A Much Better Idea Than Writing A Paper

I have been working on a big project for one of my classes this week (the first portion of it is due Sunday night), staying up late nearly every night to finish it. When tonight rolled around, then, I decided to forgo the paper writing and bake this apple/pear tart (from this recipe) instead, using apples and pears that a friend gave me. I don’t regret that choice at all.

In other news, I finally got my new glasses this week. I’ve decided I like them.

Now I’m relishing the weekend, big project and all.

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Fresh Berry Scones with Lemon Glaze

I love this time of year, when the produce aisles are stacked with an abundance of fresh berries for much cheaper than usual. This week I found strawberries, blueberries, and cherries, all sweet, juicy, and ripe and all on sale. I’ve been packing them in my lunches this week but today I celebrated the holiday (and a day off from work) by baking some of them into scones as well.


I remember making scones back in high school. To be honest, I had never actually tried a scone, but they sounded elegant. In books, the characters always seem to eat scones while sipping tea in fancy parlors. This seemed to seep the word sophistication. I imagined scones as a dainty and delicate treat.

Well, my scones turned out anything but dainty and delicate. They were dry, dense, and lacking flavor. In retrospect, I think I probably made them with margarine (what we readily had on hand growing up) and probably over-mixed the dough as well. Regardless, I decided that day that I just didn’t like scones. A couple summers ago, though, some friends hosted a tea party. Naturally, several people brought scones . I tried one, just to be polite, and was surprised to find that I liked it. It was tender and subtly sweet and not at all like my dense attempt at scones.

So this past winter I finally tried baking scones again. And they were delicious! Unfortunately, I forgot to copy down the recipe I used then, but this recipe (adapted from this one) seems pretty similar:

Fresh Berry Scones with Lemon Glaze

Ingredients:

1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
Zest from 1 lemon
8 Tbsp. cold butter (not margarine)
1 c. fresh berries (I used blueberries in one batch and cherries in the next)
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. yogurt (I used plain)
lemon glaze (recipe follows)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a baking pan.

Grate the cold butter through the large holes of a box grater (or cut it into small pieces by hand). In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. Stir in the butter pieces (I mixed it with my fingers to help work the butter into the dough).

Wisk together the milk and yogurt. Add to the flour and butter mixture and stir just until combined.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface. Sprinkle the top with flour as well. Knead with well-floured hands 6-8 times, kneading in more flour as needed (be careful not to over-mix it). Roll the dough into a 12 inch square. Fold the dough into thirds like you would fold a letter. Then fold the short ends in thirds again to make an approximately 4 inch square. Place the dough on a plate and chill in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Return the dough to the floured surface. Roll into a 12 inch square again. Sprinkle the berries  over the dough and press them into the dough slightly. Then fold the sides of the dough in so that the berries are completely covered. Press or roll the dough into a long, thin rectangle, about 1 inch thick. Cut into triangles. (Alternately, you can roll it into a circle and cut wedges from that).


Place the wedges on the prepared cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool slightly, then drizzle with the lemon glaze.

Lemon Glaze

Ingredients:

1/2 c. lemon juice (I used two lemons)
Zest from 1 lemon
2 c. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. butter

Directions:

Combined the ingredients and microwave for 30 seconds or until the butter is melted. Wisk the glaze, adding more sugar as needed until the glaze is runny, but slightly thick. Drizzle over the cooled scones.

 

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Confession: I tend to buy bananas, knowing that at least few of them will get brown before we eat them, just so I have an excuse to make banana bread.

This time I used several of them to make sugar-free, dairy-free ice cream (recipe below), so I just had two left. My usual banana bread calls for 3-4 bananas and I was out of applesauce (which I sometimes use to make up for some of the bananas). Not to be deterred, I decided to substitute peanut butter for the other banana. This was the result:

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Ingredients:
2 ripe bananas
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/3 c. melted butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 c, flour (I used 1 c. whole wheat and 1/2 c. all purpose)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl. Add the melted butter, peanut butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla and mix well. Sprinkle the salt and baking soda on top and stir in. Finally stir in the flour. Spoon the batter into a greased bread pan and bake for 30-45 minutes or until browned.

Or, for another delicious banana/peanut butter combination, try this “ice cream” recipe that Lindsay passed on to me this spring (it’s naturally sugar-free and dairy-free):

Banana Peanut Butter Soft Serve “Ice Cream”

Ingredients:
2-3 ripe bananas, frozen (thawed slightly)
1/3 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in the food processor (to be honest, I don’t measure exactly so these are just guesses) and process on high until creamy. Eat immediately (as if you could resist this long anyway).

