Saturday, December 26, 2015

Citrus Baked Salmon with Pomegranate

I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday season.  We celebrate Christmas and had family in town.  Now we are trying to justify our food choices and figure out a plan of action.  This dish is on the menu for the week.

If you know a thing or two about Oregon then you know that Oregonians love their salmon.  Our home sits on a bay.  When the weather is good you will find many fishermen up early trying to land a popular Chinook Salmon.

Driving around you will see these said fishermen piled into flat boats all fishing in the same place.  Seriously, you will see 8-10 boats all together with their lines out.  Sometimes you mights see 30 or 40 fishing boats in one spot.  It's a sight to see and during PEAK season--good luck finding parking to even get your boat in the water.

Personally I don't have that kind of desire to hunt fish with a community effort. If we go, I prefer sitting by a quiet creek with little to no foot traffic or boats by the dozen.

We have yet to catch our own salmon.  Cory bought the gear and has tried a few times with his brother from the shore but without a boat I hear it can be tough. Eventually we may have to get a boat.  Although with the amount of rain we might be building an ark soon.

For now I get our salmon like most people do.  At the store.  I try to buy the freshest pieces I can.  Again, this is not hard in my area because we live in a fishing community and I go to the boat and buy it from the mornings catch.  Yes, we are spoiled that way.

If you read my blog, then you know that we don't eat much meat.  We do eat fish on occasion.  Let me explain.  Our not eating meat has nothing to do with animal cruelty.  I am opposed to inhumane conditions of these factory farms that are horrible to their animals.  I don't buy from these places when we do eat meat.  I try to shop locally from sustainable LOCAL farmers and fishermen.  I know the people who are raising the little meat that we do eat.    For me, it is a protein issue.  My body does not like animal protein.  I am able to eat fish without any visible or noticeable issues.  

For this recipe I wanted to try and experiment with spices and herbs.  I went with a coconut and orange juice bath with slices of oranges and lemons.  I added whole anise and cinnamon sticks while the fish was baking.  I also seasoned with salt, pepper, thyme, garlic, and onion salt.  Use any spices you want.  My thinking was to go with flavors that I thought went well together: orange and cinnamon.  These two flavors remind me of winter.  

It's winter.  It's cold.  We had salmon.  Simple stuff Maynard.

Citrus Baked Salmon with Pomegranate 

1 large filet of salmon, this piece measured about 15 inches long
2 oranges (1 for juice and 1 slices to bake with fish)
1 lemon, sliced
1/2 pomegranate, seeds only
2 whole anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 can of full fat coconut milk
2 teaspoons curry powder
salt, pepper to taste
garlic powder
onion powder
fresh thyme, minced

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Oil a baking dish.  Lay filet in the bottom of baking dish.

2.  Add all of the ingredients (except the pomegranate seeds).  The fat from the coconut milk I scooped on top (see picture above) and poured the liquid in the bottom of the dish.  I seasoned the fish by sprinkling said spices across the top. I don't have a heavy hand and never measure this method. I use it for all of my fish dishes.  It works for us.

3.  Lay the slices of lemon and orange across the salmon.  I added the juice from one orange to the coconut milk--notice the orange color when baked--to add flavor and to extend the broth.

4.  Bake fish until flaky.  Salmon cooks fairly fast.  I usually check it after 15 minutes.  Each oven is different so keep that in mind.

5.  We serve the salmon in steaks over rice and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds for color and flavor.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Toasted Cashews

Are you going nuts yet?  Only a few more days before Christmas.  My house is a buzz with anxious adults and strung out kids.  They are way too excited this year.  The two year old is figuring things out pretty fast and the 8 year old is keeping her promise to not sleep much until Christmas day.  Send wine!

Our family eats a lot of nuts.  Even as a kid, I loved nuts.  One memory I have from my childhood are the bowls of nuts my grandparents had sitting around their home during the Christmas season.  They had the nut crackers and those thin picks.  Oh the piles of shells.  They were everywhere.  The grown ups from my childhood didn't know how to get up and throw the piles of shells away. I guess the Elf on the Shelf did that.

I tried the whole nut thing with my family and they did not care for it. Honestly I think it was too messy for their liking.  It's kind of like eating crab. My kids love it as long as I pick the meat out for them.  LOL

This is how we do holiday nuts in our house.  I have been toasting my own nuts for about 5 years.  The process is simple and I don't get too fancy but you can if you like.  I use my cast iron pans because it evenly heats the whole pan and they just turn out better each time I make them than when I use any other pan.

