Black Winter Truffles

Displaying our truffles with Mirabelle the mutt and Jean Marc

We set out in Southern France to experience a  hunt for winter truffles with Johan, and his friend, Jean Marc, who keeps two truffle hunting dogs and trains them specifically for this purpose. I had been looking forward to it, but it turned out to be the highlight of our trip for several reasons. First of all , Johan is very passionate about farming and sustainability, so he is like us! Secondly, truffles are totally fascinating, and so is hunting for them. Third, he served us an array of truffle appetizers and champagne after the hunt!

We learned a great deal about these little fungi, which really are not mushrooms at all. Who knew?

What we learned:

The most revered and expensive truffle in the world is the black winter truffle from France. The white summer truffle is more ubiquitous and often used more in truffle oils found here.

Truffles are darn near impossible to farm because they require strict conditions, plenty of sunlight, consistent watering, winter temperatures above 26 degrees and warm summers with low humidity and loamy soil that drains well. They are not native to many areas, so you won’t find them growing naturally in the US. But these condition all come together perfectly in certain areas of Provence, especially in vineyards.

Truffles rely on oak trees and hazelnut trees to grow, so you will only find them growing below these types of trees, where their spores cling to the root and eventually may produce a truffle if conditions are perfect.

To find a tree that may have truffles growing underneath, look for a circle around the base of the tree where zero grass is growing. If there is grass there will not be a truffle, as they emit an oil or substance that kills that grass below the tree.

They take 7 years to mature.

You can order oak trees with truffle spores on the roots, which is what they did on their farm. However, truffles were already growing naturally for over 100 years on his family farm under the oaks, so they knew conditions were right for farming. Truffles only like direct sunlight.

The olive groves on the farm

Truffles  are only fresh and ready to eat for a few days up to two weeks and lose their fragrance and water weight very day, so shipping them means each day they are out of the ground they are losing flavor and fragrance. A frozen truffle bears little resemblance to a fresh one.

Johan said that 90% of black winter truffle products found in the United States are fake. You can know for sure if what you have is real by reading the ingredient list:  if it includes the term melanospora, it is actual real black truffle. If the label  says”flavor”, it is using chemicals to fool you, and you are paying triple price for it.

The hunt:

Jean Marc’s dogs sniffed a box of tasty treats and immediately knew it was time to begin sniffing around the farm for truffles.  We took them to trees that had no grass , and Mirabelle would identify if there is truffle, sit and then the other dog would begin to feverishly dig. She is trained to dig it up and take it gently in her mouth, but Jean Marc was careful to watch  her to prevent her from destroying it with her claws.

carefully removing a truffle

All you need to do is sniff the dirt to know a truffle has been there because the aroma is so pungent. The truffle should be hard, not spongy.

 

They are sold for about 1 euro per gram. We discovered about 115 grams about 45 minutes!

weighing the truffles

You haven’t lived until you have eaten a fresh black truffle shaved thinly and eaten simply on a slice of bread with cheese or butter. The explosion of flavor and fragrance is unlike anything I have ever tasted.

Here at the farm, they use older truffles to make their truffle salt and truffle oil. The fragrance is so strong that it taints everything in their refrigerator and freezer. Wow!

The best thing I ate in France, right here:

fresh French cheese with shaved black truffle, truffle oil, and truffle salt

truffle ice cream with truffle honey

He  paired all of our tastings with champagne  and it was all included in the tour.

bread topped with fresh butter and shaved black truffle

Please send me a personal email or Facebook message if you are planning a trip to Frnace and would like a tour with Johan. It was my favorite part of our trip and everything is made right here on the farm. You can even ADOPT  A TRUFFLE TREE AND BE SHIPPED FRESH TRUFFLES! Pretty amazing.

And now Larsen and I want to plant a few up on the farm in Virginia as an experiment. What do you think? Should we try it?

 

In love and light,

Lydia

 

Silver Linings

A natural disaster certainly has a way of blasting into your life and lending a new perspective. When you think about it, every hardship, every event in life really comes down to that one word, “perspective” and how you perceive and approach your situation. Sure ,you can look at it as this hurricane as a terrible, no-good, very bad thing, but on the flip side there is always a silver lining to every situation. The silver lining here, as I perceive it , has been the demonstration of a deep sense of community and friendship and human kindness this past week in Savannah. And chocolate cake, which I will get to soon.