Shed Your Shoes

This weekend over a hundred of us from the Boiler Room caravanned out to Prairie Star Ranch for the annual spring retreat, a refreshing blend of vacation, family reunion, and deep times with the Lord. We had sweet moments of worship together, powerful clusters of prayer for one another, large meals together, a bonfire every night, and hours of free time to wander through woods and along lakes. My sunburned neck bears witness to the hours I spent outside, surrounded by beauty. My heart, likewise, was deeply marked by the personal ways that God reaffirmed my identity in Him over the weekend and highlighted several places in my heart He wants to sift.

After lunch on Saturday, I found myself with a large chunk of free time, so I meandered down around the lake. To be honest, I was grumbling to the Lord a bit about how I just wanted to feel loved (more and more lately I have been aware of this desire rising up in my heart – and recognizing the ways I tend to respond to that desire – so the Lord and I have been working through that together).

Eventually, still grumbling a bit, I moved away from the Lake and into the woods. As I wandered down the path, I remembered how, as a child, I had loved exploring the words around my grandpa’s cabin in central Michigan. I spent hours there, wading in the creek, balancing on logs, and collecting colored stones, wildflowers, and tiny frogs, treasures of the woods. As I recalled those memories, I felt God encouraging me to explore like a child again.

So I rambled down towards the stream, where I found a pile of shoes discarded along the banks. I could hear children’s voices and laughter from around the bend. Remembering the Lord’s encouragement to explore like a child, I shed my own sandals and waded into the stream. I followed it until I found the cluster of Boiler Room children, feet submerged in the water as they scooped up tiny frogs. There were hundreds of these frogs along the stream. They hopped into the leaves and jumped into the stream every time we took a step, the patter of dozens of tiny bodies launching and landing sounding like raindrops. I marveled with the children at the frogs’ tiny webbed feet, the mottled brown and green of their backs, and the kicking motion they made as they swam away through the water.

It was while we waded through the stream, collecting frogs, that we saw them: mushrooms. Not just any mushrooms, though. Morel mushrooms. We spotted just a few at first, their spongy tops jutting out from the bank of the stream by an old dead tree.

I pointed them out to the children and one exclaimed, “Those are the ones my dad likes!”

When we went closer, scrambling up the muddy bank to reach them, I saw that there were more than just a few. I could see dozens of them scattered around the tree, peeping out from under leaves and barely hidden behind logs.

We picked a few to bring back with us, carrying them like fragile trophies as we waded back down the stream. As we splashed back through the water, the Lord began to speak to me about how this is the way we treasure hunt with Him, when we become like children. We cast aside our shoes and our grown-up agendas to simply explore, delighting in even the simple things: the slippery brush of moss under our feet, the flutter of frogs’ feet on our hands, a crayfish scuttling through the water. In the midst of this, we find treasure.

Later that afternoon, I returned with a friend to collect more of the mushrooms. We filled a produce box and had still only gathered about half of them. The following day, a group of us returned again and collected the rest, filling more bags and boxes to carry back home. I felt like this treasure, though a personal gift from the Lord, was meant to be shared, so I set aside a few for Derek and I and invited people to come take what they wanted of the rest.

When we came home Sunday afternoon, I cleaned my mushrooms and soaked them in salt water for a few hours, then sautéed them in butter with asparagus and tortellini. They were incredible, so tender and full of flavor. Delicious.

Spring Break In Photos

Spring break ended a week ago (with five straight days of rain and all my classes packed into one week, as a matter of fact), but I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful weather and time off. Here’s some pictorial evidence of just that:

 

Simmering

This past week I’ve wrestled with a lot of discouragement (mostly from my so-far-fruitless job search and the uncertainty about the next couple months that it brings). I feel stretched with the tension of this transition until I’m brittle and snappish. I try to soak in God’s words over me and the dreams solidifying in my heart. But I still feel pretty lost in the in between.

In the meantime, though, I’ve still been doing a lot of cooking, planning menus and trying new recipes. I’ve become enamored with the cinnamon/tumeric combination that give dishes an exotic sort of taste, so I thought I’d share a couple recipes I made recently.

The kids were hanging out in the kitchen with me, munching on bites of tomato and zucchini while I made this first one. When dinner time came, Shelby gave them pizza rolls, but they cried for the vegetable stew until she finally gave them some. They ate all their vegetables – and asked for seconds – but never did finish those pizza rolls. I consider that a success :-).

