Avocado Bisque with Garden Peas & Dill (DF)

 photo IMG_0421.jpgThe peas are ready! The peas are ready! Oh how I do love garden peas – the real deal, the kind you have to shell. I didn’t much care for them as a child (one for each year of life with a liberal swallow of milk so as not to choke), but have grown to like peas, but this is one area where frozen is really not the same as fresh. If you don’t care for peas, see if you can find the real McCoy at a farmer’s market and give them a go – raw, straight from the shell. Oh mercy. Spring is glorious.

I have found that my family enjoys garden peas most when they are left alone. Yesterday’s harvest may have yielded enough to cook and serve as a side, but I knew they wouldn’t like them as well, so I just rinsed those puppies and threw them in a bowl – shell and eat at will. But what else to serve? A ravenous 7 year old cannot live on garden peas alone, even if his mother would…

An old standby of mine that was ripe for an update: Avocado Bisque. I first encountered this recipe in the cookbook that came with my VitaMix, the cookbook that my sister previewed for me and annotated. Avocado Bisque earned a Bigg Sis rating of “Great,” and it is. I made a few adaptations to remove the moo and the chick and we enjoyed a lovely and light dinner of Avocado Bisque (with garden peas and dill), whole wheat bread (as evidenced by the crumb that snuck into my soup picture), and a fabulous green salad with garden lettuce. Continue reading

Breakfast Ice Cream OR Creamy Smoothies For All

IMG_0214If you’ve been playing a long for a while, you know that here at the pantry we simply LOVE smoothies, especially those that allow us to hide some super nutritious deep greens from our children…. Yeah, it’s probably dirty pool, but you only have to really hide them a couple of times before they no longer care what’s in there and will eat it up regardless.

We’ve had many, many a smoothie over the last few years, but I have to IMG_0205confess that my recent favorites include a decadent ingredient: avocado. In our recent smoothies, I’ve been adding the flesh from 1/2 and avocado, and it gives the smoothie (or breakfast ice cream if you use a little less liquid and don’t blend QUITE so vigorously) a distinctly ice cream-y quality.  Who wouldn’t want ice cream for breakfast?

Our recent formula goes a bit like this…

IMG_0212Breakfast Ice Cream

  • 3-4 frozen bananas
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 3 cups deep greens (or more if you can get away with it)
  • frozen berries to top of blender container
  • 1 soup spoon honey (opt – we use if the berries are tart, i.e. raspberries)
  • non-dairy milk (we used coconut) until blend ability (usually 1.5 cups for us) or some other liquid of your choosing

IMG_0219We have a power blender, which makes all of this very easy.  If you have a standard blender, I would recommend starting with the liquid and the non-frozen ingredients, and then add the frozen ingredients slowly.  This makes a lot of breakfast ice cream, which is awesome, because if you have leftovers you can freeze and pack in a lunch or serve with a grapefruit spoon to someone with a sore throat.  Breakfast ice cream.  THAT’s living.

IMG_0206 IMG_0209 IMG_0213

Beets – delicious from tip to tip

I confess that until I was in my 30’s I had only ever consumed pickled beets – and while I liked them, I was missing out.  Those glorious blood red orbs have a distinctive but mild flavor that my child has always enjoyed.

I recently bought a set of 3 very large, gorgeous beets with greens and over the course of the next 4 days I used all but the very bottom root and the section where the greens emerge and the skin is particularly thick.  I should have saved those for pink soup stock ;-)

I used the beets themselves for beet & avocado salad with goat cheese.  My 11 year old preferred the beets all by themselves.

I also used the beet greens in a lovely kale and cannelini beans dish from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Several days later I chopped the beet stems I’d saved and sauteed them along with onions and spinach as a layer in Luscious Layers – my GF, easy lasagna-type-thang.  Nobody noticed or cared and we used up the whole beet and kaboodle.

First, I will tell you about the original plan for the beets : Beet and Avocado Salad

There are many variations of this combo on-line, all more complicated than the following.

Beets – enough for about 5 or 6 slices for each person
Avocado – enough for about 5 or 6 lices for each person
Goat cheese – mine was honey goat cheese from Trader Joe’s which is relatively cheap, a bit sweet and delicious
lemon juice and olive oil on hand for the drizzlers in the crowd.

Cover the topped/ bottomed beets with water, bring to a boil and then let simmer for 25 – 30 minutes or until the tenderness you desire.

Let them cool off a little and then they are very easy to peel.  The color underneath the skin at this point is unbelievably vibrant.  My slightly fuzzy pic gives you some idea of the color:

Aren’t they pretty?

Once the beets are cool and peeled, you can slice them and arrange the slices on each plate (or throw in a bowl if presentation ain’t in the stars when you make this)
Slice the avocado and lay on top of the beets
crumble a tablespoon or so of goat cheese on top of each one
If you like drizzle a little lemon juice and/or olive oil on top.  I though it was quite good all by itself.

My plate is bigger than my stomach!