I buy my nuts raw and in a 25 pound bag. I store them in the freezer.  It takes us about 4-6 months to use them up and I find that they may go bad if I keep them in a drawer.  I toast them from a frozen state and have not had any problems with them turning out.

I use vegetable oil because olive oil can be too strong for my family and their taste buds.  I use flake salt to season them with after toasting.  I store them in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.  Honestly they rarely go this long because we add them to almost all of our salads and curry's.  

If I had to describe a toasted cashew it would be nutty creaminess.  The combination of the toasted outside combined with the sweet center is the perfect snack in my opinion.

Toasted Cashews 

2 cups of raw cashews, whole or halved
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt to taste

1.  Preheat a cast iron pan and add oil. Heat oil and toss cashews in.  Stir with a wooden spoon until nuts are brown on both sides.  Remove from heat to a paper towel and sprinkle with salt.

NOTE: Nuts will firm up once they are cool.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Free Form Rustic Tart with Berries

Yay, I finally found a pie I can make successfully.  What?  This isn't a pie--but, the crust is flaky and it has a fruit filling.   For me, this is pie at our house.

Confession time--I am the worst pie maker ever!  Have you ever noticed that I don't post pies during "pie season"?  It's not my thing.  It's my sister-n-law Amy's thing. She makes the best pies.

I make this instead.  Remember my blog is Simply Gourmet and I like to keep things simple.  This is simple because you roll it out flat, toss in your fruit, crimp the edges, and bake.

TA-DA--you have a Free Form Rustic Tart, a Galette or, in my case, a pseudo pie.

More than likely you will be covering it in whipped cream or ice cream anyways.

We like our version and my kids never complain except when the last piece is going out of the kitchen on someone else's plate.  Usually Dads!  HA HA HA


If you are hoping for a "fancy" recipe you won't find it here.  This is too simple for a formal recipe.  Here is what you do:

1.  Use your favorite pie crust recipe.  You know the one that has been handed down for generations and generations--yeah, that one.  If you don't have that recipe handy, then try this one here. It is my go to pie crust because the one I was given by my grandma... I can't make.  #terriblepiemakerremember

2.  Round up your fruit and some sugar.  I recommend trying your fruit first.  If it is sweet then only add a little bit of sugar...BUT...and this is huge, if your fruit is sour and tart and that is NOT what you are going for, THEN, just add the damn sugar.  It's a tart-pie-thingy.  A little sugar won't hurt.  I "PUCKERED" my family once with a super tart Tart and they were not happy.  Taste your fruit!

3.  Buy or make a whipped topping or ice cream.  It really does add to the experience as it melts over the fruit and down the sides of the tart to pool under each slice of deliciousness.  Trust me. 

Then make your daughter pose for a bunch of pictures on the day that she is waiting to here back about a job, her RX at the pharmacy is delayed and she has a cold from hell---promise her this pie-tart-thingy--and all is good.

The holidays are busy and can be stressful.  This dessert is simple. It looks gorgeous and whips together in no time. In fact, you can make it the day before and reheat it up in the oven.  How about that?

Let's make this thing.

Preheat your oven to 400, roll out your pie crust on parchment paper, transfer to a cookie sheet or round stone, add your fruit combined with sugar to taste (+plus 1 tablespoon corn starch), fold up the edges (see pictures) and bake.  My oven took 35-40 minutes.  I would check after 30 and then add more time as needed.

NOTE:  I used fresh fruit: raspberries, blueberries and slices of orange.  I have not made this with frozen fruit before.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Ramen rules the roost in our house.  I bet we make it twice a week. It is a dish everyone in our family will like and slurp up.  I rarely hear grunts, moans or words of displeasure of what we are having for lunch or dinner on these nights.

Our recipe for this dish is simple.  We use Japanese ramen noodles that I buy from Mai's (our local asian store in town) and use a vegetable broth seasoned with Tamari Sauce (gluten free soy sauce).  I have also thrown in a spoonful of miso soup base for added flavor. We include carrots, green onion, red onion and mushrooms.  We have also added: zucchini, hard boiled eggs, meat (if our guest eat meat), and celery.

Honestly, you can add anything you want to your ramen bowl.  The broth is a blank canvas and you can fill it up with what your family enjoys.  Make it your own. This is just what we do because its quick and makes the kids happy.  The kids don't want fancy or sophisticated.  It took me a while to figure this out but I am finally catching on to this whole parenting thing....kind of.

