So I bought myself an Instant Pot for Christmas during the Black Friday sales... I even wrapped it, put it under the tree and acted surprised on Christmas morning.
And while I was genuinely excited to get one, I had no idea any kitchen gadget could be this AMAZING ..... I mean, I'm in ❤️. I've cooked several meals in it now and it's consistently 30 minutes from prep to table. And it creates flavor depth that usually takes all day to develop.
But I'll admit, I was a little nervous about any take on a pressure cooker. I've seen scary internet videos of pressure cookers gone wrong. But now that I've got the hang of the seal/vent valve.... I'm feeling pretty confident I won't blow my face off.
So tonight I made vegetarian Cheesy Southwestern Lentils & Brown Rice from Platings and Pairings. Her recipe is easy, fast and delicious. I love the spices and the crunch of the brown rice and that all of my boys ate it happily. Even my picky 6 year old made a point to give me a hug and say, "Thank you for making a good dinner" ..... I'm going to take that as a compliment for tonight's dinner and not as a knock against my other dinner offerings.....
This weather calls for soup! I love it that we've gotten a taste (though I'm about done with it) of winter.... coats, sweaters, cauliflower...
But seriously, this vegan cauliflower soup has a creamy depth of flavor that is hard to find in dairy-less soups. And, other than spewing it all over my kitchen because I didn't hold down the blender lid securely, it's easy enough.
And I figure this recipe from bon appétit magazine using the French cooking technique à l'étouffée should be used in Cajun South Louisiana on an all-vegetable meal. And while my boys tolerated it - my good friends who are foodies loved it. So hop to Rienzi Market .... or anywhere right now, really.... and grab the in-season cauliflower. I'm stocking up ... not just for roasting this year... but for SOUP!
Heat ¼ cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium. Add shallots, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme; season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are translucent, 6–8 minutes.
Add wine, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Set ¾ cup cauliflower aside; add the rest to pot along with cayenne and ¾ cup cashews; season with salt.
Cover pot, reduce heat to low, and cook, shaking pot occasionally, until cauliflower is fork-tender and vegetables have released all their water, 20–25 minutes (check occasionally to make sure vegetables are not browning; reduce heat if they are).
Add stock and season with salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, until cauliflower is falling apart, 20–25 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, finely chop reserved ¾ cup cauliflower and remaining 2 Tbsp. cashews. Heat remaining ¼ cup oil in a small skillet over medium. Add cauliflower, cashews, and buckwheat; season with salt. Cook, stirring often, until cauliflower and cashews are golden brown and buckwheat is browned and crisp, 5–8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and paprika. Let cool slightly.
Working in batches if needed, purée soup in a blender until very smooth. Return to pot and reheat over medium-low, stirring and adding more stock to thin if needed (soup should be the consistency of heavy cream). Taste and season soup again if needed.
Serve soup topped with toasted cauliflower-buckwheat mixture.
Do Ahead: Soup can be made 2 days ahead (or 1 month if frozen). Let cool; transfer to airtight containers and chill.
My 11 year old is into all the sports...And I've gotten really tired of fueling him with prepackaged sports bars with preservatives and so. much. sugar.
Also, I've tried a few commercial brands and flavors and I really don't think they taste good either...kinda chemically. So, together, we've looked for some easy and portable protein snacks that actually taste good... and are made with whole foods.
The only thing they aren’t is prepackaged, which makes them a little less pack and go. But to that, I say plastic baggie.
The first protein ball, peanut butter oat balls, is the easiest. Four ingredients and only dirties 1 bowl and 1 spoon... the first time I made them I did pull out my scale and measured the ingredients, but now, I just eyeball it. Dump and mix. Since it's so forgiving, this is a great one to have the kids make for themselves.
1/3 cup natural peanut butter (or any nut or seed butter)
1 tablespoon raw honey
1 tablespoon+ dark chocolate chips (optional)
pinch of sea salt
Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix well
Refrigerate for 30 minutes
Roll into balls
Finding Fresh http://finding-fresh.com/wordpress/
The second protein ball, a peanut butter brownie ball from Fit Foodie Finds, requires a few more ingredients (6), but is still a super easy food processor recipe.
And these can be frozen for up to 2 months, which I love since the school year can get a little crazy and I like to be able to make things ahead of time. So check out her awesome recipe with videos and commentary on her blog.... or here's a duplicate of her recipe for convenience.
1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I like dark cocoa powder)
1/2 cup all-natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/3 teaspoon sea salt
Place almonds into a food processor and process on high until you’ve created a fine almond meal.
Next, pit 20 medjool dates. Then, add those into the food processor along with the cocoa powder, peanut butter, maple syrup, and sea salt. Process on high until everything is pulverized. You may need to add a few teaspoons of water to the mixture depending on how sticky your dates are.
Scoop a heaping tablespoon of dough into your hands and roll into a ball. Repeat.
Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Finding Fresh http://finding-fresh.com/wordpress/
And these are totally not just for kids. It's a great quick bite for me in a busy day or before working out too. And whenever I'm craving something sweet... these satisfy my mind and body. Something to feel good about. 😊
I don’t want to be one of those people who self diagnoses using Google . . . but I did discover this summer that there is a direct correlation between how much dairy I eat and how much my skin decides to overreact.
So, without an official diagnosis, I've been playing mostly vegan lately. And with that and the fact that school — for both my boys and me — is starting, I’ve been testing quick breakfast options that can be pre-made and pulled out on those early mornings.
