Cookbook Review: The Kitchn



Let me start by saying I’m not a big cookbook gal, and I’m HOOKED on this book! From the gorgeous pictures to the wonderful way the recipes are laid out to the helpful tip that rightfully take up half the book, but I’m getting ahead of myself. This so much more than just a “Cookbook”, It’s a cooking school in a book. 

They say you spend a third of your life in bed, but I’m convinced that we spend a third of our lives in the kitchen. From food preparation, consumption, entertaining and cleaning we spend a great deal of time in the busiest room of the house. I’ve been using The Kitchn’s recipes for years so when I was given the opportunity to review The Kitchn Cookbook  I jumped on it! Remember that this review is coming from a gal who doesn’t usually like cookbooks. Don’t have the space or the attention to make them worthwhile, I usually want one recipe out of them and they gather dust. This book, however, is totally a keeper! It’s more than your usual round up of recipes, which are all really great recipes! It includes tips for keeping your kitchen clean and organized (which is important if you spend as much time as I do in the kitchen!) and also includes tips on how to properly stock a pantry planning and storage various ingredients. With recipes for everything from the one-pot wonders, slow cooking, no-bake, and time intensive dishes there’s really something for every taste and skill level and kitchen size.

Reading this book is like learning all the tribal knowledge of cooking with your mother and grandmother for Thanksgiving. It not only has amazing recipes (knowing how to make vinaigrette or lemon bars from scratch will totally change your cooking game) but it also has great tips for preparing meal plans, entertaining a group, stocking a pantry and storing ingredients and basically has a mini cooking school in chapter 5. The entire chapter is devoted to the tips and tricks that will change the game. Sure, we might already know how to chop an onion and might even know how to boil a mean pot of water. But, can you confidently deglaze a pan (trust me, it will change your life), thicken a sauce and properly cup up a whole chicken? There are also tips on how to adapt recipes, store your fruits and veggies and more!

Consider this the handbook for the kitchen you’ve always dreamed of. With recipes for everything from the one-pot wonders, slow cooking, no-bake, and time intensive dishes there’s really something for every taste and skill level and kitchen size.

I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion, and my honest opinion is that this is a kitchen must have!




One Pot Potato Leek Soup {Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free}

IMG_0204It’s officially soup weather. The sweaters, boots and umbrella have been pulled out and are here to stay. The rain is here and it’s cozy time. Browsing in the market on Saturday, I was drawn to the gorgeous  leeks piled high in one of the bins at our local Whole Foods market. They were brilliantly colored, as big around as a hearty farm grown carrot and on sale. Check, check, check. There are two things I like to do with leeks; make a potato soup with them or sauté and eat them with olive oil and lemon for a snack. You can make soup with the stock sand sauté the leaves if you wish to have the best of both worlds. Sautéing leeks to eat as a snack would have NEVER crossed my mind, but I read it in a book I quite enjoy and have tried it a few times since. The book is something I picked up at a half-price book store a few years ago and find myself reading each year. It’s called “French Women Don’t Get Fat” by Mireille Guiliano. Now, let me pause here and say that I am not encouraging dieting behavior. The I love her healthy, holistic approach.

IMG_0205The focus of the book is teaching us how to eat for pleasure and nutrition versus eating, or not eating, as a diet choice.  She discourages dieting and is a fabulous writer. I agree with her encouragement for people  to view the relationships between food, weight and health within an over focus on a healthy happy lifestyle.  Okay, back to sautéed leeks. I had the best intention of using two boxes of chicken stock that I received from an amazing food conference I just attended (IFBC!). We’re really aware of how much salt goes into our food and opt for low salt whatever we can (broth, soy-sauce, chips, mixed nuts, etc). I have to give the disclaimer that I’m a broth snob. I love broth and have been known to make up a pot of broth in the winters to supplement my massive tea intake. My mother makes amazing soups and has always set the bar high. I’ve never found a boxed or canned broth that I find remotely decent. I’ve always used the same stock my mum uses the brand Better Than Bouillon and I always make sure to get the reduced sodium base. You’ll always find the chicken and beef base in my fridge but they have ham, turkey, lobster, mushroom, the list goes on! One caveat, not all of their flavors come in reduced sodium but the chicken and beef ones do and Costco carries them so I’m a happy camper! So, I grabbed a few leeks, potatoes and onions and was off to make the first soup of the season.

