Saturday, February 27, 2010

Apple and Pear Crisp

This may be my favorite new recipe of the millenia - Apple and Pear Crisp by Ina Garten of the Food Network. It's the perfect winter dessert making use of the cool crisp abundant pears and apples which I am well stocked up on thanks to our Dandelion Organic Deliveries. Citrus components such as lemon and orange juice and rind combine with traditional apple pie spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to help bring the pears and apples to life. Tthe crumb topping is made with typical stocked pantry items so it's also easy on the pocketbook. If you want to be real winnerrolike us, serve the crisp warm with two scoops of Silver Springs Creamery Vanilla Ice Cream and a copy of hot Tony's Coffee. Both are produced locally here in Bellingham and can be purchased at the Food Co-op. It was sooooo good and I can't wait to have more tomorrow. For the full recipe, please visit

Spiced Turkey with Avocado-Grapefruit Relish

Spiced Turkey with Avocado-Grapefruit Relish was a fun and different recipe and a good break from our usual routine. We had quite a stock of grapefruit going from our Dandelion Organic Deliveries plus an avocado to use up so that's what attracted me to this recipe. The relish is actually quite tasty -- made of grapefruit, avocado, shallots, cilantro, red wine vinegar and honey -- and it's a great compliment to the blackened spiced turkey cutlets which smell divine while they are cooking. This was an extremely easy recipe to make and done in less than 30 minutes including prep time. Like I said, it's a little different, not something that I could eat every night, but was cool to try and would certainly make again sometime down the road. For a full printed recipe, please visit

Alien Broccoli

Look what showed up in my Dandelion Organic Delivery the other day. This weird looking species of broccoli that looks like it stepped out of a Doctor Seuss book. It's kind of like a cross between a cauliflower and a head of broccoli in both taste and texture.

It looks rather small at first glance but the florets are packed so close together that once you start breaking them apart, it seems to go on forever. Keep your eye out for this interesting vegetable at a farmer's market or speciality grocery store near you. If you're able to get your hands on one, I recommend roasting with a little bit of olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper, and then serving with lemon wedges. Delicious!

Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes and Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

Our Dandelion Organic Deliveries have left us no shortage of root vegetables in our house - particularly carrots and parsnips. This week we even got some rainbow carrots which varied in color from white to orange to purple with yellow spots - how cool!

Try this delicious dinner by Ina Garten of the Food Network that Don cooked up for us this week. Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes uses boneless chicken breasts with skins still in tact. Simply stuff a little bit of goat cheese and chopped sundried tomatoes in oil underneath the skin and bake in the oven. Roasted Parsnips and Carrots are flavored simply with olive oil, sea salt, and fresh ground black pepper. The roasting process really brings out the sweetness and great texture to the root veggies. For the full printed recipes please visit

Risks and Rewards

All right. So I've been keeping you entertained with lots of fun new recipes to try but it's been a while since I've done a personal update on our lives kind of post. So what's going on with Don and Cindy?

I think this week a lot especially we've been learning to live with the ebbs and flows of the major life changes we took on when we moved to Bellingham. We made some major decisions that promised some pretty big rewards that required us to take a few risks and a leap of faith. We've had a few reminders this week of what those risks entailed as they pop up and loom out there in the lands of "What If" and "You Never Know." Of course most of it revolves around issues of financial security and stability. And while our faith has been tested here and there, at the end of the day I think we're still doing a good job of keeping things in perspective, living in the moment, and are really really confident that we made the right decisions for us and that we're on a path to something really wonderful. It's a very exciting stage in my life, as someone who craves control, security, and stability like any good Type A Woman, to have reached the point in my personal growth where I can identify when those factors are hindering me/us instead of aiding me/us and it's so cool to know that I'm ready and willing to step out of my comfort zone to get to where we want to go.

