Mango Mojito overhead

Welcome Summer with Mangoes and Goat Cheese

Memorial Day weekend is here, and with it comes the brightest and boldest of seasons. There’s something about the sunshine this time of year that makes colors more saturated and alive. I want to absorb that feeling; to eat it and drink it. So I set out to capture the season’s vivacity in two new recipes.

To stay grounded in the season, I took two warm-weather staples – chips and cheese dip and Mojitos – and recast them with vibrant ingredients. First, the appetizer.

Goat Cheese Pomegranate detail

Seed Crackers with Goat Cheese, Apricot Thyme Jam and Pomegranate Seeds

This is almost too easy to call a recipe! But it’s so good that I just had to share. 😉

Ingredients

  • 30+ seed crackers (I like Mary’s Gone Crackers brand)
  • 1 log goat cheese
  • 1 jar apricot jam
  • 1 t fresh, minced thyme
  • Pomegranate seeds

Directions

  • Spread goat cheese on crackers, followed by a dollop of jam.
  • Sprinkle minced thyme.
  • Top with 3-4 pomegranate seeds.
  • Enjoy!

Goat Cheese Pomegranate Snack

For a refreshing Summer drink, I looked to the Mojito. There are myriad fruit Mojito recipes out there, but the bright, sunny taste of mango fit my definition of “summer in a drink” best. I tried a few variations, and ended up with a simplified version that can be whipped up relatively quickly in a pinch. Just remember to keep extra simple syrup and mangoes on hand!

Mango Mojito

Simple Mango Mojito

Ingredients

  • 2.5 oz of white rum (mango rum would be even better!)
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • 1 oz of simple syrup (or to taste)
  • 6 mint leaves
  • Soda water
  • 1/4 a mango, cubed
  • Ice cubes

Directions

  • Muddle mint leaves with 2-3 mango cubes.
  • Shake rum, syrup and soda water and ice cubes in a shaker.
  • In an empty glass, add mint leaves and non-muddled mango cubes (Note: you may also freeze the mango cubes to act as ice cubes. Freezing them also ensures you always have some on hand!)
  • Pour rum mixture over fruit.
  • Garnish with a lime wedge and extra mint leaves, if desired.

Hope you enjoy these little tastes of sunshine as much as I did. Happy Summer – and cheers!

Jen

Mango Mojito detail

red spinach salad

Marsala: Beyond Chicken

Much like the fortified wine that gives Marsala its name, this tasteful hue embodies the satisfying richness of a fulfilling meal, while its grounding red-brown roots emanate a sophisticated, natural earthiness.

– Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®

Marsala Pantone

The color of the year is inspired by the satiation that can only come from a truly great meal. Similarly, I am continually inspired by the colors at play in the foods I eat (as evidenced here and here). But, I’ve never thought about inspiration traveling in the opposite direction. Could a single color inspire a new recipe?

Marsala Pattern

I was skeptical. Particularly given the subdued hue at hand. Besides the obvious chicken Marsala, the only immediate associations I was making with the restrained color were none-too-culinary, (um, chili dogs, anyone?) Further complicating the issue, this color is really hard to pin down –  is it red, brown, or really burnt sienna in disguise??

And yet, in the thick of winter, I kept finding myself drawn to its warm, inviting nature. It reminds me of a shade you might see dancing on a wooden floor in front of a freshly-lit fireplace. It’s sophisticated and easy. I suppose that’s fitting…just like its namesake, Marsala Italian wine.

And so I embraced the marsala, and found my way to three new recipes featuring ingredients which share its color value…or at least, very close variations. Each one has that same hint of sophistication and ease. In fact, each recipe can be prepared in three steps or less, which is hardly enough time to pour yourself that glass of Marsala wine. But, one can try. My skepticism has been proven wrong before. :)

Here they are. My three new, easy (but deceptively sophisticated) ways to eat marsala:

1. Paleo balls with coconut and carob chips, starring dates and dried cranberries

Ingredients (makes about 16)

  • 1 packed cup dried pitted dates
  • 1 cup nut of choice (almonds, cashews or walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, plus more to roll in
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup carob chips

Directions

  • Process dates, almonds, coconut, honey and sea salt in a food processor. Add a tiny bit of water if mixture gets too dry. Add in cranberries and carob chips at the end for a final blend.
  • Roll into balls.
  • Keep in an airtight container. I usually keep mine in the refrigerator, but this isn’t necessary.

2. Rosemary root vegetable saute, starring beets

Ingredients (3-4 servings)

  • 1 bunch of beets (about 1 lb.) washed and cut into cubes
  • 1 yukon potato, cut into cubes
  • 1 kohlrabi, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into medium slices
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 T rosemary
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F then toss all vegetables in a large bowl with the garlic, rosemary and olive oil until coated.
  • Spread vegetables evenly on a cookie sheet and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  • Bake for 45 minute to an hour, stirring at least once midway through. Serve immediately.

red spinach salad with pomegranate seeds

3. Spinach pomegranate salad, starring red heirloom spinach

Ingredients (3-4 servings)

  • 1 bag of red heirloom spinach (I spied mine at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, cut into medium slices
  • Seeds from 1/2 a pomegranate
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, slightly toasted
  • Salt
  • Red balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Directions

  • Divide spinach evenly into salad bowls. Layer with onions, pomegranate seeds and walnuts. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt.
  • Serve with red balsamic vinaigrette. (Marsala red wine balsamic, if you’re fancy.)