IMG_0201As I mentioned before, we go low salt so at first when I tasted this soup it really felt like it was missing an ingredient. After calling my mother the soup master (Just missed her, she had already gone to bed!) and googling what flavor should hit the center of your tongue, which was right where the soup was missing some seasoning flavor, the mister and I decided that it was salt. Simple salt. I took out a few spoonfuls of the soup and cracked some fresh pink salt on top and low and behold…that soup was PERFECT!

The fun part about this soup is that you can completely change the flavor of the soup with a few very simple cooking variations! Throw in a few carrots, or add some turnips with the potatoes. Not big on thyme myself, but you could add a tablespoon or two of dried thyme or 1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme and/or if you like dill, which I don’t, you can include ½ tsp dried dill, or 1 tsp chopped fresh dill. You can cook with truffle oil or use truffle salt, or any other amazingly flavored salt you have stumbled upon. You could cook bacon in the pan first and wipe half the oil out, and use the remaining half of bacon grease to cook up the veggies and potatoes.

How do you like your potato leek soup? Leave a comment!!

One Pot Potato Leek Soup {Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free} 

1 Tbsp rice bran oil
1 medium yellow onion
3 large leeks, without the leaves, sliced into rounds
4 medium russet potatoes, washed and chopped and loosely diced
pinch grey or pink salt
fresh cracked black pepper, and more to taste
chopped fresh or dried parsley
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp Better than Bouillon Reduced Sodium Chicken base + 7 cups hot water

Pull out your stock pot. Heat the rice bran oil over medium heat. Chop your onions and add them to the pot, stirring occasionally. To prep your leeks, wash the stocks and cut off the leaves right where the light green turns dark green and the leaves start. Cut off the roots.

Set the leaves aside (unless you want to wash them and include them which you totally can). Slice the stock in half, and cut 1/2 inch half moons until the stocks are all chopped. I do this so it’s easier to separate the leeks when I drop them into the pot.

Stir whatever you have in the pot a few times with each ingredient addition. Add the leeks to the pot and cover.

Cut your potatoes and add them to the pot to sauté for about 5-7 minutes. I cut my potatoes like I would for a breakfast hash: cut the potato in half, then half again and loosely dice.


Once you’ve sautéed the leeks, onions and potatoes for a bit, add a pinch of salt, pepper, chopped fresh or dried parsley and 2 bay leaves. I always add bay leaves to my soup and broths because my mother does and she makes the most amazing soups! Just remember to pull both of them out before blending or serving!

While this is sautéing heat up your tea pot to mix the bouillon base.  I always mix the broth in a glass pyrex because just when you think it’s all dissolved into the water and pour it into your soup pot,  you’ll see the huge chunk of bouillon that was hiding at the bottom plop into the pot! Not amazing. Mix the bouillon in your pyrex, assuring it’s dissolved, then add it to the pot and bring to a boil.

Let the soup boil for a few minutes then reduce to low heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. Check the soup to assure that the potatoes are cooked through and turn off the heat. Go fishing for your two bay leaves and pull those guys out. If you have a stainless steel immersion blender, which I don’t, puree of the soup in the pot until you reach the desired level of smoothness. If, like me you don’t own a fantastic immersion blender, pardon me while I add that to my amazon which list which is 90% cooking tools and cook books! I use my trusty vita mix and blend it in batches.

Taste the soup as you blend it because this is your chance to add more herbs and spices since you’re blending the heck out of it and the flavors will be sure to mix well.

Garnish with whatever your heart desires:
cracked pepper
fresh chopped parsley
pumpkin seeds (roasted pumpkin seeds recipe) and sub paprika for the salt
shaved marinated carrots
chopped green onions
sour cream
chopped bacon
fried onions
a drizzle of some truffle oil
… your options are endless!

Seasonal Kale Radicchio Salad w/ Poppyseed Dressing

IMG_9897I met this delicious seasonal dish at a baby shower a few weeks ago. Let’s set the stage here; I’m not usually super amazing thrilled baby showers attendee. But, one of my very good girlfriends recently had her first shower and there was a sacred promise that there would be no games, which is a huge plus for encouraging attendance. Little did I know that I would be greeted upon entry with a glass of La Marca Processco (which is my favorite) and ushered into a room of absolutely fantastic gals. With a glass of bubbly in my hand and a smile on my face I was shown to the food table. This, my fine friends, was both a visual and tasty delight! There were numerous quiche options, fresh shrimp with cocktail sauce, three types of homemade mini cupcakes and an absolutely amazing kale radicchio salad which I shamelessly had thirds of.

