Roasted carrot soup with citrus and cumin

October 8, 2012 § 28 Comments

Is it quite terrible that one of the things I liked best about Boston was the length of the corduroy jacket season?  It stretched on seemingly into perpetuity, that in-between temperature season where you can throw a corduroy jacket over your t-shirt or over your wooly sweater and be happy.

I really love wearing my corduroy jacket, you see.

This makes me sound so frivolous, doesn’t it?!  It is frivolous.  Forgive me, I’m a flake!  At least where corduroy is involved.  And boots too, but let’s stick with corduroy for the moment.  The point is, here I wore my corduroy jacket for perhaps two days, and then the season was over.

It snowed a little bit both days this weekend.  In some places, actually, it snowed a lot!  I absolutely love snow, and I say bring it on.  The temperature is hovering right around freezing, the smell of leaves and an edge of snow are trapped, suspended in the chill, dry air.  It smells like I remember Halloween weather always smelling.  The ground is coated with crackling leaves, maple, birch, and aspen, and in many ways, this is actually my very favorite kind of weather.  I keep being overcome by a delirious happiness when I step outside and feel that air and smell that smell.  Except, gosh I’d like to be able to wear my corduroy jacket for a little bit longer.

I’d also like to have cake and eat it too while acquiring grass in a similar shade of green as that on the other side, if it’s not too much trouble, thank you. « Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted chicken with dill and leeks

September 22, 2012 § 16 Comments

I think I have mentioned it before (yup, I have – just checked), but there was a lucky day once when I was home from college on winter break when I got to cook with the Norwegian food writer, cook, and TV personality Andreas Viestad.  Ok, it’s not Anthony Bourdain or Jamie Oliver, but for me it was pretty dang close.  Even better, actually, being the cooking and writing obsessed Scandophile that I am.

He was giving a book talk and signing at our church, accompanied by a cooking demo.  Our family friend and cookbook author Bea Ojakangas recruited my mother and me along with another friend to help with the food preparation.

I’m pretty sure, when it comes down to it, we were asked there more for our Norwegian language skills than our cooking skills, but I wasn’t concerned, I still felt special.  From the experience I took away some cooking pointers, a minor crush, and a signed copy of Viestad’s cookbook.

It’s a beautiful book.  One I have loved as much for the beautiful landscape pictures that reminded me of all my childhood summers in Norway as for the simple, flavorful recipes.  After break, I brought the book back to share with my college housemates as I excitedly told them about getting to cook with the cute Norwegian chef.  Soon, everyone in our house – boys and girls alike – referred to Viestad as the “cute Norwegian chef” rather than by name, and a number of recipes from his book had become regulars in the rotation of our household meals (we cooked for each other and ate together 5 nights a week). « Read the rest of this entry »

Grilled kale salad with beets, figs, and ricotta

September 18, 2012 § 49 Comments

We went up into the woods over the weekend.  It felt so good.  Always does, really.

We went to the Boundary Waters, the forest in Northern Minnesota bordering Canada.  A wilderness where the only real way to get around is by slipping a canoe into the water and paddling from lake to lake.  There you can glide through still water, bounce through choppy, scramble over beaver dams, dodge moose…the only sounds around are the slap of the paddles, the drips of water, the occasional loon call, or easy conversation with the others in the boat.

Every wild area has its own unique silence and peace.  I think that of the Boundary Waters may be one of the deepest anywhere.  It affords the most beautiful solitude  (and the most comfortable companionship with the others paddling with you) that you can imagine.  Where else in the world can you canoe or kayak between hundreds of lakes with only hikes of several – ok, sometimes several hundred – canoe lengths in between?  It’s remarkable.

We paddled a nice 12 mile loop on Saturday.  On Sunday afternoon we decided to hike up one of the low ridges to take in the views of the leaves that are just starting to show hints of gold and scarlet.  On the hike down, for the first time in several weeks, I began to think in earnest about food. « Read the rest of this entry »

Slow cooked Greek green beans

September 10, 2012 § 10 Comments

Did you have to take timed tests in elementary school?  (To this day I’m still not entirely sure whether they were called timed tests or times tests, after all, they were used for learning the times tables.)  A couple minutes to complete as many problems as you can multiplying by 7.  A couple minutes to complete as many problems as you can dividing by nine.  Awful.  Awful awful awful.  There’s a pit in my stomach now, just remembering.

I’ve never done well with time pressure.  I freeze up when I’m in a hurry, making stupid mistakes, leaving a trail of minor disasters.  But, I also hate being late.  So, I won’t just take the extra time I sometimes need.  Basically, time, deadlines, and I all keep slightly different schedules.  And I occasionally lose my sanity  trying to force them into alignment.

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Roasted strawberries with whipped, honeyed chevre

May 14, 2012 § 35 Comments

The past couple of semesters, I’ve taught a graduate class on theories of behavior change in nutrition and public health promotion.  (Talk about a mouthful of a course name, right?!)  One of my favorite theories we cover in this class is one called Self Determination Theory.