In fact, we eat ramen so much in our house during these cold and rainy days that I invested in a set of Ramen bowls.  I love them.  I tried to buy them all a bit different. I love how they all work together with their own vibrant patterns showing off their own ramen noodles.  I paid about $14.00 a piece for them.  I have no idea if this is a good deal or not...but, they have been used a ton in the last month we have owned them.

A few weeks ago Cory brought home a selection of ramen noodles.  I am not talking about the prepackaged/all in one ramen noodles that sell for 5/1.00.  These are ramen noodles sold like Italian pasta noodles.  We tried fresh, frozen and dried.  They were from 5 different countries.  To be honest, the differences were minor but we kept going back to the Japanese brand as our favorite.  The taste and texture fit with what our expectation of a ramen noodle should be like.

The kids could care less...they just want ramen noodles.

The Japanese ramen noodles were the most expensive so beware of price.  They all have different price points and different ingredients.  Some were made with 2 ingredients and others had 5-6.  If this is important to you then read the labels.

This is enough for 4 bowls.  The amounts will vary based on how many bowls you are preparing.  We usually plan on one cup of broth per bowl.  People are here for the noodles..LOL

4 cups of broth-vegetable, beef, or chicken
1-2 tablespoons of Tamari or Soy Sauce
1/4 cup of sliced red onion
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup green onion
1/4 cup sliced carrots
1/5 cup sliced mushrooms

optional additions are: meat, hard boiled egg, zucchini, or what ever you want

1.  Cut vegetables into small slices, dices or pieces.  Add to broth.

2.  Heat broth to very hot.  We never boil the broth.  Keep broth very hot until vegetables are tender.

3. In a separate pot bring desired amount of water to a boil (see noodle instructions).  Add noodles and cook.  Drain and add to individual bowls.  Our noodles take about 6 minutes to cook.

4.  Add broth and veggies to noodles.  Add any other toppings to your ramen bowl. Serve.

This is a version where we used larger rice noodles and added fresh cilantro.  Keepin' it different!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Chinese Tofu Salad with Cashews

Cory and I used to make Chinese Chicken Salad all the time.  You may remember, it was the salad with Top Ramen added and sometimes served with chicken.  Since we are staying away from a lot of process food the Top Ramen is out.  We also have cut back on our meat.  Cabbage salad sounded boring.  I took the initiative to mix and match my ingredients to come up with a new version for our family and renamed it Chinese Tofu Salad.

It's not exactly like the salad we used to make but it had familiar notes to it.  I think he liked it because he went back for seconds and then thirds.

I used the Fried Tofu from Tuesdays recipe to top our salad.  I like warm protein on my salads.  The process of making fried tofu is in Tuesdays blog post. It is simple and creates a nice warm element to this salad.  

I also toasted sesame seeds and cashews.  The fried tofu, toasted sesame seeds and cashews create a party in your mouth.  The different flavor profiles with the simple dressing explode with flavor and freshness. 

Chinese Tofu Salad with Cashews and Sesame Seeds

1/2 head of cabbage, cut any way you like
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup toasted cashews
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
2 stalks of celery, sliced thin
green onion for garnish on top
Fried Tofu-optional (see post for instructions on how to make)


3 tablespoons rice wine
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
3-5 drops of sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1-2 teaspoons sugar or coconut sugar

1.  Mix salad ingredients together.

2.  Combine dressing ingredients together.  Taste to make sure it is balanced correctly. Adjust with more rice wine, soy sauce or sugar.

3.  Pour dressing over salad and toss.  Add tofu to individual plates of salad. Garnish with green onion pieces.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tofu and Red Onion Salad

I really wanted to name this salad Finnley's Favorite Salad in the Entire World but I think it might be a bit too long.  The girl loves red onions in rice vinegar.

We first had this salad a few weeks ago at our local Japanese restaurant.  I wasn't really sure what I was ordering but I knew that I liked tofu and red onions.  What could there be to not like? NOTHING!  It was delicious and Cory barely got any of it.

When we got home I knew that this needed to be added to our monthly menu line up.  To be honest the tofu freaked me out.  I had no idea what I was doing when it came to frying tofu and set out on a mission to dig a little deeper.  I own several cookbooks that helped me to figure it out.  

The method that I am using in this recipe is by far my favorite because its a simple process of heating up some oil, tossing the cubes of tofu in a starch and frying until golden brown.  I experimented with deep frying the pieces and it was messy and my tofu was a bit oily.  I think I am not set up to deep fry in my home kitchen and I will let the restaurants tend to that process.  I might need to invest in a Fry Daddy, but again, the pan fried method worked for us.  

The tofu was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside--perfect!

