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Pan-Seared Salmon with Lemon Dill Sauce

Salmon with Dill Sauce

The annual children’s museum new year’s eve party had reached its climactic point when everyone shuffled their way to the atrium for the midnight (really 8 p.m.) “balloon drop.” After self-delegating myself to stand guard of our beastly double-stroller, I watched as my husband and children were swallowed into the crowd. A few minutes passed before I could see them on the other side of the transparent wall. Our eyes met, but the movement of their lips towards me were completely silenced by the wall that divided us. I stilled myself to take it all in. Their emotion-filled expressions, their hand-holding, their excitement for life, and reckless abandon to dance and jump at the thrill of something beautiful without even the tiniest ounce of care for whom might be watching them. In fact, the absence of embarrassment was filled with pride and the hope that they could look up between their joyous, celebratory jumps and see the eyes of their mother and father watching and sharing in their delight. We did.

How to cook salmon

Salmon, pan-seared salmon

In that moment, as the countdown began, I embraced a new year of adventure with my loved ones. I recognized that despite any goals I may set for myself, I ultimately do not have control over the universe. I permitted God’s guidance in a world of uncertainties. I gave thanks for a warm home, a consistent income, and boutiful food that meets our table. I dedicated another year of living with intention and to stewarding my resources even better than the year before–with experience comes wisdom and the ability to improve.

I have learned with five children at home not to overwhelm myself with concrete goals that will easily frustrate me when I see my lack of accomplishment due to the every day thwartings of motherhood. Rather to embrace it as an adventure and see the beauty in the moment at hand, whether it is my children dancing gleefully at 2,000 ballons tapping their heads and bursting at their feet, or it is comforting the smallest of humans because of their own life’s growing pains, or making my house a place of respite from the bustle of the world outside of its walls, or deliberately ignoring the pile of dishes to linger over a glass of wine with my spouse. I suppose an entire life-time mathematically is the addition of millions and billions of these moments, and ultimately with the next one never being a gaurantee. No pressure.

How to cook Salmon

How to cook salmon

Some things are ever progressing and never reflect a final result. Raising a family is one of those things. The development of a child is so subtle and discreet that often its progress is unrecognizable. It takes strength deep within me to remember this when evaluating the lack of check marks on my to-do list.  Measuring the goal of parenthood against other goals in my life can be hazardous to the health of my perspective. So for now, I am dedicated to my goals but with loose and forgiving strongholds. Amongst those goals is the intentional effort of maintaining balance in our home–trimming the fat on our schedules, so to speak. Upsetting the equilibrium in our home to “hit” a goal is certainly not in the best interest of myself or any of the poor souls I live with. God bless them for tolerating me some days!

Salmon

Pan-Seared Salmon

I am also commited to another year of intentional cooking. Including every facet of it, from food knowledge, to meal planning, to grocery shopping, to preparation, and finally (yes!) to consumption. I promise to share what I learn along the way. Starting with this pan-seared salmon that my 3 year old claimed was the “best pink chicken” she ever had. I tried my best to explain to her that it was salmon, but now she just thinks that the chicken’s name was Salmon. I need to work on that. And clearly, I need to serve fish more often in my house. It is pricier for a larger family, but I have learned that smaller portions of more satisfying foods fit the bill (literally) the same.

Lemon Dill Sauce

Lemon Dill Sauce

Pan-seared salmon results in a crisp exterior and tender, moist center that fork-flakes off of the skin. The dill sauce is infused with the smell and bite of lemon juice, making it a refreshing partner to the warm fish. You can serve it on a bed of couscous, quinoa, or greens with the dill sauce easily doubling as a dressing.

Happy 2013! Hope your year is filled with inspiration, healthy perspective, and balance…and, of course, good food!

Amanda

Pan-Seared Salmon with Lemon Dill Sauce

 Included is my recipe for garlicky parsley coucous, but it would be just as well to serve it with quinoa or greens, using the lemon dill sauce as a double for salad dressing.

