Blueberry lemon scones (vegan)

It’s the end of summer… and no Minnesota State Fair feels like there’s punctuation missing from the end of the sentence. Added to that is this is the first year in 20 that our house isn’t getting ready to start school. Weird. That pretty much sums up 2020.

It’s hard to see him behind the mask, but to celebrate Avery’s high school graduation, he and Matt took a float fishing trip in Wisconsin right before Av left for Connecticut in late August. He’s playing hockey out there, living with a “billet” host family. It’s the first time he’s had to share a room 😉

With one less ravenous monster to feed, it’s been a little quieter, even if not the true empty nest we were expecting. Alec is taking one class online and working as a swim coach as his College decided to go virtual at least until February. We’re trying to make the best out of it by getting out for takeout at new places—with a local juice bar’s açaí bowls a new favorite.

Alec is 21 now so craft cocktails are fun too. It’s a joy to have extra time with him ….he discusses things as an adult…I think this quiet time has helped him get more clear on his dreams and next steps, putting things in perspective.

With fall clearly in the air here in Minnesota, we’re focusing on shifting back into indoor coping mechanisms with cooking near the top of my list. I am finding creative ways to use up my herbs before the freeze. Pesto, sage pesto, chimichurri, smashed rosemary sage garlic potatoes, dill in the weekly refrigerator pickles and mint in anything and everything. Soon enough it’s back to store bought.

And of course tomatoes and fresh tomato sauce. Even better with tomatoes from Uncle Wayne’s garden and fresh basil. Sigh. If I have learned anything it’s one day at a time. And a bowl of pasta with fresh sauce always makes it better.

Ps This scone recipe is an easy riff on the strawberry shortcake we fell in love with earlier this summer. It comes together fast! Don’t overmix the dough 😁

Blueberry lemon scones (vegan)

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups plant milk (prefer Califia coconut milk)
  • 1/2 cup unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon peel
  • Turbinado or raw sugar for sprinkling

Mix dry ingredients. Tip: spoon flour into measuring cup to get the most accurate measure.

Add coconut oil and milk, mix to just combine. It should be crumbly. Gently fold in blueberries and lemon zest. Drop into ~8 free form mounds. Sprinkle tops with sugar.

Bake on parchment at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 minutes.

Dog days

It’s the dog days of summer. The cats and I are in heaven. Heat. Humidity. Sun. It’s fantastic!

I am so thankful for the pool being open! Swimming outside is a true joy for me and each visit restores my soul.

We’re about one month from empty nest now. Alec goes back to college in Chicago in 2 weeks and Avery has decided on a hockey team in Connecticut. It’s surreal after all of this time together—more than my maternity leave—that soon we will be far apart again. I am glad for the boys to be moving forward and hopeful for their health and safety.

In the meantime I am spoiling them rotten with their favorite foods and trying new ones.

We were honored to try a new local chef’s Mediterranean takeout, Dervish Mazza. Fun tapas style dips and snacks. Winner!

It’s berry season and I found an awesome strawberry shortcake recipe (vegan)! It’s soooooo fantastic!! I use coconut oil for the fat and it really makes for a moist flavorful cake. I ❤️ fresh local strawberries! And can even find great nondairy whipped cream or ice cream.

Speaking of favorites… I don’t know what I love more, fresh local cherry tomatoes (the purple ones especially!) or Door County Wisconsin cherries! I don’t care how much they cost, yes please!

Avocado cucumber soup. Green goop? You betcha! Anything avocado. Thank you Martha, as always, for this winning recipe. It’s like gazpacho but more satisfying. Eating it at the lake helps too. Kayaking amongst the loons is restorative.

In our first happy hour out in public (and his first visit to a cocktail room), Alec and I enjoyed local distillery Dampfwerk. This watermelon/lime gin cocktail “take home” kit was just what we needed for Saturday night patio time. I am going to miss him!!

Peace to you all…

Watermelon sashimi (vegan)

Trompe l’oeil? Does this watermelon actually fool the eye and look like sashimi grade tuna? Not quite. 😉

But it’s tasty, easy and healthy.