I fry up a whole block of extra firm tofu because it reheats well for other dishes. I also used it in the recipe coming out on Friday for my Asian Tofu Salad with cashews and toasted sesame seeds.

A few weeks ago we had company and I threw this together in a very short amount of time.  My brother-n-law and sister-n-law thought the salad was a success.

During the photo shoot, Finnley, could not hold back.  She sat right down and started helping herself to her salad.  She was too cute to say no and so I continued shooting and she continued to eat. I love the picture above with her cute feet straddling her salad.  She is growing up too fast and these little moments remind me of that.

Below I will show you step by step how I prepare the tofu to fry.  The salad starts with four simple ingredients: red onion, rice vinegar, salt and pepper.

Tofu and Red Onion Salad

1/2 red onion, sliced very thin
1-3 tablespoon rice vinegar, depends on amount of onion used
salt and pepper
1 block of extra firm tofu
oil for frying
starch for coating

1.  30 minutes before you make your salad prepare the tofu.  See the images below to help you with this step.  Also cut the red onion and add the salt, pepper and rice vinegar.

2.  After 30 minutes, cut tofu into slices and then small pieces.  Toss in starch of your choice (corn, arrowroot, potato).

3.  Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of  a skillet.  Add tofu pieces one at a time.  They might clump together if you toss them all in at once.

4.  Fry on each side until golden brown and remove to a cookie rack until ready to add to the red onion.

5.  Top red onion salad with warm tofu and serve.

TOFU Instructions
This is how I remove the excess water from my tofu.  I wrap it in a dish towel and add something heavy to the top of it.  The dish towel will absorb the extra water and create a more dense block of tofu for frying.

I slice the tofu into 1/2 widths.

I then take each slice and make it 6 pieces.

Heat my oil, and add each piece one at a time.  

Let get golden brown on each side. Remove to cookie rack.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon

I first had this salad in June of this past year.  We were leaving Maryland and our friends had invited us over for a goodbye luncheon.  Natasha served this salad with a few others.  THIS SALAD is amazing!

I have tweaked it a bit from her original recipe, but let me tell ya, I make this salad for every guest that comes to our home....AND?  They love it.  I think love may not be a strong enough word.  People are shocked to be eating Swiss Chard. Most of them have never had Swiss Chard and instantly fall in love with the texture and flavor.  It's hardier than a regular green salad.

I believe what makes this salad so beloved is its simplicity.  The combination of lemon, bread crumbs (Panko in the picture above) and olive oil riles up their taste buds.  The balanced dressing makes you notice how perfect a salad can with a few ingredients.

Everything we make doesn't have to be fancy to be good.

I find Swiss Chard year round where I live.  This particle variety is called Rainbow Swiss Chard.  The stems are different colors.  I personally don't include the stems in the salad. I use a small pairing knife and trim the stem out of each leaf.  I find the stem to be tough.

I toast the Panko crumbs in a dry cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  They turn a nice golden brown. I have also used croutons that I make up ahead of time from old bread.  I crush them in a bag and toast them like the Panko crumbs.  If you are gluten free either omit the bread crumbs all together or use a gluten free variety.

If you use cheese, then I would recommend a nice strong Parmesan to finish this salad.   I also have friends that add bacon.  We don't add bacon because we don't eat it but if you do....then go for it.  

This salad stores in the refrigerator well.  I have heated it up the next day for a few seconds in the microwave with excellent results.  The bread crumbs/Panko crumbs get a little soggy but this does not bother me.

I live across the street from a beautiful bay along the Oregon Coast.  We often see bald eagles flying and nesting in the area.  On the day that I shot the pictures for this piece I turned and looked out the window to see a bald eagle fishing right in front of me.  I had no time to get a stronger lens so I used what I had.  I captured this image below.  I tell you, the excitement and thrill that pulsed through my veins to watch this spectacular bird in its natural habit and so close to my house...was incredible.

Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon

1 bunch of Swiss Chard, with the stems removed
1 lemon, juice only
1/4 cup olive oil,  add more as needed
1 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded finely
1 cup of toasted bread crumbs or Panko crumbs
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon minced red onion
Bacon--optional and use what you like

1.  Slice the swiss chard leaves into bite size pieces.  In a bowl add all of the ingredients and toss.

2.  Taste the salad and adjust to your taste buds.  We like ours tart so I add more lemon usually.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Salsa Verde

It's the holiday season and we are so excited in my house.  The tree is up and the decorations are out.  This is our first year in the beach house and we are settling in and starting new traditions.

I am sharing one of our favorite recipes this time of year.  In my mind I was under the assumption that Salsa Verde is a summer thing.  Well, in Oregon it's an all year round thing.

I can buy the ingredients at my local Fred Meyer and this brings a bit of freshness into our gray and winter months here at the beach.  We have seen so much rain.  One night we had 2.5 inches.  A LOT OF RAIN is in our forecast and this bright salsa is an easy way to add color to our plates and lives.

Each time I make Salsa Verde it disappears from the fridge.  My kids eat it as an after school or late night snack with chips.  My favorite is to drizzle it over my nachos with some fresh red salsa and cilantro.  I also make vegan burritos and use it as the sauce. 

I have noticed that if I use the smaller tomatillo's that it can be a bit tart.  We like this about the salsa but some people find it too strong.  I have used the tomatillos raw but I usually try to roast them or toss them in my cast iron pan for a few minutes.  This helps to round out the flavor and tartness.

You may have noticed that my recipes have become simpler.  We are still eating mostly vegetables, fruits, nuts and less meat.  It's been an easy transition and we love getting creative with the rainbow of fruits and vegetables at our local grocery store and Farmer Market.  I find I don't need long recipes to make delicious food for most of our meals.

I also notice that much of our cooking is using the "a little of this and a little of that" mentality.   If my recipes seem to not offer a lot of instruction its because they depend more on your taste buds and personal preferences than on following a recipe that is set in stone.  I want you to think about what you are cooking, taste your food, learn what you like, and learn about the ingredients you are working with.  

I hope you enjoy this bright, tart salsa this time of year.

Salsa Verde 
Makes about 2 cups

8-10 Tomatillos, raw or roasted
1/2 bunch of cilantro
1/4 cut onion
1 jalapeno--optional
salt to taste
lime juice to taste--optional
1 clove minced garlic

avocado--If you want a creamy version, this is a great way to use up a very ripe avocado.

1.  Roast the tomatillos on stove top with a little bit of oil or in a very hot oven for 10 minutes.

2.  Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor.

3.  Taste and adjust flavors: add more lime, jalapeno, cilantro, or salt as needed.

4. Store in refrigerator.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Oyster Mushroom Quesadilla #vegan

I have moved to a mushroom paradise.  I never fully appreciated how abundant Oregon is brimming with mushrooms: wild and locally grown.  We are over the moon to discover this in our backyards at the Oregon coast.

Our family enjoys all types of mushrooms and in almost every form: raw, cooked, steamed, in soups, deep fried, and pickled.  We just love mushrooms.

I remember camping in the mountains of Utah about 10 years ago and finding a Snowball mushroom.  It was huge.  My husband was afraid to eat it but another camper also recognized it for what it was.  We agreed to fry it up in some olive oil with salt and pepper.  Oh that was a treat!

I don't do that very often.  We don't eat any wild mushroom we find unless we get a second opinion.  It just isn't worth it and we are not experienced enough to put our family in that kind of danger.  Some mushrooms are lethal.  Always know what you are eating before you eat it.

I have used several sites for my own personal identification purposes.  When we go out hiking or frisbee disc golfing we will encounter a variety of mushrooms along the trails.  I like this site HERE.  He has a great picture and brief description that helps me to TRY and identify what we have found.

We are lucky enough to live close to a mushroom farm.  This family is at our local Farmer's Market each week with tons of brown bags.  Inside each bag you will find a selection of mushrooms. Each bag is labeled, she has samples and generously shares her knowledge with us.  Their site is HERE.  Their farm is located in Eddyville which is about 35 miles from Corvallis, Oregon.

We use our mushrooms in everything.  I usually buy two or three bags and this will last us a week.  Our new favorite way of eating them is in a quesadilla. 
I buy whole wheat organic tortillas from a local coop in town.  I like these because they have few ingredients and taste fresh.  

We don't include cheese in our quesadillas.  I have used a tofu like cream cheese before but usually I just toast the tortillas on my grill, add the mushrooms and then toss in some arugula at the last minute for a fresh element.  I fold it over and serve it with our homemade Salsa Verde.  That recipe is coming soon.

For this recipe I sautéed the mushrooms in a bit of olive oil with salt and pepper. I also added some red onions.  I cook them until they are tender and a bit wilted. 

I haven't included a step by step because these are pretty straight forward to make.

This is what you do:

-saute the mushrooms
-toast the tortilla
-add the mushrooms and anything else you desire
-fold in half and cut
-serve with a dipping sauce 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Food for Thought #LGBT

I have a platform here that is centered around food.  Around family time.  Around our family.  
Lately there has been a lot of chatter about social platforms not sharing realistic parts of our lives.  The thought is that we show only what we want to share.  Sharing in order to make our families look happy, enriched, satisfied and full-filled.  I have been a product of this movement too.  I have shared the joys that come with being a Mom, wife and friend.  I have wanted to share the joy that we, as family, enjoy each and everyday that we are together through our dinner table chats, our food choices and our grocery shopping adventures.  In between these ideas, I have also shared, my thoughts and ideas of longing, searching and finding myself and the struggle of being human.  I started a new blog to share those stories.  That blog is still growing.  Sifting Through Life has given me a place to voice me.
Well today I am using this blog, my blog, to share a part of my family that I have not shared with you before.  WHY?  Because this is where I have the most voices, readers and listeners.  Here is where you know me.  You can relate to me.  You have watched me evolve, fail and muddle through life. You know my family at its best and at its worst.  This is a shining moment for our family and I want to share it with you.
Recently the LDS church updated their handbook in regards to baptismal covenants for children of LGBT parents.  I won't take the time to go into details because you can google that for yourself.  If you have been a reader of Simply Gourmet for a while then you know that we left this church.  
You can read that post here.
I know that in sharing this part of my family that I will lose readers.  I don't have time to worry about that anymore.  If you chose to leave I wish you well.  If you choose to not agree and stay out of an understanding that we can still interact even though we don't share the same beliefs...I applaud you.  We are not seeking or asking for everyone to go against what they believe.  Simply to have an open line of conversation that expresses love and mutual respect for our differences.  
I am not gay.  My daughter is.  We have never been a family in the closet,  When she first told us we called everyone we knew and shared the news.  The good news.  She had experienced self hate, self loathing, and a long road to get to this point.  Her admission to us was received with, "yes we already knew that."  Because we did.  It took her a while to find her level of comfort to accept herself.  To accept that it is okay to be different.  That it is okay to love who ever your heart leads you to.
This new edict from the church has thrown our family into the mix once again of having to be a champion for our daughter.  It's been hard but also eye opening. To those family and friends that have our backs,  who get us, who love us no matter what--we appreciate you.  We understand that this is hard. You may find yourself sympathizing with our side even though your life is attached somewhere else.  We know this is hard.  It's hard for us to watch.  Thank  you for reaching out to us.  We hold her extensions of love very tenderly next to our hearts.

I won't rattle on but I need to share this with you.  This is an open letter my daughter wrote on her FB page.  It is raw.  It is honest.  You may not like it.  I don't care.  
This is our family.  This is our authentic life.
It's okay to disagree with our family unit.  We want the freedom for everyone to express their families in a way that makes you feel alive, whole and loved.  This is us.  Love it or hate it...thats a choice.  We are okay with different choices because we are all different.

Here it is:

"I’m gay.
And I figured, with me being out of the closet for over 4 years now and having never hidden or lied about that fact since that that would be common knowledge at this point. However, I tend to not post about or make note of this fact about me very often, especially on Facebook. I may support the HRC here and there, or like posts about LGBTQA+ rights occasionally, but for the most part I am rather mute on this subject and my opinions of opposition groups. The reason for this, sadly, is that I worry that in doing so I may alienate or hurt the feelings of certain friends and family members who I know have very strong, opposing opinions or who belong to religions that openly preach against the rights and humanity of people like me. I’ve never wanted to make anyone feel like I hate them or think horribly of them just for holding homophobic views or for simply belonging to groups that do; and though I have serious criticisms for certain religions apart and as a whole I do tend to hold back on stating them so that those who I know to have great love and faith in those ideologies aren’t hurt by my words.
However, it would seem that for too long I’ve been trying to preserve the feelings of people who are not trying to preserve mine.
So to be clear: yes. I do see when you post about your homophobic opinions.
Yes, I do see when you share or make statuses decrying marriage rights for gay couples in America.
Yes, I did notice when you shared that article supporting business owners who refuse to serve gay customers.
Yes, I did see you like that photo showing support for Kim Davis.
Yes I did read that church article you shared talking about how gay families are not real families because they lack a heteronormative pattern. Your brother, his husband, and their child probably did too.
Yes, yes, and yes. I did see that. And not to make anyone think I see /everything/-- I certainly don’t. I don’t spend much time on Facebook anymore so I miss a lot (intentionally). I guess what I’m saying, however, is that I see enough.
And to be clear; I don’t care if anyone has homophobic views. I have lived for too long fearing and worrying about and suffering from the effects of homophobia to care anymore. Actually, I would prefer you to be open about it. We live in a country where our opinions and free speech are a wonderful right that we have and social media gives us great platforms to connect with and share our views with like-minded people. However; the thing that people seem to forget is that free speech does not protect us from criticisms and/or any effects of holding views that degrade, dehumanize, or offend anyone we know.
In this case, the effect of your articles, your statuses, your likes, etc. is that they tell me that I cannot trust you; that an integral part of me is unmentionable and unwelcome to you. They tell me that you think I am lesser and that I don’t deserve the same rights as you. They tell me that you think it’s okay for me to be banned or barred from churches, businesses, services, etc. on a basis of my sexuality. They tell me that you think that for some crazy reason that *I* certainly can’t fathom that I have chosen this and just want attention for it. Or that you think I’m mentally ill and a few humiliating and degrading rounds with a shock therapist and a bible would fix me. They tell me that you think that I and anyone I fall in love with should never have the same legal protections, rights, and recognition from our government that you get. They tell me that you think I don’t deserve happiness or unconditional love until I choose to conform to a lifestyle that doesn’t work for me. They tell me maybe one, maybe two, or maybe all of these things are things that you believe. And some of you may think that if you hide behind someone else’s words-- that if you share instead of write, or like instead of post—that I can’t put you into the same exact box as the person who actually said it; and that used to work, actually. I used to make excuses for you. I used to figure maybe you didn’t read it all, or maybe it was a mistake, or maybe you don’t 100% agree with what you shared. But now that has changed and unless otherwise stated I will hold you to every word; as will probably every other loved one you know that those hurtful words apply to. If these effects are not something you wanted, if they weren’t your intention, then maybe it’s time to start using your own voice. Or maybe it’s time to choose to not say anything. This is what taking responsibility for our opinions entails. But just to be clear again: you being open about your beliefs is preferable to me. It's your right as much as it is mine-- and I can handle different political views. I can overlook that impolite meme I didn’t think was funny, and I’ll ignore that rude comment or passive aggressive status. I’ll bite my tongue about that poorly-constructed argument you wrote and I don’t at all mind you sharing doctrine from your religion as long as it’s not too accusatory or abrasive and I assume that you give me the same benefits. But when you share homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, etc… when you spread baseless hatred or fear or intolerance or assumptions about people whose condition or lifestyle hurts nobody—that is when you teach me and countless others you didn’t think about to avoid you. That is when you teach me that you don’t care about me as much as I care about you.
Whether you think it or not, when you hold such views you are holding onto the belief that you are superior in some way to any member of a massive, diverse, and more or less harmless group of people simply on a basis of one aspect of who and what they are. If you at all think that anyone deserves less rights or less consideration or less sympathy from you, a government, a church, etc. because of their sexuality; you are indeed homophobic, and that is indeed a form of hate. Please own up to it, at the very least. Again, I would rather know your opinion outright than flounder with excuses or dissonance on your behalf.
And for the record once and for all; those homophobic articles and statuses and posts you share are in fact talking about me. They are talking about your brother, your sister, your daughter, your son, your niece, your nephew, your friend, your coworker, and anyone who applies-- none of us are an exception and I doubt any of us think ourselves to be. And we see it.
And from now on you are aware of that, and I will no longer make excuses for you.
If that doesn’t bother you, then carry on.
Much Love,

Pickled Radishes

Our family has fallen in love with pickled food.  We eat something pickled every day.  I often will have pickles, onions, asparagus, radishes or carrots pickling in our refrigerator on any given days.

I find that our friends and family that visit also enjoy these lovely side dishes.  Pickled food is great by its self, on a cracker, served with hummus or used as a topping in your favorite sandwich.

My two year old loves the red onions the best.  The red radishes are my husbands favorite.  Not only are they the right blend of sweet and tart, they are still firm enough to enjoy the bite that comes from eating a radish slice.  My favorite part?  The pink brine.  The pink comes from the red skin.  It just looks pretty.  I like pretty food.

Pickling is a great way to preserve food too.  It comes in handy for our family when I notice I have purchased too much of one thing.  Cucumbers come to my mind first.  I tend to buy one or two extra cucumbers that sit in the fridge for a bit too long.  I try really hard to not waste food.

I use a simple brine mixture for all of my pickling items.  I like the combination of rice wine, water, salt, and sugar.  To vary the flavorings I also add pickling spices, fresh herbs (my favorite is dill which is pictured in the photo above) and sometimes I will use a variety of vinegars.  I like rice wine because it is mild and has the right amount of "pucker" for our taste buds.  I can use it by itself or mixed with water and achieve great results.

