Easy & Yummy Vegan Banana Bread!

 

Well I confess I’m not a baker! Funny thing about that is…I bake all of the time! I bake all of the bread our family eats, birthday and class treats, breakfast muffins, the occasional dessert and of course it’s the ever simple vehicle to use up over ripening fruit and all of the extra zucchini I have from our summer garden…quick bread. The kids love to grab a zucchini muffin or have a slice of banana bread for a snack after school, so true to my belief in the snack vs. treat, I am always working to make treat-like snacks as healthy as can be without making the kids noses scrunch when they take their first bite!

This version of banana bread came to me in the morning when making breakfast for the family before work/school. Jack, who only likes green bananas and Liv who only likes yellowish bananas with spots, but “not too mushy” both turned up their noses at the bananas I had to offer… So what to do when presented with overripe bananas, make banana bread right? Right!




Ripe bananas are so sweet on their own without sugar I have never really understood banana bread recipes that included ½-2/3 of a cup of sugar! With this bread I wanted low sugar, whole grain and high fiber …but moist! The problem with so many low sugar, low fat, high fiber quick bread recipes is they are dense and dry! Now I will say this bread is substantial, not the light and airy banana bread you would get from All Purpose Flour and ½ cup of white sugar. This is cakey, naturally sweet and satisfying. Today Liv asked if she could have two pieces instead of one, like she had yesterday. When I said”no”, she said” one just isn’t enough-it’s too yummy!” No scrunched noses! Whew success!

Banana Bread

1 cup flour 
1 cup oat flour (I just use a food processor to finely grind rolled oats, Jack likes to pulse them until groundJ)
1/2 cup oat bran
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup organic blue agave nectar
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax mixed with 6 tbsp water, let sit until thick
or for the non-vegan version you can use 3 egg whites)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3-4 bananas)
 
Step 1 is mash the bananas...one should always do this
while sitting on top of the kitchen counter in your socks!

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, set rack at middle. Grease and flour one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 3/4 - inch loaf pan. In a mixing bowl, combine both flours and oat bran, baking powder and soda, allspice and cinnamon and stir well to mix. In a separate bowl, whisk together the agave, flax egg or egg whites, applesauce, oil, vanilla and bananas. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and fold in.
 
 Be careful not to over mix!
Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until well risen and a skewer inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean. Cool on a rack 5 minutes, then unmold and finish cooling loaf on wire rack. Enjoy or Freeze!
 
 
 
 


Waste-Not-Want-Not-Tip

Keep your bran in the freezer to preserve freshness; all of the oil in the bran can cause it to go rancid pretty fast. Just use what you need and keep the rest frozen for later!



Now make yourself an afternoon cup of
oolong tea and enjoy your snack!




 
Add some whipped butter or
vegan Earth Balance if you want a little extra treat!
 
Whew....
 



Oh how I miss the long lazy days of summer! We are in full fall swing now which looks something like this… Liv is in 3rd grade and Jack in Kindergarten, now finally at the same school. That seems like something to celebrate right? Well yes and no… You see Jack starts school at 7:40 and Liv at 7:50 but there is NO, and I mean NO, parking at the school so we have to be there at 7:20 if we have any hope not to be towed from a fire lane. Liv and I walk Jack to class and wait the 20 minutes for Jack to go in, and then I walk Liv to class and kiss her around the corner, so nobody sees, then head back to my car by 7:55. Now kid free, I should have a ton of time right? Well… Jack gets out of school at 11:10, except for on early release Wednesdays when he is out at 10:25. Liv gets out at 2:07, except for on early release Wednesdays when she is out at 1:10. So yep, back and forth and back and forth I drive!

Yesterday I drove to the school at 7:20 did my usual routine of walking the kids to class AND it was my day to volunteer in Jacks class, but not until 8:20! This puts somewhat of a monkey wrench my typical efficient use of time, I mean what to do for 25 min at the SCHOOL? So, I hopped in my car and drove the 2 miles home ran into the house, literally, and started a load of laundry and a load of dishes, watered my little seedlings, fed and watered the chickens and made all of the beds. Then I hopped back into the car and drove back to the school where I ran a table group in Jack’s class that involved helping 23 kindergartners determine what pictures started with the letter F and then cut and pasted them on to a new sheet of paper. I love helping in the classroom! The kids, especially kindergartners, are soooo darn cute! I got out of there at 9:30, not bad except for it was Wednesday so I had to be back to pick up Jack at 10:25 which really means 10:05 if you want to park (legally). So again I was faced with what to do with a short amount of time??? Fortunate for me I keep my gym bag in the car and live only 1 mile away from the gym so off to the gym I went… I got six miles of running in before I was back at school to pick up Jack, ok I was sweaty and maybe not smelling the best but I fit in my work out!

Now I know some of you are thinking yah busy until 2:10 then what? Well HOMEWORK every day times two kids (God bless you who have more), Monday both kids have Faith Formation, Tuesday is soccer practice, Wednesday gymnastics, Thursday is soccer practice (again), Friday Rick plays softball and we all typically go as a family to watch, Saturday we have soccer games and then finally Sunday is our day of rest and prayer! So my every minute is spent trying to create efficiency in our family and how we function so we all can enjoy some balance in our lives! Balance between family time and responsibilities, stewardship and indulgence and work and rest. It is all very complicated behind the scenes, so naturally I crave simplicity!

I have mentioned before that I like to balance our meals between animal protein based and vegetable and grain protein based. We typically eat 1-2 vegetarian or vegan dishes per week for dinner and mostly all vegan or vegetarian lunches throughout the week. I have taught my kids that balance is important in all aspects of life, and too much of anything is almost never good. One thing that has been an important lesson for them is balance while you eat. I have taught them to turn their plates while they eat, literally. Eating 1-2 bites from each thing offered on their plate at a time to ensure that when they are full they have had at least some of everything. It is fun for them to remember not to eat all of one item first. But let’s face it sometimes that’s even too completed! So to make life simple we have the foods you can eat with your hands, and even better are the foods that can be eaten with only one hand! Now come on, even if you are a diehard carnivore you have to try this vegan dish! You won’t be sorry you did and I guarantee you will add it to your favorite menus for the nights you have limited time for dinner! The kids LOVE to build their own wraps! This dish offers simplicity and balance for you and your family with little effort involved! Enjoy!




