Perfect Lentil Soup

Perfect Lentil Soup

Although autumn arrived last month, Northern California clearly hasn’t gotten the memo. In late October we were still enjoying the spoils of 70+ degrees. I’m sure you are appalled at someone complaining about such ‘perfect’ weather but hey, sometimes you just want to layer! I love summer as much as the next girl but just like a house guest over staying their welcome, one soon tires of being sweaty. Every year around early September I eagerly await the changing colored leaves and smell of pumpkin bread wafting out of my kitchen. But much to my chagrin, this year it seemed that summer just didn’t want to let go… Finally on one glorious morning a few days ago, I woke to a brisk 50 degrees and excitedly brought my knit scarves and cozy boot socks out from hibernation.

As the chill in the air grows ever stronger and the nights grow ever longer I am inspired to stay home, cuddle up to my family and enjoy hot soup out of well insulated mugs. A tried and true staple in my home is lentil soup. I’ve been playing with this recipe for years and with each little tweak it further evolves into one of my favorites. As with any good recipe you can use the bare bones of this to experiment and make it your own. Spices and veggies can be tweaked to your liking and you can puree a lot or a little depending on your preference. I prefer mine heavy with tomato and spice and pureed just a little so I can still experience the texture of the ingredients.

Perfect Lentil Soup

Ingredients

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  • 4 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 2 organic carrots, chopped
  • 2 organic stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 cups dried lentil soaked for 12-24 hours
  • 1 quart (4 cups) bone broth or veggie broth for a vegan option
  • 1 large organic heirloom tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch organic Swiss chard, de-stemmed and torn into manageable bites

Process

  1. Place coconut oil or ghee in a large dutch oven over medium heat until oil is hot
  2. Add onion, carrot, celery and salt and cook for about 5 minutes
  3. Add lentils, broth, tomatoes and spices, increase heat and bring to a boil
  4. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes
  5. Add Swiss chard and with pot uncovered gently cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes.
  6. Take soup off heat and using an immersion blender, puree soup ever so slightly to add a creaminess without losing the texture of the lentils and vegetables.

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Turkish Cacik

Turkish Cacik

Hello loves! I feel like it’s been ages since I was last in this space, yet sitting down to write this post feels as natural as ever. I have been very busy these last few months! I am very proud to say that I manifested my hearts desire to move my family back up to Mendocino! It took about a year and a half to fully realize this dream but it has been worth every moments wait. We are staying with our beautiful and gracious friends until we find a place of our own. We are just so very grateful for them. Every morning I step outside to the sound of birds chirping and wind rustling through the leaves of towering redwood trees. My breaths are full and complete and the air that fills my lungs is clean, filled to the brim with oxygen. When the wind is blowing just so you can even taste the salty ocean from a few miles away. I’m blessed with a family of deer that graze in our front yard and a special secret clearing in the woods that Marvel and I visit many times a week. Life is good here. My heart is home. My heart is happy.

I have been filling my days connecting with friends, doing the occasional massage and mothering my little Marvel. I have also been working on an exciting new project. I won’t get into much detail until it’s farther along in it’s process but I will tell you that my husband and I are working together (which I’m just beyond thrilled about) and that we are creating beautiful Mediterranean food. This is something that we’ve been wanting since we first fell in love and we are finally making something happen. It feels damn good. 🙂 I’d love to share a little recipe from the project with you. It is called Cacik, pronounced Jajik. It is the Turkish version of the Greek dish, tzatziki. It is often served as a dip or dressing but some people eat it on it’s own. I like to use mine as a sauce inside a falafel wrap or as a dip for chicken kebabs.

Cacik is traditionally made with yogurt but I find it a bit too soupy that way. We’ve substituted Labne, Mediterranean yogurt cheese which is very simply yogurt with the water strained out. Imagine sour cream and cream cheese’s love child. Have I peaked your interest? I thought so. It is as scrumptious as it sounds. It is a staple in our home and it is perfect in this dish.

Cacik is made with wholesome ingredients and although it has a rich creamy flavor, it is high in healthy fats, calcium, protein and vitamins A and C. Eat this and you are simply winning all around.