We somehow made it through completely unscathed while the rest of our neighborhood  and other parts of our city looked like a literal war zone as soon as we stepped out of our home, pictured below. We met new neighbors, shared food and drink, witnessed neighbors sharing generators and electricity and hot water and collecting food and other essential items for those in need.

Damage 1

 

hurricane 2

 

 

We all  unexpectedly were handed a few days out of the office due to the mandatory evacuations last week. (Note: we did not evacuate for reasons I will not get into here.) Anyway, after the Hurricane left us, I again had a LONG time out of the office. As of today Friday October 14th, I still have been unable to go back to work due to issues related to water damage. I am trying to be grateful for this time and not worry about my clients too much, but in truth I am a working kind of girl and enjoy being productive .

The silver lining in the time off prior to the storm was time to bake my husband a homemade cake for his 35th birthday while we still had power! I cannot remember the last time I baked a cake. This was my first attempt at baking a cake with almond flour and there results were stellar! I had not planned on writing about it, so I did not take “professional” photos. However I feel this recipe is just too delicious not to share. So please enjoy this cake and the candid photo of Larsen about to devour his first slice. We ate on it all week and it was a subtle reminder to us that WE ARE OKAY!

Birthday Boy

Birthday Boy

 

Hold your loved ones tight and remember,

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we an acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones”

In love and light,

Lydia

 

Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 cups almond flour
  • 2 cups maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (Frosting)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (Frosting)
  • 1/4 cup vegan buttery spread, softened (Frosting)
  • almond milk to taste (Frosting)

Note

This cake is gluten and dairy-free. You can easily make it vegan by replacing the eggs with flax eggs. Also, you should be able to replace the maple syrup with honey if that is all you have on hand.

Directions

Step 1
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the dry ingredients, almond flour, salt and baking soda in a large bowl.
Step 2
Combine maple syrup and coconut oil in a bowl and pour into large bowl of dry ingredients. Whisk mixture until fully combined and whisk in eggs one at a time.
Step 3
Prepare 2 cake pans with parchment paper and oil. Dust in a tiny bit of flour and scoop half of cake mixture into each pan. (it will be thick). Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes until the center does not wobble when you shake the pan. You may have to cook longer depending on your oven, humidity levels.
Frosting
Step 4
Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler and let cool to room temperature.
Step 5
Beat together melted chocolate and vegan butter stick with an electric mixer until fluffy and slowly add in powdered sugar. Add in a few drops of almond milk to achieve your desired consistency, wet or drier.
Step 6
Let cakes cool and turn one layer over onto a cake pan. Ice the top of it about 1/4 inch thick. turn the second layer onto of it and ice the top of the second layer thickly, This cake is meant to be iced without doing the sides to reduce the amount of icing. But if you have some leftover you could ice the sides and decorate it however you like.

 

 

2016-No Excuses

A few weeks back I was incredibly touched to hear someone I have never met reads my blog. I originally started this blog for me, but have come to love the ability to connect with other like-minded souls through this online space. That connection is why I continue to keep this up, despite the business of life. For a while I was silent,  but I have come to terms with the fact that no one  is dictating the rules…. that it is  perfectly acceptable to write every few months….that something is better than nothing…that even if only one person is getting something out of this blog then the effort is worth it. Yoga helps me see clearly that life is not about rigidity but fluidity. Even if I only have 15 minutes to come to the mat and do a few sun salutations , something is better than nothing . I am aiming for balance, not rigid rules.

It’s no secret to my close friends and family that I am busy, that I have little time to check in with friends and be proactive.

But that’s not a valid excuse…for anything.

Everyone is busy.

We make time for what matters most.

In 2016 my resolution was to make time for what matters and cut out the noise.

Health matters. Family matters. Marriage matters. Time with friends matters. Keeping a roof over our heads matters. Doing what we love matters. Giving back matters.

Worrying about things…feeling overwhelmed and trying to do everything well all the time….not only is it not possible, but it is a waste of valuable, precious time that could be spent helping myself and others around me grow and learn.

Therefore, I am posting the first recipe of 2016 as a healing, no excuses recipe that anyone can make.

If you have 15 minutes you CAN make this and you CAN take charge of your health. This is a power-packed meal, but also rather decadent and special because of the homemade croutons.

Check out these green ingredients!

gazpacho ingredientsThis soup is best served cold or room temperature and a good  choice for one of those Savannah-winter -70- degree- days.

Cheers to 2016 and a healthier you!

