Watermelon Guacamole

You asked, I’m answering.

Yes, I do realize it’s been since my birthday…2013, that I wrote. That means, not since the following have I dared update this blogging home I used love so much:

Moving to St. Louis; starting my new job; moving into a new home; J having a new album…etc.

So, I owe you a lot, I suppose? As far as this blog is concerned, my “eating” and “drinking” has undergone some SERIOUS changes. I’m some weird combination of a Pescatarian and Vegan. Meaning? I eat fish (not a ton), but no meat and no dairy. I’m not gluten free, but I stay far away from it most of the time.

As for drinking? I’m still very much in the craft beer business, and therefore, still enjoying every minute of it. But I’m also diving into a world of spirits, as well as really not drinking very much of anything. There’s a running joke among my reps and friends: Who’s going to be Jill’s “DD” tonight? No longer does “DD” mean designated driver. It now means who is going to be the person to finish my drinks. I’ll always have one in my hand, of course…it’s my job. But someone has to finish those bad boys…

As for why I haven’t blogged, there are many reasons. But the largest is that when I cook–which is far less these days, due to the actual ability to pick up food or have it delivered for the first time in the 9+ years J and I have been together–I’m pretty pooped, and while the meal is generally lovely and nourishing, it doesn’t necessarily feel like something anyone else would care to hear about.

So why are we here now? Right. Watermelon Guacamole. The other night, I posted a photo of dinner–shrimp lettuce wrap tacos with a watermelon guacamole. (The only way any of you know I’m still cooking occasionally is via social media–thanks for sticking with me.) The instagrammers/tweeters went question crazy, and I promised a real live blog post.

Back story? I love fruit. As you all know if you’ve been reading this for the last few years. And? I had some farm fresh watermelon in the fridge from my newly discovered STL find, the Tower Grove Farmers Market. We also LIVE for guacamole all days, what with the I really love to eat vegetables and fruit. Generally, while making a taco experience (all too often) I’d make a fruity salsa “thing” and a guac. But not this night…

I decided to do some combining. One, we were out of some required ingredients. Two, the combination of watermelon and avocado seemed way too good to pass up. The outcome was priceless and beautiful, and it was one of those dishes I wished I had more of.

Cooks note: This would be also be GREAT not mashed up–the way I prepared it–but chunked up as a salad with the roasted shrimp I made for the tacos.

Enjoy! And who knows…maybe we see a trend?

Watermelon Guacamole
  • 1 ripe Hass Avocado, peeled and cubed
  • 1 C diced watermelon, juice reserved
  • 1 lime
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/4 C cilantro
  • coarse sea salt (to taste)
  • black pepper (to taste)
In mixing bowl, place cubed avocado, grated garlic, and juice of HALF the lime. Lightly mash (be careful to not overmash.) You want the mixture to be slightly chunky.
Add in cilantro, salt, pepper, and lightly mix. Add in watermelon and gently fold together.
Add in small amounts of watermelon juice as you fold in until you reach desired consistency.
(I wanted mine to be spoonable.)
Add salt and pepper to taste–add more lime juice if you need.

Posted in Eat it. | 1 Comment

Vegans Will Love You Shepherds Pie

Vegan Shepherds Pie with Kale Chips

If you’ve ever read this blog before, you know I’m no stranger to a Shepherds Pie. In fact, I’ve written three (count them 3!) different recipes that I’ve shared here. In my opinion, life doesn’t get much better than a great Shepherds Pie. Perfect for leftovers that need a new life,  and easier than, well, pie to manipulate for what you need, this Irish classic is a big favorite in our house, especially between the months of December and April.

Wilt in kale with vegetables as they cook

Earlier this year, when J and I first began eating a Pescetarian diet, I used my basic recipe and omitted the meat, added some extra vegetarian friendly ingredients, and had what appeared to be a perfect (and healthy) version. If my math is correct, and I did a lot of actual measuring (ha!) in this recipe, there are 167 calories** contained in 1/4 of this recipe (you know, enough for me but you’d need to double that for J.) Add in the kale chips I made as a side and you’re only MAYBE 93 calories. That’s such a low-calorie dinner that you can feel ok having the glass of red wine I did AND an extra square of dark chocolate. I mean…come one come all.

Naked Shepherds Pie bathed in the most delicious (and VEGAN) gravy.

The entire thing took me less than an hour from start to finish, and the real delay was mainly because I was busy trying to take less offensive photos and dilly dallying a bit.