I love the taste of watermelon but detest cutting it up. Somehow everything ends up sticky, reminding me of ants at a picnic.

Cutting the thin slices of watermelon is the hardest part of this recipe and I was glad to put my knife skills to the test. It gave me something mindful to do. Slices also made it less messy to eat somehow. Huh.

I wanted to make something special for our Father’s Day dinner. It was the first time our family has been together in months. It was soooooo exciting to be around other humans! I literally spent the afternoon prepping the apps and myself (aka actually showering and getting dressed). Such an adventure after so long without it.

In other news, life slowly returns. Hockey has kicked back in, Avery’s HS had a “drive in” commencement and Alec’s college is planning to reopen in August (with new restrictions including some students living in hotels to honor distancing, pretty resourceful).

I am verrrrrry excited for the outdoor pool to open next week. This is the longest any of us have gone without our respective sports. My mental health will be much improved! I have been making do with a substitute of biking with my new cruiser…isn’t the basket cool?! The boys call me Dorothy. I am thinking about getting one of the cats🙀 to ride up front.

This experience has given us perspective and a willingness to try new things, and let go of others. I am grateful for the slower, quieter pace and the irony of our last few months before being empty nesters having the birds home with us for more family time than we have ever had together.

I can get over sticky messes.

Watermelon sashimi (vegan)

  • 1/2 seedless watermelon, thinly sliced into 4” shingles
  • 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced and seeded
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced and soaked in water
  • Tamari (approximately 1/4 cup), adjust to your flavor preferences
  • Black and white sesame seeds

Assemble by layering watermelon, jalapeño, onion and sesame seeds. Sprinkle with Tamari and allow to marinate about 30 minutes. Not too long or it’ll get mushy.

Creative quarantine and hummus recipe (vegan)

“Are you kidding me? Is this for real? Didn’t you buy this 2 days ago?”

Yes, yes I did buy that half gallon of ice cream 2 days ago. And yes it’s almost gone. And no I don’t eat it so I didn’t notice it was almost gone. But yes this is what happens when 2 grown boys/ men are stuck inside. They eat.

It’s only been just about 2 weeks of shelter in place self-quarantine, but time seems to have taken on another dimension. Slower? But warped? It feels like a holiday break except there’s no big family dinners. Just the 4 of us. All close together. All the time.

So as of yesterday, I decided I needed some behavior adjustments and made 5 commitments to myself:

  • Hygiene. Did I really have to make a rule for this? Apparently. Skipping showers and wearing pajamas longer than appropriate needs to end.
  • Self care. Yes, this is a category different from hygiene. It’s exercise, meditation, not overeating or drinking. 5 days a week may be more realistic than every day.
  • Work boundaries. Be more intentional about turning it off. It’s easy to overwork as a form of coping.
  • Fellowship. Family, friends, online connections. Reach out daily to a few. We started a Sunday family Zoom meeting. It’s highly entertaining 🤣
  • Creative endeavors. Coloring, writing, cooking, blogging. Catching up on reading blogs I follow and trying recipes!

Yes, these rules seem kinda basic, but it’s clear that I need better routines to adjust to the current situation.

I have been making at least one new recipe a week. A roasted carrot farro fennel salad. Green curry zoodles with roasted shiitakes. Hummus this week…I will never buy it again! I have plenty of time to make it 😁

Hummus (vegan)

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic smashed
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • Salt
  • 3 tbsp cold water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Puree chickpeas in food processor until smooth. Add garlic, tahini, salt and lemon juice. Process until smooth. Add water and olive oil. Allow to set for 30 minutes.

Eat it before the boys find it. Hide it behind the tofu.

Shepherds Pie (Vegan)

It’s day 6 of staying in. New habits are setting in. Things are slowing down; we’re eating more meals together. We’re trying new things—like using Zoom for Sunday family time. Highly entertaining! We’ll get better at it, but it’s nice to see everyone’s faces 😊

While we chatted with my sister and her family and our parents, I had this dinner in the oven. Now it could be that my standards have lowered, but I thought this turned out divinely! Flavor and texture were excellent. And an easy make ahead.