Vegan Mexican Spiced Lettuce Wraps

(adapted from Peas and Thank You)
 
Serves 4 (with left over beans to be used for salad toppers- now that’s efficient!)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 tablespoon water
3 cups of cooked chickpeas (recipe below), or two 14 oz. cans, drained and rinsed
One head of bibb or red lettuce, leaves removed and washed
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup jicama, julienned
1 cup chopped tomatoes 

1/2 slice red onion
 1 cup bleu rosemary
avocado sauce or guacamole 
1 can sliced olives, drained
1 cup shredded cabbage
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Pickled jalapenos, as desired

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, cumin, salt, lime juice, oil and water. Add chickpeas and marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Place chickpeas on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil. Bake for 20-30 minutes, stirring once during cooking, until chickpeas are slightly crispy. Prepare lettuce leaves and rest of trimmings and place in small bowls for little hands to grab:)




Jack ate four wraps!


Liv ate a "deconstructed" wrap:)
 

Make your Own Chickpeas

2 cups dried chickpeas
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
4 cloves garlic, crushed and unpeeled
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tablespoon salt

Overnight soak 2 cups dried chickpeas in cold water, covering chickpeas by at least 6 inches. Drain chickpeas and place in stockpot. Cover chickpeas with cold water by two inches. Add onion, garlic, thyme and bay. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat add salt and simmer for 1 ½-2 hours or until tender. Drain chickpeas and discard onion, garlic, thyme and bay. Spread chickpeas out on a sheet pan to cool. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to five days.


May you have balance and simplicity this week!

Nicole

Farm to Table – Families Coming Together

 

Nothing defines the farm to table movement more than growing your own food for your family. Not everyone has the time, space, knowledge or desire for that matter, to grow their own food. For me I have some time, a little knowledge, a huge desire and nowhere near enough space! As I have shared before, I grew up on a farm where we did as much as we could to self sustain, within reason. Both of my parents worked full time but with space, a little knowledge and a desire we all pitched in and grew and raised everything from herbs, edible flowers and vegetables to dairy goats, rabbits, laying hens, ducks, geese, pigs and beef cows. My Mom always called it”our little menagerie.” As an adult I now have my own little menagerie in our family’s suburban oasis!
 
 
 
Of course we have the vegetable, herb and tea gardens, worms for composting to making amazingly rich soil and…our ladies, the hens round out our rural-suburbia. Clearly we do not have enough room for the dairy and meat component of a self-sustaining homestead! This is where a real passion and commitment to knowing what you are eating and feeding the ones you love comes in. Fortunate for me I have friends and family with {space}… My childhood best friend and business partner, Megan, has some property in the Shenandoah Valley where she, her husband and her daughters all have animals they raise for meat, milk and eggs. Lucky for us she has a surplus of fresh goat’s milk she happily shares with our family! Although Megan has a lot more space than I do, her daughters are all in 4-H so her small little farm is bursting at the seams…

This spring Megan and I bought two grass-fed lambs with the intention of raising them ourselves until late summer and butchering them to provide a good amount of delicious hormone and antibiotic free meat for our families this fall and winter. The only trouble with this was that neither one of us had the space to keep two lambs. With the desire to raise our own meat and no place to do it, my wonderful parents offered to allow us to raise our little lambs at their small farm just outside of Sacramento. Another example of families coming together to help perpetuate the farm to table and slow food movements! It was a wonderful adventure that I am glad my kids were part of! We plan to celebrate by sharing a lamb and harvest feast with our families and close friends in the fall. There is something very satisfying about growing and raising your own food, and I look forward to the day where I can expand my homesteading operation! Until then I feel blessed to have friends and family who also believe in the satisfaction and importance of producing your own food.

Now if you are a meat eater and have never had a lamb burger you are truly missing out! I challenge you to branch out and try this recipe. Rich roasted red pepper aioli, creamy goat cheese and earthy sautéed kale top these delicious lamb burgers; I promise you won’t be disappointed! When shopping for ground lamb try to find organic grass-fed lamb, as it’s typically earthy with a slight sweetness and not gamey tasting. If you aren’t sold that you are going to like the taste of a lamb burger ease into it by mixing the lamb 1:1 with lean ground beef, or even ground turkey.
 
 


 Roasted Red Pepper Aioli 

 2 cloves garlic
½ cup roasted red peppers (1 red pepper)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Roast the Pepper

Rub red pepper with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place pepper on the grill or roast in a 450 degree oven until charred and completely wrinkled. Remove pepper and place immediately in a plastic container with a tightly fitted lid. Keep covered until cool enough to handle. Peel outer skin, cut in half and remove stem and seeds.

Finely chop the garlic in the food processer.
Add the pepper and blend until almost smooth, then add the mayonnaise. With the food processer running, slowly blend in the oil to emulsify. Season the aioli, to taste, with salt and pepper. Transfer the aioli to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate. The aioli can be made up to 2 days ahead.

Sautéed Kale

1 bunch dinosaur (dino) kale a.k.a Tuscan kale, thoroughly washed
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Chop kale into bite-size pieces removing the woody stems. Heat oil in large sautéed pan on medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and sauté until fragrant about 2 minutes. Add kale stir to coat with the oil and sprinkle with some salt. Sauté kale on med heat until wilted and tender. Stir in red wine vinegar and red pepper flakes, then salt and pepper to taste.

Lamb Burgers (makes 4, ¼ pound burgers)

4 fresh buns
(Kaiser rolls are a great choice great, but I choose to use multigrain sandwich thin to lighten it up)
Fresh goat cheese
1 pound ground organic grass-fed lamb
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh herbs (I use: mint, chives, thyme, parsley and oregano)
½ teaspoon Ground Coriander
¼ teaspoon Cinnamon
¼ teaspoon Allspice
1 teaspoon Onion powder
½ teaspoon Cumin
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Divide the meat evenly into 4 patties. Sprinkle lightly with salt and fresh ground pepper. Grill until desired doneness.

Assembly:

Grill your buns and spread on some of the creamy roasted red pepper aioli. Place burger on the bun and top with sautéed kale and crumble some soft fresh goat cheese on the top. Enjoy with a marinated vegetable salad or a simple fresh from the garden tomato and cucumber salad! 
 