On that same path and along those lines of personal growth, another major shift that occurred in our household recently is that I transferred all of the financial duties and responsibilities (a.k.a Control, there's that word again) to Don. Given that his career now is going to be in financial management and that I was feeling over tasked and stressed from work and household duties, it seemed like the obvious thing to do. So now Don gets to balance the checkbook, track and categorize our spending, set budgets, decide what money goes in what account, which debts we pay off first, how much money we set aside for retirement, etc. I thought I would have a hard time letting go of it and not being fully aware of where of everything that's going on in our bank account. Boy was I stupid! It's the most liberating wonderful thing that has happened for me in a long time! I know and trust that he is doing a good job with it and I worry and think less about money than I ever have before. And it's also lightened my load to the point where I have more energy to put into meal planning and grocery shopping which I am much more interested in but had started to feel like a drain just from being stretched too thin. This whole shift has brought a lot more balance I think to our life together and relationship. We even managed to get through our first financial talk together as a couple the other night since our roles have been reversed. It started off a little rocky as we were anticipating what each other was going to be thinking and feeling off the bat but we got through that and ended up having an excellent conversation finding out that we're both actually feeling really similar about where we are and where we want to be.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Honeymoon for our Anniversary

Tomorrow Don and I will celebrate our 6 year wedding anniversary. Actually, we've been celebrating it all weekend and making new friends in the process. Although we were lucky enough to already have great friends rooted in this small town, when we decided to move back we still wanted to find intentional ways to expand our circle and get re-rooted into this much loved community of ours. I turned to the social networking site, for suggestions. Meetup is a website devoted to helping people connect regionally with other people of like interests. There were a few meet and greet groups already established Bellingham on Meetup, but nothing that I felt specifically drawn to. In the past I have used for very specific interests like hiking and volleyball, and I even joined a wiener dog group at one point. Since I didn't see anything that was specifically speaking to me, I ended up deciding to create my own meetup group centered around one of the things which I personally am very interested in, and that is exploring all of the different local wineries and wine shops that this area has to offer. It turns out it's something a lot of other people are interested in as well and in just a short amount of time we have gained 41 new members and already had two successful events with over a dozen people in attendance.

Tonight, for our second event, we met at Honeymoon Tasting Room off of State Street. If you don't know where it is, it's a bit difficult to find. It's actually in the alley behind Pepper Sisters Restaurant. Unlike a formal wine tasting experience Honeymoon actually specializes in meads (wine made from honey), although they do carry a few traditional wines and their own dry cider. It's an intimate setting and plenty of room for a good sized group if you show up towards the beginning of the evening around 5pm. We were 14 total in attendance for the evening and quite comfortable at that size.

The manager set us up with a couple of tasting trays to sample their many products. I admit I kind of skipped over the regular wines and focused on their meads since this is what they are known for. What I quickly discovered was that while each mead in and of itself was interesting and unique, I didn't find myself to be a great lover to the extent that I could sit down and drink a whole glass. The real potential in mead lies in it's ability to mix well and pair with other liquors. That was the serendipity discovery of the evening that created endless possibilities for new fun surprises.

The two greatest strengths on their menu were the Hot Spiced Mead and the Cyser. The Hot Spiced Mead was a basic combination of their boldly flavored Wassail Mead with a splash of Orange Mead and Dry Cyder served warm like hot apple cider. The Cyser though is about the coolest discovery on earth since it's a completely new type of drink I have never experienced. It's a chilled dry cyder flavored with your choice of fruity mead (Orange, Strawberry, Raspberry, or Blueberry). I am especially fond of the Strawberry, although several people tried the raspberry and am told that one was quite good as well. I can see going back from time to time for either of these two drinks when I'm in the mood for something outside the standard beer and wine menu. The only thing I could see myself buying by the bottle would be the Wassail Mead for home consumption as this is the best mead option they had for serving warm and would be a fun treat for entertaining.

Another thing Honeymoon does very well are the appetizers and desserts. Between the attendees at our table, we got quite a variety and everything was top quality including an antipasto plate (featuring Genoa salami, provolone, olives, marinated artichoke hearts, pickled asparagus, sliced apple, and rustic sliced bread), a delicious cheese plate, and a trio of artisan spreads served on bread as well. The dessert menu was also well sampled with special compliments to their blueberry topped cheesecake and their amazingly rich dark chocolate truffles.
Overall this was a fun venue with some good hospitality. This probably would not be the place for you if you are looking for a traditional wine tasting experience but if you are in the mood for something a little different with some excellent food pairings and a nice mellow atmosphere give Honeymoon a try. They are open Monday through Saturday from 5pm to 11pm and also offer live music five days a week starting around 5pm. They even have free Wi-Fi if you're looking for a new setting to get a little studying done or catch up on work.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Leek, Bacon, and Gruyere Crustless Quiche

