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Monday, October 25, 2021

Spiced Rhubarb Pie


Yes, I said spiced. Rhubarb has got to be one of my absolute favorite perennial plants. It's incredibly hardy and can grow just about anywhere, even in Alaska. It's bright and sour and adds depth of flavor to just about anything. Yes, it's quite fibrous and can be a little difficult to prepare in the wrong hands - but it's so worth it to keep at least a couple of these beautiful mounding plants alive in your garden. Not only are they a wonderfully flavorful addition to countless dishes, but they look quite nice in the garden bed. I suggest planting them in a sunny spot where you don't mind an eventual big mound of beautiful rhubarb and where it will be for a long time. Perennials mean a permanent commitment!


For this recipe, I'll also be using spicebush berries, which are made from these gorgeous foraged berries native to the Americas. Don't fret, though, if you don't have these! I've got an excellent substitute down the line... You dry the berries for use, of course, and store them in jars or bags. When ready to use, simply grind them in a spice grinder to release the incredible oils and bright orange spice inside. The taste, to me, is like a pink peppercorn made love to a cinnamon stick, and then the spice that came from that union eloped with a big peel of juicy orange. It's truly a spectacular spice that I love to use in many of my baked goods.

This is a foraged spice which means it is not bought and sold commercially. As far as I can tell, the kind of spicebush that grows the berries hasn't been cultivated as of yet, so I couldn't simply tell you to go out and buy the plants. This is a shame since it's such a lovely and unique spice that I think everyone in the world should get to have. I can't tell you where to buy it, so I'll just refer you to Prairie Birthday Farm, which is how I get mine. I'm sure that they could ship to wherever you may be staying if you ask nicely. They're nice, warm-hearted people over there, and they've been kind enough to include me in the possibility of propagating and cultivating the bush in hopes that more and more Midwestern folk will fall in love with native plants and start planting them in their own yards. The transplants won't be ready until spring of 2022, of course, but you can bet that this gal will be awaiting their arrival to her garden with bated breath.

Spiced Rhubarb Pie 
yields one 

Flaky all-butter pie crust

  • 8 oz vegan butter, cold, chopped 
    • We all know I love Earth Balance and Miyoko's butter!
  • 14 oz all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • Ice water, as needed
Rhubarb filling
  • 7 cups chopped rhubarb
    • Fresh is ideal, but frozen is just fine
  • 1 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp spicebush berries, ground in the spice grinder**
    • If you cannot get spicebush berries, simply use:
      • 1 tsp cinnamon
      • 3/4 tsp pink peppercorns, ground
      • Zest of 1 orange
      • A pinch of Chinese Five Spice powder
      • A pinch of turmeric
  • 1 tsp good vanilla extract
  • A fat pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 c cornstarch
  • 3/4 c orange juice
For the filling, mix - in a large bowl - the chopped rhubarb with the sugar, spices, vanilla, and salt so that everything is coated. Cover with clingfilm or a tea towel and set aside while you make the pie crust. Ideally, you're going to want to let this soak for an hour or more. 

For the crust, simply cut the butter into the flour and sugar with either a pastry cutter or two knives. If you have a food processor, feel free to use that instead. The idea is to get pea-sized chunks going on throughout the flour mixture before adding ice water. How much? Oh, just enough to barely get the dough to come together when mixed with a fork! It's quite dry where I am right now, so I think I used about 1/4 cup of water. Simply ball together and set in the fridge for an hour.

When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350. While we're waiting for the oven to heat and the dough to cool, let's talk a bit about rhubarb!

Please don't be put off by the color!


As you can see, the rhubarb is green. As you may have noticed from the date on this blog, it's the middle of October. This may confuse you because many people are mostly familiar with rhubarb in the context of strawberry rhubarb pie, which is a late springtime and early summertime delight. The truth of the matter is that rhubarb doesn't just grow in the spring, but in the fall as well. This lovely plant grows in what I like to call the 'in-betweener seasons,' which means the transitional seasons between extreme heat and extreme cold, summer and winter. The stalks start green but turn red as they ripen with the warmth. You won't always see red rhubarb in the cooler months, but that shouldn't turn you off.

If you aren't familiar with rhubarb's flavor profile, I've asked my husband - who up until recently had never had a straight rhubarb pie - to describe it. His exact words were:

"Oh. Uh. I don't know... Kind of tart?"

I would describe it as sour and vegetal, which is oddly good. Maybe a super-sour celery with a hint of citrus fragrance? It's a truly unique flavor that's got a surprisingly high amount of vitamin C, potassium, and calcium so you can feel good about having more than one slice of this ultra-thick pie. It's got a very nice depth of flavor that is so unique...and also a vegetable! Would you ever think that you could make a sweet pie out of vegetables? It's so good, you can make any pie, cake filling, or jam from it and it'll go down a treat for anyone who tastes it. 

As I mentioned previously, rhubarb is a perennial plant, which means it comes back every year. Strawberries, which go excellent with rhubarb, is also a perennial. They are also a good cold weather plant which means that they can survive underground in the snow. This means they can grow in the same patch together and be just fine! To ensure their survival, a healthy amount of straw and mulch over the beds will do you a world of good. I have some large maple trees on my property that - of course -  shed their leaves when autumn comes. This is a natural mulch, but is so much more than that.

I finished this bed two days before I gave birth!

In nature, autumn leaves aren't meant to be raked up. The leaves that fall are a natural blanket for the underlying vegetation an a cozy home for pollinating insects to lay their eggs until they can hatch in the next year's spring. This protects any plant life from hard frosts and blankets of snow in the winter months.  Nonmigratory birds also benefit from these leaves because worms feast on them and fat worms mean healthy birds. Fat worms also mean healthy soil and healthy soil means healthy biome. Do you see how it's all connected, and how you - in your own small way - can help your own tiny microcosm of plant and animal life? Just something to think about while you finish your pie...  

I don't even know what this is supposed to be. Maybe like a triceratops doing a cosplay of Jack Skellington?


Divide the dough in half and give your dough a good smack or two with a floured rolling pin to soften everything up while keeping the fat still cold. This is great therapy, especially if you have a newborn like me, and you are so sleep deprived and you just need some kind of safe release... It's ideal if you can roll all of this out on a marble surface, but whatever you're using is probably just fine. You can either roll out two discs on floured surfaces or you can sandwich your dough between two sheets of parchment paper that have been lubricated liberally with aerosol pan spray of some matter. I prefer this method, simply because it helps with cleanup and minimizes the chance of overworking the dough. If you're going to use a more intricate design on your pie crust top, however, it may benefit you to use flour and a bit of kneading, just to ensure the pie crust is strong enough to do fun things with. My design was fairly simple, so I kept my rolling method simple. 

Important note: No matter which method of rolling out you use, be sure to lay your pie crust in your pie dish of choice with plenty of overhang and allow it to rest in the dish for at least five minutes while you work on your top. It's imperative that you do this to minimize any shrinkage that would otherwise occur. You can let it rest on the counter, but I personally think it's better to let it rest in the fridge so the dough can get cold again before anything else. When the bottom is ready, give it a quick dust of semolina or equal parts sugar and flour. 

