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Summer Peaches: Two Ways

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It’s Labor Day weekend and I can’t think of a better way to honor it than a salute to one of the sweetest, most Summery fruits: the peach.

Peaches have a way of going from your mouth straight to your heart. Their warm, bright taste just seems to emit love. In fact, Renaissance artists used the peach symbolically to represent the heart. So today I share not one, but two recipes from my heart to yours – Gluten-free peach-banana muffins and Peach-mint smoothie-sicles.

1. Gluten-free peach-banana muffins

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Ingredients (makes 12; adapted from Carrots ‘N’ Cake)

  • 1 1/2 c. almond meal
  • 2 T unsweetened coconut, plus 1 T more to sprinkle
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 ripe peach, large, diced
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 T. chia seeds

Directions

  • Mix dry ingredients in large bowl.
  • Mix wet ingredients in medium bowl.
  • Add wet mixture to dry.

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  • Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners. Scoop spoonfuls of batter into prepared cups.
  • Sprinkle with additional coconut and a dash of cinnamon.
  • Bake at 350F for 15-18 minutes.
  • Enjoy!

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2. Peach-mint smoothie-sicles

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Ingredients (makes ~6 molded popsicles)

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 ripe peach, large, diced
  • 1/2 c. plain, nonfat yogurt
  • 1/4 c. almond or coconut milk
  • 2 T honey
  • 1/4 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t. cinnamon
  • 5 mint leaves, finely chopped

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Directions

  • Add bananas, peaches and yogurt to a blender. Blend for 1-2 minutes (it will still be lumpy).
  • Add all remaining ingredients except mint. Blend until smooth.
  • Stir in mint.
  • Pour into popsicle molds and freeze overnight (at least 5 hours).
  • Serve with blackberries and fresh peach slices.

Peach popsicles

Hope these peachy recipes find a way into your heart – just as they did mine. Happy Labor Day!

Fresh-picked raspberries from my family's yard - ripe and ruby-pink. Little jewels of the earth swaddled in my shirttail, sparkling with sundrops.

Travel Journal: Seattle

Switters was actually quite fond of Seattle’s weather, and not merely because of its ambivalence. He liked its subtle, muted qualities and the landscape that those qualities encouraged if not engendered: vistas that seemed to have been sketched with a sumi brush dipped in quicksilver and green tea. It was fresh, it was clean, it was gently primal, and mystically suggestive.
― Tom Robbins, Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates

Seattle – that queen of the Pacific Northwest with the quietly ominous mountains and sparkling Sound – does have a mystical air about it. The rain, the fog, the evergreen cloak it dons…all of these things fuse together in a gumbo of tastes and feelings that express themselves as pure effervescence.

I’ve been to Seattle a dozen or so times now and I never tire of its majestic landscape and “ambivalent weather.” There’s something about inhabiting this land, locked in an embrace with the Pacific Ocean, that has a way of re-energizing the soul and of course, awakening the palate. This June, I got the chance to stay there for a week with some family and absorb as much as I could of the culture, climate and of course, food. Afterwards, it occurred to me that the experiences I’d absorbed had directly inspired the meals my family and I prepared. I know, it sounds obvious, but it wasn’t something I’d planned!  These experiences have now lodged themselves into my brain – and have altered my way of thinking about my meals now that I’m back in Nashville. I wanted to share these visions of the Queen City and perhaps, help us all bring a little piece of that effervescence into our daily lives, no matter where we live. So here are my Seattle experiences, and the snacks and meals they inspired, in no particular order…

1. A complex taste for a complex history…

On Seattle’s underground tour, we got to see firsthand the city that once was, and hear the tales of how this logging, outlaw-ish town grew to be a thriving metropolis. It truly has a “layered” history in every sense of the word.

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Steps descending into Seattle’s historic underground near Pioneer Square.

What can match a complex history better than a complex cheese? We headed to Beecher’s Cheese for a sample. We came away with a local English-style cheddar and an herbed goat cheese and immediately paired them with fresh, west coast figs. Complex, dark, rich. Just like those logging barons. :)

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Goat and cheddar cheese from Beecher’s with fresh figs and thyme.

And what’s better than a good cheese with a good brew? How about a beautiful view of the sun over the Sound? Luckily we found both.

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This Hefeweizen from Whistling Pig is as clear and bright as the Summer sky.

2. Contemplative and cultured

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Totem in Pioneer Square, Downtown Seattle.

There’s a solemn stillness that permeates the environment here in the Summer. Maybe it comes from the mouth of the Sound, which breaks and halts the wild ocean. It’s also present in the soft echoes of a cultured past made of native peoples and wild pioneers. Whatever it is, I wanted to try to capture that stillness.

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A man fishes in the Sound near Seahurst Park, just south of Seattle.

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My little lady walks on the docks of Pier 50, Downtown Seattle.

