Roasted Carrot Soup #SundaySupper

carrot-soup

It’s Sunday Supper time again. This week’s event – Fancy Appetizers – is being hosted by Wendy Wholistic Woman. Stop by and see her wonderful site!

I love having a garden. I love growing many different kinds of vegetables. I don’t like trying to figure out what to do with it all so it doesn’t spoil.

I can.

I freeze.

I cook and freeze.

I get stumped.

I flip through magazines.

And lookie what I found!

Roasted carrot soup with a tinge of ginger. This should work. The Dear One loves soup. Me? I’m not so crazy about soup. But this one is thick and rich. Unusual. Ginger. Besides, I get to try out my new immersion blender!

I’m very happy now that I’ve made this – it’s snowing and cold and snowing. Soup is perfect! And the orange color is so cheery!

  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, cut into medium dice (to yield about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 large rib celery, cut into medium dice (to yield about 1/2  cup)
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger (from about 1/2-inch piece, peeled)
  • 2 cups homemade or low-salt vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground white pepper
  • Chopped fresh chives or chervil for garnish (optional)

Heat the oven to 375°F.

carrots-peeled

Place the carrots in a medium baking dish or on a baking sheet, you want the carrots in a single layer without touching. Drizzle carrots with the olive oil. Toss them to coat well and roast, for about one hour, stirring once halfway through roasting, until they’re tender, blistered, and lightly browned in a few places.

chopped-ingredients

Melt the butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it’s translucent and fragrant, 2 to 3 min. Stir in the celery and ginger and cook until the celery softens a bit and the onions start to brown, 4 to 5 min. Add the roasted carrots, chicken broth, salt, pepper, and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and cover. Cook at a lively simmer until the carrots are very tender, about 45 min. Turn off the heat and let the liquid cool.

Purée the soup in a blender in batches, never filling the blender more than a third full, and bearing down firmly on the towel-covered lid so the soup doesn’t come flying out. An immersion blender is perfect for this! If serving immediately, return the soup to the pot and reheat; garnish with the chives or chervil if you like. Otherwise, refrigerate for up to five days; reheat gently and taste for salt before serving.

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Spinach Lasagna Rolls

done

So, there’s this girl I know. Well, not a girl, a young lady really. But when I was her age … and yes, I was her age once, I wasn’t born THIS OLD, ya know … being called a young lady made be visibly blanch. She’s becoming very dear to me. In my family, cooking for and feeding people is a way to show (some) love.

There’s a little glitch in showing this Italian, kitchen-esque type of love to this otherwise lovely girl. She’s a vegetarian. Nothing with a face. Nothing with a soul. Hmmm … tricky. Never gave much thought to strictly vegetarian dishes, and fortunately, she’s not vegan, but tricky going for me just the same.

Oh! We need to add another level of cooking angst here … her sister is NOT a vegetarian (but that’s a whole ‘nuther magilla which we will get to in recipes and days to come) and, of course, there’s the carnivore. How do you feed all these different needs with one dish and keeping your hair on your head and not clenched between your fingers having just been torn from your head?

Must be yummy. Must have no faces or soul. Must be hearty. I can do this. I know I can.

I came across this Giada de Laurentiis recipe from Everyday Italian for Spinach Lasagna Rolls. The original recipe calls for prosciutto (oh, you don’t know what you’re missing) and a bechamel sauce. I opted to leave out the prosciutto and swap the bechamel for tomato sauce. Salad. Garlic bread. Dinner is ready.

And while it has no faces, this dish certainly has soul!

  • 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
  • 1 C plus 2 T grated Parmesan
  • 1 C shredded mozzarella (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 3/4 t salt, plus more for salting water
  • 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 T olive oil
  • 12 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 2 C marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Whisk the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and add a tablespoon of oil.

NOTE: I normally don’t add oil when I’m cooking pasta, but with the lasagna noodles it seems to help keep them from sticking together and becoming a massive clump.

Cook the pasta until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Arrange the pasta in a single layer on a baking sheet to prevent them from sticking.

Butter or spray with cook spray a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Pour about 1 cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish and spread to cover. Lay out 4 lasagna noodles on a work surface, then spread a large spoonful (about 3 tablespoons worth) of ricotta mixture evenly over each noodle.

Starting at 1 end, roll each noodle like a jelly roll.

Lay the lasagna rolls seam side down, on top of the marinara sauce in the dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture. Spoon the remaining 1 cup of marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls.

Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan over the lasagna rolls. Cover with foil. Bake until heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes.

