May 30, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

 I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day!

Don't let the blah colors of the picture fool you. I'm not very good at taking pictures of crisp... It just looks kinda mushy & brown. But trust me - it was delicious!!

If you read my garden post, you might remember that I'm growing rhubarb & strawberries. Both have taken off & are ready to be eaten in abundance! I'm especially excited about the strawberries. Last year, I didn't do much with them because we were so busy eating them by themselves. I have a few recipes that I'd like to try this year, but I'm starting with the usuals - crisp & shortcake.

It was SO hot over the weekend, so I tried to keep this light. The flavor of rhubarb is so often overpowered by sugar, but I wanted to showcase it's tart flavor here. The strawberries add sweetness, but not a lot.

We topped ours with a version of banana soft serve. I make this a lot, but this time I tried freezing a big batch of it & we were able to scoop it out like hard ice cream. The sweetness & cold from the bananas complimented the crisp really well. I'm sure a vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt would be good as well.

Summer is officially here. Woohoo! 

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
Serves 6

For filling:
6-7 stalks of rhubarb, chopped
1 qt. strawberries, quartered
2 T honey
1/4 c white whole wheat flour

For topping:
1 c old-fashioned oats
3 T honey
2 T coconut oil, softened
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
pinch sea salt

Preheat oven to 350*F. Spray a 8"x10" baking pan (or similar size) with cooking spray. Combine filling ingredients and add to baking pan. In a small bowl, use a fork to blend the topping ingredients until combined. Topping should be sticky. Spread evenly over filling. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until bubbly and browned on top. Enjoy warm!

May 22, 2012

Mangia Mangia

Over the weekend, we went out to eat at Mangia Mangia Italian Grille with my parents. They'd been there once before & loved it, so they wanted us to try it, too.

We all started with salads. The great thing was that they will do half sizes of their salads. Now, I'm a HUGE salad eater & could eat the largest imaginable salad, but at a restaurant I always want to try everything. Smaller is better for my stomach & my wallet!

Mom & I each had half of the Beet Salad, which was field greens, roasted beets, & fennel with sherry vinaigrette & a goat cheese crostini. It was delicious! I'm not a huge fennel fan, but it was shaved very thinly so it complimented the salad instead of overpowering it. The vinaigrette was light & fresh.

The Bup got the full-size Caesar salad, & Dad got a half-size Caesar. Very traditional. I tasted it, & was surprised by the lightness. Caesar salads can be really heavy, but this wasn't. Like my salad, it wasn't over dressed.

Mom & I split the Vegetable Pizza, which had eggplant, mozzerella, zucchini, tomato, spinach & garlic. The crust was amazing: chewy, but still crispy on the bottom. I was also impressed with the fresh taste of the sauce.

The Bup got the Spinach, Mozzerella, Ricotta Calzone. It was really good! There was too much cheese in it for me, but he loved it. He had to request a second bowl of marinara sauce. Dad requested one with his Meatball Parmigiana sandwich, but there wasn't enough to share. They both love their dipping sauce.

For dessert, Dad & I split a huge slice of Coconut Rum Cake.

Mom had the Canolis. She really grilled the waiter (who was super nice!) about how they were. She's picky about her canolis! These stood up well to her high standards.

And of course, the Bup had the Chocolate Cake. It was super chocolately & not dry like chocolate cakes often tend to be.

This is our new favorite Italian place. The service was great, the meal was delicious, & it was reasonably priced. It's also BYOB. I love having that option because you really save a lot of money & I know I'll like what I'm drinking. Next time we go, I'm going to try one of their pasta dishes. My only complaint - it's not within walking distance!

May 18, 2012

Whole Wheat Sourdough Pancakes

Yay for breakfast! Double yay for pancake breafasts!!

I don't know about you, but I love fluffy pancakes. I want them to be thick, fluffy, & filling. Plus, I want them to be a blank slate for any topping I'm in the mood for. I ended up topping these with pure maple syrup, cashew butter, & leftover rhubarb puree. Triple yum!