Turkish Cacik

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Ingredients

  • 16 oz labne (Mediterranean Yogurt Cheese)
  • 1/2 English Cucumber, grated
  • 2 tbsp mint, minced
  • salt to taste, I used approximately 1 tsp
  • olive oil, drizzled on top
  • paprika, sprinkled on top

Process

  1. Place labne, english cucumber, mint and salt in a bowl, stirring with a spoon to combine
  2. Drizzle olive oil on top
  3. Sprinkle paprkia on top
  4. Serve as a dip for pita bread, falafel, chicken… or simply eat alone as a snack
Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes and Cheesy Herb Bread. 

Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes and Cheesy Herb Bread. 

Hi, my name is Sam. I’m 30 years old, married, have a 2 year old daughter and I am living with my in laws. This is a reality I could not have guessed for myself. Weren’t you supposed to have your life figured out at 30? Seems the older I get, the more I realize just how clueless I really am. Life is one big experiment and we’re all trying our best to thrive in each moment while dodging the inevitable catastrophic explosions. I won’t get in to the long story with you now but I will say this, my thyroid has been acting up and we had to rule out cancer. For those of you who aren’t familiar with that process, it’s an expensive one. Fortunately, very fortunately, I’m in the clear. Yay!! 😊 UN-fortunately, I’m down nearly 10 grand. Add that to the debt we were already nursing and you’ve got many thousand really good reasons to move in with your parents

As uncomfortable as it can be to share a space with your in laws, especially my in laws, there are enough perks that I think I can overlook the pitfalls for a few months. First, we’ll be saving nearly 3,000 dollars a month. Can you believe that? California, you are so obscenely expensive… good thing you are so effing purty. Secondly, living with my MIL means more help with my daughter. Get this – I was able to just up and drive off to my dentist appointment this morning. I didn’t have to bust my ass finding a sitter I didn’t trust or have to bring her along for a sweaty, traffic filled, hour long car ride. Nope. I.simply.went.by.myself. Gah! It was almost like I was a single unattached adult human again. Aside from the 10 minute tantrum she threw as she clung to my leg, begging me not to go of course. Trivial details darlings. Point is, having G-ma in the same house is granting me daily slivers of much needed freedom. I’m grateful to say the least. Thirdly but arguably most importantly, my MIL is a phenomenal cook. She is of Armenian descent but was born and raised in Turkey. Her cooking is fresh, vibrant, flavorful and I can taste her heritage and her love of food in every bite. She passed along this bread recipe to me yesterday. We baked together for nearly 2 hours. At the end of it I had dough in my hair, flour on my clothes and a belly full of cheese. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, even if it is with your MIL. 😉

Gluten Free Cheesy Herb Bread 

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups gluten free flour, I used 1 cup buckwheat, 3/4 cup white rice and 1/2 cup garbanzo
  • 3 eggs
  • 1- 1 1/2 cup grated manchengo cheese
  • 1/4 cup dill, finely chopped
  • 1/3 bunch of italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 stalks of green onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Process

My favorite part of cooking with my Mama in law is watching the way she does things. She moves quickly, she makes a mess and she rarely measures anything out. She made a loaf with gluten – I watched her every forceful move and then copied her, sans gluten.

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Throw eggs in a bowl and using either a fork or an electric beater, beat until nice and frothy.
  3. Add in herbs, onions, oil and salt and mix together until combined – I used my clean hands. It’s more fun that way. 🙂
  4. Add in flour and baking powder and mix again until well incorporated. Since this recipe is gluten free you don’t have to worry about over mixing! You want to avoid over mixing wheat flour as it activates the gluten and can make your finished product firm, not fluffy and moist like you’d want. 
  5. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes.
  6. Let cool, slice and savor.

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Happy cooking loves!

XO ~ Sam

PS- Here are some of the pretty things I get to look at every day now… Maybe moving in with your in-laws isn’t all THAT bad after all. 😉

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Supermarket Musings and Beet-ganoush

Supermarket Musings and Beet-ganoush

We love Whole Foods around these parts. Yes, I mean the brick and mortar establishment. I assume the nourishing whole foods that we eat on the daily go without saying. 🙂 I can get utterly lost in Whole Foods. Their produce is absolutely gorgeous, their bulk section never ends and the layout is extremely visually captivating. The interior designer of that place needs a raise, immediately.

My love affair with Whole Foods is fairly superficial. I go inside, I look but I rarely buy. I mean who can afford those prices? Not me, not now anyway. So I longingly wander the aisles, sporting a big she boner and ultimately walk my proverbial blue balls straight on down to a place that I can afford, trusty old Berkeley Bowl.