Green gazpacho

Serves 5
Prep time 10 minutes
Allergy Tree Nuts
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish, Side Dish, Soup
Misc Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
This no-cooking-needed green soup can be made in a flash and will leave you feeling refreshed and healthy from the inside out.

Ingredients

  • 3 Cucumbers , peeled, medium
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1/2 baguette(split into 2 parts)
  • 1 teaspoon minced jalapeno
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 6 cups fresh spinach (or 1, 16 oz bag frozen)
  • 1 cup basil(or cilantro)
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 3/4 cups olive oil
  • greek yogurt
  • 2-3 cups cold water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Note

This soup can easily be made gluten free by substituting the bread with a peeled baked potato and leaving out the croutons.

Directions

Step 1
Lightly toast the walnuts on a sheet pan and let cool.
Step 2
Roughly chop the peppers and cucumbers and garlic so that they are easier to drop into the blender.
Croutons:
Step 3
Chop 1/4 of a baguette into cubes. Toss with 2 T of olive oil, 1/4 t of salt and 1/4 t pepper in a plastic bag. Roast cubes at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes until toasted. Let cool and store for up to 1 week in pantry.
Step 4
Blend all vegetables and walnuts , 1/4 baguette, vinegar and honey until smooth. Add in yogurt , olive oil and and cold water and salt and pepper. Add cold water to desired consistency.
Step 5
Serve cool with toasted croutons on top.

 

 

 

 

 

Moonstone Salad

Happy Fall, friends!!
I am kicking off the cold weather with a fantastic spinach salad inspired by my recent trip to California with my mom & sister. We spent some time in San Fran, drove down the coast through Big Sur, and visited with my cousins in Santa Monica. The California coast is breathtaking, and apparently September is the time to go because it felt rather deserted. Everyone kept warning me  to expect throngs of cars and tourists on Highway One, but we saw very few other people.

If I had to pick ONE favorite place, it would be Cambria. It’s a quiet little town right on Moonstone Beach south of Big Sur. We stayed in a cute seaside apartment with a porch and view of the ocean.  I woke up before dawn to run along Moonstone Beach, but I kept stopping to pick up & examine stones and stuff them down my shorts, which made running difficult… Can you blame me? Look at the colors of these stones!

moonstones
One night we picked up some gorgeous fresh salads from a local restaurant and picnicked on the balcony while watching whales spouting far off in the distance. My first whale sightings ever!Thus the Moonstone salad was born. I tried to guess all the ingredients, so this is my take on it. I have made this salad 5 times now and am still not tired of it, so trust me, this is a keeper….

The grapefruit and pumpkin seeds make it kind of Fall-ish, and a perfect Thanksgiving dish to  balance out all that buttery goodness and turkey! I am feeling extra grateful for so many simple things this year: my health, my family’s health, plentiful food, a roof over my head and being able to spend time together and break bread. These are all things we easily take for granted until they are taken away from us…

May your Thanksgiving be full of gratitude, family time, and delicious food.

In love and health,

Lydia

 

Moonstone Salad

Serves 5
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 40 minutes
Meal type Main Dish, Salad
Misc Serve Cold
This colorful salad is a nice compliment to the Thanksgiving table.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups spinach
  • 1 small red onion (sliced in thin rings)
  • 4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (roasted and salted)
  • 6oz salty feta cheese (crumbled)
  • 1/2 grapefruit (peeled and sectioned)
  • 1 avocado (peeled and sliced thinly)
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
  • salt and pepper to taste

Citrus Vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1 small shallot (chopped finely)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

Step 1
Slice the red onion thinly and saute in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for 15-20 minutes until caramelized and dark. Set aside to cool.
Step 2
Assemble the spinach on plates and top with the caramelized onions, feta cheese, sliced grapefruit, and avocado.
Step 3
Combine the orange juice and other vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and shake until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve drizzled over the salad.
Step 4
Sprinkle pomegranate arils and pumpkin seeds over the salad and serve with the vinaigrette.

Green Bean Tomato Salad

Garden Summer 2015

 

The garden has been exploding with tiny wild cherry tomatoes and jade green beans this year. If I sit quietly, I can see so much activity going on:tiny baby anoles climbing the hop vines, wasps buzzing about the bolting basil, honeybees on the squash flowers, earthworms in the soil.   The single most important thing we have learned gardening each year is to create an environment that attracts beneficial insects like wasps and ladybugs that will ward off pests. So we keep flowers and flowering herbs like salvia, dill, mint, thyme, cilantro and basil mixed in with the vegetable plants to attract the beneficial insects . This year, so far, we have had no aphids or caterpillars. Additionally, we use a copper powder once every two weeks to ward off fungus and blight due to wet conditions.

