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Archive for August, 2011

I will start this post by saying I don’t know Jennifer. I just read her blog and have followed her on Twitter for some time. Jennie’s husband Mike passed away very, very suddenly this past Sunday night and for some reason it hit me hard, considering I don’t even know them. Part of me feels like a jerk for even writing this post, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I needed to share.

There is a massive group of wonderful well-known food bloggers who are great friends, travel together, go to different food, cooking or blog related events together, etc. Food has brought them all together and it is so inspiring and heart-warming. I admire and watch them all interact online on a daily basis. I may not be a part of that world, but it reminds me so much of all of the wonderful and ongoing relationships we have with our printmaking, gigposter and craft friends all over the world. It is incredible what technology and the age of the internet has done for relationships near and far. In the age of Twitter and Facebook, I find myself being able to stay close and grow even closer with the friends I have had for many years, some of whom are halfway across the world. It has allowed me to meet so many amazing new people I never would have otherwise met and I also find myself attached and connected to people who likely don’t even know I exist. It’s weird.

Over the last few days I have seen many posts to and about @jenniferperillo both on Twitter and the many food blogs I read regularly, filled with sympathy, sadness and a desire to help. Even though I have never met Jennie or her husband, Mike, my heart hurts for her and I cannot help but feel her pain. I also find myself thinking more about my single worst fear, of losing my own husband, Mark. In reading all of the beautifully written blog posts and twitter messages, I can not only see that I am not alone in the way I feel, but I have also witnessed the power of the internet amidst a tragic and personal event in a stranger’s life. In Jennifer’s sadness, we are all finding a need to take a step back from the craziness of our own lives to appreciate who we have, the love we share and how short life is.

I admire the strength and courage it must have taken Jennie to write this beautiful tribute to her husband. It is so real. Something as simple as his favorite pie. Please read it, even if you don’t know Jennie.

In Mikey’s honor, in addition to the peanut butter pie recipe that Jennie shared, I am going to make Mark the no-bake cookies he has been begging me to make for some time now. Admittedly, he has been asking for probably 2 years and I just haven’t made the time. There is always some other recipe I am testing or experimenting with that is “more important”. Nothing is more important than those we love. Nothing. Make Mikey’s pie on Friday or your own true-love’s favorite recipe and enjoy each day to the fullest. Life is too short and we are so blessed for every day and every bite that we share with the people we love.

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Vegan Apricot Coconut Ice Cream

It has been a hot summer in Buffalo. After the long winter we had this year, it’s definitely welcomed, but it has been hot, none the less. It’s hard to get motivated to cook or bake some days, but I have been doing the best I can. I can’t say that every meal is necessarily blog worthy, some nights I just toss together a leafy green salad with all the goodies from our garden and we just pop home-made pre-frozen veggie burgers in the toaster oven, not exactly cooking but a healthy home-made meal either way.

I am still really trying to enjoy creating and “cooking” any way I can, even if that means never turning the oven or stove top on. One of the best things about the summer are the fun sweets you can make with all the fresh fruit at the farmers market. Besides the muffins and smoothies, there really is nothing better in the summer heat than an icy cold, sweet ice cream treat. As much as I love a classic, custard based ice cream, sometimes I just don’t have the time, patience and energy for all of it. Plus, I tend to have a bit of guilt after enjoying a bowl of it. Sure the ice cream I make at home is all fresh and local ingredients, organic and healthier than the gross dairy queen stuff that they can’t even call ice cream, but it’s a lot more fat than I would prefer to have on a regular basis.

This is where vegan ice cream steps in. I have made quite a few versions of my vegan ice creams and each time I make one I am just as amazed as the first time at the amount of flavor and the creaminess of the ice cream, considering there isn’t a bit of dairy or any egg in there.

This recipe is a bit different from the others that I have made since it is just coconut milk, I didn’t add in almond milk or any other non-dairy milk. I really wanted the coconut flavor this time.