The key difference in this version is the mushroom/lentil combo. I thought I had too many creminis, but actually they cook down so much it was just right. I thought the lentils might get dry, but so long as you have a large can of tomato sauce, you’re good…just keep adding it if you need to as it simmers. They break down well into a texture very similar to the original.

This is also a dish where superior technique makes the difference on mashed potatoes. I stand by 2 things when it comes to potatoes: the heating of liquids (butter, creamer) and using a potato ricer. It makes for the lightest mashed potatoes! They look odd coming out, but create great consistency.

I wish I had tried veganizing this recipe earlier in winter!

Shepherds pie (vegan)

  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 8 oz vegan butter, divided
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 3/4 cup frozen mixed vegetables
  • 12 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 can lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup plant creamer
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Dash of cayenne
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper

Melt 1/2 tbsp of butter, sauté onion, celery, carrot for 5 minutes until just getting soft. Add garlic and mushrooms, stir and cook 1 minute. Add frozen vegetables and cook another 2 minutes. Add lentils. Add seasonings and tomato sauce. Stir to combine. Allow to cook slowly while making the mashed potatoes (you may even turn the heat off completely and just allow the herbs to do their thing).

Cook the potatoes. Heat remaining butter and creamer for 1 minute in microwave. Drain and Rice potatoes into hot liquids.

Remove bay leaves from base mixture and place into casserole dish. Top with potatoes. Dot with butter for a browner top. Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Tofu Thai peanut bowls (vegan)

Despite toilet paper hysteria, we’re not adjusting our shopping routine. Once a week. Maybe that’ll change in the coming weeks, but right now we’re calm. We’d heard stories about empty grocery store shelves, but found everything in stock at our local coop. Thankfully no one made a run on fresh fennel (yet) 😉

Being socially distanced means I have time to play with my new toy: a sous vide machine. Burgers last night and marinated soy sesame chicken breasts tonight for a quick Asian bowl. I am keeping calm by investing energy in creative pursuits!! The boys are happy because it involves meat.

It’s easy to drop the protein in a bag and let the sous vide do it’s thing. Basically the water slowly cooks the ingredient to a desired temperature and then holds it there without overcooking it because it’s in a Ziplock. You do it all via an app!

You don’t have to take it off when it’s done. It can stay in the water until you’re ready, which makes it super easy. For proteins it’s definitely a win. I have done carrots too which locks in the flavor and nutrients. I feel like a chef scientist!

As we were shopping this week, there was definitely an aura of “stocking up”, like what happens before a holiday or a snowstorm. When I looked in our cupboards, I realized how much we just have on hand. Those are some of my favorite meals—figuring out what to make based on random ingredients. Rice, peanuts and thai peanut sauce inspired this meal. We’re certainly not going to go without. I am very grateful.

I will be even more grateful when Alec returns from college (expected his classes will finish online this year) and Avery has just one more day before they break, and likely also move to a distance learning model. I will feel better with both baby birds in the nest, hopefully by end of the week.

Our world is changing. Fear and scarcity are the mindset of the day. I am hopeful that we come out of this with perspective on what needs to change in our culture. We have enough.

Tofu Thai peanut bowls (vegan)

  • 1/2 napa cabbage, chopped
  • 3 cups cooked Basmati rice
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • Serrano pepper, diced
  • Pickled red onions
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Dry roasted peanuts
  • Grilled marinated sesame soy tofu, extra firm
  • (Or Sesame soy marinated chicken breasts)
  • Sesame seeds, black and white
  • Thai peanut sauce

Slice extra firm tofu into 1/2” slices. Cover with paper towels and place heavy pan on top to remove excess liquid, About 30 minutes.

Slice 1/2 red onion thinly. Add 1 tbsp sugar and 2 tsp salt to 500mL vinegar (red wine and champagne or white vinegar mixture). Heat vinegar until sugar dissolves about 30 seconds. Red onions will be edible in about 30 minutes but better the next day 😉

Make rice.

