Entrée, Gluten Free, Soup, Winter

BUTTERNUT SQUASH + KALE MINESTRA

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I feel weird that I called it a "minestra." That is the Italian word for a mixed vegetable sort of soup, think minestrone, and it sounds way more intriguing that way right?! I skipped the pasta here, though you could totally add it or some brown rice or shredded chicken to fill it out if you're into that sort of thing. I have a tough time with salads when it's chilly out, so this pot of goodness serves as an alternative to pack in the vegetables. It is made of easy, pantry staples and some easy to find produce. Boring on its own (sell it, girl!), as brothy, all-vegetable soups go, so a heavy hand with the parmesan croutons is necessary. It tastes better the next day, so lunch leftovers or delivering it to a sick friend is encouraged. 

BUTTERNUT + KALE MINESTRA // Serves 6
Inspired by Williams and Sonoma
I understand wine and vinegar are not often subs for each other, but I hate when I have all but one ingredient. It's winter, I stock red wine in the cool months ;) The recipe listed here leaves you with a fairly stewy soup. Add a bit more broth, and you can add in a cup of cooked orzo, brown rice, some shredded rotisserie chicken or what not to bulk it up. 
Use a rich tasting vegetable broth if dietetically preferred, but a bone broth or fresh stock will add more body to this light soup. The soup can be made in advance, add the kale in the warm up to preserve its bright color. 

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, cored and sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
sea salt and pepper, as needed
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (3 cups)
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 sprigs of thyme
1/2 cup white wine (or 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar)
1 tsp. dried oregano
dash of cayenne
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 14.5 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. can white beans
3 cups low sodium broth, vegetable or chicken
1 bunch of kale, stemmed and roughly chopped

parmesan croutons
1/2 a loaf of day of bread (gluten free bread works too)
1-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
grated parmesan, plus more for serving

In a large dutch oven or heavy pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel, garlic and a generous pinch of salt and pepper and saute until they begin to brown. Add the butternut squash, another pinch of salt, whole herb sprigs and saute. Add the white wine and let it cook down, leaving the lid ajar so the squash softens, about 6 minutes. Stir in the oregano, cayenne, tomato paste, roasted tomatoes, white beans and broth (more or less based on how thick you like your soups). Bring the soup to a gentle simmer, leave the cover ajar and cook for 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If it tastes flat, it likely needs more salt, maybe more cayenne and a squeeze of lemon.
While the soup cooks, make your croutons. Preheat the oven to 375'. Rip the loaf into rough 1" pieces. Toss them in the oil to coat, pinch of salt and pepper, and parmesan. Bake the croutons for 12 to 15 minutes until dry an browned on the edges. Set aside to cool.

Ladle the soup into bowls, finish it with a drizzle of olive oil, a heavy handful of croutons and more cheese. 

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Chocolate, Dessert, Feeding Babies, Gluten Free, Snack

CHOCOLATE CRISPY SUNFLOWER BUTTER HEARTS

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I love when Curran brings crafts home from preschool. I do not hang them or keep them, but I love that someone else is doing crafts and artsy things with him so I don't have to. I don't like junk or tchotchkes and I suppose crafts feel like a waste of materials and money. No offense, personal opinion, and I appreciate that other people love them but one cannot be good at all of the things. HOWEVER. My heart is not completely made of stone and I love my children so I went to Michaels (a store specifically for crafty people) last week to pick up Valentines supplies. Cards, stickers, glitter hearts, paint, heart cookie cutters, we're going for it. I really wanted to buy that $4 box of pre-made Minion cards, staple a bag of mini pretzels to it and call it done but my parents always made Valentines really special for my sister and I, so I'm going to do crafts for a minute in the spirit of family tradition. My (crafty) mom still sends us homemade Valentines. Where I do fail them in enthusiasm for crafts, I make up in cooking projects. They like to bake because they've caught on to the outcome. These sunflower butter hearts fit within all the allergy rules at preschool and my kids think cookie cutters are magical. They make a mess and push each other and the whole of it is harder and slower, but I think that is the refinement happening in me at this stage of parenting. Everything is harder with them. It just is, and when I quit fighting it and resign to things like Cleo never sleeping in the car no matter how far the drive or Curran being highly sensitive and crying easily, I give up the loosing battle for control. Instead of trying to fix it or solve it, for their sake or mine, I'm better for all of us. I'll be damned if they look back and think I didn't let them in on being in the kitchen, a place I love, because it made it harder and slower for me. Our food will be our crafts if that's how I need to do it. 