Ever since my friend Jen posted her quest for perfect sourdough pancakes, I kept thinking about them. And thinking about them. And possibly drooling while thinking about them. So finally I had to make them.

Of course, I can't leave well enough alone. My ideal pancake breakfast would keep me full for several hours. Whole grains are a great way to fuel the body for longer periods of time because they have more fiber & take longer to digest. So I did some research & altered the recipe to include whole grains.

The Bup is very happy about these pancakes because I've been experimenting with a variety of flavors for awhile. Every time, we'd both take one bite & realize we'd rather have a plain pancake. But then the next week, I'd try something new again. There are so many recipes out there that look delicious! This one is here to stay, however, & we've eaten these for 3 Saturdays in a row. I'm sticking with them for as long as I have my sourdough starter. Actually, I think it's an incentive to keep it alive!

If you have a starter going, prep these tonight for your breakfast tomorrow morning!

Whole Wheat Sourdough Pancakes
Makes 8 3-4" round pancakes

1/2 c sourdough starter
3/4 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c water
2 T honey
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg, beaten
1 T butter
1 c white whole wheat flour

Combine starter, whole wheat flour, and water. Cover lightly and let stand overnight, or at least 4 hours. Add honey, salt, baking soda, egg, and butter. Stir just until combined. Do not over stir. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Heat skillet to 375*F. Gently stir white whole wheat flour into batter. Pour onto hot skillet, about 1/4-1/3 cup batter per pancake. Allow to cook until edges and middle are covered in tiny bubbles. Flip and cook for another 45 seconds or until cooked through the middle. Serve hot.

Note: Any sourdough starter should work here. I got the recipe for mine from the book How to Bake the Perfect Life & it includes rye flour. I've been feeding it for about 2 months now with whole wheat flour, so I think the rye is eaten up by now! If this one ever dies, I think I'd try making Mama Pea's. The pineapple juice in it intrigues me.

May 16, 2012

What's Growing Now


red & yellow onions

arugala & spinach

sugar snap peas, kale, radishes


kiwi buds

lettuce for days




pretty flowers

nectarine & peach trees


lettuce for years

May 15, 2012

Blueberry Oat Super Smoothie

For our 3 year anniversary, my parents gave us a VitaMix. Since then, we started the tradition of having a green smoothie every Sunday morning before church. I usually stick to the same general mix, but when I come across a tasty looking smoothie recipe online, I can't resist trying it out.

I don't often have all of the right ingredients, so I can't say that I've ever recreated any recipe exactly, but many have come close. This particular smoothie inspiration came from the Whole Foods recipe site. I added spinach for extra nutrients & changed up a few other ingredients for things we had on hand.

It's very dark because of the blueberries & spinach together, but don't let that fool you. It's delicious!

This one drink is loaded with antioxidants from the blueberries, omega-3 fatty acids from the flax, and vitamins & minerals from the other ingredients. It's a super smoothie, guaranteed to fuel you through a busy morning. Drink & enjoy!

Blueberry Oat Super Smoothie
Adapted from Whole Foods
Serves 2

1/2 c orange juice
1 c coconut milk (refrigerated, not canned)
2/3 c frozen blueberries
1/2 c old-fashioned oats
1 T flax seeds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 small frozen banana
1 large handful spinach

If using a high speed blender:
Add all ingredients to the blender, process, and enjoy!

If using a regular blender: 
Add spinach, flax seeds, milk, and orange juice to blender. Process until mixture looks smooth, and then process for another 30 seconds. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour and enjoy!

Note: Smoothie will keep in an airtight container overnight in the refrigerator but may have a thinner consistency than when fresh.

May 12, 2012

Creamy Tomato Vodka Pasta

I've been waiting a long time to have creamy pasta without it being laden with heavy cream or other fatty ingredients. I tried a few versions, our favorite being the Pumpkin Cheeze Sauce that I used for my Cheezy Eggplant Bake. That sauce is delicious, & perfect for anything cheesy, but doesn't help me with my dilemna.