Marinate tofu with soy/sesame oil and Sriracha mixture for 30 minutes. Grill the tofu.

Assemble the bowls using rice, cabbage, vegetables and accessorize to taste. Top with Thai peanut sauce.

(Not Grandma’s) refrigerator pickles

Pickles are expensive. Good ones, that is. The boys in my house eat a lot of sandwiches. Requiring pickles.

So in my effort to not spend $12 a week on pickles, I decided to give pickling a whirl. But not real pickling that involves boiling jars and possibly giving loved ones botulism. The kind for modern moms: stick it in the fridge in a glass storage container.

Refrigerator pickles are a piece of cake! They’re more cost conscious too. I am semi-embarrassed to post this because it’s not really cooking. It’s easy enough for anyone to do. (My grandmother would be horrified at my lack of canning skills.)

There once was a dream of mine to win the pickle competition at the MN State Fair Pickle so I could get my picture as Pickle Queen on the Gedney jar. <sigh>

I should design a logo for these: Pittman’s perfectly petite pickles.

Refrigerator pickles (vegan)

  • 6 small cucumbers (Trader Joe’s is a good source)
  • 250 ml water
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 250 ml white vinegar
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • Crushed black pepper
  • 3-4 dashes hot sauce
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh dill

Heat up the water for about 30 seconds in the microwave. Add salt, stir until dissolved. Add vinegar, black pepper and hot sauce. Pour over the thinly sliced cucumbers, add crushed garlic, coriander and dill. Passable in 30 minutes but ideal around 3 days. I don’t know if they go funky after awhile. They never last that long.

Coconut Chia pudding (vegan)

Chia pudding with granola and berries

Time for breakfast

It’s been a wild ride these last 2 months, which I am thankful for because it made the darkest days of winter go by quickly!

The boys both finished up their sports this last week and it’s been a bit emotional to start to feel the end of a life phase. Avery ended his high school hockey career with an impressive 50 point season. We’re now waiting for the scouting/recruiting/tryout process for junior hockey to know where he’ll end up next year.

Avery @ Hockey senior day

I missed senior day for Avery while in Iowa for Alec’s swim championships. It was an exciting weekend for the Lake Forest women to defeat perennial powerhouse Grinnell. Alec swam great, including winning the mile in a school record time and NCAA D3 cut. It’s joyful to watch his hard work payoff!

Alec mile conference champ!

During the hockey season breakfast is often the only meal we eat together and I have found joy in getting up early to prep it, knowing it’s only a few more months of Avery at home and our nest is empty!

While I usually prep “regular” breakfast for him, I have simplified my breakfast routine by using one of the daily featured menu items from our recent Baja wellness vacation. Coconut Chia pudding with granola and fruit is ready ahead and provides enough whole grains and fiber to keep me sated. And yes, while this is a breakfast item, it is great later in the day too!

I kind of think of eating the same healthy breakfast every day like one of the Jedi efficiency hacks people like Mark Zuckerberg tout (he wears the same thing every day).

The one decision that removes 100.

The logic is to not spend brain energy on “easy” decisions so that you can focus on the more challenging ones. It’s also the same approach as the one decision that eliminates 100 decisions. Ie, Opting out of social media means hundreds of notifications eliminated daily.

I mention these efficiency hacks because life is truly a whirlwind right now between family and work, as the new business is getting its legs. I have had to make some choices about where to spend my time. My creative energies have been invested in work vs blogging, and I am ok with that for now even though I miss it and interacting with all of you 😊

Coconut Chia pudding with granola and berries (vegan)

Chef Efrain’s recipe from Prana del Mar.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of chia seeds
  • 500 ml of coconut milk
  • 500 ml of rice milk
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of chopped dry dates (prefer Medjool)
  • 50 ml of coconut cream (the solid part on the top of a coconut milk can)
  • 1/4 cup of dry coconut
  • 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds

Directions:

– Soak chia seeds in soy and rice milk, stir gently.