When you're ready, give the filling a good stir. You should have quite a bit of liquid that's come from your rhubarb! Drain that into a small saucepot and whisk in the cornstarch. Slowly bring to a boil over a medium flame and allow to thicken. It'll get quite thick so don't worry! When boiling, immediately remove from the heat and add the orange juice. Give it a good whisk to ensure there are absolutely no lumps and add it back to the rhubarb. Mix everything until it's all well incorporated and pour into your prepared bottom crust.  There will be quite a high rounded top on this, so please keep that in mind when designing your top crust. Make sure you have at least a few vent holes in your design.

Bake your pie at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the crust is golden-brown and there's slight bubbling of the filling that's showing. Remove and allow to cool for about an hour before cutting into it. This pie is sour, sweet, herbacious, and incredibly satisfying in the fall. The cornstarch helps it set so you can get clean slices, and the orange juice brings out the naturally citrus-like flavor of the rhubarb. The spices compliment the sour-bitter notes with aromatic fragrances that remind us of fall. 

I love this pie because it uses one of my favorite 'surprise fall' ingredients and gives me a break from pumpkin. Don't get me wrong - pumpkin and apple are life! But you do need a break from these two juggernauts of autumn flavors and I think that this pie is just the ticket. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. 


As always, I want to send out a special thank you to my good friends at KC Farm School at Gibbs Road for their tireless efforts in agricultural education and advocacy for the community, and for their help and generosity during my pregnancy and birth journey. The friends I have made during my time working with this farm and the community I have found during the pandemic because of this organization has meant more to me than I could ever write. Thank you.

I'd also like to take a moment to say thank you to the nursing students at Research Medical Center, who happened to be at the farmer's market at KC Farm School on Wednesday, October 13th, of 2021, that checked my blood pressure and alerted me to the fact that I had suddenly developed gestational hypertension. This is a condition that isn't serious in and of itself but it does have a 50/50 chance of developing into preeclampsia, which can be a life-threatening condition for both mother and baby. Because of them, I went immediately to the hospital after the market and was able to get induced and safely deliver my baby. Thank you. 

Actually, my entire birth story was awesome and it was all thanks to the incredible nurses and nursing students of Research Medical Center. If you're at all curious, you can find my birth story here on IGTV Live! It's a long one, so be forewarned. 

Finally, I'd like to thank you for joining me for a portion of your day. I know that reading food blogs aren't always the most exciting thing to do with your time, but the fact that even a tiny portion of your day was spent with me makes me feel special. I hope that I can provide education and insight to food and growing it for yourself. I also hope that I made you laugh. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Friday, October 1, 2021

Cinnamon Caramel Apple Cake


Fall is here and my body is ready. Going apple picking is one of my absolute favorite things in the world to do, and I'm so fortunate to live in the Midwest where apple picking orchards are a-plenty! Apples are relatively easy to grow, but the trick is that they are not self-pollinating trees so you really need at least two trees to get apples. I don't often recommend doing that if you have a smaller lot, or if you can't commit yourself to getting every apple off the ground before it ferments and gets all of your squirrels and hornets drunk...but if you do have those things covered, then by all means go for it!

The apple, which is not native to the Americas, is one of my favorite ingredients. I write about it a fair bit! That being said, you don't have to get apples fresh from a farm to enjoy them, even though it is recommended. Yes, you could get a bag of apples for $5 at the store instead of driving out to an orchard, paying $36 to pick your own in 88 degree heat wearing fall clothing with your kids screaming at you about being itchy and having to go potty all the time...but if you can get to a farmer's market where they're selling apples you can split the difference and get great quality produce!


These apples are from the farm. They're small but much sweeter than many I could get in the store! I don't mind the bruises at all, and neither should you, especially if you're going to eat them straight away in a pie or cake. There's a ton of perfectly good food wasted every year because it's not exactly "up to standard." You can watch this awesome documentary about it if you're so inclined! Of course, the issues are much more nuanced than just one documentary can present, but it's still interesting to think about.  The bottom line is that when you buy organic produce it will not look exactly perfect like how you see in the grocery store. Food will be in its natural state, with bites and bruises, and it won't matter a lick how it looks if you put it into a cake. 

Cinnamon Caramel Apple Cake
yields 1 9" square or round cake

Caramel

  • 200 g white sugar 
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp white vinegar

Apples

  • 4 small apples, sliced thinly on the mandolin + 1 small apple, cut decoratively
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 5 Tbsp white sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
Cake
  • 150 g vegan butter 
  • 220 g brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp dried ginger
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 250 g all-purpose flour
  • 240 g (1 cup) almond milk
This is a cake that takes many steps, but it is worth it. Trust me.

Prepare the pan of your choice by buttering it generously with either non-dairy butter or coconut oil spray. Get all of the sides, of course, but especially get the bottom! Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 




Prepare the apples by slicing them thinly on a mandolin or with a sharp knife and tossing them with the sugar, zest, and spices. You may add a tsp of good dark rum if you like, but it is not necessary. Set it aside and prepare the caramel bottom. Slice your decorating apple and arrange it in a pattern on the bottom of your pan. This will be the top!

Add the sugar, honey, vinegar, to a small saucepot along with just enough water to cover the sugar mixture. Pop a lid on top and bring it to a boil. You're going to boil it for about five minutes, or until lovely golden-brown caramel forms, and immediately pour over the apples as evenly as possible. Pop this into the oven and bake for about 5 minutes, just to set it and to ensure that the caramel is evenly distributed among the apple slices. When ready, remove from the oven and set aside.

Cream the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whip attachment until quite light-colored and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and whip it all together until completely incorporated and the sugar looks to be mostly dissolved. Add the eggs, one at a time, being sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl between each addition. Make sure the eggs are entirely incorporated before going to the next step!

Add in your baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla, and whip together until combined. Add in the flour, a third at a time, while alternating with the milk to make sure no big lumps occur. Scrape down the bowl and give one final stir. Remove the whip attachment and stir in the macerated apple mixture by hand with a spatula. Allow the batter to rest for about 15 minutes on the counter to let the flour soak in. 

When ready, scrape the batter into your prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cake slightly pulls away from the sides of the pan and springs back when touched. Remove from the oven and let sit on the counter for about 15 minutes before turning out onto a plate. If everything goes well, your caramel will still be warm enough to bring the cake away from the pan! Let cool for another 15 or 20 minutes before slicing into it, as molten lava has nothing on hot caramel.

This cake is incredibly soft and moist and will fill your heart with warming love. I can't think of anything more perfectly delectable than this cake for the first taste of fall. It keeps on the counter, covered, for up to four days, but it really doesn't last that long. It's quite excellent with a morning cup of coffee or warmed, after dinner, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I hope you'll give it a try with some apples you pick up from your own local farmer's market!



Thank you so much for spending some of your day or night with me. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Friday, September 24, 2021

Tatsoi and How to Use It


If you're like me, you dream about the food that they cook in animes. We've all seen the gorgeous footage of the food in the Ghibli films, where they seem to take your softest and most beautiful dreams and turn them into reality. Beautiful pillows of cake, gooey eggs and sausages, grilled fish...but what are those greens that they often chop and boil or put into stews? I'm going to make a very educated guess and call it here: it's tatsoi, my friends!


