Monday, January 27, 2014

Pear Fennel Soup (Vegan/Gluten-Free)

Sometimes I read recipes and my mouth starts to salivate (same thing happens when I watch Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, but I digress) as I read the ingredients and imagine their tastiness.

Other times I read recipes and I think, "huh."

This recipe was a product of my curiosity after I read about the idea of combining fennel and pear in a soup…followed by a "huh."

So I tried my own version of combining pear and fennel in soup and my "huh" quickly changed into a "yum!"

This is simple eating at it's finest.  Fresh flavors.  Natural sweetness.  Refined flavors.  All in about 20 minutes flat.

Pear Fennel Soup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
2 small fennel bulbs
2 medium pears, ripe, but not overly soft
1 cup apple juice
4 cups waters
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Chop the onion and add to the pan.  Cook 2-3 minutes.

Slice the fennel and core and slice the pear (no need to peel) and chop roughly.  Add to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Add the apple juice, water and salt and pepper (about 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, or to taste) and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer and cover.  Let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree, either with a blender (be careful--it's hot!) or immersion blender.

Serve with fresh fennel fronds (from the top of the fennel bulb).

Say it with me, "yum."

Serves 6.

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Homemade Suet Bird Feeder

In the cold, cold winter, there's just something about having a bird feeder out the window and seeing a Cardinal or Blue Jay eating.

A couple weeks ago, G and I made a homemade feeder.  I had a can of saved bacon grease lingering in the fridge, which we mixed with some bird seed and cranberries to create a cool feeder that the birds have long since devoured.

Full disclosure:  we had very cold weather when I put this outdoors.  If you want to keep the feeder from "melting" in warmer weather, mix peanut butter in place of about half of the bacon grease.

Homemade Suet Bird Feeder

2 cups bacon grease (or, bacon grease combined with peanut butter)
3-4 cups bird seed
cranberries (optional)
twine, pipe cleaner or other items for hanging
pie pan, or other "form" to pour the melted grease into

First gather your materials:

Melt the grease and add to the pan (if it isn't fully melted, just stir well):

Keep stirring:

Add 3-4 cups of bird seed:

(optional)  Add cranberries in a design:

Continue adding cranberries (I love when G makes this face, it's his "concentration" face):

Add the string or pipe cleaner before it hardens, pressing it in so it is well covered:

Let cool:

And hang!:

Life is sweet,

Monday, January 6, 2014

Winter Kale Salad (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

I love R's piano teacher.  She and her husband teach piano out of their home, and the fact that they have four children themselves, makes waiting with G while R's lesson takes place, super easy.  Their waiting area is full of Legos and other great toys, so I see the lesson each week as a time to let G play, while listening to piano and do some reading.  It is close to an ideal situation.

At one of R's lessons in November, the teachers shared a bowl of this salad with me, because, in their words, "we thought you would like it."  They know my food slant, and man oh man, they were right!  I loved this salad…so much so that I tweaked the recipe a bit and made it for Christmas dinner.

Full of greens, healthy vegetables and brown rice, this salad is a nutritional powerhouse!  Just right for a healthy New Year side dish or light dinner.

Winter Kale Salad

4 cups chopped fresh kale, stems removed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 small bulb fennel, sliced very thin
1 small red pepper, diced
1/2 cup red onion, minced
2 cups brown rice, cooked
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
juice of one lemon
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (or other vinegar)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, combine the kale, cranberries, fennel, red pepper and red onion.  Add the brown rice, while it is still warm, if you are able.  Doing so will slightly "cook" the raw veggies and hydrate the cranberries a bit, improving the texture of the salad.

Add the almonds to the salad and mix well.

In a lidded jar, combine the lemon juice, garlic, vinegar, mustard and olive oil.  Shake very well and pour over the salad.  Toss well to combine fully.

Serves 8 as a side dish, 4 as a light meal.

Life is sweet!