Serves 6

Salmon:

2-2.5 pounds (1-1.1 kilos) fresh salmon filets with skin on
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

1. Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet (or other large skillet) to medium heat. Lay out salmon filets, pat them dry, and brush generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Once skillet is hot, lay filets in skillet skin side up for 3 minutes or until golden brown. Flip salmon over and allow to cook for 3-5 more minutes (depending on how thick the filets are). The filets are done when inside temperature reaches  135 degrees in the thickest part, or when separated with a fork a small ribbon of raw pink remains.

2. Remove filets from skillet and let rest for 5 minutes before serving; this allows the salmon to finish cooking through without overcooking in the skillet.

Note: It is important to brush the filets with oil, rather than heating the oil in the pan, so the oil does not burn before the salmon has seared properly.

Lemon Dill sauce:

1 cup (240 ml) plain non-fat yogurt
½ cup (120 ml) reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons scallions, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/3 cup chopped dill
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients and puree for 5-10 seconds until all of the ingredients come together and no large chunks remain. Do not over-puree; you still want to see flecks of the herbs in the sauce.

Garlic Parsley Couscous (not gluten-free)

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup shallots, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 ½ cups (360 ml) chicken stock
2 cups (170 grams / 6 ozs) whole wheat couscous
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
2/3 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1. In a large sauce pan, drizzle in olive oil and set to medium heat. Add shallots and cook until translucent and tender. Then, add garlic and cook for another minute. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add couscous, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and cover with lid for 5 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed.
2. Fluff couscous with a fork, gently folding in flat-leaf parsley and taste for seasoning. Serve immediately.

 

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Espresso Cherry Almond Bark

Espresso Cherry Almond Bark

Espresso Cherry Almond Bark

Sometimes I’m afraid I am gonna get busted.

I could hear the beat of my own heart in my head and feel the pulse of it in my finger tips. Building excitement turned into mad nerves. Such pressure hung in the balance. With gift bag handles hanging from elbow to wrist on both limbs, I reached for the stack of glittery wrapped boxes of “sugar” cereals. The kind that only a jolly fat man would permit my children to start their days with.

Ever so quietly with fuzzy-socked feet, I slid my way down the long corridor  meager hallway, past the baby’s room. I paused to regain composure as the greatest feat lie ahead. The Stairs.

Let me preface.

I once (okay, maybe 157 times) considered making all teenagers in my house sleep upstairs, for they’d never be able to sneak out in the middle of the night with…The Stairs. The 1923 built creaky old things would blow their chances lickety split. And I, the mother standing in a beam of radiant light with praises being sung by choirs of parent cheerleader angels, would gallantly hold my chin high as I smirked at my teenager and eloquently proclaimed, “Ha, busted you are, doll face! Can’t pull one over on this broad!” I would then be crowned with the Mother Has Eyes on The Back of Her Head Award. Pretty much brilliant, I know.

But now…well, now the pendulum has swung, and ’tis I that was under the watchful eye.

Bugger! I had only the gifts in hand. I would have to go back for the stocking stuffers. One mis-step and my cover would be blown. Deep breath. Amanda, you can do this! I considered waking my sleeping giant of a husband to help with the Santa duties, but then I recounted that his steps are not exactly…err, gazellish.

I pressed my chin down against the stack in my arms to secure the packages and began my descent. Creak. Crock. Crickety, creak. Upon reaching the base of the mountain, I again paused to see if my journey downward had spawned any children to jolt from their beds and pitter patter their way living-room bound to confirm their all along suspicions: that Santa Clause was, indeed, the real deal.

Not a peeping sound. Whew.

I felt extraordinarily nervous at this point and wished I had reapplied deodorant for this task. Like a deer in the meadow’s center with the nearest tree line being a bit too far, I longed for the cover of my bed sheets. Deep breath. Soon enough. Soon enough. Stay focused.

With a bit more determination on my worried face, I worked quickly. Placing each gift under the tree, stuffing the stockings with socks, mango flavored chapstick, bits of chocolate and candy, and packs of watermelon Bubblicious. My mission was almost complete.

