Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Strawberry Chia Sauce and Hazelnut Ganache

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Closer to ‘Walden Pond’ than the ‘Joy of Cooking’, I read off the back of the book to Will as we drove from the library.

You do know ‘Walden’, yes? I asked.

No idea, he said.

It’s a great American classic! I astonished, the former English major in me kicking in. You should have read it in 11th grade along with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’, and Jonathan Swift’s satire about eating Irish babies. Yes?

No idea. I hated English. I almost failed that year.

 

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Whoompf. Deflated, I let the conversation sink in.

No wonder I don’t get any poetry. 

 

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And then recalling all the frustrated exchanges about technology, the wireless button this, the computer gidget that, the tiny intricate parts on his truck I really should stop asking about, the movies I’ve never seen nor heard of, and his daily exasperated, why-don’t-you-stop-clicking-random-things-for-god’s-sake!?! 

 

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That year he lived and worked with my parents, they were incredulous he didn’t know a halter or a hoof-pick. Walter good-naturedly gave him a hard time for all the daily first time learnings. We don’t all grow up on a ranch, dad, I wanted to say when I learned of it.

 

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And then, the last we were home, Will gave the ribbing right back when he taught Walter about an iPhone, and we could all see the dawn of realization come across dad in knowing all those second nature morsels of truth in the ranching life were his and there he was being the one who didn’t know.

 

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We each have our knowings, interests, and talents. The divine interweaving of their chaos into our social network is a special kind of art; you like this and I like that, and we still love each other and are friends and can relate; the somehow perfectly messy order of it is beautiful and awe-inducing, don’t you think?

 

(and if you don’t and it’s just me then point in case!)

 

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Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Strawberry Chia Sauce + Hazelnut Ganache

adapted from Dolly + Oatmeal

makes two 6-inch layers

gluten + dairy-free

The Recipe Redux February theme is chocolate pairings. Unlike most of the ladies I know, I generally choose chocolate last when given a choice of flavors. Chocolate, for me, is either a simple square of plain dark after dinner or super fancy special occasion layer cake. There’s no in between. I’m just not into chocolating-up granola bars and breakfast and smoothies and the like. Sorry not sorry. This cake is definitely in the special occasion category. It is intensely dark, and for a discerning chocolate snob, about the best damn chocolate cake I’ve had. William tends to like fluffy white cake-mix type cakes and is real particular about sweets. He gobbled this up day after day. Considering recipe testing, this is a stamp of approval in the truest sense! 

I haven’t mentioned it often, but I’m all over the eating locally lifestyle (an ongoing gradually-more-over-the-years change), so I paired the chocolate with the abundant locally grown hazelnuts and strawberries picked fresh from the farm last summer. They are the most insanely delicious strawberries. Mixed with chia seed to thicken up into a sauce, they require no additional sweetener. Add them between the layers with the ganache and serve them on the side. Depending on your berry availability, sweeten them up as necessary. As for the cake, I trialed it with and without eggs. The egg-free version is denser and more brownie-like than the version with eggs. We didn’t think it lived up to the egg version on the first day, but it won out as the days went on, so if you’re slow at eating sweets, perhaps give it a try with two tablespoons ground flax mixed with 6 Tbs. warm water to form a flax slurry in lieu of the eggs.

for the cake

  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut meal (ground from toasted and shelled hazelnuts)
  • 1/2 cup raw cacoa powder*
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (soft, not melted)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened hemp milk

for the strawberry chia sauce

  • 4 cups frozen strawberries
  • 2 Tbs. chia seeds

for the hazelnut ganache

  • 7 oz. unsweetened hemp milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 275 grams high quality dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut meal
  • chopped hazelnuts for garnish

for the cake

  • Preheat oven to 350° F and line the bottoms of each cake pan with parchment paper.  Then rub a little coconut oil up the sides of the pans and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients, set aside.  In another large bowl, combine the honey and coconut oil with a whisk and a strong arm until it’s light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time until incorporated; then add the vanilla and milk; mix again until  it is combined.  Next, a bit at a time, stir in the dry ingredients to the wet.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Check after out 20 minutes so as not to over bake.
  • Transfer the layers to a cooling rack and allow to cool for about 20 minutes; then remove layers and rest them until completely cool.

