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Baking with Pumpkin

I’m heading out to Martha’s Vineyard this weekend with my boyfriend and a bunch of his friends, and I can’t even begin to describe how excited I am to escape DC for a little bit.  Since shopping is limited/much more expensive on the island, we’re all making food to bring and share.  I’m going to make a big batch of this butternut squash soup, but I’m also thinking some baked goods need to be involved.  I’ve been really curious about pumpkin cookies for a couple of weeks now, and I think now might be the time to try them out.

These are a few recipes I’m considering making, but I’d love to know if you have favorites that I should try!

These Spiced-Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies from Chow look awesome. And they have oatmeal so I can sort of pretend they’re healthy.

Source: Chow.com

Source: Chow.com

Martha Stewart’s Pumpkin Cookies with Brown-Butter icing look heavenly.

Source: MarthaStewart.com

Source: MarthaStewart.com

These Harvest Pumpkin Scones from King Arthurs Flour also look pretty spectacular.  So many decisions!

Source: King Arthur Flour

Source: King Arthur Flour

Let me know if you’ve tried anything spectacular lately, I want to make it!

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Kombucha and Probiotics

I have to tell you.  The first time I tried kombucha, I thought it was digusting.  I also thought it was digusting the second, third, fourth and fifth time I tried it.  I tried all different kinds of brands and flavors and could never bring myself to actually like it.  Until I found one with ginger.  Ginger does a great job of masking the sort of sour, fermented flavor that comes with drinking kombucha (it is is fermented tea after all) and after discovering that, I can’t get enough of it.

This is one of my favorite kombucha drinks.  Source: Synergy Drinks

This is one of my favorite kombucha drinks. Source: Synergy Drinks

The other great news is that kombucha is really good for you.  It has all sorts of vitamins (tons of B-vitamins to be specific_ and awesome probiotics that help to keep your digestive system regular as well as boosting your immune system.  A lot of recent research has come out proclaiming that probiotics do all sorts of great things, like reduce risks of cancer, heart disease and other illnesses.  Other sorts of fermented foods, like pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, cheese and yogurt all contain probiotics too, just different kinds, so it’s important not to rely on just one source for all of your probiotic needs.  Probiotics are the good bacteria that help to fight off bad bacteria.  It’s especially important, if you’re taking antibiotics or any other drug that may kill of some of the good bacteria in your system, that you help it to regrow by eating and drinking things that contain probiotics.  Of course, ask your health care provider before doing this, but for the most part, you should be fine.

Here are just a couple of things probiotics can do for you:

  • Improve digestion
  • Prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
  • Treat irritable bowel syndrome
  • Reduce bladder cancer recurrence
  • Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu

Michael Pollan’s new book Cooked

, has a whole section dedicated to the beauty of probiotics and fermentation.  I really enjoyed reading this book and learned so much from it.  I defintiely recommend if you want to learn more about what you’re eating!

Let me know how you feel about kombucha in the comments!

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Istanbul Food Adventures

Sorry it’s been a long while since I’ve last posted.  I got to take a short trip to Boston at the end of August, and then I went on an incredible trip to Istanbul where I got to eat some really wonderful food.  I’ll share some pictures of the deliciousness that I got to eat, and then hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, find recipes for these and recreate them at home and share the results with you all.  But for now, hope you enjoy!

turkish sweets2

Turkish sweets in a store window along Divan Yolu

Turkish spices in the Spice Market
Turkish spices and teas in the Spice Market

Turkish delight in the Grand Bazaar.  It was hard not to eat all of these.

Turkish delight in the Grand Bazaar. It was hard not to eat all of these.

More delicious looking Turkish sweets along Divan Yolu

More delicious looking Turkish sweets along Divan Yolu

turkish mezze

Turkish Manti.  Definitely one of the major highlights of the trip.

Turkish Manti. Definitely one of the major highlights of the trip.

Fresh sea bass on Princes' Islands.