 

Waste Not Want Not Tip:

Don’t throw out those kale stems or the stems from your herbs! Instead start putting them in a freezer bag along with your mushroom stems. Then once a month commit to making your own vegetable stock! Freeze your cooled stock in freezer bags in 1 and 2 quart batches. Then the next time you make risotto, polenta or even rice you have a flavorful stock without any preservatives! Enjoy!
 

Farmers Market Finds


The Farmers Market is typically part of our Sunday ritual in the Craine house; we eat a fun breakfast, go to church, stop at our favorite new local coffee shop, The Hub, and the stroll through the farmers market. We have our favorite booths we visit every Sunday with farmers who welcome us back again and again to share their beloved harvest. We can’t go without the fragrant and flavorful salad from Somerset, made with a tasty mix of lettuces, greens, herbs, shoots and editable flowers; or the sweetest most mouthwatering wildflower honey you have ever tasted! We, of course, sample and select a variety of the most succulent stone fruits and melons, because we grow our own tomatoes and berries right in our backyard. After we gather up all of our favorite farmers market treasures we pick a few others to go with dinners for the week. I typically let the kids pick whatever they want and come up with a recipe for their find later.

Oh, and I forgot the most FUN part of it all…we let the kids handle all of the money transactions… We figure it is a good learning experience for them to be able to handle the farmers market finances. Each child is responsible for “their” fifteen dollars. Which usually works out just fine, with the exception of the occasional bickering about who has more money left, etc… So last week as we were winding down our farmers market trip, Liv had the only money left, nine dollars to be exact. She wanted beets and heirloom carrots from one of our favorite stands. When the farmer told her it was going to be “three dollars for the beets and two dollars for the carrots” she stopped and stared at him… Now I know she can handle simple addition, so what was the hold up? She, still looking confused, handed the farmer her four one dollar bills and tightly clutched the remaining five dollar bill in her other hand. I said “Liv, the total is five dollars not four.”She said, “I know I just don’t want to give up the five dollar bill, I don’t like ones!” The farmer laughed and told her to keep it! Not the lesson I was going for, but we all had a great laugh! Liv came home and put the remaining five dollar bill in our farmers market bank to be used next Sunday.

Now for dinner plans…fresh red beets and heirloom carrots in 100 degree weather, hmmmm. On Sundays we always roast a chicken, and in the summer we always grill outside for every cooked meal! After giving it some thought I decided on a grilled beet and heirloom carrot salad with lemon vinaigrette, fresh herbs and goat cheese. It was such a hit… guess what one of Jack’s farmers market veggie picks was this week? You guessed it beets and heirloom carrots! This may be a new part of our Sunday dinner tradition from now on! I’m not sure if it was how tasty the salad actually was, or the designs they made that made it such a hit. Make the salad with roasted chicken and let me know what you think!


The Salad:

1 bunch fresh red beets, washed, peeled and sliced into ¼” rounds

1 bunch baby heirloom carrots, scrubbed, halved lengthwise and then halved again
(peel them if you want…I don’t)

Toss beet rounds and carrot segments in olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill in grill basket until tender but still firm about 8 min on each side.


The Vinaigrette:

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

¼ cup chopped fresh herbs, reserve 1 tbsp to sprinkle on the top (I used chives, tarragon, parsley and basil)

2 cloves garlic, grated

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

2 tsp honey

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Wisk together lemon juice, 3 tbsp herbs, garlic, lemon zest, honey, salt, and pepper, then gradually wisk oil in a slow steady stream. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper.


Assembly:

1-2 oz crumbled goat cheese

3-4 cups of your favorite mixed greens

Toss mixed greens, grilled beets and carrots with lemon vinaigrette and reserved herbs and top with crumbled goat cheese! Then make a face on your plate and enjoy your dinner with a well balanced with white Barbara!


Waste Not Want Not Tip:

Never throw away the beet greens! Wash them thoroughly and add them to your favorite salad raw, or sauté them with some garlic, shallot and olive oil! They are so tasty and full of protein, folate, pantothenic acid, phosphorus and zinc!








Oh wow a month has gone past since my last blog post! How time flies! We’ve been busy, as most everyone else, welcoming summer with open arms! We are loving the longer days, amazing Nor Cal weather, night breezes and dining al fresco. I have been feverishly planning our summer away trying to be sure we can pack in as much fun as possible. When I was a kid summer was the BEST! I never went to summer school or really even spent a minute inside. I was busy playing with my childhood best friend Megan and our animals (goats, sheep, chickens, horses you name it we had it) and planning our next great adventure while enjoying long summer horseback rides. When I was a kid, insert snide old person remark here, summer was long and filled with empty time waiting to be filled with whatever exciting project we would take on next, for example mud skiing behind a 4 wheeler wearing a swim suit, rubber boots and protective eye goggles. Our parents were never thrilled with the giant mud mess we made in the back pasture (!) but at least we thought about safety…well at least for our eyes.

Now… summer is gone in a blink of an eye! I stopped working two years ago in July. I had big plans…we were going to camp, and fish, and vacation at the beach more than ever before…I mean now we had the TIME. Over the last two summers we camped once and had one beach vacation. How did Megan and I have TIME to go on ALL of our adventures during the summer when we were kids, and now I can’t even manage to provide my kids with more than one camping trip in a summer?? I’m still learning how to fit it all in. But this year I’m ready, like the kind of ready crazy people are when they are fixated on something or someone. I’m ready to pack in the summer fun! I want my kids to LOVE summer the way I always did. I’m so ready this may possibly be the summer my children look back on as the summer their Mom went CRAZY and they were always exhausted! I don’t want to waste a minute of glorious summer freedom. No homework, No faith formation, No soccer, No volunteering and No teaching art! FREEDOM. I like to think of it as a cleansing of the mind, body and soul. TIME for everyone to recharge their batteries by soaking in the sun, smells of BBQ and funny stories read from a book, just for fun, under a shady tree.