for the strawberry chia sauce

  • place the strawberries and seeds in a food processor and puree until smooth or still slightly chunky (your choice). Then turn into a container and place in the fridge for firm up for an hour or more (this might depend on the water content of your berries).

for the hazelnut ganache

  • in a in a food processor, puree the hazelnut meal and chocolate together until finely ground. In either a small bowl in the microwave or a small pan over the stovetop, heat the milk to frothy and boiling. Next with the food processor running, slowly pour in the hot milk to form a thin sauce. Pour into a bowl and leave to sit out at room temperature or if you’re impatient, put in the fridge for an hour or two. It should become quite thick, like buttercream frosting.

assemble

  • Level the cake layers, if necessary, with a long serrated bread knife.  Place one layer on the cake stand or plate, and using a cake spatula or thick knife, put about 2-3 tablespoons of ganache on one cake layer and spread evenly.  Spread roughly 2-3 tablespoons of the strawberry sauce over the frosting, leaving about 1/2 inch of space from the edge.  place the other cake layer on top and frost the rest of the cake.  Garnish with extra chopped hazelnuts, if desired.

If keeping the cake around for longer than a day or two, store in the fridge.

*for reasons to start using a little more raw cacoa instead of cocoa powder, Sara gives a great explanation.

 


mushrooms + garbanzos on toast with cider + thyme

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Growing up, I showed horses and my favorite discipline was dressage. I remember quite distinctly at the end of each test, after the final bow, of letting all my breath out, feeling suddenly exhausted, and realizing I had forgotten to breathe, again.

 

I’ve been taking a break from running these past few weeks because of an injury and the process has me going a bit mental. I’ve been turning instead to yoga to get me through. Bittersweet that it is, I can see progress in the yoga. I feel the difference in certain postures, that I can go a few breaths deeper than before. More importantly, through it I’m finally learning how to breathe.

 

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The transition from running has opened up space, realizations. I’ve been using it to fill voids that I wish weren’t there, like a band-aid that isn’t fixing the problem but merely covering it up so it’s not so exposed. Problems and injuries don’t go away because of their band-aid. They go away because they’re given the other things necessary to heal: time, rest, honesty, fixing the underlying problem, giving up control to a higher power, breathing.

 

The truth is, I had an eating disorder. I used running, both physical running, and running away from the situation, to heal and band-aid the recovery. It was years ago and I long considered myself recovered, but there’s scar tissue; a lot of it. I’ve been tiptoeing around it for months, hoping the scars will sort themselves properly without too much mental muscle. It’s funny when I write it like that, how silly that sounds. Of course unaddressed issues don’t sort themselves without work.

 

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I know there is no miracle fix to cure me in a week and my mind does not have to be my enemy. I don’t have to hate the things it thinks, beat it up for not being good enough, punish and restrict my body to master control of it, or band-aid it to ignore the ugliness of the wound. I have no business comparing or wishing things weren’t the case. I have to work at acceptance, at forgiveness, at okay-ness, and just be kind. I’m practicing gratefulness, daily.

 

The thing of it is, I love the goddamn band-aid and the kick-ass feeling of accomplishment. Running is simply what I do so there is grieving here too.

 

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I’ve been praying a lot though this process. I’m motivated by achievement, by progress, by better, faster, another box checked. I have a tendency towards extremes, and there’s a fine line between achieving to be a better person and teetering off into unbalanced territory. Through yoga and prayer, I’m realizing I don’t always have to be achieving big things. Enjoyment doesn’t have to mean pushing so hard to go further, faster, better. Progress can stew together slowly, painfully slowly, and it’s alright to be cracked open, raw and exposed in the meantime. Just breathing.

 

Back to yoga. Each time I return to the mat I’m reminded how much tension I carry. Even though I’m not running, my muscles are so tightly wound up, my mind too, confused amidst the misaligned mental fibers. I’m reminded to return to the breath. Just breathe. Just breathe. Just breathe in and let it go.