Fresh sea bass on Princes’ Islands.

Turkish lentil balls.  Definitely plan to recreate these.

Turkish lentil balls. Definitely plan to recreate these.

A dolma platter.   I learned dolma is not just stuffed grape leaves, but really stuffed anything.  This one is stuffed eggplant, pepper, tomato and grape leaves.

A dolma platter. I learned dolma is not just stuffed grape leaves, but really stuffed anything. This one is stuffed eggplant, pepper, tomato and grape leaves.

Vegetable couscous.  Another one I definitely need to work on recreating.

Vegetable couscous. Another one I definitely need to work on recreating.

Turkish coffee.  A little too strong for my taste, but had to give it a try.

Turkish coffee. A little too strong for my taste, but had to give it a try.

Rosehip tea.  Very sweet, but the perfect way to spend a few minutes in the late afternoon.

Rosehip tea. Very sweet, but the perfect way to spend a few minutes in the late afternoon.

Turkish sticky ice cream or Dondurma.  Most of it ended up all over my face, but it was really good.  The Turks add salep and mastic to regular ice cream which makes it sticky and less resistant to melting.

Turkish sticky ice cream or Dondurma. Most of it ended up all over my face, but it was really good. The Turks add salep and mastic to regular ice cream which makes it sticky and less resistant to melting.

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Farmers Market Pasta Primavera

Farmers Market Pasta Primavera

I love summer squash.  This is a new love, but it’s a very real one.  My farmers market was teeming with all sorts of squashes last week, like yellow, zucchini and pattypan, and they all managed to find their way home with me.  When I was digging around in my cabinets and drawers last night trying to figure out what to make for dinner, squash was conveniently easy to find and therefore made my decision easy.

Pasta primavera is an easy dish that allows vegetables to shine.  I really love it because there are so many different colors, and more (naturally-occurring) colors usually means more vitamins and a more appetizing, flavorful dish.  This dish is also perfect for a Meatless Monday!

Here’s what I used:

  • 2 yellow squash, sliced into rings, then quartered
  • 2 pattypan squash, cut into eighths
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into rings, then quartered
  • 1 Tomato, chopped
  • 2 cubes of frozen basil
  • Papardelle
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • 4 T Parmesan cheese

Here’s what I did:

  1. Spread the squashes and the zucchinis in a glass 8×11 baking dish.  Sprinkle with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste until you have a nice, light coating.
  2. Roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes on 400 degrees.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil, adding salt and olive oil.  Once the water boils, add the papardelle and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes.  Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
  4. Once the vegetables are done, remove from the oven and add in the frozen basil and tomato.
  5. When the basil and tomato are warmed through, add in the papardelle and the pasta water, stirring to combine.  Add in the Parmesan and stir until spread evenly throughout.
  6. Serve as is or chop up some fresh basil and add it on top.  You can also sprinkle more cheese on top.
  7. Enjoy!
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Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables

Look at this gorgeous roast chicken, don't you want to make one, too?

Look at this gorgeous roast chicken, don’t you want to make one, too?

Confession: I used to hate all chicken.  So much so, that I had completely ruled chicken out until I met my boyfriend.  Chicken that actually tastes good and doesn’t have a dry, saw-dust taste to it is very hard to find, and as a result, I’d just stopped eating it entirely.

About a year ago, my boyfriend decided that he was going to prove me wrong (as he is want to do) and make me a roasted chicken that was going to make me love chicken.  So we went to his co-op in Sacramento, picked out a beautiful, organic, happy meat chicken from Mary’s (read about them, they’re super good to their animals), and he went to town roasting the most beautiful chicken for me.  And, he proved me wrong.  So if you know anyone else who claims to hate chicken, (unless they’re a vegetarian) go ahead and make them this chicken.  See if they don’t change their mind.