So planning is key! You can’t just GO camping… So I’ve planned two camping trips, two beach trips, a few day hiking trips, summer BBQs, swim lessons, a girls trip to Vegas (Mamma needs to have to have fun too!!), picnics and summer play dates. Ready, Set, Go! Doesn’t sound cleansing you say? To me there is something cleansing or refreshing at least about only having organic responsibilities to take care of while planning for weekly fun! I have been so ready for the lightness summer offers that it has transcended TIME, and has been a lovely guiding principal for the past few weeks. Clothes are light and airy, beverages cool and refreshing and food cleansing….

Now I will admit my hubby doesn’t exactly LOVE the idea of vegetarian or vegan fare, he is a meat eater first and foremost, however he has come a long way from the guy who would order a burger “hold any produce” to the guy who devoured this vegan lemon pasta with shaved raw asparagus and cashew cream, ask for seconds and question what was happening with the leftovers… Even if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan you will flip over this dairy-free cream sauce, a staple I used in my raw vegan days. Raw asparagus paired with the acidy of the lemon pasta is a perfect marriage. Keep it light as is, or add some delicious grilled vegan bread! If you don’t have the time or the desire to make the pasta just buy some prepackaged vegan pasta Enjoy…


Pasta

1 2/3 cup all purpose flour (or 50:50 whole wheat/ AP)

Approximately 2/3 cup of water

1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp oil

2 tbsp lemon juice

3 tbsp lemon zest, finely chopped

To Make the Dough:


In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt, then add the water and oil. -Stir the mixture with a fork until it starts to form a ball. Then you can use your hands to combine the dough. If it's too dry, add more water (very little at a time) or if it's too wet, add a touch more flour.

Turn the dough ball out onto a well-floured cutting board. Flour your hands as well. You'll need to knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until it becomes smooth and pliable. If the dough or board is too wet, dust with flour. You should be able to work with the ball without having it stick to anything. You may have to add flour periodically through the kneading process. To knead, push the dough away from you with the heel of your hand. Then fold it over on itself, turn it and repeat.


To Make the Pasta:

After kneading let the dough rest, covered in plastic wrap for about 10 minutes. After the dough has rested, divide it into eighths. I roll mine into a long log, and then cut into 8 sections. Work with one piece at a time, leaving the others covered with a damp tea towel so they don’t dry out. Using a pasta maker roll each section through on the widest setting 8-10 times until the dough is silky. Cover and rest 30-60 minutes.

Crank each of the sections through the pasta machine decreasing the roller setting by 1 each time you pass the sheet though until desired thickness is obtained (mine was between 2 and 4 mm thick).

S
prinkle a wooden board or counter lined with wax paper with flour. Place pasta sheets on flour and allow to rest 10 minutes (dry to the touch but still pliant).

Now you are ready to cut noodles. I made hand cut tagliatelle noodles because I like the rustic look of hand cut pasta, but fettuccini made with the fettuccini plate on the pasta machine would be great too!

Cook pasta in well salted boiling water for 2-3 min until al dente.





Cashew Cream


(makes 2 ½-3 ½ cups depending on desired consistency)

2 cups whole raw cashews rinsed very well under cold water, do not use roasted cashews

1 clove garlic, grated

Fresh squeezed lemon juice, to taste

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 


To Make the Cream:

Cover cashews with cold water, cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight

Drain the cashews and rinse under cold water. Place them in a blender with enough fresh cold water to cover them by about 1 inch.

Add 1 clove of grated garlic to the blender. Blend on high for several minutes until very smooth. (If you do not have a professional high-speed blender, which creates an ultra-smooth cream, you may want to strain the cashew cream through a fine-mesh sieve.)

Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

You can adjust the consistency of this cream by the amount of water used, adjust it to your preference.



Assembly:

1 lb fresh asparagus, rinsed and woody ends removed
Ice water

Remove the asparagus tips and reserve. With a vegetable peeler shave each asparagus stock from top to bottom, making beautiful little asparagus ribbons. Immediately place the asparagus ribbons in an ice bath. Blanch asparagus tips in salted boiling water for 1 min, remove and place in ice bath. Drain asparagus and pat dry. Combine cooked pasta and cashew cream in a large bowl. Top pasta with shaved asparagus and asparagus tips. Enjoy!


Waste Not Want Not Tip:

Never juice a fresh lemon without zesting it first! You can save the zest in the refrigerator in a covered container for up to a week. You can also add zest to a jar of sugar to create lemon sugar.

Eggs! We love them and eat them all the time; breakfast, lunch or dinner – eggs always offer a wonderfully light nutritious protein option. For me, for now, I buy eggs that are from cage-free chickens fed organic, vegetarian food. I also rely on the kindness of friends who have chickens, and getting fresh eggs from a backyard chicken is my preference! My families love for the egg coupled with more recent headlines related to the unnatural way animals raised for consumption are being massed produced, led me to dig further down to my roots…I bought our family 5 beautiful little chicks, hens in the long run we hope!
So…did I mention I live in a suburban neighborhood in a small house with a backyard we affectionately coined the courtyard?  We moved into this house 7 ½ years ago just 10 days after my daughter Liv was born. The plan was to live in this house for 2 years then move back to the country…and so now nearly 8 years later we laugh and somehow make it all work. The biggest issue for me is I am a true country girl, so the lack of outdoor space makes me, well claustrophobic! I do what I can to maximize the art of suburban homesteading…I weave edible plants throughout all of my landscape front, back and side yards. I, of course, live by the genius concepts of “gardening by the foot” in my raise beds and I have worm composting bins in my garage right alongside the new baby chicks!

