The first blooms of jasmine kind of make me want to stay in California forever. I love how spring comes alive in a tidal rush here. It’s so different from the trickle of crocus that would spread slowly across our New York garden. I still haven’t quite figured out gardening on our shaded terrace, but I will.
We started our Easter with amazing almond pancakes. I didn’t have the recommended blanched almond flour, but using almond meal. It still worked well. They reminded me of Rhode Island Johnny Cakes, with the texture of coarse cornmeal. The almond meal was perfectly toasty when browned on a well oiled cast iron griddle. This recipe takes a whole tablespoon of vanilla extract. Fortunately, we made tons of bottles at Christmas. It was sort of an investment in our baking future. At least that’s how I justified buying half a pound of wholesale vanilla beans. J is a pancake fiend and loved these cakes. I’m sure they will be added to our Sunday breakfast rotation.
Recipe slightly adapted from Comfy Tummy
1 1/2 cups almond meal (or blanched almond flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup almond milk
oil to brush skillet
Combine the dry ingredients, make a well in the center and add wet ingredients. Combine well and cook over medium low heat using about 3 tablespoons per pancake. Turn as soon as the cakes are firm enough to flip. Serve warm.
I found this recipe made about 11 small pancakes.
J and I have been making an effort to make as many meals as possible at home. I often pack a lunch to take with me, and have even purchased an old school Thermos. On days that I am working from home, I like to take a couple of minutes to pull together a quick lunch. I will be sharing a few ideas for very simple lunches for one with as few ingredients as possible. This salad makes use of what are possibly the best raisins in the world. Really, that isn’t hyperbole. They are so good and are made of all different kinds of grapes, as you can see below. We bought them from one of the grape stands at the farmers’ market. Unfortunately, they only dry raisins during grape season. They are the star of this simple salad, but you could also use dried cranberries, fresh grapes or any raisins you have on hand. The idea is to make this as easy as possible!
Salad with Chicken and Raisins
2 cups of mixed salad greens
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp raisins
1 chicken breast, skin removed and shredded
pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
When I am in a rush, I don’t bother to mix a real dressing together. I just pour the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper over the salad and raisins and shake it together in a container with a lid before topping it with the shredded chicken.
Anyone have ideas to share for interesting lunches for one?
On afternoons when I am working at home, I love to have a pot of soup simmering on the stove. This soup is great because it doesn’t require a lot of prep work and it comes together really quickly. It doesn’t need to cook down for hours because most of the flavor is developed in the first 25 minutes when the tomatoes and garlic are roasting in the oven. It helps to use really good tomatoes. I used a random mixture of heirloom tomatoes from the farmers’ market. You could actually roast the tomatoes and garlic a day or so ahead and combine it with the rest of the ingredients when you are ready to serve it. The mixture of roasted and fresh tomatoes is a great contrast. I like to top it with freshly chopped dill and a drizzle of coconut milk, but it is great unadorned!
Roasted Tomato Dill Soup
3 large tomatoes, or a mixture of tomatoes yielding about 3 cups
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt, plus additional to taste
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup fresh dill, plus extra for serving
1/4 cup coconut milk for serving (optional)
Slice the two large tomatoes and gently dry them. Place them on a pan without overlapping the slices, add whole cloves of garlic and 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper (no oil). Roast at 475 for 25 minutes, allow to cool slightly. Combine the unheated stock, tomato paste and roasted tomatoes in a pot and blend with an immersion blender. Bring to a simmer and stir in fresh cherry tomatoes, chopped dill, red pepper flakes and taste for seasoning. Serve with extra dill and coconut milk.
These delicate salmon cakes are grain-free, flavorful and healthy. They are a great alternative to crab cakes. Unlike heavier fish cakes, these are really delicate. They are perfect served with a salad or you can go against the whole grain free thing and eat them on a sandwich like J did. I love salmon broiled simply with olive oil, salt and pepper. However, J isn’t such a fan of plain salmon, but he will eat it if it is dressed up a bit. He really loved these, and they are a great use of my leftover plain salmon. That makes this recipe pretty perfect in my book.
Grain-Free Salmon Cakes
Adapted from Balanced Bites
8-10 oz. salmon fillet, cooled and flaked
1/4 onion, very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp coconut flour
2 tbsp finely chopped chives (Dill or parsley would also work well.)
zest and juice from 1 lemon
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of pepper
Enough oil for shallow frying (sunflower, coconut or any high heat oil you prefer)
Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Shape the cakes into portions of about 2 tablespoons each using your hands. They will be delicate and can be arranged on a plate prior to cooking. Heat a pan over medium high heat and add enough oil to fully cover the bottom. Once the pan is heated, gently add the cakes without crowding them. When they are brown on one side, carefully flip them. Once cooked, serve immediately. I think they are great with fresh lemon and a light sprinkling of sea salt.
I often like to serve in season fruit plain and unadorned. Cherries and most berries usually just get washed before they make it to the table. Peaches are the exception to this rule. I love them baked, in savory dishes and in salads. I have been making some version of this salad nearly everyday for lunch. This plan will continue until they disappear from our farmers’ market. This peach, sunflower seed and tomato combination is one of my favorites. It is followed closely by peaches, raspberries and slivered almonds over greens. I like using the ratio of 1 peach: 2 tsp something crunchy: 3 cups of greens: 3 tbsp of dressing for two people. A perfectly ripe tomato, handful of raspberries or avocado slices are a nice bonus.