Cooked Kale Chips (made with Lacinato Kale this time.)

You must try this. I insist. Especially all of you that are on or plan to be on the 22 day vegan challenge that Jay and Beyonce are making so au currant.

If you miss the meat, I promise I’ll send you something good. Or Santa will. Not sure how this works…

**These calculations are according to MyFitnessPal and may be only as precise as said app allows.

Vegan Shepherds Pie
1 TBSP olive oil
3 large Portabella caps, stems removed, cut into large chunks
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 head cauliflower, chopped into large chunks
1 C kale, stems removed, cut into thin strips
1 TBSP Herbs de Provence (or use a combo of oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme)
2 TBSP gluten free (or All Purpose) flour
1 C vegetable stock, divided
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 large sweet potato, cubed
1/2 TBSP coconut butter
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a very large skillet over medium high heat, add olive oil.
Put mushrooms in skillet* and allow to cook down about 4-5 minutes, until mushrooms have darkened in color, and reduced in size. Add salt and pepper.
Add onion and garlic to pan, cook about 1 minute, adjusting heat if necessary.
Add fennel and cauliflower to pan, seasoning each layer as you go, and toss vegetables. Allow to cook about 3-4 minutes. Add kale, begin to wilt.
Season with more salt, pepper (as needed) and Herbs de Provence.

Add flour to pan, sprinkling over vegetables. Allow to cook 1 minute, until flour is just cooked out.
Add balsamic vinegar, cook 1 minute.
Turn heat to high, add 1/2 vegetable stock, and stir mixture constantly. (This will form the gravy.)
Allow mixture and sauce to come together, thickening. Add more stock if mixture gets too dry.

Reduce heat to simmer, and let sit.

While vegetables are cooking, add cubed sweet potato to small sauce pot, cover with cold water and lid. Bring to a boil, remove lid, and cook until potatoes are soft and a fork/knife can easily slip into potato.

Drain potatoes, return to pot, and set on the burner on simmer/low heat. Add remaining vegetable stock, coconut butter, salt and pepper to taste. Mash until well mixed, and then stir vigorously with wooden spoon.
Place vegetable mixture in the bottom of casserole dish. Cover with sweet potatoes, making sure to “seal” all edges with potatoes.
Bake in oven for approximately 12 minutes, then broil 5-6 minutes until top is golden brown and gravy is bubbling. Allow to rest 1-2 minutes then serve (alongside kale chips if desired.)
*When browning mushrooms, allow to brown fully before adding salt and pepper. It will allow the mushrooms to stay more firm and flavorful. Or so I’ve been told and thus do.
Kale Chips
1 1/2 C kale, removed from stem and chopped into large pieces
1 TBSP olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (If you’re making with Shepherd’s Pie, oven will be preheating already.)
Place kale on baking sheet, and toss with olive oil salt, and pepper.
Bake in oven for approximately 10-12 minutes. WATCH CAREFULLY as chips can go from perfect to burned and disintegrated in no time.

Remove from heat. Serve immediately.

Posted in Eat it. | 7 Comments

Movin’ On Up…to St. Louis

Well, well, well. Look who’s back.

First things first? Hi and hello! Welcome to winter. Are you braising and making chili and eating all sorts of winter delights? Hope so.

Now, where the heck have I been and what the hell is going on? Well, lots of changes have happened in the Sites household in the last few months. After a hellish hospitalization in the fall, I have finally started to recover and move forward with (my now non-dairy) life. In and around all of that, I left the brewery…long story, and somewhat difficult for me, but luckily I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and started all over…again.

In searching for my “next move” and our (J and my) next #TeamSites journey , I was lucky enough to be offered a great new gig in St. Louis, Missouri. I’ll be working on the only side of the alcohol business I haven’t yet; distributing. I’m super excited to be joining the team at MoBev (Missouri Beverage, which is a new distributor joining forces with Wirtz Beverage.) I’ll be running the new craft beer team, and quite honestly, I’m just stupid excited.

Unfortunately, packing incessantly also means attempting to eat everything in our cupboards and freezer. Which means strange bedfellow meals, with less than fresh ingredients. Did you know that if you take a box of Thai Sweet Potato Soup, mix it with the Soba Noodles that have been hiding in your cupboard, and add some frozen peas, you have a delicious late night meal? (So. Many. Frozen. Peas.)