The bubbly was also flowing, but, that has no correlation to the ‘yum’ factor of this salad. Not only was it visually delightful, but it was so delicious that I had to remind myself I was in public and shoving salad into my mouth as quickly as I could was not socially appropriate. It was tangy, creamy, crunchy, herbaceous, earthy and downright amazing. Three bites in I was begging for the recipe. It was a simple and side dish that is easily transported for events and was SUPER tasty. Had I hit the side-dish mecca? Quite possibly my friends, quite possibly.

salad2For halloween our office did a “Crocktober” and one look at the food sign up sheet had my insides yelling for something even remotely healthy! Someone’s got to make a non-crockpot dish to balance this whole situation out right!? So, when asked to sign up for a dish to share I decided that there needed to be a little balance to the baked goods, 3 types of mac n cheese (including one that boasted being ‘texas style’ which apparently meant extra cheese and cream), pork, meatballs, cookies, brownies and otherwise carbacious cheese covered feast that was about to ensue. This festive gathering needing kale, lots of kale. Good, wholesome tasty kale. There was no other thought in my mind than to debut the kale radicchio salad recipe. If we’re being completely honest, I made this salad for a few reasons; one of preservation so I knew there would be something I would eat there, and I also really needed some motivation to blog this recipe (that a few people have specifically asked for in the past week) and try my hand at homemade poppyseed dressing. Unless I had a deadline of hungry mouths tomorrow and feeling the moral obligation to balance out the cholesterol and sugar levels of the office party, this recipe could have been put off for months.

This recipe is so easy and tasty it’s almost ridiculous. It really highlights the fall and winter seasonal flavors that might not be combined in salad form but are absolutely ridiculously good when combined. This recipe calls for one of my favorite seasonal ingredients, pumpkin seeds. Now, if we want to be fancy we’d call them pepitas instead of pumpkin seeds which has a literal translation of “little seed of a squash”. It’s basically the spanish culinary term for a pumpkin seed. I gave the salad a little upgrade by roasting them with paprika before adding them to the recipe. You can find my recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds here and just sub out the salt for paprika. This is one salad where you can really personalize! Next time I might also roast some delicata squash and add it in, or even pumpkin or butternut squash! 

This salad is really going to be a seasonal staple for us and will be ever evolved. It makes a great simple, quick meal or healthy and tasty potluck dish! It’s super simple to make the night before and combine when you’re ready to serve.  It’s gluten-free, dairy free, nut-free, healthy and easy. Yes PLEASE!



Seasonal Kale Radicchio Salad w/ Poppyseed Dressing

For the Salad
1 head kale, washed, stemmed, massaged and torn into pieces
1 head radicchio, washed and cut and cut in chiffonade
pepitas/ pumpkin seeds
olive oil
dried cranberries
1 small thinly sliced shallot

Poppyseed Dressing
3 tbsp Katz late harvest sauvignon blanc vinegar
2 tbsp local honey
2 tsp dijon mustard
pinch grey salt
pinch fresh cracked pepper
2-3 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 tsp diced shallot

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay the pepitas out on non-stick foil and spray with olive oil or other high-heat oil. Dust with smoked paprika and toast for 10 minutes, keeping an eye and adjusting time according to how your oven heats. Once they’re done remove from the oven and let cool.


Meanwhile, thoroughly wash and de-stem the kale.IMG_9899IMG_9900

I wash the kale well, and use a large OXO SoftWorks Salad Spinner to dry kale and I absolutely love it! Add a tiny bit of grey salt and massage the kale in the bowl until it reduces in size and turns a darker color.

Grab the radicchio, peel the outer layer, slice in half and core the halves. Pull apart a few layers at a time, fold and chiffonade. The chiffonade technique is basically rolling the leaves and thinly slicing.

Place kale and radicchio in a bowl. Add the toasted pepitas and cranberries to taste.

Place all dressing ingredients in a mason jar and shake to combine.

When you’re ready to serve, add the dressing to the bowl and toss.

