Cream of Cauliflower Soup

On Superbowl Sunday, everyone watching the game with me decided to make a cauliflower dish.  I switched gears (choosing this recipe: delicious and highly recommended!), leaving myself a cauliflower to play with at home.

This cream of cauliflower soup recipe is flexible and can certainly be adjusted depending on what you have on hand.  It came out rich, creamy, and delicious tasting – perfect for a cold wintery night!

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Cream of Cauliflower Soup

1 head of cauliflower, roughly chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 quart chicken broth
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter (or your preferred fat)
2 tablespoons miso
black pepper to taste

1) Bring cauliflower, garlic, butter, rosemary, sage, cayenne and broth to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.

2) Once cauliflower is soft, turn off the heat.

3) Spoon some broth into a small bowl and stir in the miso until you have a liquidy paste.  Set aside.

4) Add milk and stir.  Add lemon juice.  Use immersion blender to puree the contents of your pot.  Add more milk if you want it to be less thick.

5) Stir in miso and season to taste.

6) Garnish with chopped celery or parsley.

cream-of-cauliflower2

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Winter & Valentine’s Crafts

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Well, we just lost what little snow we had.  Our first week of February’s forecast is full of highs above freezing.  If we can’t play in the snow, we might as well pretend it’s cold out and do some cozy winter projects inside.  Here are some fun ideas for dark winter afternoons, evenings by the fire, and preparations for Valentine’s Day.

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Paper snowflakes and heart doilies: Cut paper snowflakes out of white paper, and use the same technique to cut heart doilies out of red paper.  Click here to learn how to cut six-sided snowflakes.  Check out the photo at the top of this post to see our results.

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Heart Sewing: These make great cards!  Use a sharp pencil, pen, or awl to poke holes in thick paper as shown below.  Cut an arm-length piece of yarn and wrap a bit of tape around one end to make it poky and stiff.  Tape the other end to the top of the back side of your paper.  Using the tape end like a needle, sew in and out to create a heart, as shown above.  Experiment with other simple patterns for children to sew.

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simple-weaving

Simple Weaving: This is a great follow-up for children who enjoyed the heart sewing project above.  Use a large eyed blunt tipped needle, yarn, and a tissue box to teach a child to weave!  Wind the “warp” string around the box 6-10 times (grey yarn above).  Tape along each end to hold in place.  Thread your “weft” yarn (green yarn above) and weave your needle above, below, above, below, etc. until you’ve gone over and under all of the warp strings.  Pull yarn through, stopping before the very end slips through. Tape the yarn end to the box.  Continue going over and under, back and forth, until you’ve traveled across the box.  Children who completed these in my program turned them into headbands.

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Enjoy some love-ly snacks!  I like cutting snack veggies into hearts for valentines day.  This works for any long round veggie (carrots, cucumbers, radishes), though these watermelon radishes are the perfect color.  Cut a triangle out of one side, and cut the other side into a point.  Then simply cut slices from tip to end.  Instead of rounds, you’ll get hearts!

 

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Hope you’re having a lovely winter and have a happy Valentine’s Day

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Time to Play in the Snow!

Wonderful winter hiking: the trail up Camel's Hump

Wonderful winter hiking: the trail up Camel’s Hump

Happy Snow!  Finally, we got something to cover up our icy playground.  (Although, admittedly, we wouldn’t mind a bit more).  Yes, the ice was fun to slide around on, but we were all craving the multitude of opportunities snow offers:  forts, snow people, snow angels (or butterflies), sledding, and yes, probably some refreshing snow eating.   It’s a joy to see what a group of children come up with when presented with a yard full of fresh snow!  For more snowy play inspiration and instructions to cut a six-sided snowflake, check out this past blog post.

Adults should remember to take time to play outside in the winter too!  Winter hiking is a great (free) way to enjoy snow-covered forest beauty, wonderful views, and stay warm outside.   Just don’t forget your microspikes.  I still remember the feeling of skating across Lake Champlain last winter.  It was very magical to glide for miles over one of my favorite lakes – one that is over 400 feet deep in the middle!  Though it doesn’t seem likely that the lake will freeze this winter, there are always rivers, ponds, and ditches to provide skating opportunities.  We love visiting the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison, VT.