You see, I was raised in the country on a farm. We raised animals both for companionship and sustenance. Yes I named, groomed, exercised and loved the very animals we eventually turned into food. But this process gave me tremendous respect for life, food and the process of getting from A to B. There is something very special about knowing where your food comes from and the kind of life it lived. The best I could do for now is share what little space I have in my yard with some lovely egg producing hens; Maude, Maven, Molly, Mary and Morgan! This has also satisfied my kid’s recent request for a puppy, double win! While more animals will have to wait for more space (maybeJ), we can do a lot with fresh eggs.
Frittatas are so wonderful because they fit the bill for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or a snack; you can make them super low fat and low calorie too! I like to make-over the traditional frittata with a lighter, healthier version. Thanks to my all-time favorite fitness-forward eating mogul Tosca Reno, clean eating is the term and concept I live by!!! She is amazing, if you haven’t done so already check out her website www.toscareno.com.When I know there is no real feasible way dinner can be made from scratch, frittatas are a simple, fun, go-to idea! I mean who doesn’t like breakfast for dinner? It takes no time to put together and 20-30 min to bake in the oven, the same time most of us take to check our email or help with homework. Sometimes I have it all ready and covered in the fridge with instructions for my hubby to throw it in the oven when he gets home if I will be a bit later with the kids. It’s great sliced up the next day in a lunch box too, for adults or kids for that matter. I use more egg whites to egg yolks and non dairy or non fat dairy milk for the base of this frittata and load it with yummy veggies and only a sprinkling of cheese to really lighten it up. Now it’s not as rich as the traditional frittata using all whole eggs and lots of cheese, but it is just as tasty and satisfying with no guilt! This one features asparagus, artichoke hearts and goat cheese, but get creative with any “mix-ins” you’d like!

Baked Asparagus, Artichoke and Goat Cheese Frittata

4 whole eggs 
6 egg whites
¼ cup non fat milk (I use goat milk, but you can use whatever you like dairy, non dairy etc…)
12 oz of asparagus, the woody ends removed
12oz of artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
½ tbsp of lemon zest
4 oz goat cheese
1 tbsp fresh chopped herbs (basil, tarragon and thyme are my favorites for this)
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive or vegetable oil as needed

What To Do:

Preheat oven to 375 and mist or lightly grease a 10” pie pan with olive oil. In salted boiling water blanch asparagus for 1 min (do not go any longer or they will be mushy) immediately remove asparagus stocks and place in ice bath for 2 min. Cut asparagus stocks into 1 ½ inch pieces, set aside. Mix eggs and egg whites together add milk, herbs, lemon zest, artichoke hearts, salt and pepper. Pour mixture into prepared pie pan, arrange asparagus pieces throughout the dish in a single layer, and crumble goat cheese over the top. Place dish in the oven and bake for 20-30 min until eggs are completely set. Remove from the oven and let cool 10 min before slicing and serving. Enjoy!

Waste Not Want Not Tip:

Don’t throw out your egg yolks! You can freeze egg yolks to use in future recipes that call for only yolks. Make sure you stabilize the yolks prior to freezing; if they are not stabilized they will be thick and hard to mix. To stabilize egg yolks separate into two categories, sweet and savory; for savory mix 1 tsp salt per pint of egg yolks, and for sweet mix 1 tbsp of sugar or honey per pint of yolks. Freeze in ice cube trays for easy access.

Nothing warms my heart more than when I hear my children talking with their friends and explaining something (anything) I have taught them about life, faith, science, nutrition etc… It means they ARE actually listening! So it was pleasing to me when I heard my daughter explain to her friend the difference between a treat and a snack. When my daughters friend said she was hungry and suggested they eat some chips, my daughter responded “chips aren’t a snack they are a treat, let’s have an apple.” So they both ate an apple, laughing the whole time because they both only have half their front teeth, then they shared a small lunch-size bag of Doritos.  Now sure, I would love to say my kids don’t eat things like Doritos, but this is reality and they ARE going to eventually… So I am glad it was in my estimation only about 6 chips per girl and of course the apple first!
This concept of treats vs. snacks is something I work hard to keep consistent in our lives, so that my children understand that when they are hungry they need to nourish and feed  their body  with a healthful snack , preferably one that came from the earth and still looks like it did when it was in nature. I also recognize the need to satisfy a craving for something sweet or salty, so we call those treats and we typically don’t eat them when we are hungry, but rather when they sound good and in moderation. This is an important lesson for children, especially with all of the prepackaged “food” labeled as snacks, but really containing little to no sustenance, only empty calories which ultimately leave kids hungrier in the end.  I am not a fan of taking a healthy a snack like an apple, and then covering it in caramel or chocolate just so kids will eat it. If you are going to turn fruit into a dessert, which we do all the time, then call it what it is so kids learn to differentiate between treats and snacks.

Now sometimes I like to turn something with good solid nutritional value into a treat, especially on Sunday mornings! This last Sunday I made our family favorite Sunday morning breakfast treat; Caramelized Banana and Dark Chocolate Chunk Pancakes. Doesn’t sound nutritious you say? The base of these pancakes has no butter, dairy or sugar and boast nearly 20 grams of fiber! I use a 50:50 ratio of whole wheat to white flour to keep the pancakes from being too dense, and I eliminate the need to use butter or oil by adding ground flax seed. I use almond or soy milk to replace the dairy and raw agave nectar to eliminate the need for sugar.  Caramelizing the bananas really adds depth to the flavor of these luscious pancakes! And as if you need to explain why dark chocolate chunks make these pancakes just that much better, well the bitter sweetness of the dark chocolate adds an earthy balance to the sweet caramely bananas which altogether transform this healthful breakfast into a dreamy Sunday treat! Pair the pancakes with a 75:25 egg white to egg yolk scramble, some turkey bacon and fresh fruit and you have a healthy breakfast topped with a delicious treat! Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Caramelized Banana and Dark Chocolate Chunk Pancakes   

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
3 tbsp ground flax seed
1 ½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs
2 cups almond, soy or non-fat goat or cow milk
3 tbsp raw agave nectar (or ¼ cup raw unfiltered honey)
½ tbsp neutral oil (I use vegetable)
2-3 ripe but not mushy bananas, peeled and cut into rounds
½ cup dark chocolate chunks or chips (75% or higher, I use Valrhona but I’m a self professed chocolate snob)
What to Do:
Heat oil in large sauté pan, add bananas in a single layer and cook on medium-high heat until they begin to caramelize, about 5 min on each side. Remove bananas from pan and set aside.  Mix all dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Mix eggs, milk and agave nectar or honey together in another mixing bowl. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and mix with a wood spoon just until the dry ingredients are all incorporated. It is important to not over mix this batter or your pancakes will be tough and dense. Gently fold in the bananas and the dark chocolate.  On a non stick griddle or in a nonstick pan lightly sprayed with oil, I use vegetable oil sprayed from Misto, spoon batter in about ¼ cup scoops. Cook for a few minutes on each side until golden brown. Serve warm with butter and honey, or syrup or nothing at all because they are that good!! Enjoy!