I think it is all about getting the right balance of sweet, crunchy, greens and acidity. The sweetness of the peaches pair really well with a more acidic dressing. For this salad, I just whisked together 2 parts balsamic vinegar with one part olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Sometimes there is no reason to make things more complicated, and this makes for a simple and easy weekday lunch.
Peach, Tomato and Sunflower Seed Salad
1 ripe yellow peach, sliced
2 tbsp of raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1 tomato, diced
3 cups of spring mix
For the dressing:
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, the juice of a lemon wedge whisked together.
I like to toss all the ingredients in the dressing and save the sliced peaches to add to the top.
Check out some other ideas for peaches from the archives:
I have had chimichurri that is far too vinegary or garlicy, but I think this version strikes a nice balance. For me, it is all about adding some lemon to brighten the flavors and using a mellower vinegar that doesn’t overpower the herbs. Chimichurri is traditionally served in Argentina with steak. I actually used the leftovers as a dressing for greens, tomatoes and beans. It pairs well with any protein, and I have even seen it mixed with pasta. It’s really easy to make and worth having extra to pull together quick weeknight dinners.
1 cup of flat leaf parsley, chopped with the stems removed
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp vinegar (I used white balsamic vinegar)
4 cloves of garlic
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 lemon zested and juiced
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
I prefer this to be a fairly smooth texture, and pulsed the ingredients in food processor until well combined.
We bought a bunch of perfectly ripe peaches at the market this weekend, and I knew I wanted to use some to make a salsa. This was was so good you could really just eat it with a spoon, but I served it with a roast chicken breast. I knew I would be alone for dinner tonight, and I have no problem making a special dinner for one. In fact, I like it. Usually, I just make something J hates, but since I knew he would love this I made extra to send with him for lunch. I will be making more of this salsa next week and hopefully buying extra peaches for making jam. I’m feeling ambitious.
Peach and Basil Salsa
3 1/2 cups of diced yellow peaches (about 3-4 peaches depending on size)
1/4 cup diced onion
juice of one lime
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup basil, lightly packed
pinch of salt
Toss all the chopped ingredients together with the lime juice, salt and cayenne pepper. Allow to sit for about five minutes prior to serving. It is best served the same day, but you can refrigerate it overnight if necessary.
My Italian grandmother used to make the best Eggplant Parmesan. She would fry delicate slices of eggplant and bake the layers covered in cheese and sauce. This is not that dish. In fact, she would probably shudder at this quick version. But, that’s okay because it’s really delicious and a perfect quick weeknight meal. Roasting the eggplant prior to adding the sauce eliminates the need to fry it and makes for a much less messy process.
I feel like a need to add a quick word about vegan ‘cheese’…most of it is awful. Sorry, it just is. I think you just need to try a few kinds and see what tastes best to you. I don’t eat it often and only serve it melted. If you eat dairy, it would also be great with regular mozzarella cheese!
I always like to top baked dishes like this with fresh herbs. When I made this I had some fresh oregano on hand. It is also great topped with chopped fresh basil or parsley.
Vegan Eggplant ‘Parmesan’
8 Japanese Eggplant
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups vegan or regular mozzarella
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil or oregano for serving
Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch thick rounds and top with salt, pepper, oregano, garlic and olive oil, arrange in a single layer in a baking dish or individual heatproof dishes, bake 450 for twenty minutes, remove from the oven and add sauce and cheese and bake for another 20 minutes Raise the heat to broil and bake two additional minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Allow to cool for about five minutes prior to serving. Top with freshly chopped herbs.
I sometimes feel a little silly posting smoothie ‘recipes’ since they are so simple, but I know I am always looking for new ideas. The coconut flour in this makes it a little thicker and creamier. This trick works fairly well as a substitute for yogurt if you don’t eat dairy. I used a strong chai blend of black tea, cardamon, black pepper, cinnamon and other spices.The spiciness of the chai pairs well with the banana and adds just enough sweetness. You could always add a bit of honey if your banana is under ripe or you just prefer it a little sweeter.
Banana Chai Smoothie
1 very ripe banana
1 cup strongly brewed chai (2 teabags or equivalent per 1 cup of water)
1 tbsp coconut flour
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 cups ice
Brew the chai and allow to cool completely. Combine all the ingredients and pulse in a blender until completely smooth! This makes about 2-3 servings.
It may be July, but I already have Christmas gifts on my mind. I knew I wanted to give vanilla extract a try after seeing how easy it can be to make. I recruited my mother-in-law to help with the project. We pick up several liters of decent vodka. I had ordered these pretty bottles with airtight stoppers and Madagascar vanilla beans. Each vanilla bean was slit in half with two per bottle. Each 8.5 fl. oz. bottle were filled to the base of the neck with vodka and now they will sit for several months. The color will darken to a deep amber as the vanilla steeps. When I head back the west coast, my mother-in-law has generously agreed to shake them every few weeks so they will be ready for Christmas gifts in December.
1/4 pound Madagascar Vanilla Beans
12 8.5 fl. oz. airtight bottles (or any airtight bottle you have on hand)
4 1.75 liters of vodka
Split the vanilla beans, drop at least two pods into each bottle and fill with vodka and allow to sit for at least two months in a cool dark location shaking occasionally.