 

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mushrooms and garbanzos on toast with cider and thyme, serves 2

This dish is special simply because it’s quick and comforting. The cider melds in with the mushrooms and garbanzos to make a sweet little savory gravy. I used hard cider and splurged on fancy shitake mushrooms from our local mushroomery. A cider-juice and any type of mushroom will work, though the nicer ones will result in a richer flavor. Choose a thick, rustic-type bread to hold up to the mushrooms and garbanzos. If you eat gluten-free and want to make your own, I recommend Jennifer Katzinger’s Gluten-Free and Vegan Bread. My favorite is the Quinoa Sandwich Loaf, shown here. Unlike most gluten-free bread, Jennifer’s recipes are predominately whole grain and use chia seeds instead of tons of eggs to bind the flours, resulting in a real-bread texture.

1 Tbs. canola oil

1 shallot, minced

1/2 pound shitake mushrooms, chopped small

1-2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed

splash of apple cider vinegar

1 cup cooked chickpeas or other small white beans

3/8 tsp. poultry seasoning or make it yourself

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1-1 1/2 cups hard apple cider

1 tsp. arrowroot starch

splash of water

2 thick slices bread, toasted

  • In a medium sauté pan, heat oil over medium high. Toss in the shallots and cook until they are soft and sizzling, 4-5 minutes.
  • Add in the mushrooms, thyme, and vinegar, and cook until the mushrooms start to soften.
  • Stir in the seasonings and chickpeas, and then pour in the cider.
  • Once the cider starts to bubble, turn it down to a low simmer, and cook until the cider is reduced by half to three-quarters, stirring occasionally.
  • In a small dish, whisk the arrowroot starch with a splash of water and then pour into the mushrooms and beans. Let cook another minute or so, until it thickens up.
  • Toast the bread, and then lay each slice on a plate or in a shallow bowl. Spoon the mushroom mixture atop and serve warm.

Smoked Paprika Vegetable Chowder with Orange Zest

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At the end of last summer, I purchased a tiny parcel of smoked paprika from the pepper man at our farmers market. I didn’t have a use for it in mind, but I’m all for buying my spices right from the source. I’ve had that paprika squirreled away until this last month, when I finally got my hands on the Ard Bia Cookbook. Ard Bia is a soul-food recharging station, institution, refuge, and dear spot for runners to drop their keys before going for their nightly jaunt, in Galway, Ireland.

 

I’ve been to Galway, once for a weekend. William and I ate pizza at a pub’s bar one Friday night, a music session going, families, babies, all the locals stacked around the “stage.” We didn’t know about Ard Bia then, though I know for a fact we walked right past it.

 

The Ard Bia Cookbook is gorgeous coffee table art for good food folks. The menu is a homey infusion of local and global flavors, and the cookies come standard gluten-free even though an assortment of diets are catered to. Fish is a highlight, being as Galway is situated; local meat, cheese, and vegetables are showcased galore.

 

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I’ve needed to be taken to another place these last few weeks, if only figuratively, and this book has been a welcome reprieve. This winter seems to have hit hard, you see. For so many I know, this season has been awash in illnesses of all sorts, sick kids and sick families, joblessness and wondering where this life will lead next, injuries and aches. This too is a season for new babies, tired parents, soon-to-be moms, and tough little steps each day leading to big life changes {resolutions!} I fall right in there with the masses in feeling less than optimal, as if no matter how hard I try, life is a series of two steps forward, three steps back. The Recipe Redux January challenge was to make something smoky, and so I turned to the Ard Bia Cookbook pantry section, found an interesting Smoked Paprika and Orange-Infused Oil, and incorporated it into a comforting vegetable chowder to combat the winter chill.

 

When I sit down and reflect back on the day and all it brought, a bowl of warmth brings a little more cheer, a little more sunshine into my heart. Wherever you’re at on this winter day, I hope that if you too have broken pieces, they can be mended back together through the uplifting words of a friend, a bowl of warm soup, or perhaps in finding a sliver of light reminding you of one more thing you can try to make it through.