I do have some great vegan/vegetarian recipes to share…but, um, in my haste of discovering great new dinners, I may have not written anything down. So I’m recreating now, with hopes of getting back to blogging on the regular once we move. I’ll post a few this week, in case you’re looking for one last thing for your holiday table.

Now, you tell me. Who knows who and what in St. Louis?

Posted in Eat it. | 3 Comments

Sweet Potato Latke (Pancake) Heaven

Ed Note: The lighting in my mother’s kitchen is terrible. The photos are not my favorites, but worth showing you the gorgeous color of the latkes. Don’t Martha Stewart me.

In truth, this post is about 2 weeks late, but you know me.

There’s something delightfully perfect about a potato pancake. I’ve had lots in my life, perfectly plain growing up Jewish, and then moving into the culinary world where they were sometimes spiked with smoked salmon, caviar, or strange vegetables that may or may not have belonged. But potato pancakes fall into the Pizza category for me. Even when it’s bad? It’s usually pretty good.

I made these for my family’s Thanksgivmukah Celebration on Thanksgiving night, and really wish I had doubled (or tripled!) the recipe. I wanted to use sweet potatoes for many reasons, and the thought of using parsnips instead of carrots seemed a perfect fit. (I had dreams of using beets, but my mom’s busy Thanksgiving kitchen just didn’t allow.)

The beautiful thing about this recipe is that it allowed me to make them 2 days before the holiday and then simply reheat them in a warm oven. I wasn’t sure they’d retain their perfect crisp but luckily, no issue.

The recipe is based on this Bon Appetit’s Latke Recipe, with a few special Jill tweaks in for good measure. I served them with creme fraiche and applesauce that I spiked with the cooking juices of Mom’s cranberry sauce–which isn’t exactly readily available. But if you can find/make a good cranberry applesauce…go for it. You won’t regret it.

Sweet Potato Latkes
Based on Recipe from Bon Appetit
4 medium sweet potatoes
1 large yukon gold
4 parsnips
2 medium onions
3 large eggs
1/2 C bread crumbs or Matzoh Meal (you made need a little more or less, you could also use flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 TBSP fresh dill, chopped
grapeseed oil (for frying, but use whatever light oil you want)
Shred potatoes, parsnips, and onions in food processor (or grate by hand on a box grater.)
Twist vegetables in a clean towel or cheese cloth and twist. Hard. You want to get as much moisture out of the mixture as possible.
Whisk eggs, bread crumbs, baking powder, salt and pepper in a bowl to blend.
Add to potato mixture and mix with your hands until well coated. The batter should be wet and thick, not soupy.
Line baking sheet with several layers of paper towels and put a cooling rack on top of sheet (This is optional, but will help drain the oil from the latkes.)
Heat oil to medium high heat—you want enough oil to cover about 1/8 inches up in the pan.
Drop spoonfuls (to desired size) of mixture in oil, pressing gently to flatten the pancakes.
**Fry one first, just to be sure you have enough binding. If it falls apart, add some egg/matzoh meal/flour.
Cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side (depending on your pan.)
I fried them for about 4 min per side, as we like them VERY well done.
As latkes finish cooking, place them on the cooling rack to drain.
If you are serving immediately, place baking sheet in oven to keep warm.
If you are serving later: Allow latkes to cool completely, then wrap in tin foil and refrigerate. When ready to serve, remove foil and warm on baking sheet with cooling rack — about 200 degree oven.
Serve warm with applesauce and creme fraiche (or sour cream.)

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Holy Vegetable Stock: Thanks To YumUniverse!

Vegetable Stock (Recipe from YumUniverse)

First of all, HI! For those that are wondering, yes, I’m home. Nope, still no diagnosis, still not very healthy. But home. And working on it all. Just trying to take one day at a time, you know?

As the weather turns cooler and we’re all making stew and chili and soup, inevitably we’re also buying or making tons of stock. It’s been something like 8 months since J and I went pescetarian, and with that, vegetable stock is all I use. But I’ve never made it before. It seemed unnecessary, and laborious, and quite frankly a waste of very good vegetables. At least with chicken or meat stock you’re boiling bones or parts. You’ve already eaten the meat (or are going to.)

Enter YumUniverse. If you eat a plant-based diet, or are interested in possibly doing so, or maybe want to bring a vegetarian dish to your next potluck, Heather Crosby is your girl. I adore her, and basically stalk her on all forms of social media. So when she posted a picture of vegetable scraps simmering beautifully in a pot of water, explaining that she saves her scraps all week and turns them into vegetable stock? I was sold. I did a little digging on Facebook (like I said, I’m a bit of a stalker) and she gave me the rundown. It was so amazingly easy that even though I’m still absolutely down for the count health-wise (translation, not really cooking much at ALL) J and I decided to give it a whirl this past week. Today, I made the stock, and it turned into two and a half quarts of the most beautifully colored and actually really tasty vegetable stock!

So here’s the skinny: Save your vegetable scraps from cooking all week long. We’re talking onion layers, garlic skins, mushroom gills, lemon rinds, the works. Whatever you think would be a good idea in a stock. (I stayed away from avocado peels, but I might try them next time.) I saved all of mine in a largeish tupperware that I kept in the fridge. When it came time to cook, I just threw everything in there instead of the garbage. Since I’m really not up to cooking, there wasn’t a ton, but it seemed like enough. Ish.

Then, on a Sunday (or whatever day you want) put them in a big pot and cover them with fresh, clean water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 20 minutes. Knowing, as I do, that stocks need salt and pepper, I added about 3 tbsp of salt, and about 3 tbsp peppercorns. (I used pink, white, and black–that’s what I thought would taste great!)

Strain, and let cool. This is when I’d taste for final seasoning–any further salt and pepper. Transfer to whatever vessels you want to use. Freeze or refrigerate for use. I put mine in mason jars (duh) and put the little half guy in the freezer, and the two full ones in the fridge.

Final Product

These are perfect for whatever you want–use for soups, or for cooking quinoa or rice… whatever you’d normally use boxed stock for.

Many, MANY thanks to Heather/YumUniverse. You never cease to amaze me.

YumUniverse Style Vegetable Stock

Weeks Worth of Vegetable Scraps
Approximately 3 Tbsp salt
Approximately 3 Tbsp peppercorns (pink, white, black)

Put vegetable scraps in a large pot. Cover with clean, fresh water.
Bring to a boil, lower heat. Add salt and peppercorns.
Simmer 20 minutes.
Strain, let cool. Taste for more seasoning.
Transfer to final use vessels.


Posted in Eat it. | 1 Comment

Pesto Pesto

Look at all those peas. Thanks to Local in New Buffalo, MI of course!

I love this time of year. I usually love it more, because usually it translates to my skin being a nice golden brown, but lately mother nature has not been such a fan of me spending time after work running down to the beach to bask in the last few hours of sun and sand. But all the rain is good for all the produce, and for that reason, I can’t be that mad.

I’ve been buying things in bulk, and freezing and preserving to the best of my time and ability. Lots of freezer room is no more, and lots of mason jars are filled with pickles, fruity macerated alcohols, and much more. The last few weeks I’ve bought 5lb buckets of fresh peas, which need absolutely not cooking and taste like candy. Each week I’ve frozen 2 large baking sheets full, for winter soups and stews, saved a few clamshells full for eating and weekday cooking, and then yanked out my now overworked food processor for pesto.

Pea Pesto in the works.

Pea Pesto, ready for the long freeze

I told you a few weeks ago I’ve been making just about anything into pesto. I love it. But pea pesto? There’s almost nothing better in my eyes. It is such a beautiful color, it freezes beautifully, and it’s hearty enough to pair with anything you want. Pair it with some baguette and little else, top a pizza crust with the lime green goodness, or toss some whole grain pasta or quinoa with it. Top a piece of salmon, chicken, or even steak with a good hearty dollop. The possibilities are endless, and the beauty of this particular saucy goodness is that it freezes WONDERFULLY in a simple ziploc bag. Let it freeze flat in the bag and you can just keep stacking them.

Strawberry Infused Tequila (Needs 4 weeks at least)

Strawberry Rhubarb Vodka (Also needs at least 4 weeks)

Which leaves more room for all the frozen booze you’ll have from strawberry season. (More on that in a few weeks!)

Pumpkin Seed Pea Pesto
(I also made this with walnuts and some basil; you could use almonds, or whatever nut you feel would pair well–and have floating around your cabinet. Use your imagination!)

1/4C roasted salted pumpkin seeds (again, what I had–use what you have)
mine were not shelled, which meant a longer time in the processor
1 C fresh peas (you could use frozen if you wanted)
1 clove garlic, peeled (or 2 small)
1 small handful mint, chopped
kosher salt
black pepper
1/2 C vegetable stock (you may not need as much, see for texture)
zest and juice of 1 lemon

In a food processor, add pumpkin seeds, and process on low until seeds are finely ground. This will take a while if you are using seeds with shells–just be patient. I love the consistency the shells give the pesto, so just walk away and do something else if you can’t wait.

