Today I’m driving six hours away from Traverse City to the suburbs of Chicago (where I grew up) for a long weekend with my family. A celebration for the upcoming holiday and a chance to spend some extra quality time with people dear to me. Thanksgiving is so enjoyable for me in large part due to all the family I get to reconnect with, but lets be honest its definitely got something to do with the food as well. My family has requested a repeat of the delicious squash & feta savory muffins I made last year, but I’ll be spending my long drive finalizing plans for another side dish, just in time for the big feast. Continue reading
It doesn’t get much better than a Northern Michigan summer. In July and August there is no where else I’d rather be. The fresh water lakes, gorgeous beaches and plentiful barbecues keep me tied to the shoreline snacking on fresh fruit until my fingers (and inevitably my white skirt) are died a deep red or purplish hue. I cant get enough of the fresh fruit scene you’ll find at local farmers markets this time of year. From blackberries, tart cherries, peaches, blueberries, raspberries and more, I’ll stuff my belly and my freezer to the brim. Continue reading
If you haven’t jumped in the water yet this summer, do it. If your response is “but its too cold!”.. Suck it up. Seriously, and get your feet wet. Continue reading
After a long work day, I dream of the word simple. A dish with few ingredients and one that takes only minutes to prepare. Dinner, in this case, was a gathering of laid-back ladies; Myself, my boyfriends mother Susan and her dear friend Tracey. We spent the late afternoon drinking red wine and discussing how to make a new house into a new home. Both Tracey and I are recent new homeowners and thus the topics of discussion ranged from paint colors and shag carpets to our love of woodstoves. Continue reading
I love books, and book clubs are a great place to gather for book lovers. Throughout my life I’ve always made time for reading and I truly enjoy fantastical and fiction-themed stories that take me away to another world. When a new friend suggested a Book Club with a gathering of like-minds and plenty of food and drinks, there was no way I could miss it. I couldn’t think of a better way to explore stories with engaging conversation. Plus, the opportunity to get to know new friends who clearly share my interests was an opportunity worth taking. We’ve since filled the cold months with warm fires, four great reads and plenty of conversation on and off the topics of the books themselves. Continue reading
If you’ve been to a Northern Michigan Farmers Market lately, you’re likely to see fewer greens. There will be plenty of baked goods, jelly & jams, meats & cheeses, but greens are harder to come by in February. Even with advancements in farming infrastructure like hoophouses and greenhouses, the beautiful and at times frustrating reality about growing food from the earth is that mother nature makes the rules.
At the farmers market I attend every Saturday, the majority of fresh produce you’ll find this time of year is carrots. You’ll see me walking through the market selecting my goods from the stalls and chomping on these fresh, local deliciously sweet carrots. Other than the raw form, carrots can be made into incredible soups, heart-warming roasted side dishes and salads. Recently however, I was curious to find a recipe that used carrots in a way I’d never used them before. As soon as I saw the color of this rich & flavorful carrot hummus I knew I had to try it, so I brought it along with me to a friends house last night for dinner.
Let me just say, I LOVE having friends that enjoy cooking and food as much as I do. Last night, was an incredible feast with three women I really enjoy spending time with. Our objective was simply to gather together around food and so we did, lots of food I might add. The carrot hummus turned out smashingly with cucumber slices and pita bread for dipping. My main dish on the other hand, a concoction of beet gnocchi with lemon pesto, while equally delicious was far less ‘picture perfect.’ It was my first time making both dishes and while putting them together I realized I had created a theme unknowingly of colorful and hearty root vegetables in an uncommon form. Perhaps its because of this long cold winter, stirring up a desire for change and the color that arrives with spring.
Our collection of small plate dishes for the night included:
The ‘Life-Changing Loaf of Bread’ from Sarah B at My New Roots! (pictured above)
Beet Gnocchi with Lemon Pesto
Jeweled Rice Salad with Red Grapes, Scallions & Pecans
Guacamole with Sweet Potato Chips
Butternut Squash & Roasted Apple Quinoa
Homemade “Fig Newtons”
Carrot & Roasted Garlic Hummus with sliced cucumber and pita
The dishes paired together incredibly and though I packed my plate full of the colorful food, there was nothing but a gleaming white plate left when I had finished.
