Raspberry Pear Salad

Happy Summer!

School has been out for a week, and so far, summer has been good to us.  We went to Six Flags today (fun to ride the roller coasters!), lake with the family yesterday, wedding on Saturday (beautiful!), and a successful vet visit for my buddy Fugue.  The vet is now treating him for seasonal allergies, but we’ll have to wait until December to do further testing.  In the meantime, he’s on a long-term medicine to alleviate some of the itching.  Hopefully, within a few weeks, he’ll be out of his cone!

I also planted a “garden” last week!  I’m not an avid gardener.  In fact, I’ve never planted something that has lived for very long… *fingers crossed* that these will be different, and I’ll be eating fresh herbs and vegetables soon!

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At this point in the year, cooked vegetables sound like the least appealing food ever.  Even lightly steamed broccoli (one of my all-time favs) sounds horrible.  So, we eat a lot of salads.  Like, a LOT of salads.  It seems like I always forget to buy salad dressing, or I forget we have it and buy too duplicates – am I the only person with this problem?! – so most of the time I just make the dressing from scratch.  It is so easy, has fewer preservatives, and tastes delicious.

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Raspberry Pear Salad with Balsamic Dressing

For the salad:

  • Spring Mix
  • Raspberries
  • Sliced Pears
  • Gorgonzola Cheese
  • Optional: Nuts (walnuts or pecans would be good!)

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 T Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1 T Agave
  • 1 tsp Lemon Juice
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Carrot Bread

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I went grocery shopping on Monday morning knowing that we’d likely be snowed in for a few days.  I had a list of items I needed to make a few meals, and figured we could always make it stretch with dry beans and rice if needed.  I didn’t panic and buy any bread or milk.  However, when I got to the produce section, I must have panicked a little because I ended up with the largest bag of carrots you can buy(!) …and I only needed four carrots.

Now that the snow has melted and the weather is warmer, carrots seem appropriately sunny.  I decided to adapt my mom’s recipe for Zucchini Bread to use up some of these carrots.  I added cardamom, ginger, and a tiny bit of orange juice.  I also replaced some oil with almond milk, and sugar with honey (because what pairs better with carrots than honey?!)  A lot of the recipes I found – my mom’s included – use a ton of sugar, but I didn’t want this to be too intensely sweet.  I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out.  It’s crisp and fresh, and feels a lot like spring!

Here’s her original recipe: 

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And, my adaptation:

Carrot Bread

Makes 2 Loaves

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 3 “eggs”
    • I used a flax seed and water mixture.  For each egg, it’s 2 T ground flax seed and 3 T water.  So, for this, I used 6 T ground flax seed and 9 T water.
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 T orange juice
  • 3 cups grated carrots (this was about 5 whole carrots)
  • 1 cup walnuts (optional)

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Preheat the oven to 325°F.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger.  In a large mixing bowl, combine flax/water mixture, vegetable oil, almond milk, brown sugar, honey, vanilla extract, and orange juice.

With a whisk or electric mixer, mix dry ingredients (I do this instead of sifting – I know true bakers are probably shaking their heads), then wet ingredients.  Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and incorporate with a spatula.  Once these are fully incorporated, add carrots and walnuts.

Pour into two prepped loaf pans, and bake for 40-60* minutes.  Let cool for 20 minutes.  Serve with cream cheese or your fav spread!

*I made one loaf with nuts and one without – the one with nuts was done in 45 minutes, and the one without took about 55 minutes.  Just keep checking on it every few minutes.  The knife test never fails.

 

The cats loved the curled carrots – HA!

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Blondies

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Is there a more heavenly combination than peanut butter and chocolate?!

This evening, a craving hit hard.  I was considering eating peanut butter from the jar while adding chocolate chips to each bite… and I realized I might have a problem. Instead, I turned to the internet looking for a cookie recipe.  Isa on the Post Punk Kitchen has THE BEST vegan cookie recipes!  Seriously, all of them are the best.  I found this recipe for Peanut Butter Blondies, miraculously had all the ingredients on hand, and decided to add chocolate chips instead of peanuts.  The end result was incredible.

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I won’t post the recipe here since it’s not mine to share (the link is above).  All I can say is – if you want to make vegan cookies, use one of her recipes.  Oh, and make sure you have a glass of almond milk to wash these bad boys down.

Classic Old Fashioned Cocktail

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The Old Fashioned first made an appearance in the Herndon household a few years ago.  John had started watching Madmen, and it is their drink of choice.  He did a little more research, found out it was the oldest recorded cocktail recipe (from 1806 – pretty cool).  Of course, he had to try it.  I watched him skeptically as he prepared these drinks, and I’d always try a sip.  I never liked it very much – probably because I didn’t like whiskey very much.