Important note: While this is sometimes known as: "Water spinach", it is not "water spinach!" Tagalog-speaking folks know water spinach it as 'kangkong,' and it's delicious in adobo. I do know that kangkong is not exactly the same thing as tatsoi, but I personally use the stuff interchangeably so I don't see the harm in you doing it as well. The flavor profile is practically identical. 

Actually, it's a green you can stick almost anywhere.

This will not have a recipe, per se, but a compilation of recipes as well as a brief profile of the item. Honestly, I could no sooner choose a star in the heavens to profile than I could talk about a single kangkong/tatsoi recipe. I thought it'd be much more fun to talk about all of the things you can do with it instead. But first, let's talk - briefly - about how to grow it!

I partner with an incredible place called KC Farm School at Gibbs Road. It's a gorgeous teaching farm that's less than 15 minutes away from my home in the heart of Wyandotte county and I love working with them, along with other local farms and farmers. Their mission is to empower individuals through hands-on experiences on the farm and to educate everyone on where food comes from.

Cute, huh?

In their CSA program, they grow all sorts of delicious goodies for everyone to take home and experiment with. Honestly, I could never cover every single thing they do, but I am always excited to put on my thinking cap and see what can be made from each week's surprise produce box. Tatsoi has been growing beautifully at the farm and I'm thrilled to talk about it. It's been going out for a couple of weeks now and I'm just now getting to it...last week we talked about soup! The fact of the matter is, though, that this green - which is tender like spinach but is more closely related to bok choi - is incredibly easy to grow and tolerant to a wide variety of climates, and can even grow in the shade. This is an excellent green to plant in the spring or fall when the weather is cooler and milder.

This week for recipes, I'm finally getting around to tatsoi and all the lovely things you can do with it. Shall we begin?

Photo credit to Kawaling Pinoy

How I know kangkong the best is through adobo. Of course, my mom braises hers in a lovely adobo manok at baboy with potatoes and serves it over coconut rice. I like to chop it up and put it in any adobo I'm making, but did you know that you can make a totally vegetarian adobo out of just this stuff as the star? Kawaling Pinoy has an excellent recipe that you can start with! Please note that you don't have to add the bacon or pork belly. Many a great adobo can be used with seitan or jackfruit for extra yumminess. 

Oh, you want my recipes for this, too? Why, sure!

There's absolutely no limit to what you can add to a mac & cheese

My usual go-to for just throwing something together is adding any green vegetable I like to a casserole-style dish. A beautiful lasagna would be great with this in the ragout. You can cream it with coconut milk and lots and lots of garlic. Statistically, however, when it would come to the amount of things I would make if I had this in my fridge and just wanted to incorporate it, I would use it in my vegan macaroni & cheese recipe. Chop it up and mix it in before you bake!

Oh, did the lasagna sound great? No problem!

Instead of cutting the pasta, leave it in sheets to dry for lasagna!


Of course, all you would do is chop it up and add it to your ragout at the end before baking. However, if you want to have something fun, you can use the greens themselves to make the pasta. What you do for this application is take my turnip greens pasta recipe and substitute it in equal parts - by weight, if you please - tatsoi for greens. The result will be a gorgeous green color that you'll be in love with. It's also a fun surprise if you have fussy kids that will freak the freak out if they know they're eating vegetables. 

Too "involved"? I get it - sometimes I want it quick and easy, especially after a long day's work!

This is just an example of what you can put in any egg fried rice!

If you're looking for a much quicker thing to do with tatsoi, try chopping it up and adding it to a protein-rich egg fried rice recipe? You don't have to use duck eggs every time, but I recommend it if you get your hands on it. This, of course, can be a quick lunch or a dinner!

Looking for breakfast? Let's do it then!


The quiche is the perfect vessel for breakfast that you can make ahead the night before or simply assemble the morning of and have it baking. Take my quiche base and add fresh chopped tatsoi to it along with any breakfast meats, cheeses, whatever you like. I recommend putting the cheeses or greens on the bottom before any other fillings so that they won't float up to the top. This will also help prevent the greens from floating to the top and burning. If you want something even quicker, go for an omelette, or a smoothie.

I don't have smoothie recipes. I just throw stuff in a blender, usually with almond milk and a banana as the base. My quickest smoothie recipe ever would just be two large handfuls of spinach(or tatsoi), about a cup of almond milk, and maybe some nuts for extra fats, vitamins, and for mouthfeel. I don't always have frozen fruit on hand so I can't say that I use that a lot. If you need a little inspiration, though, feel free to use this chart.

Thanks, Maria Zamarripa, for this! Check out their site here

I hope this photodump has inspired you to get in the kitchen and use up the gorgeous tatsoi you might have lying around, or to see about picking some up for yourself. You can find it at most Asian markets or plant some now to grow all autumn long. Like spinach, you can keep pinching more off and it'll grow back! If you have things you normally do with tatsoi, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below. Thank you so much for spending a piece of your day or evening with me.

Happy cooking and happy eating. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Silky Smooth Tomato Eggplant Bisque


And - surprise - this version is vegan! 

Tomato soup has been one of my absolute favorites since childhood. When I was little, I had terrible separation anxiety so my dad would always bring me home for lunch during first, second, and third grade. This was a small enough gesture as a parent, considering that I only lived within walking distance of my elementary school, but I can tell you that it meant the world to me at the time. He wasn't much of a cook, but his special lunch that he would fix for me would be tomato soup and grilled cheese. 

Fast forward to my career as a chef and I get a job at this incredibly fancy country club - which shall remain nameless - and one of my first tasks is to produce a couple of gallons of their tomato eggplant bisque with Israeli couscous and saffron oil. I was a young sprig of a girl still and didn't realize exactly what I was making, but I followed the recipe to the letter and - when it was finished - I realized that I'd made tomato soup! This was not just my dad's tomato soup out of the can, though...this had depth and complexity like I didn't know it could have. While this here is not the exact recipe that I learned that day (which would be frankly unethical to share anyhow), this is my own version that I love to throw together when summer is turning to fall. After all, fall is soup season!

As always, thanks so much to KC Farm School at Gibbs Road for the veggies!

Tomato Eggplant Bisque

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed 
  • 2 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 32 oz jar of chopped canned tomatoes
    • I made my own this year from the bounty of the summer. I don't have my canning recipe for that, but please check out my canning method and the recipe for Pickled Pears, if you're so inclined!
  • 1 14 oz can of full fat coconut cream
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, as needed
Add a generous glug of olive oil to the bottom of a thick-bottomed soup casserole...aka a dutch oven. Heat over a medium flame and add the onion and garlic. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper and cover to let sweat for about 15 minutes on low. Meanwhile, lay your eggplant slices out on a cutting board and season generously with kosher salt. You're going to be drawing out the bitterness!