Figs seem somehow fitting with just such a contemplative mood, with their reputation as “forbidden” and a cultivation record reaching back to ancient times. They’re the perfect snack for long days lost in thought…

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Fresh market figs, waiting to be devoured.

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Grilled figs with drizzled honey and fresh mint leaves.

3. Farm fresh

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Pike Place Market is the proverbial middle of your Seattle culinary Bingo card. Can you truly say you’ve been to the city if you haven’t visited it? Yes, it’s overcrowded and touristy. But, those willing to push past that surface will be rewarded with a truly delicious bounty. I’m talking the freshest choice seafood of scallops, salmon and crab and the ripe fruits of your dreams like Washington cherries, blackberries and of course, figs. Check this landmark off your list first, and then explore further. There are plenty of other local markets that may yield even greater riches.

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Market cherries on the chopping block. They’ll make their way into a salad of fresh greens, goat cheese and walnuts.

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Market figs, cherries and blooms form a charming pattern.

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Local blackberries and fresh mint await their dinner treatment.

One such local treasure is B & E Meats & Seafood, which has been serving up the freshest local Copper River King salmon since 1958. We grabbed some fillets and grilled them in olive oil while a fresh blackberry compote bubbled on the stove. We topped off the salmon with the blackberry concoction, added in some local asparagus, and dinner was served.

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Copper River King salmon with blackberry compote and a side of asparagus.

4. Sea-bound

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My little lady treads lightly toward the gently breaking waves of the Sound near Seahurst Park.

Ultimately, the Puget Sound inspires so much of the beauty and cuisine in Seattle. The food is so brim-full of freshness and light, like a bay-skimming breeze, that it often needs no additional adornment.

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Fresh oysters at the Athenian, a downtown institution overlooking Puget Sound. The Athenian is as famous for its seafood as it is for its role in a little movie called Sleepless in Seattle. ;)

One final meal of inspiration based on this simplistic approach: scallops. Straight from the sea, purchased from Pike Place and prepared the same day…this might be what heaven tastes like. Fresh indeed.

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Blackened, pan-seared scallops, served with simple avocado slices.

I hope I’ve carried home some of the sensibilities of my food finds in the Pacific Northwest. I’d like to incorporate even more freshness and depth into what I make here in Nashville.  In the meantime, I raise a frosted glass of Whistling Pig and say, cheers to you, Seattle. You’ll always be a queen of a town to me.

Lavendar Granola Ingredients

Recipe: Lavender Cashew Granola

Cold days are for baking up warm granola. The smell of cinnamon and toasted oats just wraps your heart in a hug, no matter what the thermostat says. In honor of February & Valentine’s Day, I wanted to make a granola that was both heartwarming and had that special heart-day touch – flowers. I haven’t done a lot of cooking with flowers, but this lavender granola was so simple, my confidence has begun to unfurl. And after eating the delicious results, I certainly feel ready to take on new floral-culinary adventures.

Making Granola

A few tips, courtesy of Healthy Nibbles & Bits, where I found the original recipe:

  • Check on the granola as it bakes, and scoop out any that starts to get too brown (usually on the sides). Over-toasted oats are not so tasty.
  • Flower shop lavender is not the same as culinary lavender. You never know what kinds of chemicals might be sprayed on the sprigs you get from a florist. I found my culinary lavender buds in the spice section at my local Whole Foods.
  • If you like granola clusters (and I do!), stir in a whisked egg white. If you don’t, omit it.

Blueberry Lavendar Yogurt

To turn this crunchy treat into a complete Valentine snack, I used the granola as the star ingredient in a layered parfait. My little lady is partial to blueberries, so I chose those and blackberries for the fruit. Blueberry Greek yogurt rounds out the components for my parfait assembly.

I loved how the subtle taste of lavender played nicely with the boldness of the blueberries. It created a lovely palette, too. And since it’s all fairly healthy, seconds are easy to say yes to. Just like a Valentine’s Day hug.


Lavender Cashew Granola

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats
  • ⅔ cup unsalted cashews
  • ⅔ cup walnut halves
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup (honey works also; add a bit more if you like a sweeter granola)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 t dried lavender
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • small pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg white

Parfait ingredients

  • 1 and ⅓ cup blueberry Greek yogurt
  • ½ tsp dried lavender
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ½  cup blackberries

Directions for granola

    • Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat to prevent burning.
    • In a large bowl, mix all the granola ingredients together except for the egg white.
    • In another bowl, whisk egg white with whisk or electric mixer + whisk attachment until egg white becomes become frothy. Pour the egg white on top of the granola and stir gently.
    • Spread out the granola on top of the baking sheet.
    • Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the granola is browned, rotating once. Let the granola cool completely before breaking into clusters.

Directions for parfait

    • While the granola is baking, mix the Greek yogurt with ½ teaspoon of lavender. Refrigerate the yogurt for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the lavender flavor to set in.
    • To make the parfait, alternate layers of yogurt, granola, and fruit.
    • Store leftover granola in an airtight container in room temperature.