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Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Horchata

It has been a hot summer in Buffalo. One of the hottest that I personally can recall. We’ve been traveling a ton and trying to enjoy every last-minute of the heat and sun while we are in town. We don’t leave again for another month so we hope to get the bikes out a few times, head to the beach and maybe even squeeze in some hiking or camping or something. Now that we are working from home, we really want to take advantage of the summer months while we can and enjoy the beautiful weather, before the snow and cold set in.

One of my favorite things about the short-lived summertime in Buffalo, is playing around with refreshing drink recipes. Admittedly, I planted mint in my yard, just to make mojitos and this summer I even infused my own liquors after reading this article in Bon Appetit magazine. Now that I made my first two batches and they turned out great, I plan to write-up a post about them.  Don’t worry though, it isn’t just “adult beverages” I like to create, I love making fresh smoothies in the morning, iced teas, flavored sparkling waters and the like. Naturally, when I came across a post on David Lebovitz’s blog about making homemade horchata, I couldn’t wait to try it. There is nothing better than an ice-cold refreshing glass at an authentic mexican restaurant. OK, so maybe it is a close second to a good margarita, but it’s still incredible. It’s light, full of delicious flavors and it is perfect on ice on a hot summer day. There are few “authentic” Mexican restaurants here in Buffalo, (as far as I am concerned, none of them are authentic) and definitely no taquerias, so the chances of finding horchata here, are slim to none. I usually reserve my mexican indulgences for when we travel, rather than being let down, so when we aren’t traveling and I am craving Mexican, I tackle it myself at home. It isn’t nearly the same, but I still find it to be better than any of the Mexican restaurants here. I make my own tortillas, pico de gallo and guacamole, which is already a step above most places. We are actually having black bean tacos at home this week and I cannot wait.

When I saw how easy this horchata recipe was, I knew that this would be another Mexican treat worth trying at home. It is quite simple, you will spend more time waiting for the rice to soak then all of the prep time combined. You definitely want to make sure you strain in through cheese-cloth so you get all the rice bits, otherwise it will settle to the bottom of the pitcher in the fridge.

In addition to David’s recipe, I also checked out Rick Bayless’ recipe and many others. I came across many variations on the recipe, some include almonds, lime zest, etc. I decided to alter them all slightly and go with my own combination and I was very happy with the results. Oh and definitely try a glass with a shot of good rum stirred in, YUM!

Another fun twist you can take with the horchata is something that I have now learned is called a “Cochata”: Iced Coffee + Horchata. I made this apparently trendy drink in accidental desperation the morning after making the horchata. I wanted an iced coffee and realized after it was poured that we were out of any milk or cream, so I poured in a large glug of the horchata and was instantly in love. You have to try it.

On a side note, I apologize for the lack of posts and recipes on here, we just got home from nearly 2 weeks on the west coast. So I am hoping to get more recipes up here in the next few weeks as we are home for a month straight, finally. It has been a busy summer, full of travel and events, so I am excited to have some time at home.

Ground up rice and spices for horchata

Horchata
Makes 7 servings
Adapted from recipes from Rick Bayless and David Lebovitz

2/3 cup white rice
2 cinnamon sticks
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
3 2-inch strips of lime zest (colored rind only) 3/4 inch wide
3 cups of hot water
3/4 – 1 cup sugar
3 cups of cold water

Grind the rice in a blender or spice grinder into fine pieces. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add in the cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and lime zest. Stir in 3 cups of hot tap water, cover and let stand at least 6 hours or preferably, overnight.

Remove the cinnamon sticks and pour the mixture into a blender and blend for 3 to 4 minutes, until it no longer feels very gritty. Add 2 cups of water, and then blend for a few seconds more. Set a large sieve over a mixing bowl and line with 3 layers of dampened cheese cloth. Pour in the mixture a little at time, gently stirring to help the liquid pass through. Squeeze the cheese cloth firmly to extract as much of the rice flavor as possible.

Add 1 cup of water and stir in your desired amount of sugar, mix until the sugar is dissolved. Taste, and adjust sweetness, if necessary. If the consistency is too thick, add additional water. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Stir before pouring.  Serve over ice with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon on top.