For Valentine's Day this year we decided to celebrate the best way we know how - with awesome food and awesome people! We started off with a homemade brunch double date with good friends Chris and Jessica. Now we know why Chris is so fond of Jessica. She makes the most amazing cinnamon rolls on God's green earth! Since Jessica had the sweets covered, I tackled the Savory with this delicious Leek, Bacon, and Gruyere Crustless Quiche from

The quiche was delicious, but I do plan to impliment a couple of modifications next time I tackle this. First, I sliced the leeks into thin rounds rather than long stems as the recipe suggests. However, the leeks themselves put off a lot of liquid which made it difficult for the quich to fully set to the right consistency. Next time I make this, I will probably add an extra egg and/or omit 1/3 cup half and half so that it sets a little stronger. You could also make with a standard pie crust which will help to hold together if you are worried about it setting properly. But other than that, in regards to taste alone I give it an A+. Serve with homemade cinnamon rolls and mimosas for a romantic treat.

Cindy's Waldorf Salad

In the mood for a refreshing fall salad? Try my Waldorf Salad Recipe.

1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
1/2 Cup Spiced Apple Cider
2 Stalks Chopped Celery
1 Medium Granny Smith Apple Cored and Chopped
3 Tablespoons Vanilla Yogurt
1 Tablespoon Mayonnaise
1/4 cup Walnuts, Toasted and Coarsley Chopped

Start by placing cranberries and cider in a microwave save container and heat on high for thirty seconds. Let stand a couple of minutes. Mix all ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl and chill until ready to eat.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Baked Acorn Squash Filled with Italian Sausage and Rigatoni Pasta

Baked Acorn Squash Filled with Italian Sausage and Rigatoni Pasta is probably one of the coolest things I have ever made. And talk about presentation... WOW! Isn't it beautiful? I picked the recipe because we had some Delicata Squash to use up from our Dandelion Organic Delivery. Don made the comment as we chowed down on our delicious meal, that all of our meals that center around squash feel like dessert! The recipe is a bit labor intensive but still fun to make and a great way to spend the evening. For a copy of the full recipe, please visit I adjusted the regular version slightly as follows.

Pick a squash, any squash. The recipe calls for Acorn Squash but we had some nice Delicata on hand so used that instead. Cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Place on a baking sheet and fill with water to 1/2 inch. Cover with foil and roast/steam in the oven at 350 degrees for one hour.

Next prepare the red sauce. Saute 4 minced garlic cloves and 1/2 cup finely chopped onion in olive oil in a medium sauce pan for three minutes. Add one cup whole peeled tomatoes with juices and 1 Tablespoon dried basil. Use some kitchen sheers to cut up the tomatoes into smaller chunks. Simmer for another three minutes. Then add one 1/2 cup homemade chicken stock and simmer yet another three minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of fair trade organic white cane sugar at the end and remove from heat.

In a medium frying pan saute one medium red onion, sliced vertically, with two sweet italian sausages and one hot italian sausages, casings removed and broken up. Meanwhile, dice 1/2 pound part skim mozzarella cheese into half inch chunks. Also cook one package penne pasta in salted boiling water. Toss Pasta, red sauce, cheese, and sausage mixture together and spoon into the squash cavities. Bake in the oven on 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley for garnish and serve.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thick Cut Mustard Marinated Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions

I'm not sure how or why this has happened, but somehow since we moved to Bellingham, we've started eating more pork products. Maybe it's because the quality of the pork we can get from the Community Food Co-op is outstanding. From the Bacon to the Pork Roasts, to their several different varieties of sausages, we haven't had a bad one yet. For tonight's main course, Thick Cut Mustard Marinated Pork Chops with Caramelized Red Onions, we noshed on some delicious sirloin steaks from Salmon Creek Farms. The recipe actually calls for bone in pork chops, but the Co-op doesn't carry that cut so these boneless sirloin steaks worked great in their place.

Start by whisking together olive oil, dijon mustard (I heartily prefer Grey Poupon), salt, pepper, and fresh thyme leaves. Coat Pork Chops thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for one hour or overnight. Bring to room temperature before cooking.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat until smoking. If your pan is well seasoned, you will not need to add cooking oil since there is plenty of olive oil in the marinade. Add pork chops to the hot pan and cook 5 to 6 minutes until well seared on both sides and cooked through. Remove to a plate and let the meat rest. (Resting is where you set a cooked piece of meat aside and let it cool for several minutes before cutting into it. This gives the juices time to redistribute throughout the meat so that they will not run all over your plate when you slice it open and maintain it's lovely flavor.)