Now I am not a huge green bean fan, but these beans are different! They are called “jade beans” and seem to just keep on growing more beans for months on end.

We tend to eat really simply in the summer to let the fresh ingredients shine , and this recipe was born from a surplus of beans and tomatoes one night.

If you get your hands on some fresh green beans, then give this one  a try. It will be on the table in 20 minutes!

Happy Summertime.

 

Green Bean Tomato Salad

Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 3 minutes
Total time 13 minutes
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Meal type Lunch, Salad, Side Dish

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh green beans
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Bulgarian feta
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Directions

Step 1
Wash green beans and then bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch the beans 2-3 minutes in the hot water and then dunk into a bowl filled with ice cold water.
Step 2
Combine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and mustard in a bowl and whisk until combined.
Step 3
Combine green beans, fresh tomatoes, and feta in a salad bowl and toss with prepared dressing.

 

 

 

 

Our foray into Asia!

Hello!

We are back from 2 weeks in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Where to start?

The  Vietnamese Reunification Day holiday with fireworks?  cooking class on an organic farm? market shopping and hecklers? a harrowing mountain bike ride to a pub  in the middle of the nowhere where you pick out your own live chicken to slaughter? the moment when I thought our driver was taking us to a Vietnamese jail because we got stopped by  scary-looking police and told to turn around? a 2 day trek though the jungle and rivers to the world’s third largest cave in 100+ degree weather?  a biking tour through Angkor’s lesser know areas and temples ? visiting a village in Phong Na Kebang National Park and drinking green tea in the Chief’s hut? eating BUGS?

I didn’t get tired of any of it. I would do it all again. I LOVE ASIA!

Today I am sharing one of the 4 dishes we made with Chef Than on his organic farm outside Ho Chi Minh city, the pork lettuce cups know as San Choi Bao in Vietnamese cooking.

Vietnamese and Khmer food are healthy and fresh, thanks to being so close to the equator and an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables . Lemongrass, ginger, papaya, fresh mint and basil, coconut milk, and fish sauce can be found in many dishes. Freshly squeezed fruit juices are readily available everywhere, which I miss terribly already…

I am sharing a few photos of our favorite places and links below if you are ever planning a trip yourself.

HO CHI MINH COOKING CLASSHo Chi Minh Cooking Class

 

Banana Spring Roll with Coconut Cream
Phong Na Ke Bang National Park

Phong Na

Phong Na

The Pub with Cold Beer(yes, you can pick out your live chicken here and yes, it is a harrowing long bike ride to get here but totally worth it!)

pub with cold beer

Pub with Cold Beer Chicken, Morning Glory, Rice and Peanut Sauce

Pub with Cold Beer Chicken, Morning Glory, Rice and Peanut Sauce

 

Hang En Cave with Oxalis Adventure Tours

Hang En Cave campsite

Hang En Cave campsite

P1030542

Angkor Archeological Park-

guided by Khmer for Kmher on bicycleVietnam 657
Vietnam 625

Riding around Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia in tuk-tuks.

 

P1030652

BUGS CAFE-mixed bug platter

bug platter

 

San Choi Bao

Serves 3
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 5 minutes
Total time 20 minutes
Allergy Peanuts
Meal type Appetizer, Main Dish
Misc Serve Cold, Serve Hot
Try these crunchy Vietnamese lettuce wraps for dinner in under 30 minutes!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup finely diced carrots
  • 1 cup roughly cut mix of oyster and shittake mushrooms
  • 1/2 finely diced onion
  • 1lb ground pork
  • 1 head of butter lettuce
  • 4 teaspoons Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons freshly chopped red chilies
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 4 tablespoons crushed peanuts

Note

You can find fresh oyster mushrooms at Whole Foods.

You can find Vietnamese fish sauce(different than Thai fish sauce) at an Asian market, as well as the oyster sauce and five spice powder!