Fast forward two years, and I’ve grown to like whiskey!  I decided to give this drink a second (er, tenth) chance.  Sure enough, John has known what he’s talking about all along!  Sorry for ever doubting you, John. 🙂

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Classic Old Fashioned Cocktail

  • 1 sugar cube (or 1 tsp of sugar)
  • 3 dashes bitters
  • Squeeze of orange (maybe 1 T orange juice)
  • 2 oz. rye whiskey (or bourbon – whatever you prefer)
  • Ice
  • Garnish with orange slice and maraschino cherry

Put sugar in bottom of an Old Fashioned glass, and wet with bitters and a tiny bit of water and muddle.  Swirl in the glass until sugar is dissolved, and the glass is lined with the mixture.  Add ice (I used 3 cubes, but I’m dying for once of those big spheres).  Pour in whiskey and squeeze of orange juice.  Garnish with orange slice and maraschino cherry.

 

Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a cat picture.  The cats were both incredibly interested this drink – mostly when I was trying to take pictures.  And they can jump to any surface in the house.  I spent most of the time “taking pictures” defending the drinks from the cats!  Ha!  Here’s a picture of Canon sniffing things out.

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Resolutions…about a month late!

It’s been a few months since my last post!  With holiday traveling and the start of Indoor Drumline, there hasn’t been a lot of time for experimenting with new recipes – much less documenting them!

Also, I’ve decided to begin incorporating dairy into my diet again.  After 3.5 years of being vegan, this is a big paradigm shift for me.  I will always love plant-based foods, and have continued to make *mostly* vegan recipes.  I’m certain I will never eat meat again.  However, this allows me to be more flexible in social situations and at restaurants in our new area.

In the past few weeks, inspiration has struck!  I’ve tried a few new recipes that I’m excited to share, and was reminded of a few long-time favorites.  I will be posting again soon… but let me leave you with a preview of the next few posts: Roasted Carrots with Pesto (made from the carrot tops!), Guacamole Bruschetta, Old-Fashioned Cocktails, and Black Bean Sweet Potato Soup.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of our cats when they were kittens.  I stumbled across these on Sunday, and they were too cute to keep to myself.  Hope you enjoy! 🙂

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Italian Spice Mix

I hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween!  John and I enjoyed Trick-Or-Treaters, watching The Nightmare Before Christmas, and dressing up our cats.  I’m surprised at how well the cats took to the costumes.  Fugue is still wearing his! 🙂

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It’s been a while since my last post.  Honestly, I’ve been making a lot of soups lately.  Chili, Split Pea Soup, and Pumpkin Soup are already posted on the blog, and I made this Broccoli & Cheeze Soup (inspired by this recipe) and my friend Eryn’s Tortilla Soup.  Since the blog is new, I’m still making first impressions… and I’m not sure I want my first impression to be the crazy soup lady.  So, I decided to simmer down (haha, I’m so pun-ny).

Instead, I wanted to share this Italian Spice Mix with you.  It is another one from my dad (thanks, Pops!) that he discovered while trying to recreate the bread dip from Carrabba’s.  Obviously, it’s great as the bread dip – its original intention.  Just mix it with a bit of sautéed garlic and extra virgin olive oil, and you’ve got yourself a perfect dip for this bread.  It’s also perfect for seasoning for homemade marinara sauce.

Italian Spice Mix

Equal parts:

  • Coarse Salt
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • Crushed Red Pepper
  • Dried Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Parsley Flakes
  • Garlic Powder

I usually add 1 T each, which makes a pretty big batch.  I know I’ll use it again, so it works for me.  You could start with 1/2 tsp, see how you like it, and add to it if needed.

Store in an airtight container.

Caramel Apple Cider

This drink tastes like candy.  I’m not exaggerating – it’s just like drinking candy!  Kind of dangerous!

They were perfect for our Fall Party the other night.  We served these cold, but it would also be good with hot cider.  Enjoy! 🙂

 

Caramel Apple Cider

Serves 1

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2 oz Kissed Caramel Vodka (I used Smirnoff, but Pinnacle makes a Salted Caramel Vodka that I’m really interested in trying!  Couldn’t find it at the liquor store, so I’ll have to keep searching)

2 oz apple cider

½ tiny can of Ginger Ale (about 4 oz)

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Garnish with cinnamon sticks, apple slices, or (for a non-vegan option) soft caramels.