Carrot and Roasted Garlic Hummus
Makes 1 cup of hummus
Prep time: 25 minutes
Preheat: 400 degrees
- 1 cup roughly chopped carrots
- 6 cloves garlic
- 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 3/4 cup cooked garbanzo beans
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1 tbls lemon juice
Line baking sheet with foil or parchment, then place chopped carrots in a bowl and coat in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Spread them in one layer on the lined baking sheet and place in the oven.
Wrap the cloves of garlic in foil and place in the oven as well.
Roast for 20-25 minutes or until carrots are tender with a fork. Remove from the oven, unwrap garlic and let cool.
In your food processor combine all ingredients including extra salt or lemon juice to your taste.
Dinner with family and friends or Potlucks of any kind are some of my favorite gatherings. I love having small ‘tastes’ of everything dish and I often find myself experimenting with recipes in these occasions, enjoying the immediate honest feedback from the people closest to me. The dishes I made last night really made me realize how much I’m looking forward to warmer weather and all that comes with spring. The change is in the air and March is just around the corner!
What are some of your favorite, colorful springtime dishes?
I’m feeling this feeling I’m sure a lot of you are feeling. I like to call it HoliDazed. Symptoms are said to consist of bloated innertube-like belly regions in addition to a sick addiction to and at the same time disgust for homemade cookies and fudge. You could probably sleep for a few days straight if given the chance and your likely wondering whether your liver could even handle another glass of red wine. Perhaps your considering at this very moment to drink a few gallons of water because your body seems to be soaking it up like a sponge. One things for sure, I am without a doubt, 100% HoliDazed. Whats the cure you ask? Feed your eyes with these delicious meals and sweets I shared in fabulous company over the past few weeks, eat a fresh and tasty salad with a refreshing glass of water and get back into a routine of movement. Whether it be stepping outside for a brisk walk, signing up for a weekly yoga class, or using the gym membership you’ve neglected for the past two weeks. Its a new year, the Holidays have come and gone and your own HoliDaze should wear off shortly.
Christmas Dinner with Friends- Butternut Squash Lasagna, Balsamic Roasted Beets with Pistachios & Pomegranate Seeds, Chocolate & Coconut Cake
Mushrooms & Homemade Meatballs in a Sweet and Sour Sauce
A Sweet Treat from Friends, Rich Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Coconut Frosting
Christmas Eve Dinner with Family- Braised Turkey, Stuffing, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Mashed Potatoes, and Cranberry Sauce
Stuffed Mushrooms with Peppers and Chorizo
Beet Greens, Pomegranate Seeds and Pistachios awaiting the Balsamic Roasted Beets
Homemade Peanut Butter Cups with Bite-sized Pretzels
Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies
New Years Appetizers with Friends- Sweet Chili Shrimp
get movin’ and get cookin’
With the holidays just around the corner I’ve put together a list of incredible holiday gifts made in the kitchen, all from some of my favorite inspiring food bloggers. If there is a friend you still need a gift for, or a father you can’t quite decide what to give, then these ideas are for you. Spend just one day in the kitchen this weekend and all your gift dilemmas will be solved.
1. Bake Cookies. These Dark Chocolate Pistachio & Sea Salt Cookies are incredible. Whether you fill up a thrifted cookie jar and gift these to grandma, or wrap them up in plastic bags and ribbon, these cookies will delight you. Joy from Joy the Baker, is hilarious, straight-forward and real, not-to-mention she bakes dreams.
2. Simple Jarred Granola. Granola is easy and customize-able for any and all. Add dried fruit, chocolate chips, coconut, anything your loved one would delight in for a healthy breakfast or snack. Sarah from My New Roots is truly a master of healthy living and eating. She can make your mouth water all the while convincing you to make healthy eating choices, its a win win.