Directions

Step 1
In a hot wok saute the oil, garlic,chilies and onion about 1-2 minutes until the onion is opaque. Add in pork and stir until cooked.Add in the carrot and mushrooms and all spices and mix well on heat for another minute or two. Serve over lettuce leaves with crushed peanuts sprinkled on top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clementine Roasted Free-Range Chicken

I am slightly obsessed with this cookbook, Jerusalem. Some of the pages are stained from use with various sauces and splatters, a sign of a well-used cookbook . In it I just happened to notice one detail that has literally changed the way I cook free range chicken.

by Yottam Ottolenghi

by Yottam Ottolenghi

 

For the first time in January I cooked a true free range bird we raised here at home on pasture. These birds are large, long-legged, lean and just a little different than the chickens you can buy at the grocery store. Free range birds have more dark meat, making them more flavorful. The legs on our birds are about twice the length of a grocery store bird, but the breasts are smaller.  Contrast that to a typical bird sold in American grocery stores, raised in a warehouse that is pumped with antibiotics, growth hormones, and  grain, so that they grow super fast with zero exercise. This results in near-non-existent leg muscles, more fat, and large breasts. They usually cannot hold heir own weight up on their weak little legs. It’s a sad situation…and a good reason to avoid brands like Tyson and Purdue and support your local farmers. I personally love Savannah River Farms and know they raise birds, but I think more options are showing up at the Forsyth Farmers market every year, too.

I thought I could cook our free range chicken just like any old chicken and decided to roast it in the oven with olive oil, fresh herbs,  root vegetables and salt and pepper. No problem, right?

Well, the chicken came out dry on the outside, tough, and partially raw on the inside.

What did I do wrong?

According to Yottam Ottolenghi, cooking the chicken whole was my first mistake. In his cookbook, he cuts up the chicken and lets it roast in in some sort of delicious marinade and makes a grain side dish cooked in the juices.

I decided try that, cut up the chicken (after watching this Youtube video on how to cut up a whole chicken because I have never actually done that before) and out came this incredibly flavorful, tender, chicken.

Another perk is the roasting takes 35- 45 minutes, so you can make this recipe any night of the week if you prep the marinade the day before.

We have 27 new chicks as of March 9th, a mix of different breeds for egg-laying and meat,and I have been enjoying watching them go from little puffballs to doubling in size in about a week.

 

Meet Mr. Popper, based on the book Mr. Popper’s penguins. Can you tell why!?

 

Mr. Popper

Mr. Popper

 

 

Clementine Roasted Free Range Chicken

Serves 3
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 45 minutes
Total time 1 hour
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Serve Hot
From book Jerusalem
Try this Clementine Roasted Chicken for an easy and flavorful weeknight meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 free range chicken (quartered, skin on)
  • 3 clementines (sliced thinly short-wise)
  • 1 onion chopped into thin rings or slices
  • 3 teaspoons fennel seeds (crushed)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 pink grapefruit, juiced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grain mustard
  • 2 cups basmati rice (cooked)

Directions

Step 1
Combine the grapefruit and lemon juice, olive oil, wine , mustard and fennel in a large bowl and mix with a whisk.
Step 2
Place the chicken in a deep roasting pan and coat the chicken with the marinade. Pour all of the marinade over the chicken.
Step 3
Place the onions around the chicken and the sliced clementines on top of the chicken and in the pan.
Step 4
Cover the pan tightly and let it sit in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight to marinate the chicken.
Step 5
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper .
Step 6
Roast at 475 degrees uncovered for 35-45 minutes. It will get pretty dark and have crispy skin.
Step 7
Serve with basmati rice . This is delicious with sliced cucumbers and yogurt and fresh tomatoes on the side.

In love and light,

Lydia

 

Spiralized Rosemary Beet Salad

Hi there friends! I spent my wondrous President’s Day off a couple weeks ago scheduling some blog posts, having lunch with an old friend and her new baby, drinking hot tea in my pajamas while roasting a fresh chicken that we raised right here at home.

Life can’t get much better than that right? I even had a slice of cake later to top it all off!

I wanted to pop in and share this because I truly cannot get enough of my new spiralizer:  zucchini, beets, yellow squash, cucumbers…ALL of these veggies become infinitely more exciting when spiralized.

Spiralizer

Spiralizer

My personal favorite , though, is spiralizing slightly cooked beets.

beet noodles

beet noodles

I have used spiralized beets in replacement of pastas in spaghetti with excellent results, but also made some really fresh salads.

I believe you can buy them on Amazon HERE. This particular one has 3 different blades and I love it.

Happy spiralizing!