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Red Quinoa Salad with Currants, Dill, Zucchini and Sunflower Seeds

I am always on the lookout for a good grain-based salad, bonus points if the grain is my favorite superfood, quinoa. This salad is super simple, very versatile and loaded with flavors. It’s so nutritionally packed it would make a perfect entrée on its own, or it’s beautiful as a side-dish. I served it on the side of our lentil burgers and we were very pleasantly full afterwards.

To be honest, it has been a while since I made a good quinoa salad, I kinda forgot how amazing and simple they are. A recent post on my friend Margaux and her Aunt Suzy’s blog about quinoa salads, inspired me to make one. I need to try their recipe next!

You could use regular quinoa or red, I just happened to have red on hand and it felt like a good time to use it. The fresh herbs were so perfect and the subtle hint of sweet from the currants was very pleasant and the tart, saltiness from the crumbled feta finished it all nicely. The lemon juice and zest brings a brightness that pairs nicely with everything else. This can be made vegan by simply skipping the feta when serving. You can serve it warm, room temperature or even cold. I plan to take the suggestion of 101 Cookbooks and make patties with the leftovers, I absolutely love quinoa patties. According to the adapted recipe on 101 cookbooks, they simply added a few eggs and some breadcrumbs to the leftovers and voila – quinoa patties!

The original recipe called for toasted sesame seeds, but I wanted something with a bit more bite, so I went with sunflower seeds, you could play around with all different kinds of nuts or seeds. Same goes for the currants, you could also try cranberries or raisins and as usual you could play around with your favorite herbs. I love how some dishes are so adaptable it’s almost like playing dress-up with all the ingredients. You could make it over and over and it would never be the same salad twice. Have fun.

Red Quinoa Salad with Currants, Dill, Zucchini and Sunflower Seeds
 Serves 6
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks, who adapted it from Maria Speck’s Ancient Grains for Modern Meals

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch green onions, chopped
3/4 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt
1 cup organic red quinoa, well rinsed and drained
2 cups water
1/4 cup dried currants
1 lemon
2 sm-med zucchini, grated on box grater
4 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds
4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

optional: feta cheese, crumbled – as much or as little as you like

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add most of the green onions, a pinch of the salt, and cook until the onions soften, just a couple of minutes. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring occasionally, until the grains dry out and toast a bit, roughly another 3 minutes. Add the water, the currants, the remaining salt; bring to a boil. Turn the heat to a medium-low and simmer, covered, until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is just cooked through 15 minutes or so. Be mindful here, you don’t want to overcook the quinoa, and have it go to mush.

While the quinoa is cooking zest the lemon, and squeeze 2 tablespoons of lemon juice into a small bowl.

When the quinoa is cooked, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the zucchini, lemon juice and zest, most of the sunflower seeds, the mint and most of the dill. Taste and adjust for salt.

Serve topped with crumbled feta, and the remaining green onions, sunflower seeds and dill.

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Gluten-Free Lentil Burgers

I absolutely love veggie burgers, but finding good ones that aren’t overly processed and loaded with chemicals, fillers, preservatives and other junk, is really hard on its own, but then add in the additional challenge of finding them gluten-free, it’s damn near impossible. Since I have cut processed foods out of my diet, whenever I want a veggie burger, I have been enjoying organic garden herb burgers from Sunshine Burgers that are not only gluten-free, but they only have 5 ingredients, sunflower seeds, brown rice, carrots, herbs and salt, that’s it. I am quite impressed with how delicious they are, but as with everything, I get bored and I want to figure out how to make my own, since, I really hate buying packaged foods.

I decided I wanted to experiment with making homemade lentil burgers. I had seen quite a few recipes in different cookbooks and online, and I was excited to see if using lentils as opposed to brown rice or other grain-based fillers, would hold up better and not fall apart. In my experience, that seems to be the biggest challenge with homemade veggie burgers. I was also excited to finally have a good reason to use the delicious toasted gluten-free breadcrumbs that I picked up when I was in Colorado earlier this year. The company that makes them is called, Outside the Breadbox and I found them by visiting Granny’s Gluten Free Zone in Loveland. I need to email them about having them shipped to me, they are THAT good. Finally I decided this is the recipe where I would use the beautiful dried Greek green lentils that I picked up a few weekends ago at the Greek Festival here in Buffalo. By the way, a little side note about me, most people buy souvenirs like t-shirts or key chains to remember certain events or trips, not me, I buy food, ingredients, cooking tools, etc. What better way to remember a place or a day then by remembering and recreating the food or cuisine. If a taste or a smell can’t take you back somewhere, I don’t know what can. I have actually been stopped at security in an airport before trying to take olive oil in my carry-on. (oops)