For soups, it's easy to use potatoes to add a creamy thickness. For sauces, however, potatoes just don't seem quite right. I have used ricotta cheese at times, or a bit of cream cheese, but neither really get rid of the heavy dairy that I'd like to avoid. (If I'm having heavy, creamy dairy, I'd like it to be ice cream. Nothing else is worth it!)

When I came across a post on the Edible Perspective for creamy marinara sauce, I knew I'd found my solution! Since one of my favorite creamy sauces is Vodka Sauce, I decided to combine some recipes & work up a new sauce of my own. The result is full of flavor, creamy, & perfect for satisfying our tastebuds. No one will ever guess that you're serving them tofu, but they'll be healthier for it. Tofu adds protein to an otherwise carb rich meal, making it more balanced. Added bonus: you'll stay full longer!

I have a feeling this is going to be a new go-to meal. It doesn't take nearly as long as the lengthy directions imply. The hardest part is chopping up a few veggies!

I hope you try this & enjoy it. Let me know what you think!

Creamy Tomato Vodka Pasta
Inspired by Creamy Marinara Sauce & Vodka Cream Pasta
Serves 4-6

1 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno
4 baby bella mushrooms (optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup vodka
5 oz. firm tofu*
14 oz. can of tomatoes
8 oz. pasta sauce
3 T nutritional yeast (or sub. parmesan cheese)
1 tsp. dried basil
pinch crushed red pepper
salt & black pepper, to taste
1 c chopped kale
16 oz. (1 lb.) shaped pasta (penne, rigatoni, etc. - I used chiocciole)

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add onion & jalapeno. Saute for 3-5 minutes until the onions begin to sweat. Add mushrooms (if using) & garlic; cook until fragrant. Pour in vodka & bring to a simmer. Cook to reduce vodka by about half. 

In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.

Using a blender, combine tofu, tomatoes, pasta sauce, nutritional yeast, & basil. Blend until creamy & smooth. Pour mixture into skillet with the vodka & veggies. Season with crushed red pepper, salt, & black pepper to taste. Allow sauce to cook until warm throughout.

Once pasta is done, drain completely & combine with sauce. Serve hot!

*If you have tofu leftover, which you surely will since I haven't found 5 oz. packages anywhere, the best thing to do with it is make dessert! Since you'll need to scale down the ingredients for the amount of tofu you have remaining, I'd recommend using a smaller dish instead of a pie plate. I used small custard cups so that we had single servings ready to grab!

May 10, 2012

Coconut Cherry Crisp

We were lucky enough to be given several containers of frozen sour cherries from my in-laws. Pre-pitted & everything! We're really enjoying them, as seen with the Chewy Cherry Granola & the Cherry Infused Vodka.

This crisp was a shot in the dark...I wasn't sure how honey & coconut would go with the cherries. The answer: deliciously!

I've made this crisp a few times, with some variations. What you see below was our favorite. This isn't as sweet as some crisps are, since we found that we liked some of the tartness from the cherries to shine through. Feel free to add more honey to suit your own sweet-tooth.

Coconut Cherry Crisp
Serves 4-6

For the base:
1 3/4 lb. sour cherries, washed, stemmed & pitted (frozen is fine)
3-4 T honey
1 T white whole wheat flour

For the topping:
1 c rolled oats
3 T shredded coconut
2 T white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 T honey
2 T raw sugar
2 T coconut oil

Preheat oven to 400*F. Spray a small baking pan (about 4"x8") with cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, mix cherries, honey, & flour. Spread in prepared baking pan. In the same bowl, combine oats, coconut, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg & salt. Add honey, sugar, & coconut oil. Use two forks or a pastry blender to cut the wet ingredients into the dry mixture to form a crumb. Spread the topping mixture over the cherry mixture. Bake for 45-55 minutes. Crisp is done when the cherries are bubbling & the topping is lightly browned.