Spiralized Rosemary Beet Salad

Serves 3
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 35 minutes
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Salad, Side Dish
Misc Serve Cold, Serve Hot
This spiralized rosemary beet salad is the perfect winter side dish.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium sized organic beets
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary-minced finely
  • 6oz soft goat cheese (crumbled)
  • juice 1/2 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons grated onion or shallot
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Note

Serve this salad warm or cold!

Directions

Step 1
Clean beets and boil them for about 15-20 minutes in saucepan covered with water. Drain and peel them while warm with your fingers. Spiralize the beets and place in a salad bowl.
Step 2
Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt, rosemary and onion in a saucepan over medium heat and simmer 2 minutes.
Step 3
Drizzle the warm dressing over the spiralized beets and sprinkle with goat cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Charleston & Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

My sister, Emily,  lives in Charleston now! While we were there for the Charleston Marathon back in January we drank mimosas, ate giant cinnamon rolls the size of my head from Wild Flour Pastry , and ate dinner at this delicious and highly-hip Vietnamese restaurant called Xia Bao Biscuit . Also, the Butcher & Bee might have been my favorite lunch spot so far this year. Please do yourself a huge favor and check these places out the next time you are in Charleston! Obviously I was more concerned with taking pictures of food than people while in Charleston, hence the dearth of actual photos from the race or photos of my sister, who is actually quite beautiful.

cinnamon roll

cinnamon roll pictured on a normal-sized dinner plate

I thought you should know my goal for 2015 is to blog more, as well as  post my eats on Instagram more often. I have been missing this space lately. This is a lofty goal because I am at heart a slow-it-down, turn- off -technology type of person on the evenings and weekends due to  sitting at a desk all day at work.  The best way for me personally to manage stress levels and happiness is UNLPUG,  watch the fish tank for a while,  or sit outside and take in nature and relax .  Speaking of fish tanks, this is the newest 90 gallon addition that Larsen setup this weekend. We will add some big fish in a few weeks.

aquarium

 

But back to the  food! This is a  recipe I shared at a recipe-swapping/Thirty-One party recently . I call these pumpkin dinner rolls. I pair them with salty country ham or sausage, but you can eat them plain,with butter, honey or jam too for any Holiday occasion or just for a Sunday morning brunch.

pumpkin rolls

Let’s clear several bread-making myths out of the way right now.

Bread making does not have to be scary, difficult or time-consuming. All you need to do is make sure your yeast is alive and working properly and utilize a mixer with a dough hook.  The dough hook has been the only reason I started making bread because , honestly, you don’t want to see me in the kitchen with just flour and a ball of dough . It’s scary…-little poofs of flour end up in the weirdest places in my house. Sometimes I even leave flour hand prints on my butt and go to the grocery store like that…

So, for me the dough hook is  a magical and essential piece of equipment because it takes out the whole kneading-by-hand process.

I hope you enjoy these rolls and just so you know, I consider these a treat, not a daily part of healthy diet.

I am obviously an advocate for eating as much whole, unprocessed food as possible about 90% of the time . White flour and sugar are definitely treats in my book.

As I mentioned before, my new year’s resolution is to post more here as well as post healthy daily eats over on my instagram page: LYDIA2BLUEEGGS

 

Toodles!
Lydia

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

Prep time 3 hours
Cook time 22 minutes
Total time 3 hours, 22 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Appetizer, Bread, Side Dish
Misc Freezable, Serve Hot
Buttery pumpkin rolls for your next dinner party!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 16oz canned pumpkin
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cups brown or turbinado sugar
  • 1 packet fast-rise yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 5.5 cups bread flour

Note

You can  test your yeast by sprinkling a bit into warm water (approx 110 degrees). Leave it for about 10 minutes and come back. If the yeast has not bloomed, you know the yeast is either bad or your water is too hot or cold. If it has bloomed and expanded, you should be good to go to proceed with your recipe.

Remember, hot liquid will kill yeast, so do test the temperature of your liquid if you can. Around 110 degrees is perfect. If you have no thermometer, the liquid should just be warm to the touch on your wrist, not hot.