Here’s what we used:

  • small, whole chicken
  • whole onion ( cut into quarters)
  • lemon (cut in half and zested)
  • lots of rosemary
  • olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped potatoes (we used purple and yukon, but use whatever you want)
  • carrots (cut into sticks)
  • parsnips (cut into sticks)

Here’s what we did:

  1. Prepare the chicken by removing the giblets and rinsing.  Pat dry.
  2. Stuff the cavity with half of the onion, and half of the lemon.
  3. Prepare a mixture with the lemon zest, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper. Rub this mixture onto the outside of the chicken.
  4. The, truss the chicken.  This involves tying the legs together and then tucking the wings under the chicken (you can click here for better instructions).
  5. Then place the rest of the onion (separate the different layers), the potatoes the carrots and parsnips in the bottom of a cast iron dutch oven.  Squeeze the lemon juice from the second half of the lemon over the vegetables and add in rosemary (if you have any leftover) and salt and pepper.
  6. Place a roasting tray on top of the cast iron pan (this is obviously in lieu of using a roasting sheet, if you have one of those, use that), and put the chicken on top of the tray.
  7. Bake the chicken at 350 degrees for 20 minutes per pound of chicken.
  8. Once the chicken is fully cooked, take it out of the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.
  9. Carve and enjoy!
Chicken stuffed with rosemary, onion and lemon.

Chicken stuffed with rosemary, onion and lemon.

Mixture of rosemary, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic.

Mixture of rosemary, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic.

Spice mixture rubbed on the chicken.

Spice mixture rubbed on the chicken.

Root vegetables with rosemary, salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Root vegetables with rosemary, salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Trussed Chicken on top of our makeshift roasting pan.

Trussed Chicken on top of our makeshift roasting pan.

A perfect golden-brown chicken after roasting.

A perfect golden-brown chicken after roasting.

Carved chicken with roasted vegetables.

We ate our chicken with an Oktoberfest from Great Lakes Brewing Co.  It's a little early for Oktoberfest, but it's hard not to enjoy any beer from Great Lakes Brewing Co. at any time of the year.

We ate our chicken with an Oktoberfest from Great Lakes Brewing Co. It’s a little early for Oktoberfest, but it’s hard not to enjoy any beer from Great Lakes Brewing Co. at any time of the year.

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Grilled Cheese with Heirloom Tomatoes, Prosciutto and Basil

IMG_0024 My favorite thing about August is that I get to leave work at noon on Fridays.  This means that my Friday lunches are a little more interesting than they usually are (leftovers).  After craving a caprese salad and a grilled cheese, I decided to merge them and make this grilled cheese sandwich.

What I used:

  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into slices
  • 1 heirloom tomato, cut into slices
  • 3 basil leaves
  • 1 slice of prosciutto, split evenly
  • pepper to taste
  • 4 slices of bread
  • 1T olive oil

What I did:

  1. Put the mozzarella, tomato, basil leaves, prosciutto and pepper on the bread (this is really easy).  Make sure that there is cheese on both sides of the bread so that when the cheese melts, it helps to hold the sandwich together.
  2. Warm olive oil in a pan and put the sandwich in.  Cook on each side until cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown.  I use a lid on my pan which helps the cheese to melt a little faster.
  3. Enjoy!  We had a glass of barefootbucha Ginger Kombucha to go with our sandwich, but a chilled white wine or prosecco would also go nicely.

Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

So let me know, what’s the best kind of grilled cheese you’ve ever had?

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Peach and Blueberry Whole-Wheat Crisp

Peach and Blueberry Whole-Wheat Crisp

Ever since I got a cast-iron skillet for Christmas last year, I’ve been trying to come up with new fun ways of using it.  I’ve done cakes in there, eggs in there, anything I can think of, I use that cast-iron skillet for.  So when my sister showed up two nights ago with bags of produce (including tons of peaches and blueberries) I decided to go ahead and make a crisp in the skillet.