Enjoy warm. If you're feeling especially decadent, serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

May 8, 2012

Lime Rhubarb Margaritas

How was your weekend? Mine was great!

On Friday night, we enjoyed these yummy drinks while we waited to see if it was going to rain. After we decided it wasn't, we headed out for a walk. Ten minutes later, the rain came. Since we were already soaked, we just continued our walk. One of our happiest dating memories was when we went for a walk in the rain at his church's camp grove, so we love rainy walks!

Saturday I got a free food processor from a neighbor/friend. I immediately went home & made cashew butter & pizza hummus. Yum!!

I had wine & homemade pizzas with some girlfriends on Saturday night, along with some great chat time. We don't see each other often enough!

Then on Sunday, we played handbells for the last time of the season (yay for summer break!) & then went to lunch w/ the in-laws.

Since we didn't have any real plans for Cinco de Mayo, I figured it was important to at least have a margarita! These were a delicious blend of sweet & tart, with the all important hint  of tequila. If I had more patience, I would've salted the glass rims, but by the time we got to that, I just wanted to have one. :-) Feel free to experiment to suit your taste.


Lime Rhubarb Margaritas
Syrup adapted from
Serves 1
1.5 oz. tequila
1 oz. triple sec
1 oz. lime juice
4 oz. rhubarb syrup (see below for recipe)
slice of lime

Add a few ice cubes to a medium glass. Pour in tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and rhubarb syrup. Stir. Garnish with a slice of lime & enjoy!

Note: A salted rim would be delicious here! Wet the rim of an empty glass with your lime slice, then dip in a shallow plate of salt.

Rhubarb Syrup
Adapted from
Makes about 3 cups

2 pounds rhubarb stalks, chopped (6-8 large stalks)
1 c raw sugar
1/2 c honey
2 c water
1/3 c freshly squeezed lime juice (3 limes)

In a medium saucepan, combine the rhubarb, sugar, & honey. Stir to coat & let set for 30 minutes, stirring now and then. The sugars should begin to pull out the juices of the rhubarb, creating a syrup on the bottom of the pan.

Add the water & simmer gently over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for about 10 minutes or the rhubarb starts to break down. Strain into a bowl through a fine-mesh strainer. Pour liquid back into the now empty pot, stir in the lime juice, & return to a simmer. Allow simmer for about 15 minutes or until the syrup starts to thicken. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.  Extras can be used for more margaritas, on pancakes, with seltzer water, etc.

Note: The rhubarb pulp can also be kept in the refrigerator & used like a jam. We've had it on toast, biscuits, & by the spoonful!

May 4, 2012

Grilled Spicy Tofu & Balsamic Grilled Leeks with Broccoli

Remember last week when I told you I'd have a recipe for wild leeks?

Maybe you didn't find a wilderness that supplies them yet...for you, I'm offering grilled tofu. Both recipes are quick, flavorful & easy.

Weekends are a great time for grilling! Get out & enjoy the spring weather. We have plans to go to a family/church softball game on Friday night, then get some gardening & cooking done on Saturday. It's a big day, too - Cinco de Mayo & the Kentucky Derby! Maybe we'll have burritos & mint juleps to celebrate. :-)

I hope everyone has a wonderful & relaxing weekend!

For those of you with an aversion to tofu, try it this way. Grilled tofu is crispy on the outside, soft on the inside & very flavorful after you let it marinate. I love how distinctly the grill marks show up. We ate ours dipped in a merlot sauce, but I think bbq sauce, ketchup or A1 would also be delicious.


Grilled Spicy Tofu
Adapted from Edible Perspective
Serves 2-4

1 package firm or extra firm tofu
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T pure maple syrup
2 T rice vinegar
1 tsp. liquid smoke
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Remove tofu block from package and rinse. Lay block on it's side and slice into 10 pieces, about 1/4"-1/2" thick. Lay the slices flat between two towels and place a heavy object, such as a cutting board + books, on top, pressing for at least 30 minutes. If pressing overnight*, place in fridge and put the contents of your fridge on top of the board.