 

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Smoked Paprika Vegetable Chowder with Orange Zest

Serves 4, inspired by Laura and Ard Bia.

Plan to infuse your oil a few days prior to making the soup. It will make a big batch that will keep for quite a while, and can be used for all number of things. There are infinite combinations of winter vegetables that can be used here, so play around with something interesting, or use what you have. 

For the chowder:

1 Tbs. Smoked Paprika + Orange-infused Oil

1 large onion, diced

2 stalks celery, finely diced

1 leek, diced

5 cloves garlic, minced

4-5 thyme sprigs

1-2 parsnips, chopped

1/2 a celeriac, peeled and chopped

1/2 a head of cauliflower, chopped small

2 cups cooked white beans

1/2 Tbs. garlic salt

1/8 tsp. smoked paprika

1/16 tsp. black pepper

1/16 tsp. cayenne

1 tiny pinch nutmeg

1 pinch cinnamon

1 pinch cardamom

1 pinch allspice

1 pinch cloves

1 pinch ginger

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup orange juice

3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

orange zest, for serving

additional infused oil, for serving

 For the Infused Oil:

8 oz. canola oil

2 tsp. smoked paprika

2 tsp. orange zest

 

Heat the infused-oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft and translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the leeks and continue to sauté until they are soft, about 5 minutes more. Add the garlic and thyme sprigs to the pot and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the parsnips, celery root, and cauliflower and stir to coat in the oil. Next add in the spices and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to coat all the vegetables in the spices. Add the orange juice, the chicken or vegetable broth and the beans, stir again, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove the lid and lower the heat to simmer. Let the chowder cook and bubble until the parsnips and celery root pieces are tender, about 25-30 minutes.

Remove the thyme stems and ladle half of the chowder into an upright blender. Purée until smooth. Pour the puréed portion of chowder back into the soup pot and bring it back to a nice simmer. Check the chowder for seasoning, adjust and ladle into soup bowls. Top with a bit of fresh orange zest and a drizzle or two of the infused oil.

To make the oil, stir together the paprika, orange zest, and oil and pour into a glass container to store it in. On the stovetop, bring a small pot about half full of water to a simmer. Gently emerge the container of oil into the pot, and allow to warm up for about 15 minutes. Then, remove the oil container from the hot liquid bath, shake to nicely mix the spices, and set aside to infuse for at least three days prior to use. This concoction will keep for a few months in a cool, dark place.

 

 


Winter Roast Roots, Black Rice + Figs

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That evening I lay down, propped

across his chest,

tears.

A comforting thing

his cool expanse of breath. With each

release

hope transferred, at-home

my soul.

Solid centering root,

sea uncertainty,

life dance.

 

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Winter Roast Roots, Black Rice + Figs, serves 6 or so, as a side

Some weeks feel inextricably more difficult than they need to. This dish is the sort of winter tonic to show the negative energies I’ve a bit of sassafras yet. Moody, dramatic, a touch sweet, earthy. Roast up any combination of winter vegetables. Parsnips and celeriac are January favorites. Kohlrabi are clever, if elusive. They’re best found in a winter garden round these parts. Ask a farmer. Or your eccentric neighbor with a fondness for funky purple vegetables. Mushrooms make a lovely addition. Don’t forget the figs. They add just the right touch. 

 

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2-3 parsnips, roughly chopped

2-3 carrots, roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 celeriac, peeled and roughly chopped

3 kohlrabi, stems removed, peeled and roughly chopped

4-5 stems thyme, or 1/4 tsp. dried

1 tsp. salt, plus additional salt and pepper, to taste

olive oil

1 cup black rice, rinsed

2 1/4 cups water

1 small bunch kale, destemmed and chopped

1/2 cup dried figs, diced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prep the roots and toss them with the salt, a dash of black pepper, and olive oil. Roast until tender, 45 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, combine the black rice and water and bring to a boil on the stovetop. Turn down to low, cover and cook for 40 minutes.