When 15 minutes pass, blot the bitter moisture off of the eggplant with paper towels. Don't worry about any discoloration that might appear; it'll all be blended into the soup. When your eggplant slices are patted dry, run your knife through them one more time to chop them into chunks. It doesn't matter too much how pretty they are, just as long as they're small enough to all fit into the pot. Uncover the onions mixture, give it a good stir, and add in your eggplant. Add your tomatoes, too, and bring them up to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer and let cook for about 5 minutes. Add the can of coconut cream as well as one can-full of water from the tap to rinse out any little goodies you may have left in there. Bring everything up to a rolling boil and stir well. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for at least 30 minutes. 

It's at this point that you can actually pop this in the fridge and let the soup base hang out overnight in the fridge if you so choose. This, like many fall meals, is an excellent dish to make ahead. Even better, the flavors will meld and mesh the longer it sits. The absolute ideal is 24 hours, but I won't make you wait. You can also - if you really want to - ladle this soup base into quart freezer bags and freeze them for up to 3 months. To be honest, I'll likely be doing this at least once in preparation for my baby. 

When you're ready to have your soup, bring it up to a boil again and immediately remove from the heat. Add your soup base mixture to the pitcher of a blender and blend on low for 2 minutes, then medium for 45 seconds, then high for 1 minute. If you must do this in batches, that's a-okay. The goal is to create a silky-smooth bisque of a soup with a bright red color. If you're feeling fancy, make yourself a grilled cheese sandwich to go with it. 


You may garnish this with fresh herbs if you like, but to serve it I simply prefer a drizzle of good olive oil and a few grinds of black pepper. Some people like to have it with parmesan cheese, and I've even heard of a person or two using a dash of hot sauce and a crispy fried egg. Honestly, do whatever makes you happy. This is your soup when you make it. 

I love this dish because it's a gorgeous color, vibrantly healthy, filling enough to be lunch or dinner, and it reminds me that my dad loved me enough to try in the only way he knew how. I especially love dipping a grilled cheese sandwich into this soup, but I love it just as much while drinking it from a mug with a few crackers sprinkled on top.

I hope this end-of-summer dish has inspired you to use eggplants and tomatoes together. You may not think they work, but I assure you they do. Eggplants and tomatoes are both nightshades, you know! This means they are from the same family, but please don't eat the greens, lest you get sick. Oddly enough, though, any nightshade vegetable will give you the benefit of all of the gorgeous antioxidants they contain, which are vital in repairing cells that were damaged due to stress. I don't know about you, but I could use some stress relief in my life...

Thanks so much for spending a piece of your day with me. I hope I've inspired you to cook in your own kitchen today and to preserve the bounty of your garden through food prep, food stocking, or even just taking tons of pictures of the stuff before eating it. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Pickled Asian Pears

 

Not many have heard of pickled pears. In fact, everyone I've told about the plan for this week's blog has been both confused and intrigued at the concept. It's pretty funny for me to think about, especially because it's one of my favorite things to do with lots of pears. I don't necessarily enjoy eating pears, and the kind of pears I always seem to find are the ones better suited for cooking than eating straight off the tree. I'm sure that not many here in the states have even heard of the concept of pickled pears but I'm glad to be the one to introduce it to you. This, along with Upside Down Caramel Pear Cake, is one of my favorite things to do with the plethora of gorgeous Asian Pears that do so well out here in the midwest. 

For this method, we'll be using a water bath canning method because I don't own a pressure cooker. I do have a large stock pot which I use for - you guessed it, stocks - and canning. You can find these on the cheap online or in many restaurant surplus stores. I'm using 32 oz quart mason jars for this project, and while you are more than welcome to use that size, you may use whichever size you have access to. This recipe makes enough brine for two of these jars, so please adjust accordingly. 


Pickled Asian Pears
yields 2 32 oz/quart jars or 4 pint jars

  • ~1 lb Asian pears washed thoroughly, quartered, and cored
  • 1 c + 3 Tbsp 5% white vinegar 
  • 1 c white sugar
  • 2 c water
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Per jar
    • 1 star anise
    • 10 white peppercorns
    • 4 spiceberries or 2 allspice berries + 1 peel of orange zest, pith removed

For this project, you'll need:


A few notes from a canner! You can simply write the names of your items on the lids with a sharpie instead of using labels, and they will come off later with a bit of hand sanitizer. You can use tongs instead of a jar lifter in a pinch. You can use a pair of chopsticks as a bubble freer. A slotted spoon works just as well as a 'headspace tool' for your needs. I've literally never used a 'lid lifter' before so I see no reason you need it. 

Other things that are nice to have: 

  • A wood cutting board to rest your things on
  • A few clean tea towels
  • Some good music and a long phone charger
This is what I like to call a "day off" project, as it takes some good amount of preparation and mental headspace, so you'll likely want to do this on a day off to relax. Canning and preserving things can be extraordinarily relaxing, but it can be a bit of an ordeal. It's late summer when I'm writing this, which means that I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with. I'll be multitasking and canning some chopped tomatoes and marinara sauce while we chat about pickled pears, so please ignore the pictures of tomatoes you may see in the background. 

First thing's first when it comes to pickling: sterilize everything. For you, this means get your big stock pot of water and bring it to a boil. I let my jars boil for about 3 minutes, as well as my lids and tops, before letting out to dry on a wood cutting board. The important thing with glass jars to remember is that they're incredibly sturdy but the thing that will harm or weaken them are extreme temperature changes. This means you should never put a hot jar on a cold countertop or let a drop of cold water hit the steaming hot jars. This could result in a crack, break, or - even worse - a shatter. You don't want any of those things. 

To prepare the pears, wash them thoroughly before quartering and coring them. Some of the pears I had were larger, so I cut them in wedges instead of quarters. You may also peel them but I personally don't see it as necessary. All you must do is pack as many pears into these clean and sterilized jars as possible while leaving your headspace. Headspace is just the little bit of air that must exist in every canning jar. Just look for the little line where the jar's threads and the jar's body begins. This infographic chart will help!

Thank you Fix.com for the help!

When you've packed your jars thoroughly, let's prepare the brine by combining the sugar, vinegar, water, salt, and the bay leaf in a pot and bringing to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, add your spices to each jar. Spiceberries are a gorgeous foraged item found in the midwest of America and we haven't yet figured out how to cultivate it. I'm a part of an incredible project with Prairie Birthday Farm to grow them and I'll hopefully be able to dry and sell them in the coming years. Until then, if you can't get your hands on these lovely native spices, use allspice berries and orange zest in each jar. Just drop the spices in the tops of each jar you fill and call it square.

When your brine is finished, remove the bay leaf and discard. Pour the hot brine over the fruit until you get the proper amount of headspace and everything is covered appropriately. Tap down a bit with your slotted spoon and press the sides of the fruit gently with your chopstick or bubble freer tool to - you guessed it - get any air bubbles out. Wipe the tops and mouths of the jars well with a clean paper towel to make sure they are dry and add the lids. Screw on as tight as you can. 

The canning of your pears happens by adding them to the boiling water using your tongs or jar lifting tool and letting them process for 40 minutes. This is convenient for yours truly because it takes about 45 minutes for chopped tomatoes and marinara sauce to process in a waterbath canning pot. Aren't I a lucky duck? Let's take this time to talk about canning and preserving food, and why you should be doing it. If you'd like to skip this, click here to go back to the recipe.