I like it because in many fields, health promotion most definitely among them, we spend a lot of time thinking about what people are doing wrong and trying to figure out how we can convince them to do what we think is best for them based on what we (the experts, that is) think is important.  And, when you spend a whole lot of energy focusing on the many things people aren’t doing or don’t really want to do, it’s easy to forget that people are also capable of amazing joy, creativity, curiosity, and completely intrinsic motivation.

Self Determination Theory is exactly about that.  About where people’s motivation comes from and how the more they can connect a behavior with things that intrinsically motivate them, the more they will internalize that behavior, and the more likely they are to keep doing it.

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Spaghetti squash with cauliflower, anchovies, pine nuts, and currants

May 10, 2012 § 14 Comments

For much of my adult life (starting, even, when I was more adult-ish, than adult), I’ve wanted to have a restaurant or cafe where I was recognized.  All Cheers-like, where everybody – or, more realistically, at least somebody – would know my name, and I would know theirs.  I’d be a regular.

Perhaps it comes from my small-town girl core, which craves to be situated in a community small enough where you can’t help but bump into someone you know on every grocery store visit.  Perhaps it comes from the more universal human desire to belong, to be part of something, to be known.  Either way, it’s been a borderline compulsion for years, but mostly just an internal one.  I’ve never really intentionally played it out.  Either my tendency to explore and try new places would thwart my quest to become a regular, or a high turnover rate in the staff would.  (Technically with the latter, I guess I still was a regular, but it doesn’t count if there is no one that greets you with that smile of the eyes that says, ‘hey, I know you! I’m glad you’re back. How’s the family/kids/dog…?’)

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Spiced sweet potato and leek cakes

April 3, 2012 § 20 Comments

Were I a poet, I would write odes in celebration of cardamom.

Actually, now that I give my bold statement a little thought, were I a poet, I would probably have much more profound and brooding things to write about.  For example, what a sparrow isn’t.

(This is an actual discussion that Joel and I once had, after hearing a pair of essays by a husband and wife one of whom is a poet and the other a novelist. What a sparrow isn’t comes up as a poetic theme.  Later on a walk, I asked Joel what he thought of when he imagined what a sparrow isn’t, and he launched into a long musing exploration of the fluttering energy each little life on this earth has and the vacuum that could be left were it not there and how this might change the overall universe.  Then he asked what came to my mind when I thought of what a sparrow isn’t.  “An elephant and a beach ball,” I replied.  Joel writes poetry.  I don’t.)

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Roasted beets and arugula with horseradish cream

March 31, 2012 § 11 Comments

The other day, I stole a few moments to bop over to Sara’s lovely blog, Sprouted Kitchen, to take a peak at what she had cooking.  When I arrived I was instantly arrested, not by the recipe but by the quote she began her post with.

“Beet’s concentrated jewel-like color is both its joy and its downfall. It is Murphy’s law that it should marry so happily with the virginal white of goat cheeses, mascarpone, and thick puddles of creme fraiche, none of whose looks are improved by a pink stain curdling the outer edge” – Nigel Slater, Tender

This captivated me.  This simple, beautiful statement that captures so much of the personality of beets.  They are enticing and they are challenging, colorwise, flavorwise, every which way.

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Sweet potato rösti with avocado and smoked salmon

March 6, 2012 § 19 Comments

My father, who is both a wonderful person and a wonderful eater, and one of the most truly consciously healthy people I know, has been having to make some dietary changes lately to try to figure out some minor allergies.  That’s putting it mildly.  By “some” changes, I mean he’s doing sort of the mother of all elimination diets.  Even things like rice and potatoes, which are usually allowed in elimination diets are o-u-t, out.

If you’re exceptionally noble and self-possessed, I suppose you could see the good in such limitation.  The strict form of the sonnet can give rise to even more beauty and creativity than free verse, and all that la dee da.  But, overall, it has got to pretty much suck.  Perhaps even with a capital S.  That’s how I would feel about it, I know.

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Coconut and Thai curry soup with pork dumplings

March 3, 2012 § 18 Comments

On Thursday it snowed!  Finally.  It wasn’t the best timing since Joel was flying back from a work trip that night, but it was snow, and I wanted it!  The winter has been so sparse and brown, and when I looked out at the fragile white coating on the ground I literally felt what is meant by “a sight for sore eyes.”  My strained retinas relaxed perceptibly, and something inside me that has been tight and knotted all winter relaxed and unwound just slightly.  I’m a northerner.  My heart aches for a real winter.

I think you can see it in the photos too, that de-saturated grey light that comes with flakes suspended in the air.  Today it’s drizzling, so the snow won’t last long.  But it was there, and I was happy.

But anyways, what was I here to tell you about? Focus.  Focus.  Reel it in, Emily.  Ah yes, soup.

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