So. I applaud you if you have mini bags of pretzels or conversation hearts, but if you're up for a pretty simple, two dish cooking project, these could not be easier.

/// EVENT! ///

Hugh and I are hosting a food photography workshop in Seattle, WA on April 28+29. Tickets and a few more notes are available on the shop page. This will be our third workshop at Aran's beautiful studio and the whole experience is so refreshing for us and what we do for work. Hugh will go over light and composition and editing and I'll jump in for some styling and prep food with Aran and we get to bounce ideas off each other and learn how to be better at our craft. Basic understanding of your camera is recommended but you could just use your phone too, it doesn't really matter. We'd love you to come. Feel free to contact me with any questions at all. 

CHOCOLATE CRISPY SUNFLOWER BUTTER HEARTS // Makes 12ish

Because I know someone is thinking, "can I use all maple?", the answer is not really. Brown rice syrup is thicker and sets better than maple. It's the sweetener used in most packaged protein bars. I cut it here because I like the flavor of maple better and I wanted the hearts to be a little more tender. In short, you can go all brown rice syrup for the liquid sweetener yield, but not completely maple. They sell it at all health food stores, some conventional grocery stores or more conveniently, albeit more expensive, here
These are mildly chocolatey. If you want more, add a generous handful of chocolate chips to the mixture. 

1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup sunflower butter
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup rice crisp cereal
1 cup quick cooking oats*

* the quick cooking ones have a softer texture. The old fashioned sort will work, but have a bit of a raw taste in context as they're thicker. I'd suggest pulsing them in a blender or food processor if you go this route. 

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Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper. 

In a large saucepan, warm the rice syrup and maple. Add the sunflower butter and coconut oil and stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and let it cool a moment. Add the salt, cocoa powder, rice cereal and oats. Stir to mix. 
Tip the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth down the top with damp hands. The mixture will be sticky, damp hands will help. 
Let it set in the fridge for a couple hours before cutting them into squares or using a cookie cutter for shapes. 
They are best kept in the fridge, and will keep covered for 3-5 days. 

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Breakfast, Gluten Free, Snack

NUT'NOLA

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Months ago, I may have mentioned that Hugh was doing the ketogenic diet? Surely you've heard of it. Most of the cookbooks at my local Costco are keto books so you know it's mainstream. He humored me and went off it for the holidays and is back to it these days. I refuse to make a third version of whatever I'm cooking, but I will compromise. How saintly of me, right? I have my current granola recipe pretty nailed down, but I gave it a spin with less sweetener and replaced the oats with more nuts. It replaces the carbohydrates with more fat, so I don't know where your nutrition paradigms lie, but it tastes good either way. You can use this as a topping for plain yogurt, oatmeal, as a snack or I used it as a crunchy bit for a green salad with arugula, red onion, and roasted butternut chunks and thought it worked perfect. I made a few notes below on seasoning options. 

NUT'NOLA // Makes about 5 cups

You can find the coconut flakes (the wide shards, not the same as shredded coconut) at Trader Joes, larger conventional grocery stores or Amazon. The kind of nut isn't as important as the yield. Swap in pecans or macadamia nuts, whatever you prefer. We use this as a breakfast sort of deal, if you want a more savory route, a dash of cayenne and some fresh chopped rosemary is a great swap, or that Everything But The Bagel seasoning from Trader Joes is pretty amazing here too, especially if you want to use these as a crunchy salad topper. 

2 Tbsp. coconut oil, warmed
1/3 cup maple syrup
3/4 tsp. sea salt
heaping 1/2 tsp. cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

1 cup raw whole almonds
1 cup raw whole cashews
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp. raw sesame seeds
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes/chips

Preheat the oven to 325' and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
In a large mixing bowl, combine the warmed coconut oil, maple, salt and cinnamon/spice. Stir to combine. 
Give the almonds, cashews and walnuts a rough chop. Add them to the maple mixture along with the pumpkin seeds, sesame and coconut flakes. Stir everything to coat. Spread the mixture in an even layer on the baking sheet and pop in the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, stir, bake another 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove to cool completely. The nuts will crisp up as they cool. Store in an airtight container for a couple weeks.