Doesn’t the man in red also own up to job of eating cookies at each house? Or, is it true that he really prefers Espresso Cherry Almond Bark instead?

It was lying there, innocently displayed on a plate, so I figured I should probably partake in effort to keep with the consistency of the Christmas fairy tale. I wouldn’t want my non-partaking to dispel any childhood fantasies that some burly man in a red jump suit with a white beard, a jingling roof-top sleigh, and a heard of nine flying reindeer whom grants the wishes of children all over the world doesn’t actually exist. Or worse yet, that my children might think St. Nicolas himself doesn’t like chocolate bark. Tsk, tsk, tsk. I couldn’t let this happen.

I left a few crumbs as evidence…

Espresso Cherry Almond Bark

A pound (16 ounces) of good semi-sweet chocolate. Seriously.

Espresso Cherry Almond Bark

Chopped.

Espresso Cherry Almond Bark

Melted over a double broiler (or make-shift double broiler, which consists of a glass bowl atop a pot of boiling water…just make sure the bowl isn’t actually touching the boiling water). Flavored with rich smelling espresso grounds, then poured onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread evenly leaving a 2-inch border. The melty goodness should be about 1/4-1/2 inch thick when spread.

Espresso Cherry Almond Bark

Studded with bits of crunchy, salted almonds and shrivels of tart, crimson cherries. Then rounded out with a moderate strewing of sea salt.

‘Tis compensations such as this, that makes the whole staying up until 2 a.m. wrapping gifts, sneaking around, playing the magical Santa role completely worth it. Even if I do end up getting busted, at least it will be with a mouthful of Espresso Cherry Almond Bark!

Hope all you mums and dads got the job done right.

Love,

Missy Magpie

P.S. May you be delighted with a spirited New Year celebration amongst those you love.

 

Espresso Cherry Almond Bark

Serves: 40 pieces
A dark chocolate would work for those who prefer its rich bitter flavors. Also, do not underestimate the addition of the sea salt. It really pulls all of the flavors together when the chocolate melts in your mouth.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound / 454 grams good quality semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground espresso beans or instant espresso powder
  • 3/4 cup whole salted dry roasted almonds, hand chopped
  • 3/4 cup dried tart cherries, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Instructions
  1. Melt chocolate in a double broiler or a make-shift double broiler (a glass bowl atop a pot of boiling water…just make sure the bowl is not actually touching the boiling water). When completely melted, stir in ground espresso or instant espresso, until thoroughly combined.
  2. Spread chocolate on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving a 2 inch border (or so the chocolate is 1/4 inch thick).
  3. Evenly sprinkle on almonds, dried cherry bits, and sea salt. Let set in refrigerator or freezer before breaking into pieces of bark. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Notes

Do not use chocolate chips, as they will clump when melting because they contain stabilizers. Hand chop almonds; do not use a food processor as it will create too much almond dust.

a Christmas tree & winter songs

Christmas Tree

Alright, well, the tree is up. Sigh. It looks homely, but it is up.

006 A Christmas Tree

I put on my garden gloves, fluffed every flattened branch on my eight-year-old artificial blue spruce, and strung half the amount of lights that I usually do because I was too lazy to run out to the store on my Sunday evening at home to buy more. Before the task at hand was even half done, I granted myself permission to just let it go. The whole darn thing. The uniformity of bulb placing, the color coordination of garland with the bulbs, the straightening of crooked fake branches, the extra fluff that hides the metal trunk, all if it….none of it matters anyway. Not this Christmas, or any other for that matter.

On another note, I hit 30 and my equilibrium has completely gone to pot. I really cannot comprehend this phenomenon, but this I know: the physical disposition I once had to swing at the park or circle a Christmas tree to lace it with lights and ribbon, is completely gone.

Containers of plastic, colorful bulbs I relinquished to my middle daughters to hook wherever their refined decorative eye saw fit, with the only direction being not to hang too many at the bottom where Sephina baby could pull them off. They heeded my advise without taking any chances, and refrained from placing ANY bulbs on the lower half of the tree. So my lower half is naked. Well, not my lower half, but the lower half of my tree. Whew!