Now that I have played around with this recipe, I am excited to make it again and again, there are so many variations you could take on the recipe. You could play around with different lentils, change-up the fresh herbs, add in some crumbled feta or other cheeses. Maybe try adding in some sunflower seeds or gluten-free rolled oats or shredded vegetables like zucchini or carrots. I think as long as you adjust your moisture content and breadcrumb content to account for the different ingredients, the sky is the limit with this recipe. Obviously if you aren’t gluten-free you can use your favorite gluten-containing, toasted breadcrumbs.

I served mine on a Rudi’s gluten-free whole grain hamburger bun. This is definitely the best packaged gluten-free roll I have found, yet. I am sure I can make a better gluten-free hamburger roll at home, but I have yet to experiment with a recipe. That is on my to-do list for this summer. If you have a recipe to share, send me a link.

** Vegans – if you don’t want to mess with packaged egg replacers, do some looking around online, there are ways to use even more ground flax-seeds mixed with water to create a paste that acts as an egg replacer. I have done something similar with a pizza crust recipe, so I know it works. The general ratio is 1 tablespoon of ground flax-seed mixed with 3 tablespoons of water = 1 egg, but do some looking around for recipes and do some experimenting. It’s pretty incredible.

Enjoy.

Gluten-Free Lentil Burgers
Makes 8 burgers

3 1/4 cups cooked green lentils (follow package directions to cook)
4 large local farm fresh brown eggs (**to make vegan, use your favorite egg replacer or make a flax-seed egg substitute, see above)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 medium onion, grated with box grater or diced very small
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground flax-seed (you can skip this if you don’t have any on hand, it isn’t necessary to the recipe, just a nice way to add in some Omega-3 essential fatty acids and even more fiber)
1 cup toasted gluten-free bread crumbs
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Cook your dried lentils according to package directions and allow to cool slightly. Combine 3 cups of the cooked lentils, eggs and salt in a food processor or sturdy blender. Puree until well blended and mostly smooth. Put the mixture in a large mixing bowl and add remaining whole lentils, onion, garlic, fresh herbs and black pepper. Stir to combine. Add in the ground flax-seed and then begin adding in the breadcrumbs slowly, a little at a time and stir to combine. You may not need all the breadcrumbs and you may need more, so go slowly so you can get the consistency right.

You should have a moist mixture that you can easily form into patties. If you need more moisture, you can add more egg or a bit of water. If it needs to be drier you can add more breadcrumbs. Form eight – 3-1/2 to 4-inch patties and set on a plate.

Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add two patties at a time and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until the face down side begins to brown and get a crispy crust on the outside. Flip the burgers and allow to cook on the second side for another 8 to 10 minutes until browned and crisp, add more oil as you cook the additional burgers, if you need to. Remove the finished burgers from the skillet and serve, or if cooking the remaining patties allow the cooked patties to cool on a wire rack while you finish. You can store the uncooked patties in the refrigerator for up to a week, so pull them out whenever you are ready for a quick bite.

Place the cooked lentil burger on your favorite gluten-free roll and top with your favorite toppings. We kept it simple and just went with lettuce from our garden, tomato slices and a slice of organic swiss cheese. These burgers are so good, you could also just skip the roll and serve on their own, topped with your favorite things or served over a bed of baby greens.

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Cold Avocado Corn Soup with Cilantro Oil

 

I don’t always love cold soups, sometimes I find them to be weird or odd. I almost hate the word soup being used at all since once chilled, it is hardly anything close to a classic soup recipe. I had a puree similar to this a couple of years ago at a local restaurant that has since closed, Juniper, and it was super delicious, light and full of flavor. I am obsessed with avocados, so short of sticking a straw directly into an avocado, it really doesn’t get much better than this. I had wanted to recreate that soup for so long, but kept forgetting about it, but I ended up running across the recipe that I pulled to work from, while moving our studio home a few weeks back. I couldn’t wait to try it out.

