23 September 2010

Creamy Carrot Soup made Healthier (Potage Crécy)

The local farmer's market is coming to a close in a few weeks.  The summer fruits are slowly being replaced by root vegetables and winter squashes.  This year, I am trying to adopt a better attitude to the changing of the seasons.  This means instead of looking at those root vegetables with disdain because they aren't summer fruits, I'm going to embrace them!  Yesterday, carrots and sweet potatoes looked really good at the market, so I made them into this sweet soup.  I made it early in the day, refrigerated it and served it cold along with a piece of whole wheat bread smeared with peanut butter.  It was a yummy, healthy way to herald the first day of autumn.

I worked from Mark Bittman's recipe for Potage Crécy found in his cookbook titled The Best Recipes in the World but made it a little healthier to suit my needs.  Enjoy!

Creamy Carrot Soup (Potage Crécy) by Joie de vivre
Makes 4 hearty servings


1 1/2 Tbls. olive oil
1 small onion (4.5 oz.), chopped
1 lb. carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small sweet potato (6.75 oz.), peeled and chopped
1 tomato, chopped (don't worry about peeling or seeding)
1 tsp. salt (more or less to taste)
pepper to taste
2 tsp. sugar
4 c. chicken stock
1 c. water
1/2 c. light sour cream


1.  Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil.  Add the onion, carrots, sweet potato, tomato, salt, pepper and sugar.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes until the vegetables start to break down.  If the vegetables start to stick to the bottom of the pan, lower the heat slightly and add 1/4 c. water.
2.  When the vegetables are tender, add the stock and 1 c. water.  Raise the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil.  Once the soup is boiling, lower the heat to low and gently simmer the soup for 15 minutes.
3.  Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until completely smooth.  Place the soup in the refrigerator and refrigerate until cold.
4.  When ready to serve, stir in the sour cream.  Serve cold.

21 September 2010

My week in food

Although I haven't been cooking anything fabulous this week, I have been concentrating on fresh ingredients and healthy cooking.  The peach season up here is almost at an end, so you'll notice that all of my meals have peaches in them.  Thinking hard at this moment, I think peaches (fully ripe, local, summer peaches) may be my favorite food in the world.  (Okay, so that's an overstatement, but I just LOVE them!)  I'm trying to get my fill of them before they are gone for the year.  I thought I'd share with you what I've been eating this week to give you some inspiration in your own healthy meal planning.


Thursday:  1/2 c. oatmeal, a fresh peach, 1 c. whole milk, coffee.  Notice my little rooster milk pourer?  This week, I discovered it holds exactly 1 c. milk.  Not only is it darling, but it's a good way to portion control!

Friday:  The same breakfast but with Kambaa tea instead of coffee.  Kambaa is an extremely strong tea from Kenya.  My tea supplier gave me a sample of it.  It is very astringent, but I think I like it.  Milk smoothed the tea out.

Saturday:  Sensing a theme this week with oatmeal and peaches?  I served my oatmeal with 1/2 c. whole milk.  (My little cow pourer holds exactly 1/2 c.)

Sunday:  1 fried egg, 1 piece of whole wheat toast spread with 1 tsp. Vegemite, 1 peach, coffee with 1/2 c. whole milk

Monday:  3 Tbls. grits, 1 tsp. butter, 1 c. nonfat milk, 1 peach

Tuesday:  3/4 c. plain, whole milk yogurt, 1/3 c. muesli, 1 peach, coffee with 1 Tbls. half and half.


This week, I've been concentrating on incorporating a lean protein in each of my lunches to help satisfy my stomach until dinner

Wednesday:  Bowl of vegetable/chickpea/tomato soup I made from my Farmer's market haul.

Thursday:  Two egg omelette stuffed with chopped tomatoes, 1 piece of whole wheat toast spread with 1 tsp. Vegemite, 1 peach

Friday:  Tuna fish sandwich on whole wheat, 1 peach, 1/2 c. lowfat cottage cheese

Saturday:  Tuna fish sandwich on whole wheat, 1 peach, slices of tomato and cucumber, 1 Tbls. ranch dressing.