Within two hours, my five-pound pouch hit spaz-thirty and bucked like a bronco under the tree, conveniently knocking off all of the lowest level branches, which are completely unreachable should a person want to reattach them to the lovely fake metal trunk (I didn’t). Perfect. It was as good as putting the star on the tree. A nice final touch. Almost.

In the storage room, I rummaged through my organized tubs until I found it. A two-and-a-half foot long strand of garland made up of random beads, buttons, and other “teensy tinsy” paraphernalia that my oldest three daughters strung together and be-gifted us the Christmas before they moved in. It isn’t even long enough to wrap around the narrowest part of the tree, but the thought of those tiny fingers doing such heart-felt work to string this particular strand of garland for their soon-to-be parents makes it mandatory decoration.

003 A Christmas Tree

001 A Christmas Tree

Alas, I count the blessing of being surrounded by all of my family this holiday season, save but one. I miss her treacherously in moments like these. Too sacred to store with the other tree ornaments in plastic tubs, I fumbled through my top desk drawer until I felt the black velvet bag that enclosed it. I pulled at the draw string to widen the mouth of the bag, then slipped the contents into the palm of my hand. A silver frame, engraved with her name. Fiona. I pulled the glass to my lips and kissed her photograph gently, then wiped the smudge with my thumb. I slipped my finger into the red ribbon by which it hangs and strategically placed it at my eye level. There. Done.

The tree didn’t matter. Not really. The profound significance of one solitary birth that changed the course of eternity itself was all I could think about. Today I am grateful and left standing in awe of what makes this time of year truly magical.

Here is a list of some wintery Christmas songs I have put on repeat this season:

Carol of the Bells by John Williams
It’s Christmas by Victoria Vox
Dance of the Mirlitons performed by The National Philharmonic   Orchestra
Angels We Have Heard on High by Maeve
White Horse by Over the Rhine, Snow Angels
Silver Bells by He & She
Winter Song by Sarah Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson
Carol of the Bells by Dana Cunningham

Thought I would share them with you. Some classics and some fresh material that is worth adding to your playlist.

Merry Christmas,
Missy Magpie

Lemon Sugar Cookies

Chewy Lemon Sugar Cookies

Chewy Lemon Sugar Cookies

The occasional treating yourself to something luxurious might include an hour at the spa, a makeover, or a wardrobe overhall. Or, sometimes it’s the small things, like a good night’s sleep, or eating dinner while it’s still hot, or a fresh haircut. For this crazy lady, floatation on cloud nine came recently while operating my motor vehicle under which it had just been detailed. Detailed people. Detailed.

That means the chocolate milk stains that had been straw-splattered on the ceiling were gone. The Christmas tree craft puff paint from the homeless shelter benefit last year was removed from the carpet (which I had tirelessly tried to remove myself several times). All the crud that cakes into the crevices of the floor where I had to twist like a pretzel to even see, let alone clean, were spotless. The half munched kiddie crackers and french fry casualties that had fallen into cracks were obliterated. The obnoxious, I-have-no-idea-how-they-got-there smudges that marked the leather were buffed clean. The dust in my air vents wasn’t pushed to the corners, it was completely non-existant. The dirt-stained base boards where my children enter and exit their sweet ride to greet their endearing mother, were sparkling. It wasn’t just a luxury treatment, it was a freakin’ miracle! All that remained were shining all-weather floor mats, a sparkling dash board, and a very strong scent of cherry-ish cleaner.

First, I just sat there, mouth agape, and drooled for a while because that’s what people do. Right? It’s no exaggeration to say that the whole thing made me feel giddy. Maybe that was the cherry-ish fumes I inhaled on the 40 minute school pick-up gig. Either way, my vehicle felt very happy. I knew it wouldn’t last long. Sort of like when I finish the last load of laundry only to see that everyones’ hampers in their rooms are full. Sigh…

We took a trip later that week, and I refused to let the kids eat popcorn with their movie on the way to grammy and grampy’s house. I wanted to relish in it for a while longer. That isn’t asking too much, is it? It was almost suspenseful trying to keep everything looking so pristine. We still had to live.