I am writing this in September of 2021, during the hopefully ending curve of a global pandemic, with the US still topping cases globally. I live in the USA and I personally am feeling disheartened as I'm seeing no end in sight. I am feeling even more disheartened because I am about to bring a new life into the world and I hoped to have introduced them to a better world than I had come into when I was a child. My own life has changed dramatically since February of 2020 in many ways, and I am still learning to adapt. 

One of the first things I did when I was furloughed like so many other Americans was to turn inward and decorate my home. I also began volunteer work and dove further into my relationships with local farms. I am so very fortunate to live in a part of the country where fertile lands span wide and small farms are able to sell fresh produce that I cannot grow myself for lack of space or expertise. For me, this includes squash, fruit trees, and other things that require more space than I have access to. With my own small garden, I grow cherry tomatoes, herbs, mulberries, and more strawberries than I often know what to do with. I have found that I'm also gifted in growing sunflowers, lilacs, roses, and more perennials to add to my local pollinator's diet. I find work now as a manual therapist and an herbalist, so this is excellent news for my tea-making business. While I navigate how I organize my space, however, I'll be growing less and less food because of it. 

Growing your own food is a wonderful joy that gives you a unique sense of self and confidence. It's highly relaxing to be able to witness life from start to finish and to be able to reap the benefits. I won't always be able to eat every single tomato that ripens, nor every strawberry or green bean or mint leaf when it's exactly ready, which is why teaching myself how to preserve the bounty of the harvest has been so important. Canning, drying, and freezing all of the food I've been able to produce has saved me not only money, but peace of mind, and that is something you cannot put a price on.

My husband and I will hopefully soon welcome our child in the late fall, when all things in nature come to fruition, so I'm sure I'll have absolutely no time or energy to be able to prepare foods or go to the store while caring for a newborn. I realize that not every new mother has the ability to stay at home with their new babies for more than a few weeks, and I am so grateful that I'll be given more time than that to get to know my new little love. With a pantry that's full of the spring and summer's bounty, along with a full freezer, I'll know that I will have one less thing to worry about in the coming months. This is especially comforting for me to know since the Farmer's Almanac has been saying that the winter of 2021 will be one of the coldest and most bitter we've had in years. 

What does this have to do with you? Nothing, really. I suppose I'm telling you this because I want to share with you a piece of my own situation, in case you relate, and so that you may better understand why a full pantry with homemade canned goods that you've created with your own two hands will be beneficial to you. I personally don't want to be going out to the store in the middle of a cold winter and I doubt that you will, either. Canned and pickled fruit doesn't always sound like the best thing ever, but it's going to provide you with much-needed vitamins during those colder months when you're going to want a reminder of the summer.

When your timer goes off, remove your jars from the water bath and set them upon your wooden cutting board. Do not under any circumstances stick these in a cold area, especially the fridge, for at least 24 hours. What you'll want to do next is to move them to a place in the kitchen that they will be undisturbed and cover your jars with a clean tea towel. While you're cleaning up, don't be alarmed if you hear bubbling or popping sounds coming from the jars. This is the sound of air leaving and everything compressing and decompressing in the right way. This is all a good sign!

The next day, give your jars a good wipe and label them accordingly. Like I mentioned earlier, you can forego the bought labels and simply write the names and dates of the items on the top of the jars with a permanent marker. Don't worry - they'll come off using hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol when you're ready to reuse them! Store the jars in a cool, dark place until you're ready to eat...I recommend at least waiting a week to get some good pickling flavor in there, but this will stay good for at least 6 months in the cabinet. You'll know if things go bad if the seal on the jar pops, if it starts going cloudy, or if the jar starts leaking for any reason. Otherwise, keep it cool! I will admit, though, I've got pickled fruits, jams, and jellies in my cabinet from two years ago that are still good. Please refrigerate after opening, though! And do try to use within the same month...



I love pickled pears because they're spicy, sour, and sweet, have a great texture, and are excellent on ice cream and cakes during the holidays. Of course, you can use it on a charcuterie board and have the jar open on the table for Thanksgiving or for the other fall and winter holidays, but these are just fine to eat out of the jar, or sliced up on a turkey sandwich. There are so many uses for pickled pears, and I hope you are curious enough to make some, too. The best part about pickling things is that you don't have to eat them straight away!

I hope you've enjoyed learning about pickling pears today. I truly hope I've inspired a bit of curiosity in your mind about preserving food and eating seasonally, and that you try this out for yourself this winter. Keep an eye on my Instagram, and I'm sure you'll see me break out a jar over the holidays. Heck, I might even put these straight into my caramel pear cake! 

Like this? Check it out here!

Thank you so much for spending a piece of your day or night with me. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Friday, August 27, 2021

Egg Drop Curry, Filipino Style

 



This will not be your traditionally authentic "Broken Egg" curry that you may find in Mumbai. Actually, I'd never even heard of "Broken Egg" or "Egg Drop" curry until my friend Sneha told me about it. If you're looking for something of a more South Asian flavor, may I offer you this wonderful recipe from My Ginger Garlic Kitchen? It's delicious, has gorgeous photos, and will guide you - step-by-step - on how to do it. This is a Filipino style curry...or should I say "kare"?

Please allow me to explain: If you're of Filipino descent or if you are familiar with Filipino cuisine, you've likely heard of the dish "kare-kare" which is an extremely delicious peanut and oxtail stew that has green beans and eggplant in it. My mom reports that her maids took four days of preparation to make it in the big house in Pampanga. I don't have four days of mental planning available to me at this time, so I'm going to do a quick version. My own Kare-kare is not nearly as extravagant as how they would prepare it in the Philippines, but I daresay it is quite tasty in its own right. Why is this important?

"Kare" is derived from "curry" as the Philippines has been a huge trade hub in the Southeast Asian seas since before the beginning of colonization. It is said that it's nearly impossible to say what is purely Filipino food because it's just so naturally diverse and has evolved to be the world's first-ever fusion cuisine. I thought it would be fun to try a "kare" version of this curry, and it turned out to be quite tasty. Here we go!

Egg Drop "Kare"

  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 c raw peanuts
  • 1 Tbsp dried coriander
  • 1 /2 tsp dried cloves
  • 1/2 tsp dried cumin
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 10 leaves basil
  • 2 Tbsp garam masala powder
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 c water
  • 1 c fresh beans, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 small or 1 large bell pepper, sliced
  • 6 eggs
  • Lots of Parsley or fresh coriander, chopped
  • Garlic rice, as needed, to serve
The day before*
Chop the tomatoes and add to a casserole dish with the chopped leek, garlic, and a generous glug of oil with some salt and pepper. Cover and roast for at least an hour and a half at 300 degrees F. You can also stick this in a crock pot at your lowest setting and leave it all day to stew. Allow it to cool in the fridge before using, ideally overnight, but will be fine if you do it early in the morning and let it cool all day in the fridge. 

The day of*
To a large Dutch oven or any thick-bottomed stewing pot with a lid, add a healthy glug of either coconut or canola oil and heat on a medium flame. Add all of your dried spices, along with your peanuts, and toast on medium-low until quite fragrant. This shouldn't take more than two or three minutes. After that, lower the heat and add the garam masala and basil, along with the stewed tomato mixture from earlier. Allow this to stew on low for about 5 minutes, stirring every so often. Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil before turning off the heat. 