Skating on Dead Creek

Skating on Dead Creek

Snow also offers the opportunity to investigate the creatures that live near our schools and homes.  Tracking is a great winter activity for children and adults.  Check out some of the animal signs we found on this walk up the Lewis Creek and through the woods.  The thrill of this outdoor detective work is infectious – who doesn’t love finding clues along a trail and solving mysteries?  To read more, check out my post about Encouraging Curiosity and Problem Solving with Animal Tracking.

And if the cold temperatures and dry winter air chap or crack your skin, try making your own salve.  It’s quite simple, is a good indoor project for sub-zero days, is a great thing to have around the house, and makes the perfect homemade winter present!

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Warming Winter Recipes: Ginger and Turmeric

Ginger-and-Turmeric1

Ginger and Turmeric are a powerful pair.  Numerous studies highlight their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.  They are also believed by some to help treat diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer, among other diseases.  Equally important, they taste good together and are wonderfully warming on cold winter days.  I especially enjoy the combination of ginger and turmeric in Golden Milk Tea, Curried Broth, and Miso Squash Bisque.

Turmeric’s beneficial compounds are better absorbed by your body when eaten with fat and black pepper, so all of these recipes include both.

 

Golden-Milk-TeaGolden Milk Tea: A warming and nourishing drink, golden milk is tea made with grated ginger, grated turmeric, and coconut milk.  I start by bringing 1/3 can coconut milk and 1/2 cup water to a simmer.  I then grate in about 1/2 teaspoon of both ginger and turmeric roots and a dash of black pepper.  Feel free to add more to taste!  For those of you who prefer sweetened tea, this is delicious with honey.

Curried Broth:  I love featuring broth in our meals, but I sometimes get tired of the flavor of standard chicken or beef broth.  Curry spices, lemongrass, grated garlic, grated ginger, grated turmeric, and coconut milk make this soup base taste totally different.

Curried-Broth

1) When making my broth, I add lemongrass, garlic and onion to the pot instead of the standard chicken broth veggies and herbs.   If you’re not making your own broth, simmer store bought broth with lemongrass for 15 minutes before starting step #2.

-1 quart chicken bone broth
-one large cooking onion, chopped
-1 tablespoon ghee
-2-3 cloves garlic, diced
-1 teaspoon each cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds
-2 teaspoons each grated turmeric and grated ginger roots
-curry powder or paste to taste
-cayenne pepper, black pepper, and fish sauce (or salt) to taste
-1 can coconut milk (full fat)
-2 tablespoons lime juice

2) In a two quart (or larger) pot, sauté one chopped onion in 1 tablespoon of ghee (coconut oil works well too).
3) When onions are transparent, add garlic and seeds and stir.  When seeds are toasted, add curry and stir.
4) Immediately add coconut milk and broth.  Bring to boil and turn down to simmer.
5) Add remaining ingredients.  After simmering for 10 minutes, taste and add any additional seasonings to achieve your desired spiciness and saltiness.
6) Enjoy as a broth or add your choice of meat, legumes, or veggies to make a delicious soup.

Miso Squash Bisque:  A favorite way to enjoy butternut squash.

Miso-Squash-Bisque1-1 quart chicken bone broth
-one large cooking onion, chopped
-1 tablespoon ghee
-2-3 cloves garlic, diced
-1 butternut squash, chunked and seeded (can leave skin on)
-2 teaspoons grated turmeric and grated ginger roots
-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
-2 tablespoons sesame oil and rice vinegar
-1/4 cup miso paste

Miso-Squash-Bisque21) Sauté one chopped onion in 1 tablespoon of ghee (avocado or another mild cooking oil works well too).
2) Add broth, squash, and garlic.  Bring to boil, and then simmer covered until squash is tender (you can check using a fork).
3) Add turmeric, ginger, sesame oil, vinegar, and pepper.  Blend with an immersion blender until very smooth.  Simmer for a few minutes more and then remove pot from heat.
4) In a separate bowl, mix miso with a ladle-full of soup until the miso is evenly distributed.  Stir mixture into soup.
5) Season to taste.
6) Serve with your choice of garnish.  You can see I got carried away with my toppings!  I love using chopped parsley, scallions or cilantro, kimchi, toasted crumbled nori, toasted squash seeds, and/or toasted sesame seeds.