A quick word about any untraditional/alternative foods…. and I feel the need to say this because of my 11 year old, who is my favorite taste tester since he helps represent the kid contingent, tried these muffins. When he tried these muffins he said, “they feel like puke in my mouth.” 🙄Hmmmmm. . . yes, the texture is not like a regular, flour-based muffin. And while they have the name muffin — I mean we seem to crave familiar labels for things — they really aren’t supposed to be just like muffins. These are shaped like muffins but they are more like a super moist banana bread.... solid pudding? Maybe I should stop trying to describe them.
Saucy Kitchen's easy blender recipe is a fast, dump > blend > pour > bake. And I think the flavor of these is great and, to help the texture for those who need some variation, my boy and I think this recipe needs the addition of some course chopped almonds or walnuts.
My 8-year-old son just got back from an airplane trip with my dad to the Oshkosh air show in Wisconsin. They went with three other Super Decathlon airplanes from Chattanooga, slept in tents by their airplanes, learned the science of flight and watched airplanes and helicopters do tricks. They had a blast.
That and many other trips have kept this little son of mine very busy this summer. And, while I'm a proud and thankful mama, I've also missed my little red head. So, in honor of him coming home, I made one of his favorite breakfasts today — cornbread.
My cornbread recipe is my great grandmother's, whose father owned a bakery in Illinois in the early 1900s. He even owned the first car in the county for deliveries. I know you're reading between the lines and thinking, "This isn't SOUTHERN cornbread." And, yeah yeah. But it's good. Even my born-and-raised-in-the-South husband loves it. So there.
And I also found some local cornmeal last week that I've wanted to try — Country Boy Brand yellow cornmeal from Denham Springs.
Thibodaux Service League, a local volunteer organization, published and sells a cookbook of Louisiana recipes called Louisiana Legacy to help raise money for the community as well as preserve local recipes — totally cool and up my alley.
And . . . I admit, I'm in Service League . . . and I'm actually on the executive board . . . and I write a food blog . . . and the cookbook's been out since the '80s and I just bought a copy . . . embarrassing, I know.
Anyway, I've now got my copy all bookmarked up just waiting to try some of these local recipes. I know I'm not a native, but I'm proud of the Louisiana food traditions and thankful to all those before me who kept this cuisine alive. And thankful for the Service League members who thought to collect, test and put their heritage in print. That's a beautiful thing.
So first up for me was cream of eggplant soup. And as it says at the bottom of the recipe, "This is a luxurious and different approach to soups, and certainly a 'what to do with all those eggplants?' when they are plentiful!"
And, as a matter of fact, I am overrun with eggplants . . . and have been for a month or so, but, as I mentioned in my last post, one of our air conditioners died and our house was hot for two weeks . . . and I wasn't adding any heat by lighting fires in my kitchen. But now it's fixed, the house is cool and we had soup for dinner.
In a 5 quart saucepan or Dutch oven, sauté vegetables in melted butter until soft. Add seasonings. Cool until potatoes are done and ingredients begin to stick to the pan. Cool vegetables enough to be liquefied in a blender or food processor.* Blend to creamy consistency. Return mixture to saucepan. Add stock and simmer about 45 minutes until soup thickens. Remove from heat; stir in cream. Serve immediately.
*I cooked the unprocessed vegetables in the stock for the 45 minutes and then used an immersion blender at the end before the cream.
By Thibodaux Service League // Louisiana Legacy
Finding Fresh http://finding-fresh.com/wordpress/
Also, Service League still sells this cookbook at local retailers and through the league to support community causes like the Juvenile Justice Center and needy families. So pick one up or message me and I'd be happy to get a copy for you!
Two of my favorite things are sweet tea and lavender . . . sweet tea from the South and lavender from when I studied in France during college.
Now I've never put them together . . . but leave it to my mom to come up with an amazing summer treat. She was inspired by her garden that was overflowing with lavender and mint.
For whatever reason, lavender isn't used much in American cooking. But the French put it in everything from chocolate (divine) and cookies to meats. I love the soft floral flavor . . . maybe because it reminds me of the French summer sun, masses of purple flowers and running my hands through them, perfuming them for hours. Bliss.
So as I let my two wildebeests tear through Mimi's house this afternoon, I sat on the porch overlooking the Chattanooga valley and sipped lavender mint tea. . . a world away . . at least for a few minutes.
I know that title totally sounds ridiculous . . . but, really, this pomegranate balsamic vinegar from Red Stick Spice Co. in Baton Rouge is amazing.
My husband actually told me about this company last fall after seeing it referenced on Tiger Droppings (yes, that place where I try not to look at the computer to see what he's laughing at . . . because I've done it before and been sorry . . . it's a man place, you know).
Anyway, being me and loving local stuff, especially as gifts, I bought several oils, vinegars, tea and spices for my mom, sister and mother-in-law for Christmas. And they loved them. Which was fun until I realized I didn't get myself anything.
And, after trying this vinegar, I can't believe it took me several months to go shop for myself.
I put it on my caprese salad last night, but it would be fabulous just with oil as a salad dressing, reduced over ice cream (I know, that sounds a little freaky at first, but reduced balsamic vinegar makes a sweet syrup that I personally love) . . . . or licked off your finger . . .
And my sister suggested it on her favorite, easy chard recipe.