Substitute pepitas for walnuts and add goat cheese and parsley with plain oil dressing
Spiced pecans and dried cranberries with a warm bacon vinaigrette
Mandarine oranges with slivered almonds and a sesame vinaigrette
Roast up some delicata squash, butternut squash or pumpkin and throw it in

Blended Birdie: The Jungle Bird Remix

photoThis little treat was discovered at one of our favorite local bars, Damn the Weather. They have a drink called Jungle Bird, but could also operate under the name ‘Vacation in a Glass’ without a second thought. This simple mix of half alcohol and half citrus is the perfect compliment to the beachiest of vacations or the dreariest of Seattle winter days. One sip of this magical little birdie and your vacation self will start to emerge. It’s a great reminder of of the amazing summer days we all look forward to when all we see is cold, wet grey streets for days on end. The only thing better than ordering this delightful little libation when out on date night is drinking it in the cozy comfort of your own home! The mister was tasted up for trying one of these at home so he grabbed the alcohol and I grabbed the citrus. He originally asked me to wait on blogging this until we had it dialed in, but the first time was the charm so we’re a little short on pictures for this post. All you have to know is that this is the most delicious smoothie you might ever consume.  The original drink didn’t include banana and wasn’t blended, but we were ready for a one night stay-cation so blending was a necessity! 


Blended Birdie: The Jungle Bird Remix
Adapted from the Jungle Bird at Damn the Weather

5 large chunks pineapple (retain the pineapple leaves for garnish)
Lazy squeeze of 1/2 a lime
1 small banana (pick one the’s more on the green side)
2 ice cubes
1 shot dark rum (we swear by Plantation Dark Rum)
1/2 shot Campari

Put all ingredients in a ninja blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with a pineapple chunk and a washed pineapple leaf. If you happen to have mini drink umbrellas, those are fun too!!


Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


The leaves are changing, the mornings are colder, and the urge to get cozy under a blanket with a cup of tea is creeping. This means only one thing…it’s pumpkin season! One of my favorite things about Seattle is that we actually get seasons. Spring is rainy, summer is gorgeous, fall is crisp and cozy and while we don’t get snow every winter it has been known to dump a few inches every few years.

Fall might be my favorite season to cook. So many comfort foods like potato leek soup, Ratatouillebutternut squash and my personal favorite- anything with roasted pumpkin. Most people get excited about carving pumpkins and drinking pumpkin spice lattes. I get equally excited about hacking a pumpkin open and roasting that delicious goodness! Cube it and add to salads, make pumpkin soup, puree it for baked goods, add some sautéed spinach and toasted quinoa and you have a wholesome hearty vegan meal.

Roasted pumpkin seeds are a great snack, party appetizer, salad addition or kitchen adventure with aspiring little chefs! The recipe is super simple and can be personalized in so many ways!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Prep Time: About 10 minute to scoop out pumpkin and remove stringy parts from seed
Cook Time: Aprox. 20 minutes 

Rice Bran Oil
Pumpkin or squash seeds
Grey or pink salt
Baking tray
Paper towels

FullSizeRender_4Scoop out the pumpkin and separate the seeds from the stringy insides. Pinching the seeds while you run the strainer under cold water works to remove most of the stringy parts. Line a baking tray with paper towels. Wash the seeds in a strainer, being sure to remove all the stringy parts, and them flat the lined baking sheet. Pat the top of the seeds with a paper towel, it’s okay if they stick a little! Just remove the seeds from the paper towel and keep patting.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Put the seeds in a bowl and toss with oil. I recommend rice bran oil since it doesn’t have a taste and it has a high burn point ensuring that it’s good for baking and grilling. You can also use grapeseed oil, safflower oil or avocado oil. Those each have their own slight taste so it depends on what flavor your’e going with. Add a few pinches of salt, toss, and add a bit more salt. You can add to taste depending one how much you like salt. I use it sparingly.

Remove the paper towels from your baking tray and spread out the oiled seeds on the tray. You won’t need to add additional oil to the tray. Shake the pan out a bit so that most of the seeds are laying in one single layer. Some of the seeds will overlap, which is just fine!

Place the baking sheet in the oven. Turn seeds after ten minutes then allow them to roast until the corners of thee seeds start to brown. Depending on your oven, this could be between 17-25 minutes.

Remove the tray from the oven and allow the seeds to completely cool. Roasted seeds will keep in an airtight container for up to four days!

FullSizeRenderThe Kitchn has a few amazing ideas for other ways to flavor pumpkin seeds:

Sweet Pumpkin Seeds: Omit or reduce the salt and roast the seeds on parchment-lined baking sheet. Let cool, then toss with brown sugar or a little maple syrup. Not too much, just enough to lightly coat the seeds. You can also add cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg or other ‘sweet’ spices. Toss well to coat evenly. Return the tray to the oven and continue to roast for another 10 to 15 minutes or so.