Add your mixture to the pitcher of a blender and blend on low for 1 minute. Turn the blender up to medium and blend for a full 2 minutes, or until absolutely everything has been pulverized. Add the lovely orange-red mixture back into the pot and rinse out the blender with two cups of warm water to get the extra goodies off the sides before adding that all together. 



Add your chopped beans - I had green beans and long beans from the farmers market and CSA, so I used those. I also had some gorgeous bell peppers and fresh onions, and these are classic flavors in kare kare, which is the meaty Filipino stew that usually has beans and eggplant in it. Since we're only going for a nod to kare kare as well as traditional masala curry, we'll be sticking to the beans alone. Either way, now is the time to add your fresh vegetables and stir in to coat.

You can now turn off the heat at this point and let this mixture hang out until you're ready to serve it. This is an excellent make-ahead meal that you can even make in large quantities and freeze in bags for later! If you'd like to continue making it, please read on. 

Prepare any rice you plan on serving with. If you'd like to add an extra protein to this dish, you may add chopped chicken thighs, seitan, tofu, etc., but I don't believe it's necessary. This is a wonderful vegetarian dish that's high in folate and protein from the peanuts and eggs!

When you're ready to serve, simply bring your curry mixture to a gentle simmer over a low flame until it is hot. Taste for salt at this point and ready your eggs. You can crack an egg and pop it directly in to the simmering broth, but I like to be a little gentle with mine by cracking each egg into a small bowl or cup individually to ensure that I don't get any bits of shell inside. 

As the name suggests, drop the egg in and let the curry broth accept it into its embrace. The trick is to drop the egg from about four inches above the surface of the curry so that it creates a hole for itself, lest it just sit on top. Repeat this in a clockwise motion until you've used all the eggs you want to use. Cover and set a timer for 5 minutes. When the timer is up, simply turn off the heat and let sit for another 2 minutes before serving over rice and garnishing with lots and lots of parsley.



I love this dish because it is creamy, nutty, and somehow bright, but it is an excellent 'end of summer' dish to use up all of those seemingly random vegetables that you may not know what to do with. Even better, the peanuts are high in folic acid, which I - as a human that is currently growing a human - very much need. Peppers, tomatoes, and green beans? Not a usual combo for the average American - at least not as far as I've seen - but I think they go great together with this dish. Surprisingly, my husband loved it too, even though it was a vegetarian meal.

Thank you so much for spending a piece of your day with me. I hope you have a wonderful morning, evening, or night. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Monday, August 23, 2021

Upside-Down Caramel Pear cake




When August turns to September, it is the time for pears. Small, dense, mild Asian pears grow very well in the Midwestern USA. I'm so fortunate to be a part of a small farming community in the middle of a bustling city because I always have access to the best produce when it's fresh. I don't have enough land to justify a pear tree, and I'm currently in constant battle with the woodland critters that vie for my peaches, but that doesn't mean I don't love pears when they are in season. 

Asian Pears, also known as Japanese Pears, Nashi Pears, or Apple Pears are deciduous fruit trees that grow well in well-drained soil and benefit from slightly acidic conditions. They are not self-pollinating, so they need a pal to be next to in order to produce fruit. Although they can grow large, they will usually be quite small if you buy them from a local grower, which is absolutely okay. The flavor is extremely mild and therefore can lend themselves to both sweet and savory dishes. I love these pears because the dense texture and low moisture content make them ideal for baking. Fruit that keeps its shape during the cooking process is a rare treat; don't waste that opportunity!

Upside-Down Caramel Pear Cake
adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, Fall Recipes edition
  • 8 oz/1 cup/2 sticks of vegan butter, divided 
    • Of course, use dairy butter if that's what you have on hand. I like Miyoko's for this recipe!
  • 2/3 c + 3 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
  • 5 small Asian Pears, peeled, halved, and cored
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 3/4 c warm water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 c/10 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Take half of your butter and chop it into cubes. Add the other half to the bowl of a standing mixer and set it on your stovetop to warm while you work. Add your chopped cold butter into either one 13" bread loaf pan or two 9" loaf pans. (You can also use a cast-iron skillet or a 9" round cake tin, but I did mine in a loaf.) Place in a cold oven and turn it on to 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, whisk all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.

It's not the prettiest now, but bear with me!

Check your butter in 10 minutes. When it's melted, add 1/3 + 3 Tbsp brown sugar to the pan and mix with a spatula to make sure that it's fully incorporated and in all of the corners. Arrange your pears, cut-side down, in the bottom of the pan, and do your best to ensure even spacing. Add it back into the oven and let roast for 20 minutes. Let's work on the batter next!

The butter in your mixing bowl should be sufficiently warm by now, so let's use a paddle attachment to whip that butter into shape. You're going to want to whip it until it's light and fluffy, and then add the remainder of your brown sugar. Let mix on low for 30 seconds, turn the speed to medium, and beat until the color has lightened and the sugar has dissolved. Add the eggs one at a time, letting mix for a full minute between each one. Add the maple syrup and mix until homogenous. It should smell divine!

With the mixer on low, add in half the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add in the water and vanilla extract and mix. Add the remainder of the flour and stir until combined, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to ensure that absolutely everything has mixed well. Set the bowl aside in a cool spot in the kitchen until your 20 minutes are up. This will allow the mixture to hydrate and rest!

When the timer for the oven goes off, remove the pan from the oven and let it sit on the counter for 2 minutes. Give your batter a quick stir and gently pour over the hot pears and caramel as evenly as possible, making sure to scrape every last bit of batter from the bowl. Gently push the batter over the corners and do your best to cover the pears. The caramel will rise up so try not to harm yourself! Slow and steady wins this race. 

When you've got yourself sorted in the batter, return the pan to the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cake is fully set and cooked. You can test this with a skewer! Take this time to clean up, as it's probably smart to clean as you go. At the sound of the timer, remove the cake from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes on the counter before flipping onto a serving vessel. You can use a long platter, a fancy plate, or even a rustic wooden cutting board, like yours truly. You can let the cake cool completely before cutting a slice for yourself, but truthfully, I couldn't wait that long and just gave it a five-minute rest before cutting into it. 



This cake is so incredibly tender, light, and is full of fall-adjacent flavors of caramel and spice. Pears are a wonderful fruit to eat and turmeric is an excellent spice to add to your cakes. I don't want to get too preachy about the benefits of turmeric, so I'll just say that it adds pretty color and a beautiful aroma that balances out the pears and caramel. This is excellent as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or as a sweet treat for breakfast with your morning coffee. Make sure you keep it covered and wrapped on the counter, and it will stay good for a week. I doubt that it will last that long, though...

Thanks so much for spending some of your day or night with me. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Friday, August 20, 2021

Carrot Cinnamon Doughnuts

 

Why leave your house when you can make your own doughnuts at home?

Don't laugh; this is not just a cheap and shallow attempt to get your kids - or possibly your self - to eat more vegetables. This is a wonderful idea and I'm about to tell you why. 