– Add vanilla, cinnamon, coconut cream, and dry dates. Cover and store in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight to thicken.

– Make sure your pudding looks thick and the chia seeds have gelled. Sprinkle with dry coconut and pumpkin seeds, granola and berries.

Travelogue: Cabo San Lucas, MX

Oh the fantastic warmth of the sand and crashing sounds of the mighty Pacific! We have spent a week in pure bliss at a yoga wellness retreat center, Prana del Mar, just outside of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Neither Matt nor I have ever done an extended wellness vacation like this, so going into it we were probably “apprehensive” at best. Wow. Serious eye opener and an absolute week of bliss.

I have never felt so spoiled! Redefines luxury not to the ideals of material luxury, but soul luxury. Every detail was considered to make our lives easier. Chef Efrain prepared special vegan meals just for me! I am so grateful to have had time to care and recover in such a beautiful environment. (Rooftop view out to the Pacific).

Our daily routine was:

  • Pre-breakfast smoothie/fruit/nuts/coffee
  • Yoga
  • Real breakfast
  • Laps in the pool or activities (whale watching on the Sea of Cortez, surfing, cooking class)
  • Lunch
  • Chill
  • Meditation
  • Dinner
  • Bed

Eating vegan is already healthy, but I also learned how dependent on carbs/pasta I am. We ate very little rice and no pasta or bread. Both of us noticed a significant difference in our digestive health including more “even” energy levels.

I will post some recipes, but the most significant learnings were:

  • Avocado cartels. I didn’t realize that the global demand for avocados has become as serious as the drug trade in Mexico. I understand now why the cost is significantly different at the coop, which uses responsible sourcing. Avocado toast and guacamole mean something different now.
  • Nut soups. Walnut and pistachio soup?! Yum. And easy. The base for all soups is the same, with finishing touches creating flavor differences.
  • Oils. EVOO should not be heated. What?! Avocado oil is better, and regular olive oil should be used when richer flavor is needed. Adding olive oil to both guacamole and cold soups (watermelon, apple, cucumber) adds richness and depth.
  • Chia pudding for breakfast. I am a HUGE fan now, plus understand the additional nutrients from the seeds. Super easy to make ahead+granola+fruit.
  • Watermelon and beet sashimi. ‘Nuff said.
  • …More to come with recipes!

  • Potatoes dauphinoise (vegan)

    There are some recipes that are simply classic. This potato dish is from Julia Child and comes out of one of my favorite cookbooks, Julia and Jacques Cook At Home.

    I greatly admire Julia’s no-nonsense style both in her cooking and her on camera personality. I wonder what she would say about her classic being made without butter or cream! No doubt an honest assessment. 😇

    One of the reasons this recipe rocks is because it has so few ingredients. Other than peeling and slicing the potatoes, it’s a piece of cake. You can pretty much use whatever plant dairy you have on hand whether it’s a creamer or just milk. You also don’t have to measure but simply pour until it covers the potatoes.

    I was skeptical plant butter would give it the browning on top that makes for the original recipe’s just slightly crunchy texture, but it was perfect! It was just the warmup for our first snowstorm (6-9″ on Thanksgiving Eve, 😆).

    Potatoes dauphinoise (vegan)

    • 3 lbs Yukon gold or russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced using either a food processor or mandolin. Do not rinse the sliced potatoes! It adds to the creamy texture.
    • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
    • 2 tsp+ salt
    • Nondairy creamer/milk (about 3 cups)
    • 3 tbsp nondairy butter

    Butter the casserole dish. Place the smashed garlic in the bottom of the dish, season with salt. Place the potatoes in, and pour in enough creamer to cover. Chunk up the butter and place on top.

    Put the casserole dish on the stove and bring liquid to a simmer. (Now’s a good time to carefully check seasoning. You may want to add salt. )

    Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes. Check for doneness by using a knife to poke the middle. It should be soft.

    Original recipe from Julia: