Pickled Carrots

Homemade Pickled Vegetables Recipe
Like a tennis player that’s been training all year for their first match, I walk into the kitchen, full of bravado, throw the culinary ball into the air, serve it across the net and hear the words “FAULT,” followed by the words, “DOUBLE FAULT,” soon after.

Two cookie recipes in as many days – two epic fails.

Disappointment. It’s officially six days into Cookie Baking Season and I feel like a big o’ Failure. I’m a baker above anything else and this should be my time to SHINE, rather than falter. Blame the recipe. Blame the quality of the ingredients. Blame my mindset. I sound like John McEnroe.

My first attempt, an anise-scented honey cookie lightly glazed and decorated with candied orange peel, was an unmitigated disaster. The texture was all wrong – too dense – and the anise too strong, resulting in a cookie reminiscent of those hard Scandinavian licorice lozenges.

The second recipe, baked yesterday, was supposed to be delicate sandwich cookies filled with mint and dipped in milk chocolate. I was hoping for an elevated version of Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Joe Joe’s (an addiction of mine) crossed with a Girl Scout Thin Mint. What I actually created were misshapen oval disks sandwiching a dollop of minty goo similar to Crest toothpaste. I didn’t even bother with the chocolate dip – in to the trash they went as well.

Rather than squander another pound of butter, I thought I would take a break today, step away from the cookies, and try something else entirely – something that didn’t require baking. I settled on these spice-laden pickled carrots – a better late-night snacking option to a plate of cookies anyway. An array of colorful pickled veggies like these, using a variety of spice combinations, would make a great alternative to the standard holiday crudité platter – no baking required.


Pickled Carrots

  • Servings: 2 quart jars
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This pickling recipe would work with whatever fresh veggies you happened to have on hand – cauliflower, onions, beans, or beets – to name just a few.

Ingredients

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6-8 carrots, peeled, cut into sticks and lightly blanched
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon salt
  • Hot water

Directions

  1. Divide garlic, thyme, mustard seeds, allspice berries, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes, ginger, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks,peppercorns and cloves between two quart jars. Pack blanched carrot sticks tightly into jars.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar and salt and heat until boiling. Pour hot liquid into jars filling ¼” from top. If there isn’t enough vinegar mixture, fill remaining space in jars with hot water.
  3. Close jars and refrigerate at least 24 hours and up to 2 weeks.

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Pumpkin Spice Pancakes with Sautéed Apples

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes with Sauteed Apples
You’d have to live under a rock (or a one-blink town in the Southwest) not to know its Pumpkin Spice Latte time again. Even I, who spend most days under said rock, know its #PSL season. I’m not a Starbucks fan; I have my reasons, but I AM a fan of pumpkin and spice. So, I’m jumping on the pumpkin spice bandwagon with these autumnal pancakes.


Pumpkin Spice Pancakes with Sautéed Apples

  • Servings: 12 pancakes
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If you don’t have time to make the apples, these pancakes are just as good smothered with honey butter. You can substitute 1 ½ teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice for the various spices.

Ingredients

    Apples
  • 2 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon Cinnamon
  • Pancakes
  • 1 ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups cake flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. APPLES: In a pan, melt butter, sugar, and cinnamon in water. Add apple slices and cook for 5 minutes covered until softened. Remove lid and continued cooking until sauce is reduced by half. Sauce should be the consistency of watered-down maple syrup. Remove from heat, cover again and set aside.
  2. PANCAKES: In a measuring cup, add vinegar to milk and set aside (This makes a faux buttermilk). In a medium bowl, combine cake flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt and allspice. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine pumpkin puree, egg, brown sugar, melted butter, vanilla, and milk mixture. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently whisk them together. Don’t over-mix.
  4. Use a 1/3 cup to pour batter onto a griddle over medium-low heat. Cook until each pancake is spotted with bubbles and edges appear dry. Flip over and continue cooking until bottom is lightly brown.
  5. Serve pancakes with butter and sautéed apples.

Mushroom and Corn Enchiladas with Pasilla Sauce

vegetarian enchiladas
I’m heading to the Southwest next week to look at a potential Inn to purchase. A small adventure contained within a frighteningly large adventure. I haven’t shared much about possibly becoming an Innkeeper, partially because musing on it for hours gives me heartburn and insomnia but also because others’ unhelpful comments and opinions usually make me want to strangle them.

My sister offered to accompany me, but I declined. This is a trip I need to take on my own; a humongous life-changing decision I need to make on my own. To get me in the Southwest spirit for next week’s trip, I baked these vegetarian enchiladas in a creamy pasilla chili sauce.


Mushroom and Corn Enchiladas with Pasilla Sauce

Adapted from Chef Richard Sandoval’s book, New Latin Flavors

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, chopped and divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 10 – 12 oz. fresh sliced mushrooms (I used crimini)
  • 2 cups frozen roasted corn kernels (or fresh roasted kernels)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano or oregano, crushed
  • 5 pasilla chilies, roasted, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ heavy cream
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 – 2 cups shredded Oaxaca cheese (or mozzarella)

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ½ chopped onion and sauté until the onion softens and is translucent. Add ½ minced garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and sauté until all liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Add corn and sauté until corn and mushrooms are beginning to brown and no liquid remains. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely.
  2. Stir ricotta and oregano into mushroom mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add remaining ½ chopped onion and sauté until the onion softens and is translucent. Add remaining ½ minced garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the pasilla chilies and heavy cream, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken slightly. Remove from heat and cool.
  4. Purée chile sauce mixture in a blender until smooth. If sauce is too thick, thin with a bit of water. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Preheat oven 350 degrees. Spread a thin layer of sauce over bottom of a 9×12” baking dish. In a small, dry skillet over medium heat, heat a tortilla until it’s pliable about 20-30 seconds. Fill with about 3 Tablespoons of the filling and roll up. Place in baking dish, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Summer Lentil Salad

A spoonful of Summer Lentil Salad
Lentils, with a shape somewhat resembling coins, are symbols of riches and prosperity in Italy. After eight long years, we have finally sold my childhood home this week. What better way to celebrate this little boon than with these symbols of financial good fortune?

Rather than the golden-egg-laying goose the house was expected to be, it morphed into an albatross that created unanticipated familial stress over the last eight years. My oldest sibling wanted to sell immediately, during the real estate collapse, while another mentioned keeping it for 45 years. I managed, surprisingly, to remain neutral over most of the years (caught up in my own personal turmoil, I suppose) until last year – then my exasperation bubbled up, boiled over. Get me out of here – I want to take my share and run! Trouble with the tenants, damage to the property, lawsuits and disagreements between us brought me to the verge of walking away. This house and all its complications was my last fetter to my siblings. Now, no longer financially shackled, I can, should I chose to, slip away never to be found again. Not that I want to, but there’s something liberating in realizing that I could.

Tonight, before I celebrate with my lentil salad, I say thank you to my mom and dad for making this financial provision. I am grateful for this good fortune and I hope to use my portion in a manner that will make them proud.


Lentil Salad

This salad is best served at room temperature.

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 clove garlic, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • ⅓ cup red pepper, chopped
  • 1 large or two small carrots, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • ⅓ cup onion, chopped
  • ¼ head cabbage, shredded (about 3 cups)
  • ½ cup Feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, thyme, garlic, sugar and Dijon. Add olive oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Set dressing aside.
  2. Cook lentils according to package directions.
  3. While lentils are cooking, in a medium size skillet over high heat, sauté corn, red pepper, carrot and onion until softened and onions are translucent. Do not brown.
  4. Place cabbage in a large bowl.  Drain lentils.  Cover cabbage with warm lentils and sautéed vegetables to help soften cabbage. While salad is still warm, fold in dressing and feta cheese. Cover salad and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature to allow flavors to meld. Before serving, season with salt and pepper.

Vegetarian Minestrone Soup

soup

I’ve been practicing my staring technique.  Staring at a blinking cursor on a blank screen; staring at a cooling mug of coffee; staring at raindrops traveling down the kitchen window; staring at the television.

“I should bake,” I think, but can’t even manage that.

I’m lingering before a crossroads, staring at divergent paths mere steps ahead. I cannot walk towards any one direction, on a road to any outcome.  I’m weary. I want to rest a while, here in the center of the road, and just stare towards an unknown.

My brain was not meant to process all this.


Vegetarian Minestrone Soup

  • Servings: Serves 8-10
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Ingredients

  • ½ onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cups green beans, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh sage, minced
  • 1 28 oz. can chopped tomatoes
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • ½ cabbage, shredded
  • 2 14 oz. can cannellini beans, drained
  • ½ bag frozen peas

Directions

  1. In a large pot, saute onion, carrots and celery until beginning to soften. Add green beans and saute 5 minutes longer. Add garlic, oregano and sage and sauce for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and broth, and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 45-60 minutes until beans are almost tender.
  2. Add zucchini, cabbage and beans and cook another 15 minutes or until cabbage has softened and green beans are tender. Add peas and heat through. Season with salt and pepper.

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