While rice and roots are cooking, dice figs, and prepare the kale. A couple minutes before the vegetables come from the oven, toss in the kale and allow to wilt. Then, remove the vegetables from the oven, toss with the rice, figs, and season to taste with salt and black pepper.


Thankfulness Brings Increase + Parsnip Carrot Cake Oats

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I cozied up with the first of the year baking dense loaves of rustic pumpkin + rosemary bread and drinking a good, strong pot of tea. I had a plan to identify main themes from the old year and move forward with a new vision and sense of putting 2014’s dis-ease to rest.

 

Though I know it’s not so simple as wiping the slate clean on New Year’s Eve and waking up in the new year free from the baggage that has accumulated, the introspective process of looking back at the bigger picture of the year helps me move foward into the new. From this practice, one particular message from Ryan Hall, an elite runner I follow, came to the surface and has since been floating around my consciousness. Nearly a year ago, Ryan shared about thankfulness, being thankful for what you have in the moment.

 

I can measure 2014 by the swinging polarity between connected and dis-connectedness, of being ready for life’s battles and feeling broken down and unworthy. I’ve often felt a sense of discontent, not-enough-ness, of missing out on living, especially when I look to social media. These feelings of inadequacy have been a catalyst for many negative behaviors in the past, and they were certainly a theme that stands out this past year.

 

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On Thursday past, I was looking to shed light on what I can achieve in this new year to be more satisfied, to measure up. Instead, Ryan’s words came back and reminded me of what I can be. This winter season is one for filtering out the clutter, the noise, the comparing and measuring, to simply be thankful. What I have to offer–what I bring with me into 2015 that is less than I thought it should be by now–is exactly what I can be thankful for in the present.

 

When I get quiet, I know my truth is that everything I need will be provided at exactly the right time. There will be room for big achievements and worthy mountains to climb in the coming months. But for now, I am focusing my energy on looking for the good in each situation. This year, I plan to live more fully by Ryan’s words. Thankfulness brings Increase.

 

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Parsnip Carrot Cake Oats, serves 2

We began the new year with a baked-version of these oats, but this is the one I’ve been making lately. It smells like the holidays are still with us, with the addition of spices and orange peel, but tastes oh-so-January with the hearty duo of carrots and parsnips. Use any type of oats. Sometimes I mix in a combination of old-fashioned and Scottish-style. Old-fashioned oats can be ground semi-fine with a coffee grinder or food processor to achieve the Scottish style consistency. 

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/8 tsp. ground ginger

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1 medium carrot, finely shredded

1 small parsnip, finely shredded

1/4 cup raisins

orange zest

dash salt

sweetener of choice, to taste

In a small saucepan over high heat, boil 2 cups water. Once boiling, stir in oats, roots, spices, and raisins. Turn down to medium heat, and cook until the consistency is to your liking, 5-1o minutes. Remove from heat, stir in grated orange zest, salt, and sweeteners, to taste.


Quinoa + Chorizo Wintry Salad

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My mom and I sat at the farm table this morning planning this week’s holiday meals. There is ham, turkey, prime rib and likely a roast to be served up in the coming days. Last night we had steak for dinner, good steak of the homegrown variety. I failed to mention to the family that I haven’t had meat since Thanksgiving, and the steak was enough to last me for the next couple months. I don’t strictly avoid meat, but it’s never been my thing and I tend to partake in small amounts, infrequently. The stretches in between have grown wider in the last couple years and this being the case, I’m generally put on vegetable duty for family meals. I’m happy to have all the holiday sides for the planning, so there will be the full spectrum of winter roots and greens putting on their best show this week.