Shortly thereafter, I was able to retire the pressure of keeping the sparkle, when my spill-proof coffee mug carelessly was left (by yours truly) to the mercy of my driving motion, rendering it to slow seepage across the floor as it rolled about my vehicle. It was a lot of pressure to hold such a high standard in our family vehicle. Not practical to say the least. I was sort of relieved and sort of ticked that the inaugural trashing of the vehicle had begun, but more relieved than ticked. I think. Or maybe that came after the clean-up.

I got over it. I moved on. On to the next small luxury. A sugar cookie that equals in impressiveness to the traditional over-achiever Christmas cut-outs, yet outdoing them with their make-your-mouth-water lemony zip and color.

This is a typical butter based drop cookie. You know, the kind where you can’t stop eating pinches of dough.

Sugar Cookies

If you want a perfectly smooth top to the cookie for icing instead of rolling the dough through the zesty sugar, omit the cream of tartar from the batter, and place the dough balls on the baking sheet. Then flatten them slightly with the bottom of a measuring cup (to about 1/2 inch thickness). If you don’t want to fuss with icing, frosting, etc. well I don’t blame you, and you can follow the recipe as is…

Lemon Sugar Cookies

The dough balls are rolled into a sugary lemon zest snow pile, then baked until the edges are golden brown leaving you with a delectable chewy center encased by a rather admirable crisp border.  This is sure to help bring in the yule tide, don’t you think?

Sugar Cookies

I then dusted the cookies with confectioners’ sugar and extra lemon zest. This is completely unnecessary and merely a nice show-off move. It works.

Chewy Lemon Sugar CookiesThese aren’t your cakey sugar cookie that puffs up. These have a nice spread to them, which goes a long way to pat down my guilt when I gobble four in one sitting. Or maybe it was five… This isn’t about confessions though, people. This is about a darn good cookie!

Chewy Lemon Sugar Cookies

Rather, a stack of darn good cookies. Hoard them if you must, but sharing really is the grown-up thing to do here.

Consider this my holiday gift to you.

Made with much love (and lemons),

Amanda

Chewy Lemon Sugar Cookies

Author: Amanda Wilson / Missy Magpie
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 45 mins
Serves: 40
Ingredients
  • Cookie Dough:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, diced and slightly softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (about one lemon’s worth)
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 2 ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Lemon Sugar:
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • To Finish (optional):
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • Lemon zest
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with racks in the center of oven. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and lemon zest together until light and fluffy.
  2. Then, add corn syrup, lemon juice, and vanilla. Add egg yolks one at a time until completely incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl in the process.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and Kosher salt. Slowly add flour mixture to wet mixture until just combined being sure to scrape the sides of bowl again.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon zest. Using a cookie dough scoop, roll into even balls and coat with the lemon sugar before placing on the baking sheet two inches apart.
  5. Bake for 6-8 minutes for 1 tablespoon sized cookies and 8-10 minutes for 2 tablespoon sized cookies, or until the edges just turn golden brown. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 3-5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and more lemon zest, if desired. Store in an airtight container or freeze if not being consumed the same day.

 

 

Golden Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Let’s start off on the right foot. First, please disregard any childhood memory of dislike you may have had about these little green beauties. Think about it. You didn’t like spinach or tomatoes then either because…well, you were a child, and your taste buds hadn’t reached their maturity. Or something like that. Either way, if your memory of eating these boiled is hard to block, rest assured, there is no boiling here.  I’m not talking blanching people, I’m talking nasty mushy goobs of green boiled to a point well beyond doneness. Pahtuuuwee! No, none of that.

I am a firm believer in roasting vegetables to bring out their richest flavors. So, before you brush off this recipe, I implore you to reconsider.