Sweet-Hot Pumpkin Seeds: Toss the seeds with a little honey and sriracha or chili flakes. A little cumin might be nice, or curry powder. Roast as with sweet seeds.

Savory Pumpkin Seeds: Add herbs such as chopped rosemary, dried oregano and/or spices such as smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin to the seeds before roasting. Check carefully to be sure the herbs and spices aren’t browning too quickly. If so, roast at a sightly lower heat.

Torrija: Churro French Toast

DSC_0390Think of the best dessert you’ve ever tasted. Sit with that taste for a moment, thinking of the texture, flavor, temperature and atmosphere where you first consumed said dish. Now, double that goodness. That is what it’s like to eat a churro in Spain. Before we took our trip to Spain (you can read my recap of our two week long adventure here)

It was in Madrid that we discovered the famous Churros con Chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines. This place served one thing churros and dipping chocolate. I am not one with a sweet tooth, I’d much rather have a cheese plate and another glass of wine to finish off a night, but even I had to admit that they were delicious freaking churros!

Churros are traditionally served with cup of very thick but not too sweet chocolate to dip the churros in. As there is usually more chocolate the churro, the locals would all drink the remaining chocolate in the mug. While we stood in the long line, waiting for our chance at our own order of this delicious crispy and chocolate heaven, we observed how the locals were “doing it” and were a little grossed out when we saw them drink the chocolate. But, their chocolate isn’t like American chocolate. It wasn’t obsessively  sweet or rich in a sugary way. It was a much more european take on traditional chocolate that was actually quite delightful even to a chocolate averse gal such as myself.

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 6.43.23 PMWhile doing some weekend reading around Easter, yes that holiday that was monthly ago, the mister came across a recipe in Seattle Times and put it on the “to make” request list. Since I’m not a big dessert person and this recipe looked like it would take some effort we put it on the backburner. For our first official gathering we hosted at our new place after moving a month ago, we invited two of his friends and one of their girlfriends over and the thought stuck… I’ll have three HUNGRY men and two gals and our theme is taco night. The only logical next thought was FRENCH TOAST CHURROS!!!! So, I dug up the recipe and call ahead to one of our local bakeries, Macrina Bakery, and reserved two loaves of challah bread!

The original recipe calls for serving these delectable treats with a Sherry Caramel Sauce (which you can find in the original recipe link below) but we opted for vanilla bean ice cream.

IMG_9454I won’t lie, this recipe was a little bit of work but it was delicious! Gooey in all the right places, crispy on the edges, and much more satisfying in smaller portions that anticipated, it was a hit! In hing sigh, we barely used 1/3 loaf of the challah since the had such a good blend of rich flavors so I would only get one loaf next time, and a much smaller one at that! The amazing local shop where we get all our spices, Market Spice in Pike Place Market, had the aniseed and any local liquor store should have the anisette which is a is an anise-flavored liqueur. You need such a small amount for this recipe and we could only find it in the traditional 750ml bottle so I’ll be looking up a few cocktail and baking recipes to use that up! Overall, this recipe was such a fun experience to make and it was quite tasty!

Serves 6
Original Recipe

1 loaf fine-crumb white bread (Aragona uses challah)
1½ cups milk
½ cup cream
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon aniseed
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
1½ ounces anisette
Extra-virgin olive oil for frying

To prepare the bread: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut bread into 4-by-1-inch logs. Toast in a single layer on a sheet pan until cut surfaces are just dried slightly, but not colored. Allow to cool. (Or, cut bread into logs and air dry on a rack for several hours.

To make the custard: Combine the milk, cream, sugar, aniseed and salt in a heavy saucepan. Scald over low heat until bubbles form around the edges, and a skin forms on the surface. Do not boil.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs briefly. Slowly pour about one third of the scalded-milk mixture into the eggs to temper them, whisking constantly to avoid cooking eggs.

IMG_9456Slowly whisk the tempered-egg mixture back into the pot with remaining milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until custard thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (about 10 minutes). Pour thickened custard into a shallow baking dish to cool. Add the anisette when the custard has cooled.

To cook the bread: Place dried bread pieces in a single layer in the custard. Allow to soak 3 to 5 minutes, flipping halfway through, until bread is saturated. Work in batches if necessary. Drain bread on a rack over the baking dish for several minutes.

Heat several tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Brown the bread pieces on all sides, working in batches.

Serve hot or room temperature with ice cream!