Whisk remaining ingredients together in a large shallow dish. Lay tofu slices flat in marinade. Flip to cover, then let soak for 15 minutes. Flip again, marinating another 15 minutes. Most, if not all, of the marinade should have absorbed into the tofu at this point. Preheat grill to 500F & coat grill rack with oil to prevent sticking.

Lay tofu in a single layer on hot grill and close lid. Allow to cook for 5 minutes, then open lid and flip the tofu. If it sticks, let it cook a few minutes longer before turning. Once flipped, close lid and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from grill and serve hot!

*We enjoy tofu the most when we give it plenty of time to press. Some recipes recommend 30 minutes, which will be fine if you're short on time. If you happen to plan ahead, however, give it the extra pressing time.

Balsamic Grilled Leeks with Broccoli
Serves 2

2 c cleaned wild leeks (substitute onion chunks if you don't have access to leeks)
1 c broccoli, florets & stems*
3 T balsamic vinegar
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat grill to 500F. In a small bowl or jar, mix vinegar, oil, garlic powder, salt & pepper. Place leeks and broccoli in a grill basket and drizzle with balsamic mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Serve hot!

These veggies can be cooked alongside the Grilled Spicy Tofu. Just stir when you open the lid for the tofu.

*If the stems are very thick & tough, peel before eating. We like to use as much of the broccoli as possible, and grilling/roasting are great ways to cook the stems.

May 2, 2012

Happy Day Walnut Cake

I'm a bit of a cake snob.

It took me about 25 years to realize it, but it's true.

When we go out to eat, I always get excited about the dessert tray. Most times, my eyes are drawn to the chocolate cake, always so dark & covered in plenty of frosting, but when I get it, it rarely lives up to my expectations. It's always either too dry, not chocolatey enough, or just mediocre all around. So now, I try to remember that & order something different. Or just go for ice cream. That's always a safe bet.

This cake ranks in the "something different" category. The walnut cake recipe is a traditional one that my mom gave me from her recipe cards. I believe she got it from her mom, who got it from hers, etc., so I'm not sure of the origin. I just know it's good! Mommom always served it with a fluffy white frosting & stored it in her silver cake carrier.

I found an identical carrier at our church rummage sale & just had to buy it. I love using it because it always reminds me of Mommom's cakes.

Poppop's birthday (85 years!) was on Saturday, so Mom invited my grandparents & us over for dinner on Sunday to celebrate. I offered to make the cake, & Mom said he loves walnut cake, so she shared the recipe. I'm not a fan of the fluffy frosting that's the norm, so I went a different route & made rhubarb frosting.

I love the way the flavors blend together. The hint of rhubarb cuts the sweetness of the frosting & compliments the nutty flavors in the cake. The first time I tried the frosting, it was on rhubarb cupcakes. That was good, but this was great!


Happy Day Walnut Cake
Recipe from Mom's Archives, adapted very slightly
Serves 10-12

1 c all-purpose flour
1 1/4 c white whole wheat flour
1 T baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/3 c sugar
1/2 c non-hydrogenated shortening
1 c almond milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 organic eggs
1 c chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375*F. Grease and flour two 8" round pans. In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add shortening and mix. Once combined (mixture should be crumbly), add 1/2 of the milk, the vanilla, and 1 egg. Beat for 2 minutes. Add remaining milk and egg. Beat another 2 minutes. Gently fold in walnuts. Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake for 28-30 minutes or until bake pulls away from the edges of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from pans and allow to cool completely on cooling racks before icing.

Rhubarb Frosting
Adapted from Food Doodles

1/2 c organic butter, softened
1 c pureed raw rhubarb, cooked until reduced by half & cooled
5 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

In a medium bowl, beat the butter, rhubarb puree, and vanilla together to combine.  In 1 cup increments, add the powdered sugar until the frosting is thick and smooth.  Depending on how wet your rhubarb is, you many need to add addtional sugar.

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