Brussel Sprouts

They’re like mini heads of cabbage. Make sure to get firm ones and pick off any loose leaves before cutting them in half for the great roast.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Perfectly complimented by the sweetness of slow roasted red onions, the nutty glaze of olive oil, and sprinkling of Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and grated Parmesan.

Brussel Sprouts

Cut the onions equal in size to the halved sprouts so they are done roasting at the same time. Thirty to forty minutes at 400 degrees (depending on the size of the sprouts) and you will end up with glorious golden crusted sprouts intermingled with the sweet lingering flavor of slow roasted red onions.

Brussel Sprouts

For a little extra jab of sweet and tart, you can sprinkle on chopped dried cranberries.

A bowl of this, crusty bread drizzled with olive oil, a little prosciutto, and perhaps a glass of red, depending on my mood. I’m good.

Here is an article that reiterates information I have read elsewhere, and explains how to pick the best brussel sprouts and when best to purchase them. In short, buy them small and tight and November-February.

Golden Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Serves: 4-6
If you can’t find brussel sprouts still on the stalk, be sure to trim any ends that have browned before halving. This could easily be turned into a meal by adding bits of cooked bacon or prosciutto, toasted pepitas, and chopped cranberries or cherries. A pecorino or meltier fontina would be a kind substitute for the parmesan.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound / 450 grams brussel sprouts
  • 2 large red onions, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Grated parmesan
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel any loose leaves from brussel sprouts; cut from stalk and halve. Cut onions equal in size to sprout halves. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
  2. Spread in a single layer on a large baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes turning once halfway through cook time. The sprouts are done when the cut-side of the sprouts are golden brown and fork tender with a small bite to them. Time will vary depending on size of the brussel sprouts.
  3. Upon removing from oven, sprinkle with generous amounts of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

 

Hearty Ham and Lentil Soup

Ham and Lentil Soup

This soup is a lot like my favorite pair of worn jeans.  It doesn’t scream flashy; instead, it fits with ease and gets better with time. It is earthy and satisfying without being fussy. I love one pot dishes like this, especially on a November night that has brought chill to my bones.

Plus, if you have left over ham from the holiday…well, really, need I say more?

Ham and Lentil Soup

In our absense from home these past few days for Thanksgiving, we gathered with family and overstuffed nurtured our bellies with a myriad of traditional dishes that compliment the iconic golden bird. Then, we indulged in deep conversation, rubbed our swollen bellies, and promised not to do that again to ourselves (for at least 4 hours). We returned home and vowed to skip meals and only eat salad for the next three days. We made such promises as we heaved the remaining apple crumble pie into our mouths; lest we let it go to waste, I think not. What a horrifying shame that would be.

After things came to a settle, Brian and I wrapped our minds around the brutal fact that we are no longer eighteen and our digestive tracks need a little more tender loving care (and a deep cleanse, perhaps). We headed down a road to redemption, mostly pertaining to soups and salads (also, with the goal of cleaning up left overs). Thus, I present you with this most satisfying soup.

Ham and bean soup

Mmmm….rabbit food. Always a nice rebound after the holidays.

Ham and Lentil Soup

Lentils are such a nice bean, aren’t they? Not too big. A nice thickening agent to the chicken stock.

Well, they are nice until you spill the darn things on the floor trying to photograph them. Hmm….

They are simmered with the ham hock, which imparts its fabulous salty, ham flavor into the beans and broth.

Ham and Lentil Soup

Comfort in a bowl aside chunks of lovely pumpkin seed bread for dipping, of course. Let’s not forget to pay homage to the perfect shavings of parmesan atop this glorious measure. Just take your vegetable peeler to your wedge of parmesan to acheive this garnish. Grating is a fine alternative.

Hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving and have much to be thankful for. I know I do.

-Amanda

P.S. I found it incredibly sweet that my one year-old learned how to say “thank you” the night before Thanksgiving…even if it did sound more like “daahn-doo” than “thank you.” It melted my heart nonetheless.