Sunday:  Last of the tuna on whole wheat bread, 1 peach, baby carrots and celery with 1 Tbls. ranch dressing.


Thursday:  Bowl of leftover vegetable/chickpea/tomato soup, steamed broccoli with 1 tsp. butter, salad with 1 Tbls. ranch dressing, 1/2 c. lowfat cottage cheese, 1/2 c. raspberries.

Friday:  1 pieces (1/3 pizza) of California Pizza Kitchen's BBQ chicken pizza, steamed broccoli with 1 tsp. butter, raw carrots with 1 Tbls. ranch dressing.

Monday:  Fully loaded turkey burrito (turkey breast strips, 1 Tbls. light sour cream, 2 Tbls. soy cheese, salsa with a Flatout flat bread) sauteed turnip greens (are they always that bitter?) 1/2 c. lowfat cottage cheese.

I hope this gave you some inspiration in your own meal planning.  As for me, the farmer's market is tomorrow and I'm praying I can get a few more weeks of peaches in.  Even though I've eaten them practically every meal for a week, I still haven't had my fill to last me until next summer.

15 September 2010

Black Bean Salad Farmer's Market Style

As a continuation of yesterday's post on Dinner from the Farmer's Market, I thought I'd share with you this lovely lunch made with the vegetables from my farmer's market haul, sardine sandwich on toasted ciabatta topped with slices of fresh heirloom tomatoes seasoned with homemade lavender salt, with black bean salad on the side.  I felt like an Italian grandfather eating this dish, and I was sure to brush my teeth vigorously after it, but it was so soul-satisfyingly good.  

To make the sandwich, I halved and toasted a section of ciabatta bread, opened a tin of sardines packed in water, drained them, added a little mayo and smashed it up.  I smeared the sardines onto the bread and topped with tomatoes and salt.  One tin of sardines made one hearty serving.  On the side, I had this little salad.  The leftovers of it kept for days and kept getting better and better.  Enjoy.

Black Bean Salad Farmer's Market Style by Joie de vivre

Salad Ingredients:

1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
kernels of corn from 3 ears of corn, cooked and cooled
1/2 bulb fennel, chopped somewhat finely
1 red pepper (choose your level of heat) chopped 
1 medium sized red onion, chopped finely
1/3 c. finely chopped cilantro


1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. lime juice (I just used bottled)
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste


1.  Combine all of salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to meld.
2.  One hour before serving, combine all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
3.  Before serving, combine the dressing with the salad and stir together.  Salad gets even better the next day. 

14 September 2010

Dinner from the Farmer's Market

When I think about my journey as a foodie and a food blogger, my love of writing about and taking pictures of food really started when I discovered how wonderful eating seasonally could be after reading French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano.  It was while reading that book that I discovered my joie de vivre concerning food.  The simple, unbridled joy I receive while eating a fresh peach whose juices run down my arm, or an end of summer tomato seasoned with nothing more than salt (or maybe some basil) are what I try to convey to my readers and my family.  What I hope that you, as my reader, take away from my blog, is a sense of that joy, and the motivation to create joy for your family in your kitchen through my recipes and experiences.  Bon appétit!

When my husband and I moved to Eastern Washington from Sacramento seven years ago, the things we most mourned were fresh vegetables.  We lived in a very progressive community near Sacramento and were part of a CSA before it was "trendy".  We loved browsing the farmer's market which was a huge community event twice weekly.  When we first moved here, we were unfamiliar with the area and thus did our grocery shopping solely at our local supermarket and missed California with each bite of tasteless tomato.

After living here a few months, I was lamenting the loss of fresh vegetables to someone when they mentioned the local farmer's market.  I cannot express the relief I felt when I first visited the farmer's market in town seven years ago.  It was as if finally, after months of feeling like we had moved to a wasteland, we could make this place our home.  Alas, the farmer's markets here only last from May until October (unlike the year round farmer's markets in California) so while they are here, I try to take full advantage.