NOTE: You can gild the lily a bit here and add a cup of shredded mozzarella on top of the marinara. If you choose to do this, after 20 minutes, uncover and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes.

 

 

Peach Liqueur

peach-liqueur

As you learned from the Pear Liqueur post just a few days ago, the Dear one and I were married in October. It only took us 45 years to get there, but the important thing is we got there.

Yes, 45 years. We met in grammar school in the mid-1970s. Not a lot of spark, but we weren’t even teenagers then. Went to separate high schools, but ended up in the same high school. I remember the first day being in a new school and seeing him standing at the top of the stairs. My heart exploded and I was in love. We dated, didn’t, dated, didn’t, dated,he went to Antarctica for the first time and we lost touch. There was always a space there for the ONE who got away. Sigh …

We went to a teeny, tiny Catholic grammar school in Greenwich Village. The Sisters of (un)Charity, the order of nuns that ran our grammar school, which had closed right after graduation, allowed us to use the building for a reunion. This was to be – and was – a reunion of epic proportions. Alumni were invited from the very first class of students through to the last graduating class.

I was somehow (thank you, Sandra!) was dragged into planning and coordinating this event, though someone, whose name I will not mention, hogged all the credit – well, he shared it with someone who didn’t do a single thing. Part of what the Sisters sent us to use for the reunion were CDs filled with photos; some candids, some class photos.

As one does, I sat in front of the computer looking for photos of me, my sister, my friends. While scanning through the class photos, laughing the whole time at the outfits and hair – WAIT! There HE is wearing groovy Davy Jones-esque stripped pants, a hair cut from I don’t know where and a goofy smile only a tween-aged boy can have. My heart did a pitter-patter.

To make a very long story short, I emailed him. Three sentences and the photo. I wasn’t looking for anything, just to share a photo, check in.

He didn’t answer.

And he didn’t answer.

But then HE DID.

And here we are … finally. I feel as though all the pieces finally fit together, not a feeling ever experienced before in my life.

Perhaps it’s a bit like that old sermon about the fellow who gets to heaven questioning why God didn’t save him. God’s reply, I sent you a log, a boat and a helicopter …

This was more like I put you two in each other’s paths in grammar school, high school and now. Well, this time I got the message LOUD AND CLEAR and I grabbed on and won’t ever let go.

peaches

But we’re here for peaches!

Lovely, sweet peaches. Look, there are a few in the trees! Wait, here’s more. O.M.G. look at all of these peaches! Now what will I do!?

I’ll tell you what I will do – I will make peach liqueur (look at how well the pear experiment worked!), and peach salsa, and peach jam, and freeze some just sliced, and eat many, oh, wait Sangria. Peaches were easier. The very nice thing about this recipe is the no fuss, no muss, no cooking side to it.

  • 3 peaches (about 10 ounces)
  • 5 ounces sugar
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 or 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 500 ml vodka

NOTE: Again, do to the number of peaches I had I quadrupled this recipe.

Rinse the peaches well and pat them dry.

lemons

Remove the peel from the lemon and cut into thick slices.

ready-to-sit

Place all the ingredients in an air tight jar and leave to infuse for 6 – 8 weeks, shaking every few days to dissolve the sugar.

2-weeks

NOTE: After about two weeks the liquid turns a lovely pink color.

After 6 – 8 weeks, strain the liquid through cheesecloth or coffee filter lined sieve. Refrigerate. Enjoy!

 

Pear Liqueur

pear-liquor

I’ve just returned to Maine after having spent Christmas and New Year’s in New York with  my family and friends. The Dear One – whose name I may now change to Dear Husband, we were married in October – was away in Antarctica working. It was wonderful being able to spend so much time with my family and friends, and also wonderful to return home to Maine. At times it feels as though I don’t feel quite settled in either place.

One of the questions I am constantly asked is “Do you miss New York?”

This is a question I have asked myself many, many times. I have no solid answer. I have more of a pro and con list for both New York City and Bar Harbor.

Bar Harbor is a car culture. I find myself at work going through my cabinets and fridge and freezer to figure out what I need at home. Once home, it’s 6 miles to the nearest store. In NYC, you can find anything you need or want at any time of the day or night – and within walking distance. I walked  more in NYC over my three week visit than I have in Bar Harbor in three months.

New York City wins HANDS DOWN restaurants, supermarkets, ability to find unusual ingredients – well, anything a foodie may need or desire. Bar Harbor is a barren foodie land. There are very few restaurants open here during the off season and those pickings are slim and not necessarily diverse. As for ingredients? OH PUH-LEASE! Thank goodness for Amazon!