Hearty Ham and Lentil Soup

Serves: 6
Although the soup can be made without the ham hock, it is responsible for imparting the salty ham flavor into the broth and lentils. If you do not have a ham hock, I would advise eating the soup the day after it is prepared which will allow more of the ham flavor to infuse the broth without overcooking it. Do not simmer the ham bits with the lentils to impart flavor, as it will make the ham dry, tough, and flavorless. This soup is very hearty so needs very little on the side. I usually serve it with an interesting multi-grain artisan bread (whatever looks good at the store), which I know is cliché, but honest.
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups celery, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Ham hock (optional, yet preferred)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 8 cups hot water
  • 1 ½ cups dried lentils
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 (15 ounce / 425 grams) cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups ham, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Kosher salt, if needed
  • Parmesan Reggiano (optional garnish)
Instructions
  1. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, drizzle in olive oil and set at medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery. Let cook until onions are translucent (8-10 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add garlic and let cook another minute until fragrant.
  2. Add ham hock, chicken stock, water, lentils, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 35-40 minutes until lentils are tender. Remove ham hock and bay leaves.
  3. Add great northern beans and ham pieces and let cook until heated through. Add lots of fresh ground pepper. Taste for salt; if needed, add in very small portions as the ham is already salty. Remove bay leaves and serve garnished with large shavings of parmesan cheese, if desired.
Notes

Can be made this without the ham hock and is still decicious, but the hock abosolutely imparts more flavor into the beans and broth.

 

 

 

Orange Cranberry Mulled Cider

Mulled Cider

Mulled Cider

Where do the days go?

I hate when I can’t answer that. When my recollection of life seems only to be  flashes of hallucinative images in my mind. I loathe when I see piles on my desk of mundane papers with deadlines that beckon my attention, yet steal my time. Clearly, I can see the days and years slipping by. I dress my children in yesterday’s clothes, which no longer fit. The branches have gone from golden, to bare, and soon to be covered in winter’s snow in a matter of blinks. Grey hairs are beginning to populate. Smile wrinkles beginning to shine. A daughter’s talk of college and moving out to make her own way.

I frazzle to document the moments of today so that I can remember them tomorrow. Sometimes I drink coffee at night to seep more hours out of a day.

It is indubitably understood that I cannot halt this rapid momentum that pushes me through life, but I can pause to embrace it with a warm Autumn drink. I can contently sip my cider and temporarily pretend those piles and lists simply do not exist, and instead intentionally turn my gaze to the hearts and eyes of my most beloved. This small, simple reprieve is sometimes all I need to feel grounded again and regain perspective.

All of that in a cup of cider. I know, it’s a lot.

I like cider well enough, but this cider. Well, this cider is incredibly preferred over the plane jane cider I normally find extraordinarily satisfying on a brisk fall day. It’s not quite so overbearing. It is more subtle and smooth with the tart cranberry and the sweet orange, yet still holds the earthy warmth that a typical mulled cider should have.

Plus, it is so darn pretty with that crimson hue and floating citrusy orange slice!

Cranberry Orange Mulled Cider

No need to make this complicated. Just put it all in a pot, let it simmer for 10 minutes and serve. Really. That’s it.

Apple Cider

A little reprieve in a mug with a cinnamon stick. Ha, if only more things in life could be this straightforward.

Truly,

Amanda

Orange Cranberry Mulled Cider

Serves: 8
Try to find juices that are natural without added sweeteners or preservatives and avoid juice that is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. The star anise I nominated as optional; although it adds great depths to the flavor palate, it is sometimes difficult to find and not everyone likes anise flavoring. If the end result is too tart for your liking, you can add raw sugar or brown sugar one tablespoon at a time to desired sweetness.
Ingredients
  • 1 gallon / 1.89 liters natural apple juice or cider
  • 4 cups natural cranberry juice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise (optional)
  • 2 oranges, ends removed and sliced
Instructions
  1. In a large pot on medium high heat, stir together juice or cider, cranberry juice, cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, and the slices of 1 orange. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low if serving later. Serve in glasses and garnish with remaining orange slices and cinnamon sticks (optional).