When the shells are properly ground, add peas, garlic, mint, lemon zest, and splash of stock, to keep everything moving. Pulse processor until ingredients start moving around, then turn processor to low.
Stream in vegetable stock until pesto starts to move around in a not-too-liquidy way (best way I can describe it) that you desire and ingredients are combined. Stop machine, taste, add salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Pulse until desired consistency and taste.

Portion out into tupperware (for fridge) or ziploc bags (for freezer.) Label, and for freezer, lay flat until fully frozen. Done!

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Basil Walnut Pesto

Basil Walnut Pesto, served over quinoa with local tomatoes, asparagus and spring onions.

I love pesto. Always have. There’s something about the herbaceousness mixed with the pungent garlic kick that just always does it for me. Be it traditional basil or ramp, or pea pesto or really anything. I love it. J, on the other hand, hasn’t always shared my love of pesto, mainly because often he finds it a bit on the oily side.

Luckily, I’m one to fix things like that. For years I’ve been trying to make pesto with less fat options, or different ingredients, just to find things he’d like better. Sometimes he doesn’t mind the oil, sometimes he does. But with our quest for healthier fats these days, it’s finally a battle I’ve seemed to win, at least for now.

This is one I make a lot these days, mainly because of the bounty of options it has. We toss it over quinoa and vegetables, use it as a pizza base, or sometimes as a dressing for a great crunchy salad. It’s usually vegan, and mostly made with very little added oil. My favorite thing about this basic recipe is that all you have to do is trust yourself…change up the nut, or the green. Add some greek yogurt or use some flax oil. The possibilities are pretty endless.

To me, this combination is classical with a great twist. Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Basil Walnut Pesto

1/8 C Raw Walnut Halves
2 Large Handfuls Basil Leaves
2 Large cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
Approx 1 C vegetable stock (give or take)
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 T nutritional yeast
sea salt
black pepper

In a food processor, pulse walnuts until finely ground.
Add basil and garlic, pulse until combined with walnuts.
Add half vegetable stock, pulse until thick paste forms.

Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon juice.

Turn on processor to low, add in stock until desired consistency is reached. I like mine to be a thick sauce, not watery at all. When desired consistency is reached, add yeast and pulse in.

Taste again for seasoning.

Add to whatever dish you choose. Pesto keeps in fridge for 1 week(ish?) and then in freezer for probably 6 months. (It should be said that I have NO idea about the validity of those statements, I just go by smell.)

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Vegetarian Chile Rellenos…They’re That Awesome

Vegetarian Chile Relleno

I’ve been making this recipe forever. I think it first came from this Rachael Ray recipe, I can’t lie. In my defense, her recipe came from one crazy awesome joint in NYC, Mexicana Mama. Anyway, through the years, I’ve played around with it, and now when I make this in the summer, there’s nothing that doesn’t wind up in the pan. Basically, you’re only limited to you’re imagination, and what’s available at your farmer’s market/local store/garden.

Stuffed and Charred

The basic idea is this. Lightly char poblano peppers, de-seed them. (This is by far my least favorite part of this recipe, as my fingers are jalapeno hot to my eyeballs for at least 24 hours following, no matter how many people tell me poblano seeds aren’t hot.) Anyway, take care of that part, and set them aside. In a hot pan, saute together whatever small, diced vegetables seem perfect to you. Spring onions or regular onions/shallots; bell peppers; corn off the cob; zucchini and squash…the list goes on and on and is literally up to you. Add beans, I choose black most of the time. Add cooked quinoa. Spice. I’ll explain it all in the recipe, but the recipe will be what I did last time, and specific on spicing and temperatures more than ingredients.

Then you stuff it all into the peppers, top with thinly sliced feta (if you’re not shooting for vegan) and broil for a few minutes. Voila! Often we top with a spiced greek yogurt, but not necessary. It’s insanely satisfying to the Mexican “tooth” that Jayson cannot kick most days, not that I can. It doesn’t hurt that it’s damn healthy as well.

My version, which does not include the pepper and is eaten as a quinoa bowl...just as deliciously!

So enjoy, have two, and don’t kick yourself for doing so. Your iPhone fitness app won’t kick you either.