Pumpkin Seed Butter (Gluten-Free, Dairy Free)

FullSizeRenderLast summer I got hooked on pumpkin seed butter. Before that, I didn’t even know such a thing existed. I felt pretty nut-butter gourmet knowing that there was macadamia butter as well as cashew butter. I knew that you could grind your own; I’ve seen and even used the machines in my local Whole Foods to make fresh almond butter. But those machines were big, and scary, not to mention loud and quite menacing to look at. The though had NEVER dawned on me that it was something that could be made at home. Until a combination of a strong desire for a food processor, DIY itch and budgeting came together. Random components, but quite a story!

This recipe was adapted from the the kitchn’s Pumpkin Seed Butter recipe. I LOVE that they say it was inspired by a nut butter that they tasted at the Portland Farmers Market because I’m pretty sure it’s the same nut butter that hooked me on Pumpkin Seed Butter. Nut-Tritious Foods is a wonderful little company based out of  Vancouver, Washington.  They do a great job of educating customers why cold-pressed nut butters are better for you. I pulled the info below from their about page because it’s REALLY important to know!

“… we COLD-PROCESS and don’t use heat to get our nut butter into the tub. Heat will oxidize the healthy fats (poly- & mono-unsaturated) and make them more like a saturated fat! Most all jar nut butters have been heat processed – you can tell by the ‘nutcrete’ in the bottom of the glass jar.” An additional note, the heat processing method allows the nut butter to sit on the shelf in a jar until it’s purchased. Personally, I’d much rather have the fresh stuff that I know is perishable and know that I’m getting the most nutrition out of my consumption.

Check out my Almond butter recipe here.

Pumpkin Seed Butter

2 cup raw pumpkin seeds, without shells
1/2 cup ground sunflower seeds
1/4 cup flax meal*
1/4 cup  grapeseed oil
1 spoon of honey (to taste)
pinch grey salt

*Flax Meal: You can easily make flax meal in a coffee

Combine  pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds , and flaxseed meal in your food processor. Blend until the ingredients are well chopped and blended. You’ll need to stop and scrape the sides down so all the ingredients get blended together.

Add the honey and blend until the nut butter starts to form. This can take up to ten full minutes so have patience! Once you see the play dough texture, where the seed butter starts to form a ball and move around the bowl you’re getting close! Add the oil and continue to blend 5-10 minutes more until the butter is consistently smooth. Your food processor might get warm but don’t worry too much, you can always let it cool a little bit and then blend away. I used the 1/4 cup of oil and it was just fine, but you may want to add more depending on how you like your nut butter.

Place in an airtight container (tupperware or glass jar) and store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

There are plenty of additions to this recipe, you can mix up the ratios. You can choose olive oil or coconut oil. You might want to add salt, or use salted pumpkin seeds. You can also pre-heat the oven to about 350 and roast the seeds on a parchment paper or foil wrapped cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes. If you oven roast them, stir the seeds once or twice during cooking and let them cool before adding to the food processor. There is also a delicious looking adaption for Maple Pumpkin Seed Butter and Chocolate Pumpkin butter.

Quick & Easy Fall Meal: Delicata Squash, Quinoa, Chicken

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 8.54.40 PMThere are nights that you get home and the LAST thing you want to do is cook. But, a bowl of cereal just isn’t going to cut it either. Image one of those days then add a three day moving process where so many things wen’t wrong you’ve lost count, and you just want it all to be over. That’s how the past week has been. I’ve been tired before, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never felt this level of exhaustion…falling into bed because I can’t bear to keep my body upright or my eyes open any longer. But I also can’t seem to stomach the idea of consuming another meal that doesn’t come from my own kitchen. I vowed that tonight was be the night, without and idea of what magic would happen to result in a consumable meal.

photoA quick triage of the fridge, pantry and cooking dishes quickly indicated that tonight was going to be a “throw together” meal and it was time to get a little creative. This was one of the meals where I just started chopping, sautéing and hoping that adding enough herbs would do the trick to result in a meal that was worth eating. There are a few kitchen staples that are always on hand (a post to come about that!) so that I can throw together a decent meal on little time and minimal ingredients and effort.  One of my go-to fall meals is a simple combination of toasted quinoa, butternut squash and toasted chickpeas. I decided to do a variation on this meal with some delicata squash I picked up at the market and a few frozen chicken breast I had in the freezer. I have to admit, there were a few points in the evening that I started to calculate how quickly a pizza could be delivered but the end result was just delicious! This is for sure getting added to the “fall staples” list! Delicata squash are a city chef’s dream. They’re much smaller than other fall and winter squash (save maybe acorn squash) so you’re not lugging 15 pounds of squash home and you don’t have to peel them! They’re super simple to thin slice and pan cook or roast in the oven on a foil sheet at 425 to get that delicious, caramel, melty, amazing squashey goodness!