The key is to use the full-fat coconut milk, not the reduced fat kind. You want the creaminess from the fat. The fresh slightly tart apricot flavor was so perfect with the creamy coconut flavor. If you wanted to take the time you could chop up some fresh apricot to add in just before you add the ice cream to the maker and you could also toast up some shredded coconut to top each serving with. I was far too hot and lazy to do either of these things. It was unnecessary either way, but would make for a nice presentation if you are making this for dinner guests.

It was so hot on the day that I was photographing this ice cream, that it was melting much faster than I could take the photos. I took the photos as quickly as I could, then promptly sat down and ate the bowl of ice cream. Guilt free.

Ironically as I typed up this recipe, it was one of the coolers days we’ve had in some time. It has been a lovely cloudy and rainy day, that I was quite happy to see. I am sure my veggies growing out back were likely just as happy as I was to see some rain fall.

Vegan Coconut Apricot Ice Cream

2 – 14 ounce cans organic full-fat coconut milk
1 pound fresh apricots, pitted and halved
1/2 cup honey or agave syrup (you could also use organic raw cane sugar)
1-2 tablespoons vodka*

Place the coconut milk, apricots and honey in a blender and puree for about 1 minute until fully blended.

Pour the mixture in a large bowl, stir in the vodka. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours until fully chilled. Once chilled, make according to your ice cream maker‘s instructions. I find that putting the ice cream in the freezer for at least an hour after to allow it to get a bit harder is best. Pull it out a few minutes before serving, scoop and enjoy!

* this keeps the ice cream from over-freezing and being completely hard, a little tip I learned from David Lebovitz – you can substitute any other un-flavored liquor, or have fun with flavored liquor like Grand Marnier or Armagnac, etc.

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Honeydew Almond Milk Smoothie

After our nearly 2-week long trip that we took mid-July to California for the Renegade Craft Fairs in San Francisco and Los Angeles, I am so happy to be home for a stretch and back into a more normal routine. It seems to take a week or two for things to settle down and feel calm again after a trip that big and with how crazy we were before we left. Besides being able to cook and bake in my own home, one of the most important things for me is to get right back into my daily routine of yoga. I try to get to 5 or 6, 90-minute classes a week. I tend to prefer the morning classes, since I can just come home after I practice and get right to my desk and work for the rest of the day. I don’t eat before I leave for yoga, I usually have a kombucha after I practice, so most times when I get home I am not looking for a large meal, just something light to hold me over until lunch. Many mornings I whip up a quick smoothie and head up for my office. So I can “eat” and work. This past week I was just making up smoothies as I went along, trying out new flavor combinations and just exploring. This honeydew almond smoothie is probably my favorite discovery of the week. It was simple, very light and had a unique and bright flavor. The honeydew that I cut up was so sweet on it’s own I didn’t even have to add any sweetener. If your honeydew leaves a bit to be desired in the sweetness department, feel free to add in a tablespoon of agave syrup or honey.

We don’t leave home again until August 24, when we had back to NYC for another event with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We are doing a poster for St. Vincent who is playing on the rooftop of the Met. I am so excited to be going back to the city again but I am trying not to count down the days to that trip so as not to rush our time at home, but it is hard. I am hoping to accomplish a ton in the time before we leave again. Beside all of the work we have on the schedule, I have a ton of cooking and baking I want to do, a few crafty projects and some work around the house. Here’s hoping I can be that productive.

Honeydew Almond Milk Smoothie
serves 2

2 cups honeydew, diced (this was half of a melon for me)
2 cups, organic unsweetened almond milk
1-2 cups of ice

Add all of the ingredients to the blender and process until smooth. Serve immediately.

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Chickpea, Tomato & Feta Salad

Now that we work from home, I love lunch time. My lunches at the store used to consist of leftovers or veggie burgers, even though I still eat and love both of those, a lot of days I can have more fun creating healthy lunches. Especially with my vegetable garden in full-force, I can just hop into the back yard, grab some lettuce and/or cucumbers, fresh herbs, etc and toss together a quick salad.

I saw a delicious recipe, a while back, for a Chickpea, Spinach & Feta Salad, on my friend Margaux’s blog that she keeps with her aunt, Sweet & Savory Kitchens. I couldn’t wait to play around with my own version. Such a simple, quick and healthy salad, why haven’t I been making this every single week?