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Fresh ginger and turmeric roots are best stored in the freezer.  They stay fresh this way and stay hard and easy to grate using a cheese grater with small holes or a micro-plane grater.

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Gratitude in the New Year

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A hawk’s eye view of the frigid sunset from our house

Mindfulness.  Gratitude.  Being present in the moment and looking wisely into the future.

There are many things to reflect on about 2015 and think forward to in the new year.  Getting married and settling into a new home were big events for me in 2015.  My new year’s reflections this year are centered in gratitude.  I feel incredibly lucky for so many things.  Most of all, in 2016 I hope to keep this spirit of gratefulness alive as we settle into our new home and establish new rhythms.

Today I walked up Mount Philo, a familiar place to many who grew up here.  Now that we live on its southern slope, I’ve found a new appreciation for the beautiful walk, opportunity to be outside in nature, and the spectacular view from the top Mt. Philo provides to so many.  Here are some photos that capture the new year from our little spot in the Champlain Valley.

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our-valley

hugged-camels-hump(in order: View to the West, Wintery Picnic, Our Valley, and Tree Hugged Camel’s Hump)
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Homemade Crackers

I baked crackers once in middle school.  My main memory was about how terribly long it took, only to produce a small tin of crackers.  I don’t remember how they tasted.

homemade-crackers Luckily, my past memories didn’t prevent me from trying again.  I love making things from scratch because I get to pick the quality of ingredients and method of preparation.  My recent batch of crackers was delicious – their nutty whole grain flavor had the perfect crunch (not too hard, not soft).  My  recipe made quite a few – they packed six cookie trays full.  I soaked the flour overnight to make the flour more digestible and make the whole grain dough easier to work with (if you’re interested, read more here).  Soaking requires you to plan ahead, but it doesn’t increase the overall prep time.  I played around with mix-ins, choosing to make plain, sesame & honey, and za’atar flavored versions.  Happily, my homemade cracker memories have been replaced.  The verdict: definitely worth it!

zaatar-crackersSoaked Flour Crackers

Ingredients (makes about 6 full cookie trays of crackers):
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 cups rye flour
1/2 cup white flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 stick pastured butter (8 tablespoons)
1.25 cups plain whole fat yogurt

Instructions:
Day One: Mix dry ingredients.  Cut butter into flour and pinch until crumbly.  Add yogurt and mix (easiest with hands!).  Let sit, covered, at room temperature for 12-24 hours.

Day Two: Knead in any add-ins (see below).  Roll as thin as you can on a floured cool counter.  My first batch always comes out a bit thicker and sometimes puffs in the middle. I then realize I could actually roll the dough thinner, resulting in crispier crackers.  Cut with a butter knife and arrange on a cookie tray.  They can be quite close, but not touching.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  I take them out when they’re just starting to brown.  Cool on a stone countertop or on cooling racks.  Enjoy!

Add-Ins: I divided my dough into three parts.  One I left plain.  Into the second I kneaded in honey, tahini, and sesame seeds.  I added a favorite herb blend – za’atar – into the third until the dough couldn’t hold any more.  All baked well and tasted delicious!

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Busy in the Kitchen for the Holidays

Between special meals and homemade gifts, we’re busy in the kitchen this holiday season. Click on photos below to read more about the recipe behind the image.  Happy Holidays!

homemade granola

elderberry-syrup

salve

marmelade

Read More!  Check out the following past posts to learn how to make these yummy homemade goodies yourself:

 

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