The kale and cannelini beans involves boiling the greens which I’ve never done before.  Tenders the little fellows right up!

Boiling Beet Greens Batman!

You see the finished product on the plate with the beet salad.  My 11 year old also ate this without complaint…. I’m on a beet roll…

Last but not least – sauteed beet green stems with onions (to which I added spinach)

The stems have a beet-y flavor, but not overpowering at all.

And for the first time I made and used our good friend Somer’s cashew cheese which can slice and melt.  Wow!  Really delicious.  Somer has variations of this cheese, so if you need dairy free cheese, check out the above and her new blog Vedged Out where you can find her newest cheesy creations and lots of other great plant-based foods.  A warning – the cashew cheese is expensive to make, but for us it was quite a treat to have something creamy and cheesy.

beets? There’s no beets in there!

My other favorite way to eat beets is cut into chunks and roasted with sweet potatoes and yellow or red potatoes and some oil and seasoning.  FANTASTIC.

Little Sis and I have been known to throw raw beet into smoothies as well – makes a lovely pink smoothie!
Little Sis also shared a great Beet soup recipe, as well as Beet burgers.

Who new the much maligned could be something other than pickled?  Glad I know now.

What do you like to do with beets?

Surviving Solo Flights or Days that Call for Creamy Sauce

It’s been a bit of a zoo around here lately.  Mr. Little Sis has been CRAZY busy, and as all of you who’ve ever been in a partnership, particularly one with dependents know, one half being crazy busy means both halves are crazy busy.  The garden has needed quite a bit of hands on tending right now to save the progress I’ve made from high insect season (I am excited to have gotten this far.  This reformed over-waterer will NEVER go back.)  The busy-ness has led to a series of weird Mommy meals (often involving leftovers reconfigured in some fashion to decrease recognizability, or demonstrating complete surrender in an effort to attain peace for some portion of the day).  The living continues to be tasty despite the hodge-podginess.  I think my continued culinary sanity and pleasure (and the kids’ relatively reasonable attitude towards these seemingly mish mosh meals) has to do with a few simple strategies that I employ when pressed.  I thought I’d share them as you are undoubtedly busy as well…

1) Employ leftovers as they were if they were a big hit; if response was moderate, ask for input: “Hey guys, I think this would taste good cold, but would you like yours warmed up instead?”  Notice that I’ve not offered a choice about what they are eating, but the temperature.  I have also been know to offer a sauce, or to serve something as a sandwich that wasn’t the first time around.  They’re happy because they think they’re choosing something.  I know, it’s deeply manipulative.

2) Offer a choice if there really can be one.  “Guys, I’m a bit pressed for time, so rice is out.  Would you rather have quinoa or bulgur?”  The answer, if you’re wondering, is consistently a grudging quinoa.  They don’t know the name of lentil-bulgur mix, and we’ll be leaving it that way for the foreseeable future.

3) Fresh raw vegetables and fruit.  When I’m really pressing my luck in the kitchen (running late, poorly planned, they’re extra hungry) I will cut the freshest veggies I have (or the ones we most need to use to avoid waste) and place them in a bowl on the table while I’m cooking.  Kids can munch more or less at will.  I get more peace for cooking AND they eat veggies of all kinds because they’re in that 30 minutes before dinner red zone.  They get double veggies and I don’t get nagged.  Pretty sweet, eh?  When the veggie intake starts early and strong, I’ll also offer a little fruit with dinner, which makes the troops quite happy.

4) Flexibility.  A story from the weekend fits nicely here.  I was making some tilapia, planning to steam rice as well when I discovered that the rice jar (which was sealed, by the way) had gone buggy.  (Big Sis is probably chuckling a little right now because she knows that despite my being reasonably “tough” about many things, moths, and in particular pantry moths and their spawn put me over the edge.)  So the kids are losing it and I’m trying not to puke as I watch a jar full of crawlies.  I mercilessly filled the jar with water so they would drown before I put them in the compost.  Yeah, I’m hardcore like that.  Turned to the fridge.  Leftover pasta abounded.  Lovely.  Change of plan; leftover pasta next to tilapia seemed infinitely better than buggy rice.

5) Be nice to yourself.  Same said buggy meal (at the end of a particularly trying mother of twins kind of day) led mommy to desire serious comfort food…..  enter avocado cream sauce.  Oh yes, that’s what I said, heart healthy cream sauce for pasta.  I kind of giggle just writing that.

Basil Avocado Cream – inspired by this avocado pasta sauce dish.

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • handful fresh basil leaves
  • pinch of salt
  • juice of one lemon
  • twist of the pepper grinder
You know what’s coming, right?  Put it all in a food processor or blender.  Process until smooth and creamy.  Mix with pasta – this recipe would likely adequately cream up pasta for a few people.  A little goes a long way.  Top with pine nuts, or chopped nuts that you love.  So incredibly awesome, and just the thing while you’re watching your children scarf down their dinner, which does not include the suspicious green cream sauce.  That’s okay.  I didn’t want to share that night anyway.  De-lish.