 

The Recipe Redux folks asked us to share a peak into the cookbooks we’re using, so this salad is from a current favorite that gets much use. Green Kitchen Stories(UK)/Vegetarian Everyday(USA) absolutely reflects my style of eating (and William’s too, as long as meat makes an appearance in his diet semi-regularly). It is written by the Swedish/Danish couple, David and Luise, of the lovely Green Kitchen Stories blog. Their recipes are the inspiration behind many a meal in our home, whether it be via their cookbook, blog, or instagram feed. They’ve also recently released a second cookbook, Green Kitchen Travels, and it’s super-duper on my Christmas wish list. This meat-free(!) Chorizo & Quinoa Salad is perhaps the most time-consuming of recipes I’ve made in their book, and its super-packed with feel-good-tasty-nutritiousness that we could all use this time of year.

 

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I made up a big batch of this salad before making the trek across the state to visit the family, and though I get a lot of flack for being oh-so-health-nutty ’round these parts, these people also like to eat my salads and approvingly devoured every bit of the simple Mushroom, Tomato, and White Bean Stew I made for this evening’s dinner. I do like Chorizo if it’s of the small-batch made, not wrapped in plastic sketchy supermarket sort, and this salad would definitely be excellent with the real deal instead. I’m not at all into fake meat so endorsing a homemade vegan chorizo means David and Luise are truly on to something. If you’ve extra time on your hands in the next few days or your holiday meals need a hefty dose of antioxidants, this is your dish. I changed up the original recipe quite a bit, adding in wintry broccoli, broccoli sprouts, turnips, pomegranate and garbanzo beans in lieu of the original fruit, vegetable, and bean mixture. The chorizo makes it super tasty and balances out the stronger brassicas and mustard dressing. Perhaps, if you’re anything like me, this will be a welcome reprieve from the many heftier meals that will be had in this season.

 

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Chorizo + Quinoa Salad, adapted from Vegetarian Everyday. Serves 4-6

VEGETABLE CHORIZOS

Scant ½ cup sundried tomatoes, rinsed

½ cup cashews, toasted

¼ cup hazelnuts, toasted

2 leeks, diced

2 green chili peppers, diced

6 unsulphured dried apricots, finely chopped

2 sprigs of oregano, leaves picked and chopped

1 cup brown rice flour

1 Tbs. xanthan gum

1 Tbs. ground flax seeds

3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

4 ½ cups vegetable stock

2 tsp. olive oil, for frying

 

QUINOA SALAD

1 cup quinoa

3 medium turnips, chopped

Seeds from one pomegranate

One bunch broccoli florets

4 leeks, diced

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans

1 cup broccoli sprouts, more or less to taste

 

DRESSING

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Zest and juice of ½ a lemon

3 Tbs. hot English mustard

Sea salt

A few sprigs of oregano, to garnish

 

To prepare the chorizos, combine the sundried tomatoes, cashews, hazelnuts, leeks, chili, and apricots in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the oregano, rice flour, xanthan gum and flaxseed and pulse until everything is combined. Add the olive oil and ¼ cup water and pulse until a dough is formed. It should be easy to handle and form into a sausage shape.

Divide the dough into 5 equal parts. Roll each piece into a sausage, place on a piece of cheesecloth, roll up and tie both ends firmly with a piece of twine.

Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a large, wide saucepan. Lay the chorizos in it and let them boil for about 45 minutes. Next, carefully remove the cheesecloth from the boiled chorizos. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat and fry the chorizos until they are nicely browned all over.

In the frying pan, next lightly sauté the leeks and turnips until just tender. Toss in the broccoli florets for a minute or so to soften. Transfer them to a large serving bowl.

Next, prepare the quinoa salad. Place 2 cups water, the quinoa, and a pinch of salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool. Slice the fried chorizos.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Add the quinoa, remaining vegetables, pomegranate seeds, beans and chorizo to the serving bowl. Pour about half the dressing over and toss until everything is well coated. Add more dressing, as necessary. Garnish with oregano and serve.

 


Beets, Tahini, Flatbread + Lentils

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Shannon and Anneke walked in to the kitchen and immediately curled their noses. Bec! You’re stinking up the house. After lifting the lid on the pot, they were even more disgusted. Beets! Gross!