I have water in my kitchen (finally)! It is nice to be back at my range doing what I love to do, cook! I, like all chefs, am obsessed with food and I am constantly thinking about blending flavors and coming up with new dishes. I am equally as obsessed with nutrition and making sure I teach my kids, and my husband for that matter, how to eat well and eat right, which technically isn’t always the same. Most of the food I cook for my family and my clients is low-fat and low-calorie but high in nutrition and full of flavor.  I love to cook with tons of fresh herbs and I am always looking for ways to add more fiber and protein to meals without making them too heavy and meat centered.
In my quest to figure out the best way of eating for me, I have been a raw vegan, a vegan, a vegetarian, a pascatarian and a full on meat eater! These days I find the best way of eating for me and my family is based on balance. My dishes aren’t centered around meat, but rater seasonal produce and other fiber rich complex carbohydrates.  We typically have a different protein source each night for dinner and always eat at least one vegetarian dish per week. I find by making fiber rich complex carbohydrates and seasonal produce the star of the show you can nicely balance the flavor profile with whatever protein source you choose to add.  

One of my favorite protein and fiber packed complex carbohydrates to use is lentils.  Lentils, a small member of the legume family, are so underused in everyday cooking in the United States! They are extremely inexpensive ($1.77/pound at Whole Foods) and full of nutritionally beneficial, properties, not to mention they add a wonderfully nutty and earthy flavor to a variety of dishes. They provide cholesterol-lowering fiber which also is beneficial to those who have to manage blood-sugar disorders.  Their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal, which both helps those with weight-loss goals as well as those with blood-sugar disorders. Lentils are also packed with vitamins, minerals and protein and still only weigh in at 230 calories per cup!
One of my other favorite go-to protein packed meal stars is shrimp. Nutritionally shrimp are very low-fat and low-calorie, but high in protein.  4 oz of shrimp weigh in at only 112 calories but boast just over 23 grams of protein. Shrimp also provide an excellent source of selenium and vitamin B12. I have heard from so many people that they just can’t cook shrimp without over cooking them. Try this method of roasting the shrimp with lemon and thyme. By oven roasting the shrimp you are keeping them at a perfectly even cooking temperature which will help to avoid over cooking.  Also, by roasting them with flavorful lemons, garlic and herbs and serving them over rich earthy lentils you have no need for the typical butter and pasta which is commonly used to turn the naturally low-fat, low-calorie shrimp into a calorie laden carb-overloaded meal! Enjoy!

Shrimp Roasted with Lemon and Thyme

1/3 cup olive oil
1 lemon, zested then cut into thin wedges
3-4 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves removed
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1 pound medium-sized shrimp, shelled and deveined
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp honey
1-2 heads Belgian endive, core removed and thinly sliced root to top (lengthwise like matchsticks)
3-4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced root to top (lengthwise like matchsticks)
What to To:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In an 8x8 baking dish combine olive oil, lemon zest and thyme. Add shrimp, toss in the oil mixture and season liberally with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 8-12 minutes, you want to watch them closely, check every few minutes (they are done when they are curled up and pink with some caramelization.) Add the honey to the liquid that has accumulated in the bottom of the baking dish, toss to dissolve. Tent until ready to assemble.

Red Wine Braised Lentils

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper, or to taste
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups dry red wine, I use 2 Buck Chuck
1 cup French green lentils
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
What To Do:
In a medium sized sauce pan or Dutch oven over med-high heat add the oil  and let it warm, then add the onion and cook until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and crushed red pepper and cook while stirring, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add water and wine, increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Add lentils and salt, reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, partially covered, for 40 minutes. Taste lentils and adjust seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. 

To Assemble

Transfer cooked lentils into large wide family style serving bowl.  Arrange shrimp and lemon wedges on top, poor all shrimp liquid over the dish and top with thinly slice Belgian endive and scallions. Enjoy!


Waste Not Want Not Tip:

Tip #1)
Kitchen garden experiment via Pinterest! I love this, haven’t bought scallions in a few weeks! Just place the white root end of the scallion in a clean glass jar and fill with enough water to cover the roots and place it in the sun; mines in my kitchen window. In only days you will see the green portion of the scallion regenerating! Change the water often to avoid a funky onion smellJ
Tip #2)
When you are picking the leaves off your fresh herbs, like parsley and thyme, save the stems until the end of the week then throw them into a pot with some mirepoix and whatever other scraps you have saved and make veggie stock! I save all of the stems of my mushrooms in a baggie in the freezer, and any onion or carrot scraps I get from making even knife cuts. You can use the veggie stock right away, leave it in the fridge in a sealed container for up to five days, or freeze it to use anytime in the next six months.

Classic Vegetable Stock

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, medium dice
2 stalks celery, including the leaves!
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
8 sprigs fresh parsley
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
2 quarts water
What to Do:
On medium-high heat, heat the oil in a stock pot and add onion, celery, carrots, parsley, thyme, and bay leaves. Cook over high heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add water and bring to simmer.  Simmer uncovered, for 30 minutes. Strain and discard vegetables.
Other ingredients and scraps to consider: mushrooms, eggplant, asparagus trimmings, corn cobs, fennel stalks and trimmings, bell peppers, pea pods, chard stems and leaves, celery root trimmings, marjoram stems and leaves, potato trimmings, garlic… the list is endless!!!



Oh the mess! I am in the middle of a kitchen remodel, so my ability to cook at my own house has been seriously limited! I should say that I am not complaining at all, only happily anticipating the final outcome.

Naturally when you are left with little to no resources in any given situation you begin to reflect on what is important. So for me in this case, it was food and meals and what I just can’t live without. I have had to keep my grocery shopping down to the bare minimum and cooking is really not an option, oh and did I mention I am without water in the kitchen (!)…so cold, easy to prepare and/or grab and go type items are what we are all sustaining on. Upon my initial reflection, when making my first pre-remodel demo grocery list, I realized Greek yogurt was at the top of my MUST haves. This was really the first time I thought about how often and how many ways I use it. So, naturally keeping my promise to you I thought I would share some of my favorite ways to use this staple.