Bar Harbor is beautiful and quiet. We hear no sirens or honking of horns. As you drive down roads there is one beautiful view after another. Breathtaking at times. Don’t get me wrong, there are views in NYC that are unforgettable, but they’re only enjoyed with the 300 or 400 people swarming around you.

The sidewalks are not as crowded in Bar Harbor. Not crowded from October to May and increasingly crowded May to October with tourists. But, no one is walking down the street with their heads down staring at an illuminated screen missing the world going on around them. Or a phone in one hand and a cup of Starbucks in the other behaving as though no one else is walking down the street.

People here say please and thank you regularly. I’m greeted by name in the bank and post office and supermarket. There’s a friendly spirit amongst the residents of this bucolic town.

I would say that the major disadvantage between NYC and BH is my family and friends. They’re all in NYC. I miss my family and friends desperately. That sense of community, of belonging, of loyalty, being a member of and a part of a family – whomever that is made up by – has not yet been found here. We all have those people – friends and family that call when you’re alone or not feeling well, that like to spend time together, gravitate toward each other; the phone that rings at just the perfect moment when you’re wandering around a big house all alone with a voice inviting you to dinner or a movie or a walk or just a chat. People who are truly intertwined in each other’s lives with more than just ‘saying’ they are. Perhaps it’s being the new person, or not being ‘from’ here. Quite frankly, I have met a small handful of people who actually are ‘from’ here. Everyone was new at one time or another.

Boy, oh, boy do I miss that. I’m not sure how to find that here or if it even exists. I’m still looking. I’m open to it actually happening, but after 3 years, I’m not sure if it will happen.

Wish me luck! Fingers crossed.

pear

After reading all of that, we’re finally at the foodie portion of this blog post.

One of the best things about living in Bar Harbor are our lovely gardens. Flowers and herbs and veggies and fruit trees. We have cherry trees and apple and peach and pears. Some years there are bumper crops of each and some years not a one. We were blessed with a bumper crop of pears.

The first time the trees had pears! We have three. Two were here when I  moved in and one we planted. The two that were here were very strange. They were alive, they had leaves, but never a flower. Early the first spring I spoke to them and mentioned that if they didn’t flower, they would be cut down and replaced. One tree flowered, one didn’t. The next spring, I spoke to the unflowering one and nicely asked it to catch up to the other and at least flower – or else. We planted the third tree. That spring two flowered, but not the new tree. The third spring, I was very adamant about them ALL flowering and having at least ONE pear EACH! And KA-BOOOOOOOM!

Pears! Our pears had pears! The question is, what do you do with PEARS? Bushels of pears. They don’t have a long shelf life. You cannot do a lot with them. I made pear butter, pear sorbet, many blue cheese, walnut and pear tarts … now what?

Pear liqueur here we come! It’s easy to put together. Most of the time preparing this comes during the waiting, waiting, waiting for it to be finished. But the jar is sitting in the dark just getting ready to bring you great joy.

The liqueur is sweet and fragrant, warmly infused with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, just a hint of citrus from the orange peel. We served this ice cold from the freezer in small glasses – you really cannot drink a lot of this (well, one person drank an entire jar – the last jar!)

I used a good, inexpensive vodka. Please don’t spend oodles of money on a top shelf vodka. The vodka here is really just a vehicle for the pears and spices.

If you have an abundance of pears or can get your hands on some beautiful, fresh pears, give this a whirl. I’ve also done the same with peaches and made a peach liqueur, so keep an eye out!

pears

1 large pear
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/4 nutmeg broken into small pieces
2 strips of dried orange peel
6 cloves
500ml vodka
150g (5 oz) caster sugar

NOTE: I quadrupled this recipe.

Make sure you have a ripe yet unblemished pear. Rinse and pat dry.

Pierce the pear all over with a fine skewer Place the pear in a sterilized glass jar that it fits quite snugly in. Make sure it’s large enough to hold the 500ml vodka. Add the spices and orange peel.

NOTE: To make the dried orange peel, use a potato peeler to peel strips of skin off an orange, making sure you just take the skin and not the bitter white pith. Leave this on a radiator or in an airing cupboard overnight, or warm in a very low oven till completely dried. I used the oven method for quickness. This intensifies the wonderful orange flavor.

adding-vodka

Fill the jar with vodka and close the lid.

ready-to-age

Set on a sunny windowsill for 2 weeks.

After 2 weeks open the jar and add the sugar. Shake well and set aside in a cool dark cupboard for a further 6 weeks. Shake every day or so that the sugar to completely dissolves.