I knew I would be on my own with this one though, Mark refuses to try cold soups, he thinks they are “stupid”, haha. So on a work day a week or so ago, I prepped the soup and oil during my lunch time break and allowed everything to cool the rest of the day, while I worked. It was such a nice treat on a hot day where I didn’t feel like cooking. I have also been getting to a ton of yoga classes every week, so this was perfect the following day after a hot and sweaty yoga class. This soup has all the flavorings of a great guacamole recipe in each spoonful. It’s refreshing but adequately filling. The cilantro oil drizzled on top is loaded with a beautiful, fresh, clean finishing flavor and I especially love the subtle heat from the poblano pepper. I went pretty light on the sour cream, as it really didn’t need much, but a small drizzle was nice, especially in contrast to the heat from the pepper. If you love avocado as much as I do, I know you will love this soup. I served it with a handful of organic corn tortilla chips on the side, which ended up being delicious dipped right into the soup. Obviously if you are vegan, simply skip the sour cream or crema at the end and you have a beautiful, tasty vegan dish.

Chilled Avocado & Corn Soup with Cilantro Oil
serves 4-6
adapted from Gourmet Magazine, May 2005

2 fresh or frozen ears of corn, shucked
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups chopped white onion
1 fresh poblano pepper, stemmed and coarsely chopped (including seeds)
3 firm-ripe California avocados
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup crema or sour cream

For cilantro oil
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Make soup:
Roast ears of corn on rack of gas burner over high heat, turning occasionally with tongs, until kernels are charred in spots, 4 to 5 minutes. (Alternatively, heat a dry well-seasoned cast-iron skillet and roast corn over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes.) Transfer the ears of corn to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, cut kernels from cobs with a sharp knife, then cut cobs into thirds.
Bring kernels, cob pieces, 4 cups water, garlic, salt, and 1/2 cup onion to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan and boil until liquid is reduced to about 3 cups, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool, uncovered. Discard cob pieces.
Purée corn mixture along with the poblano pepper and remaining 3/4 cup onion in a blender, then pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on and then discarding solids. Return broth to cleaned blender.
Quarter, pit, and peel 2 avocados, then add to blender with 2 tablespoons lime juice and purée until smooth. Transfer soup to a bowl and cover surface with plastic wrap. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill soup at least 1 hour.

Prepare cilantro oil while soup chills:
Purée cilantro, oil, and salt in cleaned blender, scraping down sides of blender several times. Pour oil into cleaned fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and let drain 15-20 minutes (do not press on solids). Discard solids.

Assemble soup:
Halve and pit remaining avocado and cut into 1-inch cubes, toss gently with remaining tablespoon lime juice in a bowl.
Whisk together crema or sour cream and remaining 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl until smooth.
Season soup with salt and ladle into 4-6 soup bowls. Divide avocado chunks among bowls, then drizzle with crema and cilantro oil.

Notes:
Soup can be chilled up to 1 day ahead.
Cilantro oil can be made 3 hours ahead and chilled, covered.

Grilled Corn for Cold Avocado Corn Soup with Cilantro Oil

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Gluten-free Whole Grain Pizza with Asparagus, Parmesan and Eggs

I’ve been using the same gluten-free pizza dough recipe for sometime now and though I do like it, I wanted to try something a little different and without the gums. I came across this recipe on Gluten Free Girl and The Chef a while back and when I saw that it contained no gums and it was flexible with the flours you can use, I was very intrigued. Shauna has a formula she created to make your own gluten-free all-purpose flour without gums and by weight instead of volume, plus it is very easy to make it a whole-grain mix by using different flours. Here is the original post about their pizza recipe that they changed a bit since their book came out. There are a few different flours you can choose from if you have sensitivities to things like corn or potato. I used their whole grain flour mixture that they featured in their post for whole grain muffins. I don’t have a ton of experience with baking, it is something I have only learned to love in the last year or so, but with the little bit I have done, I find that weighing your dry ingredients as opposed to measuring really gives you a consistent result, time and time again.