One question I always get is “how are you able to stay healthy and in shape when you are cooking all the time”? My answer is, I maintain a balanced diet and only indulge every now and then. That said I, just like most people, love good and flavorful food with rich luscious texture! One of my secrets is replacing the typical calorie tipping extras many of us enjoy with our food with Greek yogurt. Now I am not just saying this, but I really have been doing this for YEARS. I mean when the only place you could find Greek yogurt was at a health food store. I started my experimenting with Greek yogurt because I despise to the core of my being hate mayonnaise, in fact my children didn’t even know mayonnaise existed until my parents put it on sandwiches for them. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how versatile and beneficial Greek yogurt really is. Until about 2007 I mainly used it as a mayo replacement, then I heard and interview of Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat, and she made a statement that stuck with me; “There is never a reason to eat sour cream”. At the time I thought WHAT, NO SOUR CREAM! But when I really looked at the “nutritional benefits” of sour cream compared to the fat and cholesterol, and then compared it to my beloved tangy mayo replacement I was sold. With sour cream, now I’m talking regular sour cream because we all know how awful low fat sour cream is (!), weighing in at a whopping 496 calories and 96 mg of cholesterol and only 7 g of protein per cup, compared to Greek yogurt’s mere 130 calories and 0 mg of cholesterol and 20 g of muscling building protein per cup I was ready to say goodbye to sour cream for good. The switch was seamless, in fact my husband, who once told me the brand new low fat ranch I bought him was “bad”, didn’t even realize I stopped buying caloric scale tipping sour cream!

So I dare you to do the same! Cut those nasty hidden calories out of your favorite go-to snacks and creamy toppers and try some of my own tried and true Greek yogurt based recipes. Enjoy!



Avocado “Sauce”

Avocado sauce is a MUST have staple in my home. My kids eat this nutritious “sauce” as a dip for veggies, on top of their favorite black bean, cheese and flaxseed tortilla quesadillas and with any Mexican inspired meal I prepare from taco salad (no dressing required) to chicken tortilla soup! They even like it on turkey sandwiches!
1 large ripe avocado
1/4-1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Lime juice, to taste
1/2 clove grated garlic, optional
1 tbsp chopped cilantro, optional
Salt to taste

What to Do:
Mash avocado in a bowl, stir in yogurt and flavor with lime juice garlic and cilantro if desired. Season with salt to taste and enjoy!



Sandwich Spreads

This is my GO-TO I cannot have a sandwich without one of my Greek yogurt spreads. If it is too thin for you add a little bit of a low-fat Baby Bell spreadable cheese wedge to thicken it up!

1) Cranberry Spread: Mix some chopped up dried Cranberries in some Greek yogurt and spread on a Turkey Sandwich, it’s like Thanksgiving!

 2) Dijon Spread: Mix Greek yogurt with a little Dijon mustard for a great spread for most any sandwich.

 3) Herb Garlic Spread: I always have this in the fridge because it is easily turned into a healthy salad dressing by thinning with a tiny bit of milk or add more yogurt and turn it into a veggie dip! Mix some fresh chopped herbs and about ½ of a clove of grated garlic in Greek yogurt. For the herbs I use a mix of dill, tarragon and mint. For the garlic I don’t used minced, but rather grated garlic because I don’t like to bite into a piece of raw garlic. By grating it with a micro plain you get all of the garlic flavor with no chunks.


Spicy Creamy Tuna Melt 

(this makes 2 meals for me)
I have to say this is by far my favorite go-to quick satisfying dinner or lunch; just add a healthy salad and voila! You can take off the cheese to lower the caloric content and it is still tasty as ever!

2 slices of toasted whole wheat bread
1 can no salt added albacore tuna packed in water
1-2 hot sport peppers, finely minced
1/2-1 dill pickle spear, finely minced or about a tsp of dill relish
1/2 tbsp shallot, finally chopped
1/4 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
A small splash of red wine vinegar
1 slice cheese (I LOVE to use horseradish cheddar for this, and believe me it is worth all 100 calories for that slice of cheese!)

What to Do:

Preheat broiler or toaster oven, toast bread, mix all other ingredients together in a bowl. Spoon ¼ of the tuna on each half of the bread top with cheese and broil until cheese is melted. 

Curried Chicken Salad Lettuce Cups

1 head romaine lettuce hearts or 2 hears of Belgian endive
2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1/2 cup celery, julienned
1/2 cup carrot, julienned
1/4 cup green onion, finely chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2cup almonds, coarsely chopped

 Greek Yogurt Curry Dressing 
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, more to taste
3 tsp yellow curry powder
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste

What to Do:Trim, wash and dry romaine or endive leaves. Cut larger romaine leaves into several segments depending on size. Whisk Greek yogurt and honey together in a bowl; add curry powder, salt and lemon juice. In a separate bowl mix all other ingredients then add dressing and lightly toss until incorporated. Spoon 1-2 tbsp of the salad mixture onto each lettuce cup, arrange on a tray, cover and refrigerate until served.


Sour Cream


Use plain non-fat Greek yogurt as a low-fat substitute in any recipe that call for sour cream. From baking to savory dishes they have very similar consistency and tangy flavor, so you can use it as a 1:1 replacement with no other added substitution required. And of course use it as is on any dish you would use sour cream on!


Mac and Cheese (…Peas and Hot Dogs)


OK full disclosure here…I really don’t like to give my kids boxed mac and cheese or hot dogs BUT, let’s be real… for whatever reason all kids love this stuff. In fact my 7 year old daughter shared her list of favorites with her class and when it came to food (seriously no joke) she said “I Love sashimi (and boy does she) and macaroni and cheese, peas and hot dogs. I said years ago when I was a nanny that if I ever opened a restaurant I would put macaroni and cheese and peas and hot dogs on the kids menu!

1 box mac and cheese (I use Annie’s)
3 hot dogs made with 100 meat and no nitrates (I use low-fat Hebrew International Beef dogs)
1/4-1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup of frozen Peas


What to Do:Slice hot dogs up into chunks. Boil the noodles. While the noodles are cooking add contents of powdered cheese pack to a bowl and mix in Greek yogurt until creamy. Just before they are done about the last 2 minutes I throw the hot dog chucks into the boiling water, then about 1 minute later the peas go into the water too. Drain the noodles, hot dogs and peas and return to the pan. Add creamy cheese mixture and voila kids favorite “special occasion dinner!”