After 6 weeks, remove pear and spices from the jar and strain the liquid through a sieve lined with a double layer of muslin. Do this part twice to get a really clear liqueur.

NOTE: I used a sieve with a coffee filter set inside.

Decant the liquid into a sterilized bottle and enjoy! It’s best served ice cold, so keep the jar in your fridge or freezer.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookeis

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I should start this with … these are THE BEST vegan chocolate chip cookies EVER. And quite nearly the best chocolate chip cookies. But …

I am a carnivore. A carnivore through and through. A believer in a well balanced diet being far better for you than one completing omitting a food group.

I now find myself surrounded by vegetarians and vegans, many of whom consider themselves foodies (?). Always hungry. Always looking for snacks. I need a cookie that would work for everyone and this is the one.

I have found most homemade vegan cookies to be either tasteless, ridiculously complicated to make, way too many ingredients and ending up with a crumbling, sandy cookie like substance.

Try these once and you’ll be hooked. It’s all in the mixing.

  • ½ C coconut oil
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • ¼ C almond milk
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 2 C flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ½ t salt
  • 1 C vegan chocolate chips (I love ‘Enjoy Life Mini Chips” for this)

 

Preheat oven to 350

Cream coconut oil and brown sugar. Best to use stand mixer, second best a hand mixed.

NOTE: The key to this cookie is the length of time you spend combining the ingredients. This should look like butter and sugar having creamed before you continue. It’s not always quick.

Add almond milk and vanilla. Mixture may be a little liquidy.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients using a hand mixer or stand mixer. Fold in chocolate chips.

Scoop tablespoon sized balls and place on cookie sheet. Flatten the balls a bit with your hand.

Bake 7 – 10 minutes

NOTE: You want the dough to be the consistency of cookie dough and not crumbly or sandy as many vegan recipes tend to be.

NOTE NOTE: I have varied the size of the cookie from half-dollar sized to 3 inches around. It holds up no matter the size. Just vary the cooking time.

Artichoke Lemon Spread

Done

Silence is deafening, they say.

And, by the same token, words can be weapons.

I’ve been having a terrible time getting started blogging again. And I really do miss it. I have at least 20 recipes from 2014 that I never blogged. It isn’t that I don’t want to .. or that I don’t think about what I’d like to write about. I have still been cooking up a storm (get it, get it, haha), photographing dishes, getting them ready. I hadn’t been quite able to put a finger on the reason. AND THEN …

… while listening to This American Life one fine (SNOWY) Saturday, there was an entire segment with Lindy West on just the topic of internet trolls. I suddenly realized that a situation that had happened to me beginning in November of 2013 and finally ending at the end of February 2014 had emotionally and artistically crippled me. What had happened to Lindy was slightly different, but the sentiment was the same. At the beginning we agreed on one basic tenet … DON’T FEED THE TROLLS … which is why I never made the hurtful comments public, nor ever responded to them. Linda realized that silence is what best feeds a troll, giving them more power, giving them exactly what they want. Silencing the person at whom they aim their vitriol.

I don’t think … or at least I truly hope … the people leaving snide comments or sending snarky tweets realize the damage they do to the people they campaign against. While cloaked in the perceived comfort of anonymity, perhaps even giggling, the person reading these messages is hurt, cut to the quick, and left wondering WHY. Why me?

Just as an aside, let’s just touch on the illusion of anonymity on the internet. For this is truly an illusion, there’s no such thing as anonymity on the internet. Everything and anything you put out into the universe over the internet really does go out into the universe … FOREVER.

For me, dear readers, this is just food. Nice photos, good recipes (I hope), sharing with a community of like-minded foodies. There’s no political agenda, I’m not skinning cats, and I’m not polluting the world by burning vast amounts of fossil fuels to get my own point across. I write this for me. It’s nice to have readers, but even without a single reader, this would still be something I do for me. A form of expression. Coupling three of my joys in life … cooking, photography and writing.

Sadly, there had certainly been fear and a bad taste left in my mouth regarding blogging, something I really love to do. The thought that my personal words and thoughts could be used against me again, by someone who knew nothing about me had proven to be daunting.

I keep coming back to WHY. Why me? What did I do to cause this and what could I have done to avoid it?

I thought about giving up my blog entirely. I thought about starting a brand new blog. After listening to Lindy, realizing I wasn’t alone in this dilemma, I decided to sit down,w rite this post, get it all off my chest and continue soldiering on. I’m not giving up what I like to do. I’m not changing myself or what I write for acceptance. This is who I am. I have been basically the same person since I popped out of the womb (thanks Mom & Dad). I live my life trying to leave no carnage in my wake, treating people the way I would like to be treated.