I decided to use what I had on hand, so I cut up some red onion, a whole tomato, a roasted red pepper, some fresh oregano, etc and it was that easy. An incredible lunch salad in minutes. I served mine over some romaine lettuce, you could also add chopped up lettuce, spinach or other leafy vegetables like kale or arugula directly to the salad when mixing. Cucumbers would also be delicious. In Margaux and Aunt Suzy’s original recipe they included cooked broccoli which sounds like a tasty, crunchy addition. I think like most salads, the possibilities are endless with this one. This is definitely going to be a staple in my house at lunchtime and as a side at dinner. This would make a delicious dish to share at a picnic or party and with all of the beautiful colors, it’ll definitely impress everyone.

Chickpea, Tomato & Feta Salad
adapted from Sweet and Savory Kitchens

The Dressing

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
Salt and black pepper to taste

The Salad

1 large or two small cans of chickpeas (about 3 cups cooked)
1 large tomato, diced
1 large roasted pepper, diced
1/2 large (or 1 small) red onion, diced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, or more to taste

Add all of the dressing ingredients to a small bowl, whisk thoroughly to combine. Set aside.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas if using canned. Combine all of the salad ingredients in a bowl, except the feta cheese. Add the dressing and gently stir to thoroughly blend. Add the cheese and stir again to blend.

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Summer Squash Salad

Zucchini and yellow squash are two of my favorites and both automatically come to mind when I think of summertime eating! They remind me so much of growing up, my parent’s always had an abundance of both growing in our garden. The last few years when I have planted them in my own garden, they take up a HUGE amount of real estate and never really produce much. They must not like my soil. I skipped out on planting them this year. Thankfully, my parent’s still grow both in their garden and never have a problem sharing with me.

After our family dinner this past week, I came home with a bag full of beautiful yellow summer squash and I couldn’t wait to start cooking with them. They are wonderful sliced and browned up on the grill, sauteed or roasted and added in salads or pasta, etc. Not only as a kid when my dad would cook with them, but now as an adult in my own kitchen, I always find myself eating the raw squash slices as I am cutting them to cook, so I decided I wanted to experiment with a raw salad.

When I was dreaming up this salad, I was so excited about it combining so many beautiful summery ingredients and flavors, some of my favorite ingredients. The soft and flavorful squash pairs so nicely with the crisp and spicy radishes and the peppery arugula rounded it all out with a refreshing bite. The fresh mint was a nice compliment to the light and refreshing dressing, the brightness from the lemon sings in your mouth with every bite and the toasted walnuts were a bonus crunch at the end. I couldn’t help but feeling like this salad is everything that summer is about, on one plate.

The other great thing about this salad are the many wonderful variations you could take, by changing out the herbs and going with fresh basil, oregano or chives. You can play with different nuts and seeds like toasted pine nuts, almond slivers or even sunflower seeds. You could even top the salad with cheeses like feta, goat cheese, fresh parmigiano reggiano, pecorino or asiago. I personally opted for no cheese since we wanted a vegan side-salad to accompany our vegan creamy avocado pasta. There is so much you can do with this salad. Keep in mind when picking squash that smaller, younger squashes are better since the larger squash tend to have larger tougher seeds and sometimes a tough skin.

Summer Squash Salad Recipe
serves 4

1 pound summer squash (yellow or green, or a mixture of both)
5 to 8 radishes (depending on how large they are)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup whole walnuts
1 bunch of baby arugula, roughly chopped
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped

Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet, the oven or toaster oven and set aside and allow to cool, then roughly chop.

Slice the squash very thin slices using a mandoline or a steady hand and a sharp knife. Set aside in a large bowl. Do the same with the radishes. Add in the roughly chopped arugula.

Combine the oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk together. Pour the dressing over the squash, radishes and arugula, toss lightly. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. Add in the fresh mint and toasted walnuts, toss gently again to thoroughly combine.

Serve to individual salad plates or on 1 large serving platter, top with fresh mint and freshly ground black pepper. Enjoy immediately.

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