Directions

Step 1
Combine warm milk(warmed to temp advised on yeast packet of 110 degrees), yeast, pumpkin, flour, 1 egg, sugar and salt in bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached. Quickly mix all ingredients just to combine with a wooden spoon.
Step 2
Knead the mixture with the dough hook on medium speed for at least 5-7 minutes. Keep in mind this will be a somewhat sticky dough. It will still look stickier than normal bread roll dough.
Step 3
Turn out mixture to a clean, greased metal bowl . Cover with plastic wrap tightly, and store in a warm place for 1.5 hours.
Step 4
The dough should be at least double in size at this point as pictured. Grease two metal pie pans. Punch the dough down and roll 15 balls with your hands, placing each ball of dough touching or nearly touching side by side in the pans. Cover for 1.5 more hours.They should rise and all be smashed together.
Step 5
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake your rolls about 22 minutes. Drizzle with the 4 tablespoons of melted butter a few minutes after baking.
Step 6
Serve sliced with country ham or sausage for sandwiches.

 

 

 

Rustic Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

I logged into WordPress yesterday after several people have asked why I am not blogging anymore. ( It seems I do have more than 1 blog reader after all, whew!)

How do I answer that question? I have actually written a few drafts here and there  but never published because…well..

Our 8 year old computer has slowed down to a snails’s pace-sooooo slooooow. Uploading photos? HA that’ll take a day and half. Plus we have zero lights in our computer/family room due to recent painting and renovating.  I find myself bumbling about in the dark with a headlamp trying to see the damn keyboard, which is just comical and inefficient. The new light is sitting in a box upstairs, waiting for someone to hang it. Hmmm.

Somehow the Holiday’s snuck up and I realized, I HAVEN”T WRITTEN A BLOG POST IN 6 MONTHS! I MUST CHANGE THAT!

Now I  love Christmas time: the baking, the parties, the decor,  and  the joy of  spending time with friends and family. AND THE FOOD!

Yet I find myself more and more disenchanted by the consumerism. This year I avoided it completely by shopping locally at a couple of artisan fairs and during our travels in February in Germany and by  making homemade gifts. What a difference it has made in our stress levels! We have been able to enjoy the season so much more without feeling like we are supposed to go out and buy stuff for people who have stuff already just to show we care…That is not what Christmas is supposed to be about in my opinion.

So back to the food!  I love celebrating, but to balance that out we stock our fridge with a plethora of fruits and vegetables, but also prep a healthy snack or treat for the week to avoid those terrible-for-you prepackaged cookies and cakes that taste great but make you feel like crap.

Enter, this rustic chocolate tart. It’s  the perfect treat for you to enjoy with a mug of hot tea without feeling like crappola the next morning. While it is dairy-free, has no refined sugar, and no flour, its actually uses  a pretty neat technique I recently discovered, soaking cashews.

When you soak them for several hours,  cashews can be blended into a beautiful creamy base for all types of things.

Head down to the bulk bin section of your grocery store and stock up on hazelnuts and cashews. Use the best quality dark chocolate you can find and have fun with it!  If you are short on time or don’t feel like making a crust at all, the filling of this tart makes a  scrumptious fudge which you could gift to friends or take to  party.

Tis the season to be merry! Let’s try  not to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of shopping/spending money/scrooginess and just enjoy time with friends and family over a good ole’ tart, ok?

 

 

Ta-ta!

In love and light,

Lydia

Rustic Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

Serves 10
Prep time 4 hours
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 4 hours, 15 minutes
Allergy Tree Nuts
Meal type Dessert, Snack
Misc Freezable, Serve Cold
You will have no idea this nutty chocolate tart is healthy for you!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 cup cashews
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Crust

  • 3/4 cups hazelnuts
  • 11/2 cups oats
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Note

Make just the filling and freeze in an 8 X8 in pan for fudge instead of a tart.

Directions

Step 1
Blend a 1/2 cup of oats in the food processor until they become a fine flour.Remove and set aside. Blend the hazelnuts unitl they become sand-like in texture.Add in other crust ingredients, including oat flour, and pulse until dough can be pressed together.
Step 2
Press the dough into a pie plate or tart pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes to set it.
Step 3
Soak the cashews for at least 4 hours in a bowl of water, completely covered.
Step 4
Drain the cashews and rinse. Melt the cholcolate in a double boiler over the stove.
Step 5
Combine cashews, chocolate, coocnut oil, espresso powder, salt and vanilla in food processor and let it blend for several minutes. It can take a while to get smooth. Keep turning off and wiping down the sides with a spatula. If blender needs more liquid you can a dd a couple of teaspoons of almond milk.
Step 6
Pour the filling into the cooled crust, sprinkle with sea salt, and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving. Slice frozen and eat frozen for best results. Store int eh freezer wrapped in freezer paper.