Have any marsala or marsala-ish foods that you love? Let me know in the comments if I left out your favorites!

Parsnip Apple Table

Recipe: Roasted Apple and Parsnip Soup

Winter has quite the arsenal – snow, ice, sleet, biting wind, single-digit temperatures. It’s bitter, gray and oppressive. Its force can’t be mellowed by mere shovels and salt. If its waging a war, it certainly feels like we’re losing.

But its not raging; it’s simply being winter. And its nature can be just as lovely as it is fierce. It has quite a quiet beauty; it’s crisp and serene.

Ice storm chicken wire

But what I love best about winter is that it forces us, through its snow and ice, to slow down, and to center our lives around the home. We fortify and warm each other with our company and the meals we share. So as winter prepares to leave us this year, I wanted to share with you my sure-fire way to beat winter’s chill: roasted apple and parsnip soup.

Parsnip Apple Pattern

The original recipe comes from Chef John. We modified some of the seasoning a bit to bring a little more heat to the table. The result is creamy and soothing, but with a kick. It’s like being wrapped in a warm blanket and then getting a little static electricity jolt. Just the sort of spark you need to snap you out of the dreary winter blues!

Apple Parsnip Soup

Roasted Apple and Parsnip Soup with Cayenne

Ingredients:

(makes 6)

  • 2 lbs parsnips, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch sticks
  • 2 green apples, peeled, cut in thick slices
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 russet potato, peeled, cut in 8 pieces
  • 6 cups chicken broth (can combine with some water if you want)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 t. cayenne
  • garnish with rosemary crackers, walnuts or croutons, and more cayenne, if desired

Directions:

  • Cut up parsnips. Discard any parsnip centers that seem too tough.
  • Peel apples, then cut into slices.
  • Place parsnips and apples on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and toss with salt.
  • Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes until edges are caramelized.
  • Then place parsnips and apples into a steam pot on high with the sliced potato and chicken broth.  After the pot comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Next, use a stick blender to process apples and vegetables until smooth (or you can process in a regular blender).
  • Taste the soup for texture. If it is too fibery, you can strain it here. After that, add the cream and cayenne.
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish with desired add-ins.
PersimmonBeetPattern-1-12-14_Fix

Food Palette: Daring and Airy – Beets and Persimmons

I’ve written before here how I’m constantly inspired by the color around me, especially food and plants. As Spring approaches, that may seem obvious! But for me, inspiration is not limited to Spring colors. Every season has its own unique palette to explore.

Lately, I’ve been quite taken with wintry beets. One root, both earthy and nearly neon, it is grounded and bold at the same time. Its color is unparalleled – a shining red bastion of the edible plant world. Is there another vegetable so forward with bold saturation?

WinterBeets-1-11-15

I had some fun arranging these sassy beets into a pattern with persimmons, blueberries and pomegranates. The tableau lends itself to a warm, analogous selection of colors, with just a hint of daring. That’s thanks to the persimmons. Their light, orange airiness keep the palette from getting too dramatic. The result: a transitional, bolstering color palette, perfect for the cusp of a change in seasons.

PersimmonBeetColorPalette

Canvas valentine bag

Valentine Treat Bags

I’ve always been a crafter. From papier-mâché projects in Elementary School (that I took way too seriously), all the way to jewelry-making as an adult. But recently I’ve enjoyed the connection crafting can have to the season we’re in. It can help you be more present. And crafting with kids can teach them that same stillness, while instilling them with pride in accomplishment.

For February, I decided to celebrate the season by adding a new touch to an old favorite – Valentine’s Day cards. I wanted a cute way to package the candy and cards that my daughter will hand out in class – and I wanted it to be simple enough that she could get in on the act. I settled on mini cotton bags as the candy+card vessel, after looking through a lot of inspiration. The Valentine dressing is simple – an intricate heart stamp and ink pad color of your choice.

IMG_7638

I did a few samples first, and then let my daughter take over. We worked on the floor with craft paper over our hardwood to protect it. I think being lower to the ground gave her better leverage to stamp.

 

IMG_7631

It’s such a forgiving craft, too. With the natural fabric of the pouches, a little smudge or lightness here and there just adds to the look. But the best part? My little lady is thrilled to give her classmates a sweet keepsake that she helped create.

IMG_7643

The finished product – ready to be filled with goodies!

Materials:

  • 15-20 pouches (or however many you need for your class)
  • 1 stamp pad in red, or desired color
  • 1 heart stamp

Directions:

  • Flatten pouches. If too wrinkly, you may want to iron them briefly before stamping
  • Stamp each pouch with heart stamp
  • Fill with cards and goodies and gift away!

Happy Valentine’s Day!