This past week,  with $38 in my pocket, I took my youngest son to the farmer's market.   We noticed some fall squash, the very beginning of the season.

I just loved how they displayed them on the road.  With a little gathering of leaves, it definitely looked like fall!  I am not quite ready to fully embrace fall and while they are still with us, I stocked up on summer tomatoes and peaches.

For $35, we came home with quite a haul, heirloom tomatoes, a bag of Walla Walla onions, three cherry peppers, eggplants, okra, fingerling potatoes, a pint of strawberries and raspberries, peaches and nectarines, as well as an Armenian cucumber and grapes.

I just couldn't pass up these eggplants.  The colors were so deep and the flesh so shiny they begged me to pick them up!  Unfortunately, eggplant isn't a big winner with my family so I had to find a way to disguise it by turning it into baba ganoush.  Baba ganoush is a garlicky eggplant spread that is wonderful served with pita chips.  I can't say my children LOVED it, but they tolerated it which for a 5 and 7 year is pretty good!  

Joie's Baba Ganoush by Joie de vivre


2 eggplants,
2 Tbls. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 garlic clove, mashed through a garlic press

1.  Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut several slits in each eggplant so they do not explode when you cook them and place them in a pan.  
2.  Place the eggplant in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.
3.  Remove the eggplant skin and chop the flesh very finely.  Add the garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with pita chips.

Here's what I came up with to use the Armenian cucumber.  It is a cold, rice salad that hit the spot on a warm summer evening.

Cool Rice and Cucumber Salad by Joie de vivre


1 1/2 c. jasmine rice, cooked and cooled to room temp.
1 armenian cucumber, peeled and seeded, (or 2-3 regular cucumbers)
1 tsp. dill seed
3 Tbls. chopped fresh mint
1/3 c. minced chives
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
3 Tbls. olive oil


1.  In a large bowl, mix the cucumber, rice, dill seed, mint and chives.  
2.  In the blender, or in a wide mouth jar with a lid, combine the white wine vinegar and olive oil.  Cover and shake the jar until mixed or blend mixture in the blender to make a dressing.
3.  Pour the dressing over the rice salad and mix.  
4.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

Because I had bought the peaches and nectarines, I had some fresh plums from the week prior to use up and ended up making this DELICIOUS pie.   Sadly, I didn't take notes so I can't recreate it for you but I did take my inspiration from the book Pie by Ken Haedrich.

I'll be sharing other recipes from this trip to the farmer's market this week.  Come visit again to see what else I made.  Our farmer's market only lasts another six weeks before the cold weather sets in, you can bet that I'll be there, soaking up all of the fresh, local produce while I can!

Here are some books you may find useful in finding inspiration on what to do with your own Farmer's Market haul.

07 September 2010

Lola: A Seattle Restaurant Review

              Photo by Seattle.net

My husband and I recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary with our first ever trip to Seattle.  Until then, we had been living in eastern Washington for seven years and had yet to make a trip over. We justified our eastern Washington seclusion by saying the four hour drive would be too long for the kids.  No excuses however justified keeping ourselves from the wonderful sites and tastes we experienced while we were there.

Our very first evening in Seattle, we dined at Tom Douglas' restaurant Lola.  Tom Douglas is one of Seattle's celebrity chefs who won the 1994 James Beard award for best Northwest chef, and he is well deserving of the honor.  Tom Douglas has four restaurants located near 4th Avenue and Virginia in Seattle on what my husband and I termed "Tom Douglas Block," which was within walking distance of our hotel and other attractions like Pike Street Market.  First of all, all of Tom Douglas' restaurants had phenomenal websites.  I was able to check out the menu, look at photos of dishes, and see photos of the interiors of his restaurants in order to choose the perfect restaurant for our needs and wants.  I was also able to make reservations the evening prior to our visit on a website called Opentable.com which had a link on the Lola restaurant webpage.