Couscous with Butter Beans, Zucchini, and Tomato Stew

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 28 oz. can of tomatoes, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. tumeric
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 can of butter beans (don’t drain)
3 medium zucchini, diced
2 c. water
1 1/3 c. dried couscous

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a deep skillet. Sauté the onions in the oil, for five minutes, then add the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, coriander, tumeric, cinnamon, and cayenne. Saute, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Stir in the butter beans (including the liquid), zucchini, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil, along with the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt and the remaining 2 tsp. oil. Stir in the couscous. Immediately cover the pan and remove from the heat. Let stand at least 5 minutes. Just before serving, fluff the couscous. Ladled the stew over the couscous and serve.

(This recipe was modified from a recipe in The Best 125 Meatless Mediterranean Dishes, by Susann Geiskopf-Hadler and Mindy Toomay – one of my current favorite cookbooks from the library)

 

Kashmiri Gobi

(A northern India dish)

Ingredients:

1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
6 Tbsp. oil
1 large cauliflower, separated into florets
1 tsp. ground tumeric
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. cashews, chopped

Directions:

Puree the onion, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes together in a food processor. In a saucepan, sauté this mixture with the tumeric and cayenne for 3 minutes. Add the cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, sugar, and salt and simmer for a 5 more minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat and sauté the cauliflower until it is beginning to brown and soften. Add the prepare sauce and the cashews and stir together. Let cook for about 5 minutes more. Serve over quinoa or your choice of grains.

(This recipe was modified from one found in World Food Café; Global Vegetarian Cooking, by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott)

The Kashmiri Gobi

What’s Cooking Good Looking?

(note: I’m chuckling/wincing at the cheesiness of that title. But I can’t come up with anything more creative right now, so there it stays)

I know I haven’t been writing much lately (more because of lack of time than lack of things to write about) but I have been cooking a lot.

Several weeks ago Derek and I sat down with our budget and decided we needed to go back to buying our own groceries to have a little more control over what we spend on food each week (rather than doing mostly community groceries like we had been, which was getting expensive and usual didn’t cover all the essentials for the week). So for the past three weeks, I’ve been making a weekly menu and doing our grocery shopping.

Now, instead of half-heartedly rummaging through the refrigerator and cupboard when I get home from work to see what I can possibly throw together quickly, I’ve been making dinners in the mornings so Derek has something to eat when he comes home from class and I don’t have to worry about it when I get home from work. I’ve been spending more time cooking, but trying new recipes and enjoying being a little more creative with what I make. It’s been refreshing, actually, having things planned out like that.

I’ve tried a number of new recipes in the past few weeks, but I’ll just share the one (based off of this recipe but altered to fit what I had and like) for Guinness stew that I made for our date night. Derek is a fan of beef and Guinness, so this made his list of top recipes recently:

Guinness Beef Stew

Ingredients:

1 lb. lean beef stew meat, cubed
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. flour
salt and pepper to taste (I used seasoned salt)
dash of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 c. Guinness (or other stout  beer)
2 large onions, chopped
2 parsnips, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 large potato, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. rosemary, crushed

Directions:

Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet. Dredge the meat in the flour mixture, then brown on all sides in the oil. Transfer the meat to a crock pot. Add about a cup of water to the skillet where you browned the meat and bring it to a boil, scraping the pan. Add this to the crock pot as well, along with the rest of the ingredients. Cook on low 8 hours or high 4 hours (I did a combination of the two).

Garden Goodness

I’ve been missing our garden, so when I saw Maria on Sunday and she told me to come over and pick vegetables, I was delighted. I’ve been babysitting baby Lena (our  youngest housemate) and waiting for a slightly cooler day (which I finally decided just wasn’t coming since the temperature has edged over a hundred degrees most days this week), but I finally made it over to the garden this morning.

It sorely needed weeding, but it was still growing! Some of the vegetables (like the beans and cucumbers) were on their way out, wilted and molding in the dirt, but the butternut squash had exploded all over the garden, the quinoa was starting to form brightly colored orange and red buds just like the seed package had promised, several baby watermelon nestled under the leaves next to the squashes, the peppers were blushing bright red, and the zucchini was still going strong!

I spent a couple hours tugging out weeds, pulling out dead plants and vines, and avoiding spiders (the only thing I don’t like about gardening). These long, thin vines had wound themselves around a lot of the plants, so I had to carefully unwind each one so it wouldn’t damage the plants (if zucchini grow like the Kingdom of God, I’m convinced that these viney weeds grow like sin!)

And then, sweaty but satisfied, I came home, bearing two grocery bags full of homegrown veggies: butternut squash, zucchini, red peppers, hot peppers, onions, beets, baby carrots, and green tomatoes.