I decided a nice way to try out this new pizza dough recipe was to really let it shine, by not loading it with ingredients and sauces. I wanted a simple, tasty spring pizza that featured asparagus and eggs. The only thing I may change next time would be to use some mozzarella in addition to the parmesan to give it a bit more melty of a cheese base since the parmesan tends to not get super melty, however the dough was so delicious it honestly didn’t need it. Overall it was full of flavor from the asparagus and the fresh chives and the eggs were a wonderful compliment on top. The runny yolk was perfect for dipping the delicious crust into. You’ll be so surprised when you taste this crust at how it tastes just like real pizza crust – you’ll never know it’s gluten-free.

I know this post is large and contains a lot of info – but I promise it is all worth reading through. I am happy to finally have a good all-purpose flour mix to have on hand for different things and an even better pizza dough recipe. Play around with different toppings and flour combinations and please feel free share, I’d love to hear what you come up with.

GLUTEN-FREE GIRL’S ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR MIX

Here is the original information on the all-purpose flour mix (all content and info contained in both the flour mix and the pizza recipes is copyright of Gluten Free Girl and The Chef)

Want to make a whole grain AP mix in your kitchen? Here’s how.

We’re working with 70% whole grains/30% starches. We might someday go to all whole grains for some baked goods, but this blend works well for us now.

If you want to make a big batch for all the baking in your kitchen?

Choose 700 grams of any combination of the following flours:

Almond

Amaranth

Brown Rice

Buckwheat

Corn

Millet

Oat

Quinoa

Sorghum

Sweet Brown Rice

Teff

Almond is not a grain, but it is a whole flour, so I’ve thrown it in there. You might notice that I have not put in garbanzo (I don’t like it) or coconut (I don’t like the way it tastes or the way it sucks all the moisture out of a baked good) or soy (I’m having a hard time finding a good gluten-free one). You might like those. Substitute if you want.

This means that you can make your own blend. If you are allergic to corn, and you know you can’t eat the certified gluten-free oats, blend up 100 grams each of almond, brown rice, buckwheat, corn, millet, sorghum, and teff. (I want to write more about this later, but the flavor you find by blending all these different taste is fascinating. It’s amazing how boring regular AP flour seems after you use this.) Find your own favorite combination.

And then throw in 300 grams of any combination of the following:

Arrowroot

Cornstarch

Potato Starch

Tapioca Flour

White Rice Flour

We like using 150 grams each of arrowroot and potato starch, at the moment.

Combine the 700 grams of whole-grain flours with the 300 grams of starches in a big container. Shake it all up. You have whole-grain flour mix.

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For my AP mix I went with 175 grams each of Almond, Millet, Sorhum and Teff flours and 150 grams each of potato starch and tapioca flour. It was super simple to mix up and it made 1000 grams of all-purpose flour so I have enough to make pizza again.

The flours brought so much flavor to the crust and it was perfectly crispy on the outside and soft and chewy inside. This was by far the best crust I have ever made at home and it was simple. I’ve noticed that some gluten-free crusts get abnormally puffy and airy and don’t taste like usual pizza, others are so thin and crusty that it’s almost like eating a large cracker. I also really love

GLUTEN-FREE GIRL’S WHOLE GRAIN PIZZA CRUST

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed or ground chia seeds

500 grams whole-grain gluten-free flour mix

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

15 grams (4 teaspoons) active-dry yeast

50 grams (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil

85 to 190 grams (1/2 to 1 cup) warm water, about 110º

olive oil for brushing on top of the crust

Making the flaxseed or chia slurry. Mix the flaxseed (or chia seed) into a bowl. Pour 2 tablespoons of boiling-hot water over the seeds. Whisk immediately and quickly until you have a thick paste. Let this set aside and cool down.

Combining the dry ingredients. Put the gluten-free flours and the salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix them up together.

Activating the yeast. Put the yeast, olive oil, and half the warm water into a small bowl. Stir gently. Let them sit for a moment to activate the yeast.

Making the dough. Add the slurry to the dry ingredients and mix for a moment. Pour the yeasty water into the dry ingredients. With the mixer on medium, whirl for a few moments, until the dough comes together into a soft ball around the paddle of the stand mixer and feels soft and pliable. If the dough feels too dry, add more of the warm water in small amounts until the dough feels right. (You might not need all the water. You might need more. Yeast doughs can differ from kitchen to kitchen.) Set the dough aside in a warm place and let it rise for 1 hour.