While it still smarts, I challenge all internet trolls and stalkers out there … get to know the subject of your attack. You may just find you like them. Think before you push that button … if someone did this to me, how would I feel.

Linda has given me renewed strength where my public, blogging life is concerned. I will not allow someone else to rule my life, I will not live in fear.

I have come too far in my life, given up too much to be where I am right now to be stopped by anyone or anything.

Hello, World, I’m back and hopefully better than ever.

You’ll have to pardon a number of ‘off-season’ posts while I catch up. Thank you.

So with that in mind …

While poking around online for some yummy before dinner nibbles, and being tired of the ones I was using over and over and over again, I came across this recipe for Artichoke Lemon Pesto from Ciao Chow Linda.

It’s fabulous! It’s easy!

Vegetarian, filling, slightly tangy.

Everything goes into the food processor and with a whirl is finished!

Try it, you’ll be hooked.

  • 1  14-ounce can of artichoke hearts  in water (unseasoned)
  • 1/4 C parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 C finely chopped parsley
  • a few small sprigs of thyme, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 t lemon peel, finely minced
  • 2 t lemon juice
  • 3 T olive oil
  • salt, pepper

Mince the parsley and thyme roughly with the garlic and lemon peel. Place the artichoke hearts, the parsley and thyme and all the remaining ingredients into a food processor. Pulse or whir until everything is chopped finely and blended. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.

NOTE: I roughly chopped the parsley, thyme and garlic. I mean, it’s going in the food processor, after all. As for the lemon peel, I used a zester instead of peeling and didn’t need to mince it further.

 

Bread and Butter Pickles

Done

This falls under the posts I wasn’t able to do during computer-geddon.

So, what should we plant in our garden, says me.

Well, we need to have cucumbers. Ava loves cucumbers, says the Dear One.

Well, okie dokie, thinking to myself … I don’t really like cucumbers. Do we have to plant A LOT of them? Strike that … I like tzatziki. I like pickles. I like to use them in a sauce for salmon. I do like a little bit raw and in a salad. L-I-T-T-L-E bit.

In the cucumber plants go. Off goes the gardener (a/k/a the Dear One) to work in Russia for 3 weeks. And suddenly KA-BOOOOM it’s cucumber hell.

You know that neighbor you have or have heard about? The ones that leave zucchini on your doorstep and run away? Well, that was me! The cucumber monster.

Even with giving them away there were tons around. Now, the Dear One does not eat anything pickled … sigh. But I DO and he was away and I was bored and I needed something to do to entertain myself. (lotso justifying going’ on here)

And then I came across this recipe for Bread & Butter pickles over at Recipe Girl and realized I had this great cookbook Cooking Light’s Cooking Through the Seasons on my bookshelves. Ta da! I was set!

What I did do, though, being the only pickle person on the premises was ‘can’ them. Something I have wanted to try for quite some time, and there will be more of this following. My mother now refers to me as ‘my daughter, Laura Ingalls’.

I was a bit nervous about this canning process at first, but once I started it was off to the races. I didn’t can much this year. I much happier with things in the chest freezer we have. But now I’ve started this there are a host of things I have ready to try for next year!

To very loosely quote Bob Wiley (and if you don’t know the character or the movie … sigh) – I’m canning! I’m canning! I’m canning! I can! I’m a canner! I can!

I was surprised at how easy the pickle part of this project was. For some reason I had an entire saga that went on when you pickle something.

  • 5 1/2 C (1 1/2 pounds) thinly sliced pickling cucumbers
  • 1 1/2 T kosher salt
  • 1 C thinly sliced sweet onion
  • 1 C granulated white sugar
  • 1 C white vinegar
  • 1/2 C apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 C light brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 1/2 t mustard seeds
  • 1/2 t celery seeds
  • 1/8 t ground turmeric

Combine cucumbers and salt in a large, shallow bowl; cover and chill 1 1/2 hours. Move cucumbers into a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Drain well, and return cucumbers to bowl. Add onion to the bowl.

NOTE: When you’re slicing the cucumbers, don’t slice them too thinly. You want them to have a bit of substance to them so they’ll hold up in the pickling liquid.

Add onions

Combine sugar and remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour hot vinegar mixture over cucumber mixture; let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 2 weeks or give them a hot water bath to seal the jars and they’ll store forever … for a very long time … until you’re ready to use them.