Sweet & Savory Pumpkin Soup

This pumpkin soup has become a holiday tradition.  If we are celebrating anything from October to December, this soup will most likely make an appearance.  And it never gets old!  It has even won over many vegan skeptics – including my step dad!  Most recently, we had it for our Fall Party.  There was a bonfire, Broccoli Crunch, Roasted Potatoes, Honey Glazed Carrots, S’Mores, and – the surprise winner of the night – Salted Caramel Vodka Cider! (I’ll post that recipe later this week :))

Like a lot of the food I make, this is a recipe that is a combination of several different recipes.  This one combines our friend Bryan’s Butternut Squash Soup (spicy and curried!  So amazing!) and a pumpkin soup I found online (more of the sweetness of pumpkin pie).  I love Bryan’s Butternut Squash Soup, but the idea of peeling and cubing a butternut squash on a weeknight always seems like a daunting task.  Using canned pumpkin is hassle-free and tastes delicious.  Also, I found that when I ate Bryan’s soup, it was wonderfully spicy, but I missed some of the sweetness (and vise versa for the pumpkin soup).  So, here it is…

Sweet & Savory Pumpkin Soup

Serves 6-8

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  • 1 glug extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 gala apple, chopped (or honeycrisp)
  • 3 T sugar
  • ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • cayenne pepper – add depending on your taste!  I prefer about ¼ tsp + garnish
  • ½ tsp salt, or to taste
  • 32 oz veggie broth
  • 2 15 oz cans pumpkin puree

Heat olive oil in a heavy bottom large stock pot.  Sauté onion, garlic, celery, and carrots until onions are translucent and carrots are soft.  Add apple, sugar, and spices and cook for 2-3 more minutes.  Add veggie broth, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until apple is tender (about 20 minutes).

Stir in pumpkin puree.  Using an immersion blender, blend soup until you get a smooth consistency.  Adjust seasoning to taste.

Since I usually make this for dinner parties, I usually transfer to a slow cooker (for maybe 1-2 hours) to keep warm.  However, you can serve immediately, too.

Serve with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper and crusty bread.  Toasted pecans are also AMAZING!

Variations on Grandpa’s Chili

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Today was a very fall kind of day!  I raked leaves, collected pinecones, drank whiskey, listened to the Punch Brothers, and made chili!  It. Was. Perfect.

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I’ve spent several years searching for the perfect chili recipe – I bought books and browsed hundreds  (not exaggerating!) of recipes online.  We’d try a recipe, and it would be too bland, too spicy (even for our daring taste buds), weird texture, too bean-y, etc.  Finally, last year, I decided to adapt my Grandpa’s chili recipe to a vegan version.  As it turns out, the perfect recipe had been sitting in front of me the whole time 🙂

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Variations on Grandpa’s Chili

Serves 8

  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 package tempeh, crumbled
  • 2 15 oz cans pinto beans
  • 2 15 oz cans dark red kidney beans
  • 28 oz tomato sauce
  • 28 oz peeled, crushed tomatoes
  • 12 oz Sam Adams (I used Oktoberfest… because it’s October, obviously)
  • 1 T cumin
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp crushed red peppers
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • dash red cayenne pepper

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Sauté onions, carrots, celery, garlic, jalapeno, and tempeh until soft and translucent – about 5-10 minutes.  Then add remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30-45 minutes (until consistency thickens).

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I love topping this chili with avocado and cilantro.  The Taylor tradition is to have chili with saltines and peanut butter – pretty delish, by the way.  For some non-vegan routes, there’s always cheese and sour cream.  I hope you love this family recipe as much as me!!!!

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Split Pea Soup

To me, there is nothing that screams “AUTUMN!!!!” more than soup!  I love pulling out my stockpot and making a huge batch of soup on a Sunday afternoon.  John’s not a huge fan of soup, so I usually just eat it for lunch.  However, he loves this Split Pea Soup!  So tonight, on the eve of October (the best month ever), we had this Split Pea Soup with grilled “cheese” on this bread.

The soup is really low calorie (170), low fat, and packs in a lot of protein – 15 grams!

This recipe is an adaptation of the one my mom made growing up.  The same basic ingredients are all there (except the ham), and I’ve added some cayenne pepper.  Also, I like a few more veggies in mine, and I sauté them first.  So, here it is!

 

Split Pea Soup

Serves 6-8

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  • 16 oz. split peas
  • 8 C veggie broth
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 “glugs” extra virgin olive oil (really specific term, right? J)
  • ¼ tsp marjoram
  • ¼ tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf

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Heat olive oil in a large stockpot.  Add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic, and sauté until onions are translucent.  Then, add broth, split peas, and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer for 1+ hour.  I ended up needing to add a bit more water – adjust to your preferences.

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Remove the bay leaf.  With an immersion blender (or a regular blender, in batches – but be careful!), blend soup until creamy.  Top with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, and enjoy!

 

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