Vegetarian Chile Relleno
Serves 4

4 Poblano Peppers, medium to large
The next part of this can be any mixture of diced vegetables you choose, this is what I used the last time
olive oil spray
Spring/Green onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 summer squash, diced
1 small japanese eggplant, diced
1 ear corn, scraped from cod
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 C quinoa, cooked
1/3 C vegetable stock
2 T cumin
handful cilantro, chopped
feta, thinly sliced
avocado, chopped (for serving)
greek yogurt (for serving)
I spice mine with a little cumin, and some lime juice

Turn on large burner, place peppers over open flame. Watching peppers, turn over as peppers blister. DON’T LEAVE PEPPERS ALONE! Make sure peppers are evenly blistering, not overly turning black, and when evenly blackened, remove from heat. Other option is to broil peppers, flipping once, until blistered. Remove from heat. Do not peel peppers.

With a sharp paring knife, make a T in the pepper below the stem and down the body, to remove the stem and scrape out the seeds. This will allow you room to stuff the pepper.

In large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil spray, and sauté all vegetables up to beans, until just cooked, roughly 5 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
Add beans and quinoa, and vegetable, stock, and season with cumin, adding more salt and pepper to taste. Allow mixture to come to a simmer, until quinoa and beans are heated through. Top with chopped cilantro, stirring in.

Remove mixture from heat, turn on broiler.

Place peppers on baking sheet, and with a spoon, evenly stuff each pepper with the mixture. Place thin pieces of sliced feta on top of the stuffed feta.

Broil the peppers until the feta is lightly browned, then remove. Serve hot, topped with avocado, and greek yogurt mixture if desired.

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You Want Recipes, Finally, Right?

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was just about to take a picture of something new and delicious, when I realized, I owe you some recipes. And I figure it’s not exactly fair to keep posting pictures with a promise of “someday” when I know someday isn’t really happening. So here I am.

Without promising you hilarious anecdotes of where I’ve been (at home recovering) and what we’ve been doing (not much but recovering) I think I’m just going to hit you with some necessary details and then get to the point. I’m going to give you what you want. The recipes. Lots of them. None of you care if I post at the “perfectly scheduled for optimized reading” times, or whether or not I schedule these to post perfectly this week, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m revealing the curtain, or whatever that means. I’m going to take some time this morning and just get out some of the good things I’ve been posting and make sure you have what I’ve been saying you should have.

But first, some background. Yes, for those of you who have asked, I have been ill. I’m on the mend/doing better/it’s a long process. But I’m back in the kitchen which helps me a lot, as always. Monday marked 15 weeks since J and I stopped eating all meat but fish. That started due to J’s health and cholesterol, and I joined in solidarity and support, but I found myself feeling so much better (aside from said illness) that I don’t see any turning back for me. Sure I miss meat once in a while, but not enough to rejoin the clan. Not now anyway. We eat a lot of fish, which for those of you who are local, we purchase at Barney’s, Whole Foods, and sometimes Meijer (we buy whatever was brought in that day.) We eat a lot of vegetables, we eat very little soy. I have lost a good amount of weight, both hospital related and food related, and feel pretty great (again, aside from the illness stuff.) J is getting better, and he is enjoying the new diet. No one ever thought he’d survive 2 weeks without bacon, and honestly, he is an amazing fish guy. Who knew? We’ve also gone low-gluten (not insanely) and low dairy (again, not insanely) mainly to see how it would make us feel–it’s made a difference on us both, and we’ve noticed. We try not to be crazy, and we still eat bread at times, but at home, not so much. We eat a lot of lettuce wraps, quinoa (sorry Peru) and we’ve found Udi’s gluten-free pizza crusts to be a pretty fantastic option.

Gluten Free and Vegan, as long as the chocolate you use is.

With that, I’ll tell you what I was about to post a photo of that got me here right now. I woke up early with a RANDOM craving. Almond butter cookies. So bleary eyed I googled, and I found Pastry Affair’s great recipe first and foremost. Of course as any good experimenter would, I searched through pages of recipes thinking what I would want, but I liked that this recipe didn’t involve using the gluten-free flour I have in my pantry but have yet to really experiment with. Plus, in the comments of this recipe, there was a swap for eggs, which was awesome, because A) I don’t have any in the house and B) I find they don’t love me back all the time. Done! No chocolate chips in the house but surely the Ghiardelli Sea Salt Soiree bar would do, no?