Pickled Radishes

1 bunch of radishes, tops removed and sliced thin
1 cup of rice wine
1 cup of water
2 teaspoons of pickling spices
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 teaspoons of salt
***take note: the sugar and salt are just estimates.  Taste the brine and then decide if you want more salt or sugar or both.  Sometimes I will do this after it has sat for an hour too.

1.  Use a clean container.  I like glass.  Add the sliced radishes, sugar, and salt.   If you choose to add fresh herbs, do this now too.

2.  In a small pot add vinegar, pickling spices, and water.  Bring to a boil and remove from heat.  Add hot mixture to radishes.  Let cool on counter.

3.  Refrigerate when cool.  We eat our pickled products within two weeks.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Italian Pressed Sandwich #vegan #vegetarian

Do you need a way to use up a ton of items in your refrigerator?  If you do, then this sandwich is for you.  Our family usually does a pretty good job of eating left overs.  I just find that we still end up with a few jars with "this ----- much" left inside each one. Not enough to throw away and usually not enough for one more bite.

Food that comes to mind right away are things in jars.  We eat marinated artichoke hearts, all types of olives, roasted bell peppers, and we typically have at least one sauce in the fridge.  In this case I had some left over vegan poppyseed dressing.  Again, not enough for a full salad but a tad too much to justify throwing it out.

I remember when I made this Italian Loaf a few years ago.  This is a great sandwich if you love meat and cheese.  We don't eat those items anymore but the concept of layering my ingredients and squishing them into a sandwich bundle still works for us today.

I have a few suggestions in making this sandwich successful.  First, use a sturdy bread loaf.  I have tried French Bread but the exterior is a bit soft and might get a bit soggy.  We have used Sourdough with GREAT success.  It doesn't matter if the loaf is round or oblong.  I have used both and they taste just as good.

Secondly, I would recommend draining and drying as many of your ingredients as you can.  I often will layer stuff between paper towels to try and draw out some of the moisture.  It may all seep to the bottom and make the bottom soggy.
For the last tip, I would suggest that it sits in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours with something heavy on top.  This allows time for the sandwich to tie all the flavors together and makes for easy cutting of the loaf into individual slices.

I have included a set of pictures (FROM MY PHONE) below to show you what I used.  Remember though, that you can use anything you want.

I made a comment about my phone because I have tried to make this whole blogging thing as easy as possible for myself and my family.  My phone is easy. I don't have to hassle with a huge camera and the tripod.  With little kids under my feet and assisting me in the kitchen, it is what works at the moment.

I hope that everyone can see beyond the lower quality pictures to enjoy some delicious food for the next few months.  My heart and soul is back into blogging and I am doing my best to get yummy recipes made and up on the blog.  Thanks for understanding!!!

Italian Pressed Sandwich
Depending on size of loaf the sandwich can feed 4-6 people

1 large loaf of sturdy bread--Rustic White, Italian or Sourdough work great
1 cup of dressing or mayonnaise
lots of veggies--see pictures below
**try to combine fresh with prepared vegetables, pickled vegetables work great, steamed or sauteed vegetables work well too.

1.  Once you have decided on your ingredients, cut the bread in half.  If using a bowl or round loaf of bread --see the Italian Loaf--for special instructions.

2.  Dig the bread out of the center. I used this bread to make croutons for our soup.  Add dressing or mayonnaise to both sides.

3.  Start layering your ingredients.  See pictures below for ideas from our sandwich.

4.  When finished adding ingredients, put the two pieces together.  Tightly wrap the sandwich in plastic wrap.  Store in the refrigerator with something heavy on top.  Let cool for a minimum of 3 hours.

5.  When you are ready to eat, unwrap and slice.  Serve with additional dressing if desired.

In the picture you will see: steamed asparagus, homemade dressing, arugula, eggplant, red onion, cucumber, red pepper, artichoke hearts, garlic cloves, and olive tapenade.

Slice loaf in half, hollow out the center and add dressing.

Start layering--you see eggplant and arugula.

You see--red onion and diced artichoke hearts.

You see--olives and more arugula.

You see--diced red peppers.

I added a bit more dressing.

When I was finished layering, I closed the loaf.

I wrapped the loaf in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator.
 ....and the result is:  This beautiful layered sandwich.

As an added bonus, you can put this in a panini press and get a nice crispy crust on your sandwich.  We love our Panini Press that was given to us as a gift.

Donut Breakfast Casserole

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