They became the highlight of dinner tonight:

Garlicky Baked Butternut Squash

(modified from this recipe)

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. minced fresh carrot tops (the recipe originally called for parsley)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Combine all ingredients (except for the Parmesan cheese) in a shallow 2 quart baking dish. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until the squash is tender. During the last ten minutes or so of the baking time, stir in the parmesan cheese.

(I served this over quinoa, which was delicious. I think this has just become one of my new favorite recipes)

And of course, one of the best parts about cooking any kind of squash, is toasting the seeds:

Oven-Toasted Squash Seeds

Ingredients:

Seeds from 1 squash
Seasoned salt (or other spices) to taste

Directions:

Stir together seeds and seasoned salt on a shallow baking pan (I just use a small cookie sheet). Toast at 375 degrees until lightly browned and crispy, stirring often (watch carefully since they can go from almost done to burnt very quickly).

And for dessert (yes, I actually made dessert!) I found this interesting recipe for green tomatoes. It’s definitely not the traditional fried green tomatoes and makes me want to experiment more with tart green tomatoes:

Green Tomato Crisp

(modified from this recipe)

Ingredients:

7 firm green roma tomatoes (if you use bigger tomatoes, you could use less)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup coarse graham cracker crumbs
4 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

Directions:

Thinly slice the tomatoes and layer them in an ungreased baking pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, then with the cracker crumbs. Top with the butter and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned on top.

(The pepper added an interesting bite to it, but I liked it. Next time I’d probably just cut down on the sugar a bit, just to make it a little more tart)

Salsa

On Monday Kate from the Boiler Room invited me to help her can salsa with some of the tomatoes from their garden (they have some of the biggest tomatoes I’ve ever seen!). As we chopped and stirred and waited for water to boil, she shared a bit of her story and I shared a bit of mine, and we talked about gardening, preserving, cooking, sewing, and recycling, among other things. It was encouraging and refreshing.

And at the end of the afternoon, Kate sent me home with homemade salsa and an abundance of fresh vegetables from her garden (tomatoes, collards greens, kale, and basil). I felt so blessed in so many ways!

Here’s the recipe we used (from this site):

Salsa for Canning

Ingredients

8 Ripe tomatoes
1 ½ c. of chopped mild green Anaheim-type peppers
1 c. minced jalapeno pepper
2 ½ c. chopped yellow onions
6 cloves of garlic
2 ½ tsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. of black pepper
2 Tbsp. of canning salt
12 oz. of tomato paste
15 oz. tomato sauce
1/3rd c. white vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1/4th cup fresh and chopped cilantro

Directions:

Finely grind the tomatoes, peppers, onion, and garlic in a food processor. Pour into a large pot and add the rest of the ingredients, except for the lime juice and cilantro. Mix well. Set over heat and boil for 10 minutes. Keep on stirring while it boils. After boiling, turn off the flame and remove the salsa from heat. Add the lime juice and cilantro. Pour this mixture into pint jars (one batch makes six pints, if I remember correctly). Place the canning lids and rings on the jars again and process the jars in boiling hot water for around 15 minutes (usually, a big aluminum pot is used to place these jars for the hot water bath. The boiling hot water must cover at least 1 inch from the bottom of the jars). Ensure that the leads of the jars are tightly closed. Store the salsa cans in a cool and dry place. Once you open the lid of the jar, you must refrigerate the jar. It is also advisable to use the salsa within one year. Before opening the jar, make sure the lid of the jar is not bulging. After opening, check for foam, mold or some unusual odor. Sometimes, this happens, if the salsa is not cooked properly or something goes wrong with the recipe.

Friendship and Food

Last night I went to a girls night with some of the women from our Tuesday night prayer gathering, plus a couple women I hadn’t met before. Natalie had set out games, nail polish, and supplies for facial, but we ended up just talking all evening. At one point we talked about friendship and how hard it is sometimes to establish friendships in a new place (several of us recently moved to Kansas City). And we decided that it’s good to gather with just women like that sometimes. Yes indeed.

Anyways, here’s the recipe for the bean dip I brought (really easy and really tasty — a good combination):

Spicy Bean Dip with Yogurt

Ingredients:

1 can of beans (I used black eyed peas)
5 cloves of garlic
1/4 c. plain yogurt
3 tsp. lime juice
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. cilantro (I used dried, because that’s what I had, but I’m sure fresh would be even better)
1 tsp. hot sauce

Directions:

Blend beans and garlic in the food processor until finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve with pitas, chips, or crackers (I put it on woven wheat crackers).