Since we knew we would be a little tuckered out from our long drive, we opted for an early 5:30 p.m. reservation and were treated to an empty, quiet restaurant with an extremely attentive, very professional, and well trained waitstaff.  By the time we left around 8:00 p.m, the place was bustling and energetic, but for a good hour, we had the lovely restaurant to ourselves which was such a nice treat.

The menu was diverse and creative.  Since it was conveniently separated into different categories, my husband and I decided to share everything so that we could try one thing from each category.

To begin with, we tried the Skordalia which is a garlic spread served with Lola's freshly made pita.

Next, a grilled octopus salad with fava beans, basil and fresh yogurt cheese.  The juxtaposition of the fava beans with the basil was absolutely wonderful.  The octopus was phenomenal.  The waitress told us that the octopus is marinated for hours before grilling.  It gave the octopus almost a meaty consistency.

Next, we tried a Haloumi cheese and fig kabob served atop caramelized onions and deglazed with ouzo. This was my favorite dish of the evening.  The cheese had a meaty, spongey texture which contrasted nicely to the creamy fig.  Also, the saltiness of the cheese was a nice complement to the sweetness of the fig.  The ouzo gave the whole dish a slight anise flavor which was wonderful.

This was a tagine of young goat served with cumin spiced peaches and roasted red peppers.  The meat was incredibly tender and the cumin with the peach was a flavor explosion.

After all of the wonderful dishes we were trying this night, it is hard to believe that a lowly potato could hold its place among all of the superstars.  However, aside from the cheese and fig kebab, this was my second favorite dish of the evening, smashed garlic fried potatoes.  Starch + garlic + oil = crispety, crunchety heaven.

To cap the evening off, we tried the saffron ice cream.  I just loved the simple presentation of this and the wonderful dish it was served on.  The ice cream was very delicately flavored and I'm sorry to say, after our garlic spread and the garlic smashed potatoes, it took us quite a few bites in order to discern its flavor, but it was a creamy and wonderful way to finish the dinner.

Although our kids probably wouldn't yet appreciate the menu at Lola, with seven restaurants in Seattle (including one dedicated to pizza), I know our next trip to Seattle will include a stop at a Tom Douglas restaurant.

Lola Restaurant
2000 4th Ave.
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 441-1430

01 September 2010

Stuffed Melon Salad

The first day of school yesterday heralded a new chapter in my life.  Instead of being a mom of "little" kids, I am now officially a mom of school aged children.  All summer I would marvel at all of the time I would have to myself this school year, but now, on the second day of school, I looked around my already cleaned house, baked my second pie in a week, and then wondered, now what?  There are things I am looking forward to doing this year with all of my free time, I want to volunteer in my children's classrooms, I want to work out more, and I want to enjoy simply being by myself by reading or doing things like getting pedicures.  I also want to blog more as I find it a huge creative release.  I love finding new backgrounds and trying to find new recipes.  I can't promise it will be a daily thing, but you'll see me about more often!  For starters, I have this beautiful salad to share with you.  It is a very elegant, beautiful and delicious way to enjoy the last of the summer melons before cold weather starts to creep in.

Stuffed Melon Salad adapted from Twelve Months of Monastery Salads by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette

Serves 4


(For salad)
2 small ripe cantaloupes
1 1/2 c. cottage cheese
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. seedless raisins
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
A few mint leaves, finely chopped

(For dressing)
1/2 c. half and half
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tbls. plus 1 tsp. honey
Pinch of white pepper


1.  For the salad:  Cut the cantaloupes in half and scoop out the seeds.  I like to cut off a tiny sliver of rind on the side opposite the cut side to help them lay on the plate more securely.
2.  In a medium sized bowl, combine the cottage cheese, pecans, raisins and nutmeg.  Spoon the mixture into the cavities of each cantaloupe.
3.  For the dressing:  Combine all of the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.  Drizzle over the filled cantaloupes and sprinkle chopped mint on top.