3. Apple Cider Caramels (and/or the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook!). Deb from Smitten Kitchen just released a cookbook at the end of October that is absolutely incredible. With over 100 original recipes including these to die for Apple Cider Caramels. Whether you pair the caramels with the cookbook, which placed #2 on the New York Times bestseller list by the way, or simply share the caramels themselves, those receiving this gift will melt with joy.
4. Gingerbread Pancake Mix. Another fabulous edible gift idea is to take a recipe like these Holiday themed Gingerbread Pancakes from Ali at Gimme Some Oven, and create an easy to use “mix” out of the dry ingredients. You don’t want to include things like milk, butter, or eggs that are perishable, but gifting a loved one the bulk of the ingredients and the recipe to try on their own is like giving two gifts at once! The gift of cooking AND the gift of pancakes!
5. Homemade Vinaigrette. Salads are healthy and a great staple for mealtime, but after awhile may seem boring and bland. With this delicious homemade vinaigrette you can help your loved one enjoy eating healthy. If you include the recipe you’ll also save them the money spent on expensive dressings from the supermarket! This tried and true vinaigrette is simple to make and always adds the perfect burst of flavor to your greens.
I wish you all an incredible holiday ahead, and a homemade holiday at that. With a peak at these fabulous food bloggers and their holiday treats I hope to leave you inspired and itching for some time in the kitchen.
Blessings to you and yours.
Seattle, Washington was always a destination on my “must-see” list, but it wasn’t until one of my dearest friends, Heather, moved out there that I was given the ‘ole push. The trip, which was nearly a year ago, began with 3 best friends from the Midwest jumping on a plane to Seattle to visit the fourth chick that flew the coop. It resulted in endless amounts of love, laughter, drinks & food, all of which are staples in the gatherings of my best friends.
One of our afternoons was spent at Pike Place Market. An incredible spot I’d only heard about, but longed to visit. The Open Air Market was as colorful and full of life as I would have dreamed. From the freshest produce and cheeses, to incredible seafood and picture perfect flowers. There was warm baked bread, flavored pastas, olive oil, vinegar, literally anything you could eat or drink and even jewelry, purses and clothing to boot! Street musicians lined every corner and everyone seemed genuinely happy to be there. I found myself in awe of the colors and the space, perhaps in a daze between the pleasant bustle, incredible smells and joyful conversation.
The four of us picked out a fresh baguette, a few cups of unbelievable clam chowder and ingredients for our big friendly feast later in the night. When it was time to leave the market we marched right down to the water, gazed out to sea and ate. With every bite uttering an “mmm”, “ahhh”, “ohmygoodness” or my personal favorite exclaimer with its true expression of the sentiment, “yumma-lumma-ding-dong.”
Pike Place Market is 100 years in the making and it all began with Seattle City Council member Thomas Revelle’s ordinance to create a public farmers market in 1907. I’m in awe of Seattle’s commitment to the fresh local food community. Its remarkable that this city has understood the importance of healthy fresh food and made it available to their residents for over 100 years, while other states and communities are just now catching on.
If you’re visiting Seattle for a week, a day or simply a few hours, you need to make a stop at Pike Place. Simply, its a feast for your eyes and for your belly. Well, your nose too… okay, a Feast for the Senses. The Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA) makes it easy to learn more, find your way, or meet the farmers who make up the market on their top notch website. The Pike Place Market PDA is a non-profit created in 1973 by the city of Seattle to manage the market in addition to the nine-acre parcel and properties which make up the Historic Market District.
Their mission is to “preserve, rehabilitate and protect the Market’s buildings; increase opportunities for farm and food retailing; incubate and support small and marginal businesses; and provide services for low-income people.” This hub of activity that Pike Place creates is an incredible example of community and I love that just like our table at home, everyone gathers together around food.