 

An hour later, Shannon at least, was singing a different tune: I love beets! Beets, beets, beets. Let’s eat beets. For months afterwards, the subject of beets made their way into many a conversation, joke, and non-sensical late night roommate Facebook exchange. They even made their way into our school life as Shannon and I sat in our farming class plotting how to make more money than all the other students on our hypothetical farm. Our proposed course of action was growing and selling beets, of course.

 

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I have long since forgotten what sort of meal became of the beets that day when Shannon and Anneke walked in, but I’ve no doubt vegetables took center stage. Anneke, Shannon, and Kaci embraced my fondness for all things vegetable as whole heartedly as any semi-normal 20-something college person could, with only the expected amount of jabbing. My fondness for the full spectrum of produce even made it into Anneke and Kaci’s toast for my wedding.

 

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I’m going ‘home’ in a few days to celebrate family and Christmas and to perform my semi-annual reset in the farmhouse sunroom, where I will take in the dazzling morning light, open spaces, and cows over morning porridge. I’m super excited about a few things, and one of them is having a dinner party with Shannon and our fams. Last time we held a party, I was on a Middle-Eastern-themed-beet-tangent as well, so I made beet hummus and rose-flavored everything. I have come full circle as far as flavor combinations go so these beet flatbreads just might make an appearance. Luckily for me, I will be welcomed in to perfume Shannon’s home with the aroma of roasting beets.

 

Clearly, stinking up our house that winter afternoon was the right thing to do.


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Beets, Flatbread, Tahini + Lentils, serves 4-6
There are many components to this recipe, making it somewhat labor-intensive. All the separate components save the flatbread can be made ahead and then reheated to eat with freshly made flatbread. On a rushed day, use purchased pita-type bread to serve instead. 

Lentils

1 cup lentils

3 cups water

Juice from 1/2 a lemon

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp. cumin

salt to taste

 

Roasted Beets

10 medium-size beets, tops and bottoms removed

 

Lemon-Tahini Cream

2 Tbs. tahini

1 1/2 Tbs. lemon juice

2-4 Tbs. water (as needed)

1 small garlic clove

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Flatbread, adapted from Gluten-Free & Vegan Bread

1 Tbs. chia seeds

1/2 cup hot water

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup garbanzo & fava flour

3/4 cup millet flour

1/4 cup amaranth flour

1/2 cup arrowroot starch

1/2 cup ground flax seed

1 tsp. salt

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 Tbs. honey

3/4-1 cup warm water

 

Hazelnuts + Toppings

1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

dash of ground allspice

2 bay leaves

1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

1/8 tsp. salt

Dried dill, for sprinkling

Dried rose petals, for sprinkling

 

Brink lentils and water to boil in a medium saucepan. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes, until soft. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Set aside.

 

Halve or quarter beets. In a large piece of foil, wrap all of the beets and roast in an oven, preheated to 400 degrees F, for 45-60 minutes. Check part way through for doneness, by opening up the foil bundle and stabbing with a fork. The beets should be tender all the way through. When done, remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Then, slice them into smaller pieces.

 

For the Lemon-Tahini Cream, puree all the ingredients in a food processor. Add additional water or lemon juice, to reach the desired taste and consistency.

 

In a small sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add spices and bay leaves and cook until the spices start to smell warm and toasted, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the hazelnuts and salt. Set aside.

 

To make flatbread, soak the chia seeds in the ½ cup water for at least 15 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the flours, flax seeds, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the oil, honey, ¾ cup warm water and chia-mixture. Stir together and then add this liquid mix to the dry ingredients. Stir until it comes together with a wooden spoon. The dough should be fairly wet, so add more water if needed. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. While the skillet is heating, divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll out each one on a counter, using brown rice flour to keep it from sticking. Each piece should be roughly 6 to 8 inches in diameter. Don’t worry about getting them perfectly symmetrical. As each piece of dough is rolled out, transfer to the skillet and cook on each side for about 4 minutes. Some of the edges will brown and crisp up; this is normal. As each flatbread is done, transfer to a warm oven until they are all cooked.

 

To serve, spread tahini cream onto the flatbread, top with lentils, sliced beets, and hazelnuts. Garnish with rose petals and dill.

 
 

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