To make this recipe vegetarian, substitute the chicken with toasted chickpeas.

Delicata Squash, Quinoa, Chicken

1 medium Delicata squash
2 chicken breast
1/2 cup dry quinoa
Fresh chopped or dried parsley
Cracked pepper to taste
Grapeseed oil

  • In a medium stock pot, toast the quinoa over medium heat, moving the quinoa in the pan, until you see it start to brown. Remove from heat, wash, place back in pan with 1 cup water, cracked pepper and fresh chopped or dried parsley. Cover and bring to a boil then turn off the heat and let it sit until the rest is ready.
  • Meanwhile, pre-heat a pan with grapeseed oil or any other high cooking heat oil. Wash Delicata squash exterior, cut in half, scrape out seeds and slice thin then add to the pre-heated pan with some fresh cracked pepper and parsley. Move in pan until lightly browned.
  • Cube the chicken and add to pan with the squash. Add cracked pepper and parsley to taste.
  • Move contents of pan chicken and squash are browned. Cut one of the pieces of chicken in half to assure it’s cooked throughout.
  • Serve in a bowl with peanut sauce, fig or stone fruit compote, or balsamic drizzle.

Kombucha, Som, Pok Pok and a new Kitchen

Dear friends! As you can tell, I’ve been on a bit of a writing hiatus the past few… months! Works been busy, personal life has been busy, there’s been travel and apparently it’s important to sleep every now and then?! What a cramp on a busy gals schedule hey? But i’ve dearly miss and you and even though I haven’t been posting, I have still been cooking up a storm and gathering new recipes to share! We had the weekly staples- batches of kombucha,and almond butter.We traveled to visit our family and threw in a few beer soaked grilled bratwurst, paleo chocolate chip banana bread and Pecan Pies with fresh homemade crust (of course!). I can’t visit without baking a few pies! One of my favorite parts about visiting family is playing the role of both ‘imported resident chef’ and ‘kitchen instructor’. I have So much fun teaching the niece and nephews to cook! We had a ball in the kitchen and they do great!

photoBut, as I was saying. This entire summer has been booked SOLID with both work and play. And just when I thought things would calm down in the fall, our landlord decided to sell the condo after four years of renting so we had to find a new place. Luckily, we found a place that we just LOVE and we move this weekend. THIS WEEKEND! A matter of hours away! I’m so excited I can barely handle it! I can’t wait to unpack and organize the new kitchen! With the fast pace of the last 3 months, cooking as been more of a chore than it usually is. I’ve really leaned on simple recipes, the local pho restaurant, and cereal for dinner. But with a new kitchen comes new recipes and excitement to cook! Which brings me to my fall and winter sports.

I HATE to, and won’t, drive in snow and/or ice… so my fall/winter sports consist of cooking, baking, menu planning from the ridiculous amount of time I spend on Pinterest (A Byte of Life boards here), testing out my wine cellar, catching up on all the shows that everyones been raving about and listening to the rain falling outside. Oh, and pumpkins! I LOVE PUMPKIN!  I’ll eat slow roasted pumpkin right off the baking sheet! And Gingerbread. I LOVE gingerbread! But back to the point- my winter sports are gingerbread and/or pumpkin flavored, with a side of wine, and a good show in the background.

This year, I have a new hobby to add to the list. Pok Pok. If you’ve NEVER been to Pok Pok, you HAVE to go to either Portland or New York and experience their wings and one of their drinks with their drinking vinegar called som. Som is a drinking vinegar that has been an age old practice in many cultures around the world for it’s health benefits. Pok Pok has been serving their drinking vinegars since 2005, both as a cocktail mixer and diluted with soda as a soft drink. They use organic cane sugar for sweetener and let me tell you, while I’m not a soft drink person in the slightest, this stuff is downright addicting! You can purchase the Pok Pok Som online form both Pok Pok and A girlfriend and I just took an amazing cooking class at so you can expect future blog post about them too!

