolate and milk in another pan. Stir over medium heat until the chocolate has melted.
  • Spoon the chocolate evenly over the peanut butter mixture. Top with chopped nuts.
  • Place in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours before serving.

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The refrigerator in the background which is my living room is going to the Habitat for Humanity Re-store soon!

Chestnut Tarts:

1 cup (5ounces) whole peeled chestnuts roasted or bottled dry chestnuts

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup maple syrup

2 large egg whites (free range, organic or egg substitute)

¼ tsp salt

2 packages 15 count phyllo pastry tarts

½ cup fresh whipped cream

  • Reconstitute chestnuts if dried, pulse in food processor until finely ground. Remove to a  medium bowl, stir in vanilla and maple syrup.
  • Beat together egg white, salt in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Fold into the chestnut mixture.
  • Place phyllo tarts into mini muffin pan and fill each with the chestnut mixture.
  • Bake at 375 for 10 minutes until golden.
  • Allow to cool and pipe a whipped cream star on top of each cooled tart.

Off to see Shakespeare and Company It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play with all my Children. Photos and story to follow.

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Kira and her pal Pooh approve of the kitchen remodel mostly because they can see out the new back door.

Be Well and Enjoy!

Healthy, Happy Holidays Ahead

When you think about the word healthy. what comes up for you? Do you believe it is attainable for you? If you could change anything about the way you live, work, play and eat what would it be?

ImageIs this in the cards for you?

Simple questions that may not be so simple to articulate but they are certainly worth exploring particularly with the holidays quickly approaching. The addition of the expectations that go along with the holidays can sometimes upset the very careful balance we create to be more fully present in our lives. Some of us become overwhelmed by the prospect of adding holiday planning into our already hectic lives. I hope to offer a few strategies and at least one easy recipe to reduce stress and allow you to enjoy your holidays however you choose to spend them.

First, remember what it is you love so much about the holidays. Focus on that and make it the priority of what you plan. Next, make a task list of what needs to be accomplished and set up a time to share with others so you don’t feel alone in making things happen. If you share the tasks not only do you feel less pressure but those you love feel needed as you are all in it together….it can be really fun! And finally, keep it simple. Some of the finest memories come from the most delightfully simple things.

The recipe I offer up today is just that sort of dish…simple but truly memorable.

pomegranate tart 2

White Bean, Brussels Sprouts and Pomegranate Tart

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 15oz can white beans drained or 1 cup prepared cannellini beans (see directions below)
  • 1 sheet puff pastry/gluten free
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds

1) Preheat oven to 425, coat 9 inch pie plate with cooking spray/oil

2) Toss the Brussels sprouts with 1 Tbsp. olive oil season with salt and pepper if desired and appropriate. Roast Brussels sprouts for 10 minutes turning once, or until browned set aside and reduce heat to 400.

3) Puree beans with remaining olive oil in a food processor until smooth.

4) Roll puff pastry into 12inch square and press into pie plate allowing edges to hang over the pie plate ½ inch or so. Prick bottom with fork and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.

5) Spread the bean mixture onto hot crust, top with beans Brussels sprouts and sprinkle pomegranate seeds over top.

And only about 300 calories per serving for those of us counting calories.

I recommend using organic bulk, whole grains and beans whenever possible as it is healthier and in fact more cost effective to do so. If you chose to prepare dried cannellini beans first rinse them and then soak overnight of for at least 6 hours. This removes the enzyme inhibitors that are on all dried unprocessed whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds which can upset our digestion. Soaking beans helps break down the oligosaccharides, the indigestible sugars that cause gas in beans, as well as removing tannins, phytic acid and tryspin inhibitors.

Add about a 1 inch piece of Kombu to the beans (you will need to rehydrate the Kombu soaking it for about 5 minutes before you add it to the pot) as well to further help in making them easier to digest and to add in minerals from this sea vegetable. First place the rehydrated Kombu in the pot along with the soaking water, place soaked beans on top and cover with about 1 inch of water. They will cook from between 50 to 90 minutes depending on the bean and the texture you are seeking. Skim off the foam that gathers on top of the beans when they first start to cook as that contains the tannins and phytic acid that create digestive issues.

see photo of Kombu below: I recommend buying Maine Coast or Atlantic Sea Vegetables.

 You can find kombu in Asian markets, at Whole Foods and in many health food markets.

Be Well

Pathways, Rivers, The Journey

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Just beyond this point across The San Francisco Bay on a clear day you can see The Golden Gate Bridge in all it’s glory.

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It is a chilly but sunny morning here in Western Massachusetts. Thoughts of beautiful pathways and flowing rivers were the first thing that came to mind as I lazily awoke to the crisp air this morning. These images were not of the local natural world but from past hikes in California. Muir Woods, Land’s End in San Francisco and The Bay Area are very much on my mind. That may have something to do with the fact that I am missing my youngest daughter, Hannah who lives currently in The Bay Area and possibly because I spent the day yesterday at a delightful wedding party of my dear friend’s son who also lives in The Bay Area. What ever the reason it is a nice way to wake!

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With the crisp air I find myself searching for one of those comfy long cooking meals that you smell all afternoon while it simmers. So I am planning to make an heirloom mixed bean stew with barley and loads of vegetables for dinner. I love making stews and soups that cook for long periods of time so we get to smell the mixed foods and anticipate the flavors. And there is always plenty left over for another meal on another day.

My heirloom bean stew will be cooking this afternoon while I pack my kitchen for the upcoming demolition and remodel that starts the end of this month. I am anxiously excited about this project which has been in the planning stages for over 2 years. Once the kitchen is complete I imagine spending time cooking wonderful new foods, enjoying lively conversations with family and friends, and embarking on adventures far from my soon to be cozy kitchen.

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Let me share the recipe so you too can explore one of those long cooked meals.

Heirloom Mixed Bean and Barley Stew

 1 diced onion

1 cup diced celery

1 cup diced carrot

½ cup each of any other vegetable you choose

2 Tbsp olive oil

8 cups vegetable broth

1 cup uncooked barley (washed and pre-soaked overnight)

1 ½ cups mixed heirloom beans (washed and pre-soaked overnight)

1/3 cup crushed tomatoes

¼ tsp sea salt

½ tsp pepper

1 tsp each of following herbs: basil, oregano and thyme

Sautee the vegetable in oil for 3-5 minutes. Add broth and remaining ingredients bring to boil then reduce and simmer for 1 ½ hours or until the beans and barley are tender.

 These meals are like a big hug from an old friend or like when your heart just swells with joy at seeing someone you adore.

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Ahhh… such a nice way to start the day!