Carrots are root vegetables that are naturally full of sugar. What other root vegetables can be made into a cake, for goodness sake? Sure, you can use a beet, which is so full of sugar that you can make boxed sugar out of it...but why do that to a cake when it's so earthy? Carrots are sweet, just a touch bitter, and have a flavor so mild and delicious that even the pickiest of children and adults still generally love them. So why not add them to doughnuts? A carrot cake doughnut is likely not so special, but a yeast-risen carrot doughnut? Keep reading.

Carrot Doughnuts
yields 1 dozen doughnuts + doughnut holes

  • 1 c warm water
  • 1 Tbsp active yeast
  • 1/3 c sourdough starter**
    • Optional but quite nice for the balance of flavor
  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c tapioca flour
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • A fat pinch of kosher salt
  • 3/4 c finely grated carrot, about 3 small carrots or 1 very large one
  • 1 large egg
  • Cinnamon spice sugar to finish
Combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Sprinkle in the yeast and add the sourdough starter, if you have it. Give the liquid a quick swish in the bowl and let sit for about 5 minutes, or until frothy. Add in both of the flours and stir until just combined. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes, undisturbed, to hydrate. Add in all of the other remaining ingredients and mix on low for 10 minutes, or until incredibly stretchy. Transfer your dough into a clean bowl that's well greased with oil and allow it to rise for at least an hour, or until doubled in size. 

It's so fluffy...

When your dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured surface and punch down to get rid of the bubbles. Press your dough into a rectangular shape, making sure to get it as dense as possible, and cut into 12 equal squares. Of course, you can cut your doughnuts into round shapes, but I don't like to do that because I don't like to waste dough. You may call me lazy for not wanting to gather the scraps and make them into more dough to use later; I say I'm frugal and unwilling to waste potentially good food!


If you want to stuff them with Nutella or some other sort of tastiness, please feel free to leave them in square shapes. If you aren't so interested in that, cut holes in the middle with a small round cutter. Spray vigorously with pan spray and pop onto a sheet tray. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight. While we're waiting, please indulge me while I talk a bit about how my thought process works in coming up with these recipes.

Recently, I had gotten into a conversation of how I think and how I put things together. I'm on an app for pregnant humans and one of the groups I'm in is called "Foodie Fans." I constantly post my 'reject' photos there, which are the photos that I think are unworthy of instagram or facebook. These are usually just photos with poor lighting or not-so-great composition. I take a ton of photos of my food in case I need content for this and that, and I feel happy that I have a photodump for other things. I always get "OMG Recipe please!" in the comments, but I always tell them that I'm sorry, I don't have a recipe. 

I can't be the only ex-chef on that app, can I?

I write my own recipes in the sense that I'm pulling from years of practice. It isn't instinctual, it's more of: 'this is a problem and I want to solve it.' When put in the restraint of cooking only what you have when you have it instead of buying what I feel like buying, I have the mental freedom to create something completely new along with the constraints of a self-contained episode of "Chopped." I simply take what I know about carrots and apply it to a new application.



Carrots are sweet. Carrots can be made into cake. Carrots are dense but are not starchy. Carrots are bright orange, which means they contain carotene, which your body uses to make vitamin A...which helps prevent you from getting sick. Carrots can come in all colors! Carrots maintain their own shape when cooked. Carrots do not leak liquid unless grated and squeezed. When you look at all of these factors, they make great candidates for adding to baked goods such as cakes and pastries which require precise measurements for moisture, lest they fail in the oven. I initially wanted to do carrot cinnamon rolls where I made a carrot jam filling for the inside instead of a cinnamon sugar filling, but I'd just recently done cucumber cinnamon rolls, so I didn't want to be redundant.

You - too - can make fun things with your food as long as you are confident and follow the rules set for you by the ingredients. My favorite thing about food is the impermanence of it, of how it captures a moment. I love cooking seasonally for this reason as well. It's late August when I'm writing this, which is when I get the best, most-tender carrots. Grow a garden for yourself and learn all about what you and your land can grow!

In the morning, when you want doughnuts, bring out the tray and let rise on the counter for at least half an hour. Your dough will have risen in the fridge overnight, so no need to worry too much. All you want now is for the dough to get to about room temperature. It's late summer so my house is warm, which is why it only took me about 20 minutes to get my doughnuts soft enough. If the doughnuts are too cold, big bubbles will form here and there in random places instead of the uniform loft which you would normally want in a yeast doughnut.

Heat a neutral-flavored oil such as grapeseed or canola oil to 375 degrees F or 190 degrees C. I like to use a glass candy thermometer for this application, and - as far as I can tell - most grocery stores have these. Fry the doughnuts until golden-brown and floating, which is around 2 minutes per side. I always drop my doughnuts in gently, count to ten, and then flip them over to cook on the other side for my initial two minutes. I do this because - again - I want my bubbles to be even. When finished, fish them out with a spider and toss them in cinnamon sugar. Of course, you are more than welcome to come up with some fashion of cream cheese glaze to allude to the classic carrot cake flavor profile, but I personally prefer cinnamon sugar for this application. Besides, cinnamon sugar looks just so appealing!



The carrots aren't super pronounced as a flavor, so it's quite subtle. If you'd like to get a more pronounced carrot flavor, feel free to substitute half of the water with carrot juice. This will also turn your dough a delightful orange color. What's nice about these is that you get a lovely, chewy doughnut with flecks of pretty orange inside. Even better, you keep the healthy bits of carrot which make it at least mildly better for you than the average doughnut. 

Oh, and don't worry too much about making this recipe super healthy. Healthy just means "nutrient dense", and the carrots help add to that. Carbs are here, yes, but this is relatively low in sugar so it'll give you a slow-burn bit of energy instead of a quick burst. Furthermore, you - an individual - is going to cook in a much different way than a restaurant or commercial bakery will cook. Don't feel bad about what you're liking and what you're eating. Eat whatever you want, so long as you make it yourself. 

I hope you've enjoyed this recipe. As always, I would love to thank my partners at KC Farm School at Gibbs Road for the produce. I hope you have reached out to your own CSA and challenged yourself to cook a little more seasonally than you would otherwise do. Happy cooking and happy eating!





Thursday, August 12, 2021

Chile Verde con Pollo


Many years ago, when I was just a young sprig of a girl I was fortunate enough to get a job at a restaurant that no longer exists called Pancho's Villa. The owners were Columbian, but I felt confident in taking the executive chef position there since I'd been born and raised in the southwest of America. I thought: "I know my Mexican food!" And I did...but I didn't know Columbian. It was an incredible year of learning, and one of the biggest things I learned was how to make chile REALLY well! 

We had two chiles that I still recall how to make: Chile Verde and Chili Colorado. Chile Colorado is a red chile with dried ancho and guajillo chilies. Chile verde is made with a late summer fruit that I adore: tomatillos. I adore them so much that I even wrote a piece about them way back in 2012! Tomatillos are tomato-like in appearance, but they have a thin paper veil that surrounds each of the fruits, quite similar to gooseberries. They can be purple or green, are naturally sour, and are usually your main ingredient in salsa verde. Chile Verde was usually made with pork in the restaurant, but I prefer it with chicken. Here's how to make it!