Peace, Love & Chowder
Fall flavors are like a warm hug from a friend you’ve missed. My mouth waters and my mind buzzes with the potential flavor combinations that a fall harvest brings to the table. One of my favorite fall vegetables is squash, and surprisingly enough my dog Chet adores it too! He’ll eat roasted squash over a chewy dog treat any day…so would I.
Butternut squash has this rich, sweet and buttery flavor that pairs with just about anything. The trick with squash is in the slicing & dicing, but when it comes to roasting, preparation is just as easy as can be.
This particular dinner with friends was in celebration of our new house. My boyfriend Alex and I purchased our first home this past August. Its taken a month of construction dust, new paint, boxes and exhaustion to finally start feeling comfortable.
Even with our living areas piled to the brim with boxes we had friends over to celebrate, dug into the pantry, dirtied the kitchen and gathered around the table. The meal was all about embracing fall flavors in every dish, from a cranberry salad to pumpkin cupcakes with a cream cheese topping. Mmmmmm…
The main course was a homemade gnocchi, new to my list of staples, but nonetheless delicious and worth the extra effort. Mix the savory warmth of potato gnocchi with the sweet buttery flavor and smooth texture of butternut squash, and you’ve got yourself a melt in your mouth favorite.
Preheat oven: 400 degrees
5 medium sized potatoes
sea salt for baking
1 1/2 cup flour
2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons butter, diced
2 teaspoons sage
1 small bunch of fresh basil, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 small onion
1 small/medium butternut squash, peeled & diced
salt & pepper
Start by placing a layer of sea salt on the bottom of a baking dish, thick enough that the potatoes will rest on the salty layer, rather than the bottom of the pan. Remember to poke a few random holes with a fork in each of your potatoes…the recipe for ‘exploding potato bombs’ is a mess I’d prefer to leave for someone else :) Bake them for 40 minutes or until tender and remove from the oven.
While the potatoes are cooking, its time to peel, slice & dice the squash. The best trick I’ve found is to slice off the bottom of the squash so you have a flat surface to work from, then simply slice into smaller sections. Peel & dice each section one by one.
Place the diced squash into a medium bowl and toss with enough olive oil to lightly coat the pieces, then a quick pinch of salt. Transfer the contents to a baking pan and place in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring the pieces around on the pan about half way through and removing them from the oven to cool after your 20 minutes are up.
At this point in time, you’ll either have a little free time on your hands or your potatoes will be nearly ready to pull out of the oven. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle you should easily be able to remove the skin and toss the soft potatoes into a medium sized bowl. Mash them as well as you can manage, or even put them through a food processor if you have the means to do so.
Add the flour and egg yolks to your potato mash and fold “dough” together. Then, toss some additional flour on a cutting board and place the dough on top. Your gnocchi dough should be rather sticky, yet solid enough to be rolled easily. Split the dough in half and roll out each section into a 1 inch-thick ‘snake’. You’ll then, cut the ‘snake’ into one-inch wide pieces so that your little pieces of gnocchi are squares of 1 inch by 1 inch.
Your gnocchi are nearly finished! Just get a pot of salt water boiling on the stove and you’ll drop a few (5-8) at a time into the boiling water. The gnocchi will rise when they are finished, so simply fish them out of the boiling water with a spoon and place them into a strainer. The next step is optional, but personally I love my gnocchi browned on either side, I place a small tab of butter into a frying pan and simply brown them in a little butter and set aside.
The sauce is the last step and its really quite simple, plus it smells absolutely delicious. Warm your remaining butter in a pan over low-medium heat, toss in the chopped onion, and garlic and simmer. Stir in your sage and continue to heat. The aroma should be nothing short of tantalizing and luckily all you’ve got left to do is toss in your roasted butternut squash, gnocchi, and fresh basil at the last minute.
My mouth waters for the flavors in this dish and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do. Soak in the savory warmth and goodness of your homemade gnocchi and butternut squash. Its a friend you’re bound to return to, and one that will always greet you with the same warming hug of those delicious fall flavors.