Heavy Cream

Whipped cream is a luxury I save for holidays. But some desserts scream for it! You can make a whipped topping substitute by blending Greek yogurt with vanilla and maple syrup, honey or agave on med-high speed with a mixer for 2 minutes, watch it closely because it can separate if it is over whipped and you’ll get a watery mess! Keep the whipped yogurt refrigerated until used. Put it on top of any dessert you would use whipped cream on, or top fresh fruit with whipped yogurt add a drizzle of honey and sprinkle of cinnamon for a healthy treat!



 Veggie Dip

It always baffles me when I see people dipping perfectly good raw veggies into chemically processed, fat laden ranch dressing! So instead of reaching for the ranch try to make your own veggie dip with Greek yogurt!

 My Go-to Dip Base
Equal parts low fat cottage cheese to Greek yogurt. Put cottage cheese in the food processer and blend until smooth. Mix cottage cheese and Greek yogurt together and you have the perfect low fat high protein base for any dip.

A Few Suggestions for Dip:
Add basil, red pepper flakes and some grated parmesan, and you’ve got yummy dip.

Add finely chopped red onion or shallot, finely diced cucumber, and finely diced red pepper for a chunkier dip; use about 2 tbsp of each.

Potato Leek Soup

Alas…time to sit down and write (!). It is Spring break and my kids are home all day, and it’s wonderful… We have been on the go enjoying the break from our typical suburban routine of school and extracurricular activities. Even though the weather hasn’t been the best here in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, tons of much needed rain, we have managed to spend a significant amount of time outside getting ready for our spring garden planting, taking long nature walks and bike riding around the town. This morning I am enjoying wonderful coffee while reading some of my favorite food blogs and “pinning” on Pinterest. I may be obsessed!  

My day, of course, started at 5am with a nice long hour and a half workout at the gym. I arrived home to one of my favorite sights, my
Fresh Farm to You box! Liv and Jack were awake and awaiting my return so when I pulled into the drive they both ran out in PJs to greet me. I was eagerly awaiting those wonderful big hugs when they both stopped and started jumping with excitement and joy! “Our Fresh Farm To You is here”! They together picked up the box and hauled it inside. I guess I know my rank in the grand scheme of things! I could hardly put my keys and water bottle down, they wanted me to unpack the box and show them all the fruits and veggies that were inside.

Fresh Farm to You (FFTY) is a wonderful family owned organic farm with two locations, one in Southern California and one in Northern California. They grow and sell the highest quality organic seasonal produce and nuts by delivery. Members choose the amount and the frequency they wish to receive fresh produce, and voila it magically appears on your doorstep nicely wrapped with featured recipes all before the crack of dawn! This service is so nice for me and my family because our local farmers market is very seasonal and not available in the late fall through early spring. Our FFTY delivery is our farmers market in a box!

A few weeks ago we took the opportunity to tour the Northern California Fresh Farm to You Farm in the beautiful Capay Valley. They open the farm on the second Saturday of each month for tours. They invite you to bring a picnic lunch and stay to enjoy the live music they provide. They offer guided tractor tours of the grounds, over 300 acres at the Capay Valley location. They also offer you the opportunity to walk though a current crop and pick your own produce. During our tour we stopped in the kale fields and pick tons of wonderful fresh dino kale! The kids loved it and so did the adults. It was a fun day, and a great way for our kids to see where the “box” comes from.



During this transitional time between the end of winter and beginning of spring we have some beautiful seasonal flavors to work with. This potato leek soup is a simple, easy recipe that marries the warmth and comfort of winter dishes with the simple clean flavors of spring. And for all my fellow Moms with little time on your hands to tackle complicated dishes, it’s easy! It’s also easily made vegan and you can make it even lower fat if you wish.

 If you wish to make it vegan sweat the leeks in one tablespoon of olive oil. Once the leeks start to soften, about 5 min, add a little water, about 1/4 of a cup. At the end, when the soup is done simply don’t add the dairy; it still tastes creamy and delicious! I have to admit I almost didn’t add the buttermilk, but I’m SOOO glad I did that little hidden tang makes this soup special. I did however reduce both the amount of butter Alton used in his recipe to sweat the leeks, as well as the amount of cream he finishes this soup with to lower the fat and calorie content. I also didn’t have “real” buttermilk in the frig so I made a quick buttermilk substitute (I included the technique below.) My final adaptations to Alton’s recipe was not pureeing all of the potatoes and adding some grilled sweet corn kernels. My kids and husband like some texture in their soup so I reserved some of the potato chunks, approximately 2 cups, and added it back after the soup was pureed. I also always have grilled sweet corn kernels in the freezer so I added about ¾ cup to the soup before I added the dairy. I grill and freeze my own during the summer, but if you don’t you can pick up a bag at Trader Joes. Bon Appetite!  



 Buttermilk Substitute:


Milk (just under one cup)

1 Tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice



What to Do:


Place a Tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup.

Add enough milk to bring the liquid up to the one-cup line.

Let stand for five minutes. Use as much “buttermilk” as your recipe calls for. 

If you have heavy cream in the fridge even better, you have everything you need to make real buttermilk!



Potato Leek Soup 


 

Ingredients:



2-3 large leeks, cleaned and dark green sections removed

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Heavy pinch kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning

14 ounces, approximately 3 small, Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced small

1 quart vegetable broth

½ cup heavy cream

1 cup buttermilk

½ teaspoon white pepper

¾ cup of grilled sweet corn kernels (optional)

1 tablespoon snipped chives (optional)

Cooked turkey bacon for garnish (optional)


Directions:



Chop the leeks into small pieces.

In a 6-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and a heavy pinch of salt and sweat for 5 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-low add about ½ cup of water and cook until the leeks are tender, approximately 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the potatoes and the vegetable broth, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until the potatoes are soft, approximately 45 minutes.

Turn off the heat. If you wish to have some chunks in your soup remove 1-2 cups of potatoes and leeks and reserve. Puree the remaining mixture with an immersion blender, or transfer in batches to a regular blender and blend until smooth. Return soup to pot, add back in reserved potato and leeks and grilled sweet corn, and stir in the heavy cream, buttermilk, and white pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Sprinkle with chives, top with turkey bacon and serve immediately with some hot crusty bread.