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 450°. (If you feel comfortable with heat, take it up to 550°. Just watch the dough in the oven, carefully.) If you have a pizza stone, make sure it is in the oven. If not, sprinkle a pizza tray or baking sheet with gluten-free cornmeal.

Rolling out the dough. Grab 1/2 of the dough and put it between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Through the paper, roll out the dough to your desired thickness. (We like super-thin crust around here. You might like it thicker.)

Pre-baking the dough. Take the parchment paper off the dough, then transfer the dough to the pizza stone or prepared pizza tray. Brush the top with olive oil. Bake until the dough has started to crisp up and browned at the edges, about 8 to 10 minutes. (And less if you have the oven cranked up to 550°!)

Take the crust out of the oven. You now have a pre-baked pizza crust. Top with anything you fancy and continue baking until the cheese is bubbly and melty.

Makes 2 – 8-inch pizza crusts or 1 – 16-inch pizza crust. I went with 1 large round pizza. Don’t worry too much about the shape, enjoy the rustic wonkiness of handmade pizza dough.

SPRING PIZZA WITH ASPARAGUS, PARMESAN AND EGGS
Makes 1 large pizza or 2 small pizzas

Gluten-free Girl’s Whole Grain Pizza Dough Recipe (above)
Olive oil
Kosher flake salt
Black pepper
10 asparagus stalks
1 clove garlic, minced
1 – 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or mozzarella (or both)
1 bunch of fresh chives, chopped
2-4 local farm fresh brown eggs (I put 2 eggs on one large pizza, but you could certainly put 2 eggs each on 2 small pizzas)

Prepare dough according to above instructions (or whatever instructions come with your dough recipe). Preheat oven to 450ºF.

Rinse the asparagus, snap off the tough ends and cut in half or thirds depending on how long they are. You want to end up with 20-30 3-inch pieces. Take each 3-inch piece, cut in half on the long side, and then again to quarter. Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat , saute the asparagus slivers and the minced garlic with black pepper and a large pinch of kosher salt until tender and still bright green. Remove the asparagus from the heat and set aside.

Brush the pre-baked pizza crust (pre-bake according to above directions) with olive oil. Sprinkle the crust with the cheese, reserving a small amount for sprinkling on top. Arrange the asparagus in a single layer over the cheese. Crack two eggs into the center of the pizza, sprinkle fresh chopped chives over everything and top with another light sprinkle of cheese. (If you are making two small pizzas, divide all the ingredients in half over the two crusts and arrange in the same order)

Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the egg whites are cooked and the pizza is golden brown. Allow to cool slightly for a few minutes, then cut and serve while still warm.

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White Bean and Chive Patties

Since we’ve closed the store and now work from home, I really look forward to the time of day when I can take a break from working and prepare a healthy dinner for us. Many nights we finish dinner, do up the dishes, feed the pets and then return up to our offices to work for a few hours, which is something we never did before, but somehow it is all so much more relaxing and laid back. Working from home has allowed me to really play with my schedule, make it more flexible and find even more time for yoga, dog walks and other fun and physical activities. I think the pressure of having to be at the studio set hours because of the store really put an unnecessary amount of self-imposed stress on both of us. We were always very happy and content before and we definitely miss the store some days, but I really find myself loving my life and my job more now than ever before. I feel so lucky.

One of my other favorite things about the new schedule is being able to take on more involved dinners during the week, that require more prep time or even down time for things to cool or set, etc. Now during the “wait times” in recipes, I can just walk upstairs and get more work done. Both last night’s dinner, Spring Pizza with Asparagus and Eggs that featured a homemade gluten-free multi-grain pizza crust and tonight’s Spring Pea and Goat Cheese Tart, with a homemade tart dough, are perfect examples of that. (Don’t worry those recipes are coming soon.) This particular recipe isn’t nearly as involved or time-consuming, but having to pan fry the patties in batches can take time and patience and it is certainly something I wouldn’t have made after a long day of work at the store and getting home around 7pm.

These patties are simple, healthy and full of flavor. They have a wonderful crispy crunch on the outside and a nice soft inside. They are naturally gluten-free and vegan, too. The original recipe features them with sage instead of chives and amidst a delicious spring brunch menu topped with a roasted tomato sauce. I thought the sauce would take away from the lovely crisp, so I instead envisioned them atop a lovely mix of baby spring greens salad as a meal in and of itself. I made a quick lime cilantro vinaigrette and served it as dinner.