Well, their chicken wings are known nation wide, and their cocktails are red-eye flight worthy. This, coming from a confirmed wine and anti-chicken wing girl. Let’s just keep this short and say that Pok Pok changed my life, as evidenced by the fact that after the first bite I waived down the waiter and asked if I could PLEASE purchase their cookbook but only if the amazing chicken wings were included. He handed me a copy to review. Each page coated in plastic which was an amazing idea because I was pouring over it as I was elbow deep in eating amazing chicken wings,The Pok Pok cookbook holds a special spot on my shelf , I personally confirmed that the chicken wing recipe is included, and it has been added to the list of fall and winter hobbies.

Tune in for more amazing thai inspired recipes from the Pok Pok cookbook, updates from this years International Food Bloggers conference (last years post) and to see how the Som Kombucha turns out! I had a bit of Som leftover and had a batch of kombucha ready tonight so I figured I’d do a little variation on my blueberry ginger kombucha and try some ginger som kombucha. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Banana Bread {Paleo, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Sugar-Free}

photo 2


It feels like fall in the city. The weather had been grey and gloomy all week, which is quite a change from last weeks sunburn weather! Grey clouds always get me in a comfy cozy mood, and inspire me to drink tea and curl up with a good book and a blanket. But, what’s tea without a little tea treat, am  right?

This amazing banana bread entered into my heart a few weeks ago when I had a day off and went to go visit my sister at work. She’s been on this “Paleo Kick” that I usually roll my eyes at, but I have to say this recipe immediate became a kitchen staple and has now replaced my  tried and true Banana Bread recipe that is YEARS old! It’s THAT good kids! 

Gluten-free cooking is nothing new to me. I LOVE baking with Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour and have made quite a few goodies with it. Most recently I made a Strawberry Basil BreadGingerbread cookiesChocolate Chip Cookies, amazing Vanilla Cupcakes, and even tried my hand at Vegan Gluten-Free Donuts! To be clear, I am NOT a big believer in following every food fad that comes along, and most definitely did NOT jump on the Paleo band wagon when it came in vogue, nor am I on that bandwagon now. This bread is quite simply one of the most delicious healthy baked goods I’ve ever had. It’s mainly bananas and eggs, a little homemade almond butter, gluten-free flour, and some apple sauce to hold it all together. That’s it! No added sugars. No two stick of butter and 5 cups of refined white flour. Just simple, regular ingredients you can pronounce and happily eat.


There are many variations you can try with this recipe and I list a few at the end of this recipe. Next time I might throw in some blueberries, or try coconut flour to make a bit more of a dessert style bread. What variations would you, or are you, going to try?

Paleo Banana Bread
Adapted from Civilized Caveman Cooking Creations Recipe 
Prep Time: 10 mins | Cook time: 30-45 minutes

2 1/2 cups  yellow bananas, mashed (approx. 4 bananas) 
4 eggs
1/2 cup homemade almond butter
4 tablespoons Apple sauce (original recipe called for melted grass-fed butter or coconut oil)
1/2 cup gluten-free flour
2 tsp cinnamon (original recipe called for 1 tbsp but that’s a little heavy for a summer bread)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder (gluten-free or homemade)
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of sea salt

1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit
2. Combine your bananas, eggs, and nut butter, and apple sauce and mix well
3. Add in in the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, and sea salt and mix well
4. Grease a 9×5 glass (see notes) loaf pan with a fat of your choice (I use Rice Bran oil)
5. Pour in your batter and spread it evenly throughout
6. Place in your preheated oven and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (If you use a metal pan it will probably bake in 35-40 minutes so start checking at 35 to ensure the middle stays moist)
7. Remove from oven and flip your bread out onto a cooling rack
8. Slice and serve

1. Alternate Nut Butter: You can use any almond butter you desire: coconut, sunflower seed, macadamia nut, etc
2. Alternate Flour: My sister uses coconut flour, but I bet that almond flour or macadamia nut meal could be delicious
3. Flavors: Cranberry Orange – Only use 3 tablespoons of butter. Add zest of one whole orange diced, juice of one whole orange, and 1 cup dried cranberries or fresh if you want
4. Flavors: Chocolate Blueberry – Add 1 cup of fresh blueberries and 1/2 cup of cocoa powder
5. Flavors: Pumpkin Pecan – Reduce the almond butter to 1/4 cup and add 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree and 1 cup of roughly chopped pecan pieces

If you want to make these into muffins, use the same recipe and for mini muffins bake approximately 25 mins and normal size muffins 30-35 minutes.