Next, heat a couple splashes of vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Slice one or two red onions into thin rings and add to the pan. Cook about four minutes until the onions start to soften. Add one tablespoon each of honey and balsamic vinegar and stir to incorporate. Continue to caramelize onion mixture for another ten to fifteen minutes. Serve atop the Mustard Pork chops.

Butter Lettuce Salad with Apples

I get so excited every time I see that Butter Lettuce is coming in my Dandelion Organic Delivery box. It feels like such a delicacy to me and it's too expensive to buy at the grocery store. Last week it was red butter lettuce and this week a whole head of green butter lettuce. The velvety leaves are so soft and delicate, they really do melt in your mouth, just like butter. Tonight's salad, pictured above, makes excellent use of this exquisite vegetable. You can find the full printed recipe for Butter Lettuce Salad with Apples at

Start by combining equal parts cider vinegar and vegetable oil, one finely diced shallot, a spoon full of course-grain mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk vinaigrette and set aside while you prepare the rest of the meal. The longer the vinaigrette sits, the more time the shallots have to infuse it's flavor into the rest of the dressing so if you have other items to prepare, make the vinaigrette first, and then come back to finish the remaining steps to the salad at the end.

Tear four cups butter lettuce leaves into bite size pieces. Place in Salad bowl. Core and chop one apple and place on top of lettuce. Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Upcoming Menu

Now that I've finished my meal planning for the week, I thought I would post a little foretaste of the feast to come. These recipes were chosen to make the most out of our weekly produce deliveries from Dandelion Organic Delivery. As you can see, these deliveries are really helping us to embrace an abundance of nutritional balance into our diet and which has really ramped up the quality of our eating. Cooking has always been an art for me and the bright and beautiful colors that all the different fruits and veggies bring to the experience are my leading cast. Stay tuned for photos, reviews, and tips of the following recipes...

SATURDAY - Thick Cut Mustard Marinated Pork Chops
and Butter Lettuce Salad with Apples

SUNDAY - Baked Acorn Squash Filled with Italian Sausage and Rigatoni Pasta
and Lightened Waldorf Salad

MONDAY - Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sun Dried Tomato
and Roasted Parsnips and Carrots

WEDNESDAY - Rack of Lamb with Rosemary Roasted Potatoes and Shallot Vinaigrette
and Roasted Broccoli with Lemon

THURSDAY - Quick Chick and Noodle Soup

FRIDAY - Florentine Ravioli
and Apple and Pear Crisp

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese

Eating locally also means eating seasonally and one thing we are getting in abundance right now from our weekly Dandelion Organic Produce Deliveries are Pears of every variet. Bartlett, Anjue, and these beautiful Golden Bosc pears are just a few of what we go through in our weekly rotation. Tonight we decided to make this tasty Tyler Florence Recipe found on the website under Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese and Walnuts.

I halved the pears and scooped out a bit of the core. Then I drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper and sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves. Roast for 20 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. Then sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles and roast for another 10 minutes until cheese melts and pears are fork tender. I forgot to include the walnuts and the recipe was still quite good.

Navy Bean Soup with Rosemary and Kale

One thing I am really enjoying about Community Food Coop is their endless and enticing bulk section. I love that I can to there to get just the right amount of spices and other dried goods like the dried organic navy beans for this delicious soup recipe. You can find the full recipe for Navy Bean Soup with Rosemary and Kale at

Start by covering 1 1/2 cups dried navy beans with 2 inches of water in medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand one hour then drain.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle a whole head of garlic with 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil and wrap tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for 45 minutes or until garlic is soft. Set aside to cool.

Heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a large stockpot. Add two chopped onions and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes. I decided to veer from the recipe here and include two pieces of chopped thick bacon as well which brought a lot of additional flavor. After about 20 minutes, add four stalks of diced celery and continue to cook another 10 minutes. Squeeze 10 cloves of the roasted garlic out of their peels and into the onion mixture. Stir for 60 seconds until fully incorporated.

Add beans, two quarts of chicken stock, two bay leaves, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, partially cover and simmer for 1 hour.

Tear one large bunch (about 8 cups) of Kale and add to soup. Simmer another 10 minutes until Kale is wilted. Chop 1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh Rosemary, stir into soup, and remove from heat. Ladle servings into individual bowls and top with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese for garnish and dig in!