What I used:

  • 2 fresh peaches, cut into slices
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • splash of vanilla
  • 1 stick of butter at room temperature

What I did:

  1. First I combined the flour, sugar, vanilla and butter in a bowl using a fork until it became crumbly.
  2. Then, I arranged the peaches and blueberries in the cast iron pan.  You can grease the pan if you want, but you don’t have to.
  3. Next I spread the crumbly mixture on top of the fruits and baked it in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until it was bubbly and the crumbly mixture was golden brown.
  4. Let it sit until cooled down and serve with frozen or regular yogurt (or ice cream, or whatever else delicious you want to put on top).
  5. Enjoy!

Peach Blueberry crisp

Let me know if there are any other kinds of fruits you like to add to your crisps!  I usually stick to the basics (strawberries, blueberries, peaches and rhubarb), but I’d love to know if you have any interesting suggestions!

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Turbot Ceviche

Turbot Ceviche

Ceviche is super easy to make. I always thought it was really complicated and important to make sure you balance out the acidity exactly so that you don’t get yourself sick/ruin the fish, etc. But my stepmother (who is hands down the world’s greatest cook ever) taught me how to make it a few years ago, and I still can’t get over how simple it all is.

Here’s what I used:

  • 1 lb of turbot cut into 1-inch cubes (but you can use any kind of firm white fish)
  • Juice of 2 oranges
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Splash of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup of chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup of chopped tomato (I used an heirloom tomato from the farmers market)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped red onion
  • 2 small thai red peppers (you could also use jalapeno)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 plantain cut into half-inch coins (you should really use 1 per person)
  • 2 T olive oil

Here’s what I did:

  1. Marinated the turbot in the orange juice, lime juice and apple cider vinegar overnight in a glass or plastic bowl. Whatever you do, do not let the ceviche come into contact with metal; it will start to take on a really nasty metallic taste.
  2. Add in the cilantro, tomato, red onion, thai red peppers and avocado.  If you don’t think you’re going to be able to finish the ceviche in one night, add the avocado as garnish when you serve it.  Otherwise, the avocado will turn nasty and brown.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the plantain.  Cook on one side until it starts to turn brown, then flip it over.  When the plantain gets warm, you’ll be able to smash it down into flatter discs.  When the plantain is cooked to where you want it (golden-brown usually), take it over and let it cool down on paper towel.
  4. Arrange the plantains on a plate and serve the ceviche on top.  Enjoy!
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Falafel and Lamb Meatball Hybrid

Peach and Blueberry Whole-Wheat Crisp

Since I’ve known my boyfriend, he’s been intent on making a falafel/meatball hybrid. Well, the day finally came when we had ground lamb from our farmers market and falafel mix in our grocery store and voila, the day for making falafel/meatballs had come.

This was one of the more delicious things we’ve ever made. He just took the lamb, mixed it with the falafel mix from a box (lame yes, but also organic and much easier than making falafel from scratch). Then he baked the falafel/meat balls in the oven following the falafel mix instructions.

Peach and Blueberry Whole-Wheat Crisp

To serve, we made a wrap out of them. I put together a spinach salad with 3 of the most beautiful tomatoes from the farmers market, some sliced red onion, feta cheese and ground pepper. We used a lavash wrap and spread a layer of both tzatziki and hummus on the wrap.

This was so yummy and the perfect big meal after a long workout. It was also a pretty great way to start the week off right.

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Watermelon and Mint Frozen Yogurt

Watermelon and Mint Frozen Yogurt

It looks like I’m on a frozen yogurt kick this week… This one was really easy and super refreshing and made with the watermelon I got from the farmers market and the mint I grow at home. Here’s what you need:

4 cups of cubed watermelon (make sure the seeds are removed)
1/4 cup of honey
1 cup of low-fat plain yogurt
10-12 mint leaves

Blend in mixer and pour into ice-cream maker (so easy, right!?)

For toppings, I just did a simple watermelon and mint puree and poured it over top. So good!

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