Chile Verde con Pollo

  • 2 pints tomatillos
  • 1 small red onion, peeled
  • 1 serrano chili, de-seeded
  • 1 whole head of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp dried coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 sprigs fresh parsley, stems and all
  • 3 Tbsp hot sauce
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • 1 lb chicken breast
  • Tortillas to serve


Peel the tomatillos of their paper and place them in a large dutch oven with a lid. Fill the pot at least halfway up with water and get scrubbing! You won't scrub with soap, of course - just rub the fruits between your hands to get rid of that film that's covering it. The water will foam up a bit, which is quite normal. Drain the water and give them all a good rinse before covering with 3 cups of water. Add the garlic, serrano, onion, coriander seeds, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Bring the water to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. Cover the pot and let it boil for 15 minutes while you get an oven heating to 325 degrees F. 

Pour your stewed tomatillos into the pitcher of a blender and blend on low for 1 minute. Add the parsley. Turn the blender to high and let spin for at least another minute, or until absolutely everything is 100% pureed. Add the puree back into the pot and bring it up to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer and let it cook until the oils from the parsley separate. This takes about 10 minutes. Give it a good stir, add the hot sauce, and season to your liking. Add the chicken straight in and cover. Turn off the flame and add the whole pot to the oven. Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 30 minutes. 

When the time is up, evacuate from the oven and retrieve the chicken from the broth. You can shred it on a cutting board or in a bowl. Meanwhile, simmer the salsa until it's thick enough to your liking. When it's thick enough, add the chicken back in and stir to coat. Serve with guacamole, sour cream, or any other sort of goodies you may like. You can serve with the tortillas or over white rice with black beans. Delicious!



I love this dish because it reminds me of the fun time I had while I was a chef. I always have it with flour tortillas because I am from the Sonoran desert, which means: FLOUR instead of corn tortillas. You can buy them, of course, but I always make my own. It's incredibly easy and exponentially tastier. I use a cast iron griddle to cook mine right before eating. Fresh tortillas are always the best!


Thanks so much for spending a piece of your day with me. I hope you have a wonderful day or night. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Red Miso Deviled Eggs with Pickled Onions


Does anybody actually use a recipe for Deviled eggs? In all of my years, I never once saw my grandmother pull out a worn recipe card from her index while making deviled eggs for any family event. I only know that this was one of those recipes that she did by eye. That is to say: she guessed at how much she needed and adjusted from there. A little mayo here, a little dried mustard there, and even some pickle relish going inside. Oh, and make sure you use the big spoon, not the little spoon from the drawer to portion the yolk mixture in. Garnish with some paprika and you're good to go! I never could figure out why they were called 'deviled eggs', and she never could tell me because she didn't know. 

I admit that it's not really my habit to eat a whole tray of hard-boiled eggs...but if you cut them in half, mix the yolks with mayo and spices, and spoon it back in then - well - sign me up. I can't fathom what it is about deviled eggs but I just can't seem to resist them when served at parties. Even at restaurants, I am powerless against the siren song of the deviled egg. I know I've come in for not deviled eggs when dining with friends or my husband, but if they're available, I'll ask: 

"Hey. You wanna split some deviled eggs?" The answer is almost always yes. 

Don't worry - this is a mocktail!

When I was asked to make some finger foods for my High Summer Happy Hour for my CSA group for KC Farm School at Gibbs Road, I was volunteered to make deviled eggs. They asked me for the recipe so they could print the menu. I blanked because I realized that I have no recipe for deviled eggs, and simply make the kind of deviled eggs I feel like. When I threw these together and presented them at the party, they were a massive hit. I was immediately bombarded with requests on how to make them. Here's how!

 Red Miso Deviled Eggs

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1/4 c red miso
  • 1 tsp dried turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground horseradish
  • 1/2 tsp spicy brown mustard
  • Paprika, fresh herbs of your choice, as needed

Quick-Pickled Onions

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 c cold water
  • 1/2 c white vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns
  • **1 tsp garlic chives
Slice the onions as thinly as you can. You can do this by hand or use a mandolin. Just please be careful! Add half of your water to a plastic container along with the garlic chives and the other half to a small saucepot. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Give your liquid a quick stir to make sure that absolutely everything is dissolved. Pour your liquid over your onions and give all of it a stir with a pair of chopsticks. Everything should be completely covered. Stick this in the fridge for at least 3 hours. 

To get perfect hard-boiled eggs every time

Add your eggs to a medium saucepot and cover with an inch of cold water. Add a Tbsp of baking soda to the water along with a fat pinch of salt. Turn on the burner to high and set a timer for 17 minutes exactly. When the water comes up to a boil, immediately cover and turn off the heat. Wait for the timer to go off before draining the water and covering with ice. Simply allow the ice to melt before cracking and peeling. Your eggs should peel easier than you've ever seen them peel!

Halve the eggs and pop the yolks into a bowl. You can use any bowl and mash them by hand with a fork, but I personally prefer the easy route by adding them to a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Combine the yolks with all of the remaining ingredients, except for the paprika and the fresh herbs, whisking until completely smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl before whipping again for at least another 10 seconds before you taste it. 

Please note that while these are going to be quite close to what you'll need, they may still be estimates. Deviled eggs are the kind of thing that you're going to want to taste along the way to make sure is going to be to your liking. Add everything I've set for you, then taste to adjust. You'll love the red miso in this because it's salty while also being deep, so you may want more! The long and short is that this kind of cooking is going to be a little instinctual. Don't be afraid to experiment with your flavors.

To present, I like to add my yolk mixture into a piping bag and pipe the filling into the halves of the whites. You can use a spoon or a disher to ensure even distribution, but I don't think it looks as pretty, and half the point of making a party platter is to make it visually appealing.  A piping bag will make a pretty mound that will look much more attractive. Heck, use a star tip in your piping bag if you want! 



When all of your halves are filled, garnish with the pickled onions, a sprinkle of paprika, and any fresh chopped herbs you may have chosen. I chose a mixture of garlic chives and parsley to garnish with because that's what I had in my garden. I also chose red onions for this recipe because that's what's currently growing this summer. As I specified before, most of how I cook depends on what ingredients I can get my hands on from either the farmer's market or my own backyard. This is my version of cooking seasonally and challenging myself to eat a little more conscientiously. 

When you go to a grocery store, you can see - on the stickers of your fruit - exactly where it's come from. Apples from Chile, onions from Mexico, et cetera... But all of these can grow in my own backyard with only a little effort on my part. I don't think anyone talks about the environmental aspects of how we eat nowadays. Is it up to the individual to stop all pollution and reduce the world's carbon footprint? Certainly not. It's simply very important to me that I am able to cultivate a relationship between where my food comes from and how I consume it, and shorten my journey from earth to plate. Call it my own little way of saving the world, if you like - but I think if we all were a little less detached from our consumption and more aware of our food, the world would be that much of a better place. 


I hope you've enjoyed this recipe and I hope that you'll save it for later, make them for a party, or just make it to eat while you binge the latest installment of "Love is Blind: After the Altar." I don't judge. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!