If you don’t live in the east bay of California, it’s very likely you’ve never heard of Berkeley Bowl. Its an independent market that has only two locations. It’s nowhere near the eyegasm that Whole Foods is but dare I say, the produce selection is superior and at half the price! It’s a pretty rad supermarket and I feel lucky to have it so close, until I dump it’s ass for Whole Foods when I hit the mega jackpot that is. 😉

While I was perusing the cheese aisle of Berkeley Bowl a few days ago, I noticed an employee handing out free samples of some purple looking goop on gluten free crackers. I had my daughter with me so naturally she grabbed at it. She acts like a starved homeless child around other people’s food but at our dinner table, she often can’t be bothered. She may be single handedly responsible for my growing wrinkles. Anyway, after further inspection I realized the spread was made of beets. What an awesome idea I thought. The flavor was pretty good but I knew I could improve upon it. I was excited to get home and play.

Beet-ganoush

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Ingredients

  • 4 beets, boiled and peeled
  • 1/2 cup soaked almonds
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 tbsp miso
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin

Process

  1. Place beets in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy
  2. Add in all other ingredients and process until well combined
  3. Spread on crackers, cucumbers or use as a spread for a sandwich… this would be incredible on so many things, your imagination is the limit.

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Nom nom nom nom…

XO ~Sam

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Celery Onion Soup

Celery Onion Soup

I’m one of those nutty people who adores celery. I like it so much that I’d prefer if you didn’t muck it up with peanut butter or cheese or ranch dressing or any of the other toppings that most people turn to to make celery palatable. I love it just as it is, in its crunchy, fibrous, earthy perfection. I realize that I am in the minority. This last weekend I had a 20 minute conversation at a good friend’s birthday party about how much this particular group of people disliked celery. They all agreed that they had trouble getting it down without covering it in gobs of something else. I recently found an article written exclusively about the author’s seething hatred for this delicious and endlessly nutritious vegetable. Looking for a good laugh? Check it out here. My husband belongs to the ‘not so crazy about celery’ club. He’ll eat it but he definitely won’t be doing a happy dance about it. Just why are so many adverse to this nutritionally dense stick of deliciousness? It’s beyond me, really.

As most of us can agree, winter is the season for soup. Soup is warming, soup is comforting, soup is a wonderful way to pack a bunch of nutrition into one pot. My favorite thing about making soup? Clean up is virtually nonexistent. How cool is it to have only 1 pot and 2 bowls to clean after bopping around in the kitchen for an hour or more? So very cool.

So, on a recent particularly chilly day, I decided to marry my love of soup and my love of celery. When I told my sweetheart of a hubby that I’d be making celery soup for dinner, he so tried to put on a happy face… but his underlying disappointment didn’t get past me. I let him wallow in his trepidation a bit while I went to work on changing his mind.

Celery Onion Soup

Ingredients

  • 7 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 large leek, finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 large shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup ghee (Use butter or coconut oil if you’d prefer)
  • 4 cups bone broth (I recommend using homemade broth for increased depth of flavor and nutrition boost, use regular chicken broth if you prefer. Use veggie broth or water to make this vegetarian)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Process

  1. In a large pot, melt ghee on medium to high heat.
  2. Add all the different onions, garlic, salt, pepper and garlic powder and sauté for 10 minutes or so, stirring every couple of minutes.
  3. Add celery and cook for another 4-5 minutes or until tender
  4. Add broth and bring to a boil.
  5. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 40-45 minutes.
  6. Using an immersion blender, (if you don’t own one, use a standing blender, blending in batches) purée soup until smooth and creamy.
  7. Add sour cream and whisk together until just combined.
  8. Season with more salt and pepper to taste

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This soup was a home run. I topped it with some *gluten-free croutons and Hubby eagerly gobbled it up. He was very impressed and graciously made sure I knew it. ‘Babe, this is ridiculously good. I was a little worried when you told me we were having celery soup. I shouldn’t have been. This blew my mind.’ If I can blow his mind with a soup made with 7 whole stalks of celery, I’m pretty sure I can do anything…

*Gluten free croutons were made by chopping up half of this gluten-free baguette into little crouton shaped bites. Cook in a pan with ghee and salt for about 8 minutes or until they start to nicely crisp.*