You could definitely play around with different herbs and even different veggie additions, the big thing to keep in mind is to make sure the patties aren’t too moist or dry to where they will fall apart in the pan and to make sure you have your pan is hot enough to get that initial “searing” to create a nice crust on the outside and to keep the patties together. Use a spatula to look at the face-down side before you flip to make sure it is adequately browned before you flip.

We tossed some baby spring greens with the vinaigrette, put the patties on top and drizzled those with a bit more dressing and topped everything with more fresh chives. A perfect spring-time dinner.

White Bean and Chive Patties

White Bean and Chive Patties
makes 12 patties
Adapted from Whole Living, June 2011

1 19-oz can organic white beans
1 shallot, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely grated
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, plus more for serving
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Drain beans, reserving 2 tablespoons liquid. Transfer to a bowl and mash. Stir in shallot, carrot, cornmeal, and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon reserved liquid. If mixture is too dry, add the other.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil. Form mixture into 12 patties (about 2 1/2 inches diameter each) and saute in batches until golden brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining oil and patties. Serve topped with a tasty dressing, yogurt sauce or atop a salad.

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Thai Chicken Soup

I absolutely love Thai food! The layers of flavors and the spices are so amazing and there are so many naturally gluten-free options. One of my favorite things are the different soups. The flavors are always so distinct in Thai soups from the curry pastes, lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, etc. I have wanted to try making a Thai coconut milk soup at home with all the fresh herbs and spices. With the lingering chilly weather, last week was the perfect time. The original recipe I found was a bit basic, so I added in mushrooms, fresh ginger, fresh lemongrass and jarred kaffir lime leaves (which I was very excited to finally find), I also went with a light coconut milk instead of the full fat version and I used more of it, I find it is still quite creamy and it has a bit less fat and calories. I also added a bit more broth, curry paste, fish sauce and noodles so I would have more leftovers for lunches and dinners on some of the busy nights we have this week. Don’t worry if you can’t find lemongrass or the kaffir lime leaves, the soup will still be really great even without them. The curry paste really has a lot of flavor. I just find that adding those extra fresh ingredients makes this soup more authentic. I know from eating a lot of Thai food that lemongrass can be a bit annoying to eat, since they are a bit tough to chew, so I decided to cut the stalk in large pieces so that I could easily pull them out just before serving.

Since we normally buy whole chickens from the farm we get all of our meat from, I just grabbed two organic chicken breasts from Wegmans, I honestly can’t tell you the last time I bought meat from the grocery store. Thankfully Wegmans has a great selection of organic and grass-fed meats, though it just isn’t the same as getting it from a local farm. You could also roast a whole chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken and shred some of the cooked chicken and add it in to the soup at the end. This soup could also easily be made vegetarian/vegan with vegetable broth and by skipping the chicken or you could make a seafood version and add shrimp or scallops.

Serve the soup with lime wedges and maybe even a little Sriracha if you want a bit more heat. Enjoy, this soup really is incredible.

Thai Chicken Soup
serves 6
loosely adapted from Food Network Magazine

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lb of sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped finely
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 tablespoons green curry paste (If you don’t like spicy, start with 2 and go from there. It seems some curry pastes are spicier than others)
8 cups low-sodium organic chicken broth
2 15-ounce cans organic lite coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce, plus more to taste
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
6 ounces thin rice noodles, broken into pieces
2 small skinless, boneless chicken breasts preferably local and hormone and antibiotic free (about 1 pound), very thinly sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon kaffir lime leaves (I used were jarred, you can also find them fresh or frozen, use about 3 or 4 leaves)
1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often until they begin to soften and get a bit brown, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and set aside. Add a bit more oil if you need it and add the onion to the pot over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and curry paste, cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, coconut milk and fish sauce; cover and bring to a boil.

Add the mushrooms, bell peppers and noodles and simmer, uncovered, until the noodles are al dente, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken and simmer until just cooked through, about 3-5 more minutes. Stir in the lime juice, kaffir lime leaves and cilantro. Remove the chunks of lemongrass just before serving. Add more fish sauce and lime juice, if desired.

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