Usually I’d just tag this recipe and plan to make it sometime later. Lately, my dessert options consist of fruit, Frozen Kefir (LIFECHANGING) or dark chocolate. And this recipe seemed like something I had to try NOW because it might just mean that the Kefir could have a rest and J could feel like I actually baked again. Plus, the recipe seemed to be calling me.

I tweaked this recipe a bit, and I think it could be tweaked a bit more…take out the chocolate and add in some oats or quinoa and fruit, and you’ve got an awesome breakfast cookie. But as these are in the final stages of cooling, and I’ve had my requisite taste testing bites, it feels like one of the first amazing desserts to come out of my kitchen in a while.

Which makes all the recipes I’m about to give you seem all the better.

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Adapted from Pastry Affair/PastryAffair.Com)

1 C Almond Butter
1/3 C Beet Sugar (original recipe calls for 2/3 C sugar)
1/2 banana, mashed (original recipe calls for 1 egg)
2 T pure vanilla (original recipe calls for 1 tsp vanilla)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt (original recipe calls for 1/4 tsp salt)
2 squares Ghiardelli sea salt chocolate bar, finely chopped
(original recipe calls for 1/4 C mini choc chips)
Malden Sea Salt, to top cookies

Preheat oven to 350

Mix almond butter and sugar together in medium sized mixing bowl until well incorporated.
Add banana, vanilla, baking soda and salt, mix well.
Fold in chocolate.

Drop small scoops onto baking sheet. Cookies will spread, allow for spreading during spacing.
Top each cookie with sprinkling of sea salt.

Bake 10-11 minutes, remove from oven.
Allow to cool on baking sheet for 7-10 minutes, then remove to cooling rack for remainder of cooling.

**Cookies will be very fragile, and need to be set up before moving.

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A Poor Excuse for A Working Couple’s Pescatarian Seder.

Clockwise: Gefilte Fish with Beet Horseradish, Hard Boiled Egg with Water and Malden Sea Salt, Smart Water, Slaw Salad, Brussels Sprouts, Horseradish Sweet Potatoes, Wine. Our Pescetarian Nearly Forgotten Poor Excuse for a Passover Seder.

I could lie to you and tell you we totally just forgot it was Passover this week. But we didn’t. We have known for weeks, as before the plague hit us a few weeks ago, we had been planning on going home to my mom’s house. Then after that we had briefly discussed a quiet seder with friends, or even an actual seder for just J and I. But as 15bbl beasts enter the building, and life gets in the way, somehow you just have to let things go.

Pre-roasted Brussels Sprouts. Preheat oven to 425. Trim sprouts and quarter or cut in half, depending on size. Spread on baking sheet. Cut 4 cloves of garlic in large slices. Coat all in 1 TBSP olive oil and 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, dress lightly with balsamic vinegar. Serve warm.

Anyway, yesterday morning I started to feel the yearly pangs of needing the disgusting fish meatloaf that is gefilte, and craving matzo and much much worse. But then I realized we are healthy non-meat eaters, and needed to snap back into reality, fast. J popped into the brewery to make a quick tap handle delivery (we had picked them up from our “guy” over the weekend) and we discussed the key components we both needed, and we figured we’d wing it from there.

Terrible photo, but such is our crappy kitchen lighting. In truth, here's what happened here. Pre-cook one sweet potato (chop, boil, drain, refrigerate for later use.) Heat with vegetable stock. Mash with 1/4 nonfat Greek Yogurt, salt, pepper, and 2 TBSP beet horseradish. Amazing, and the most awesome color ever, clearly invisible from this photo.

Gefilte fish, obviously. Hard boiled eggs and salt water. Horseradish. Some kind of vinegar-dressed slaw salad. Sweet potatoes. And he requested brussels sprouts. All totally doable in an after-work evening, and all within our eating regime these days. And all strangely health/calorie conscience. Gone were the days of stuffing my face with my amazing matzoh brownies. (Man oh man do I want one of those right now, but my ass does not.) No brisket, no bourbon smashed buttery sweet potatoes. No bacon infused brussels sprouts. Nope. All healthful, all delicious.

Passover Salad. Buy a bag of organic broccoli slaw. Add finely sliced red bell pepper and cucumber. Slice 3 hearts of palm. Dress with white wine vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper.

Our own little pretty lame ass seder, complete with four sips of wine (yes, we said our prayers) and some Shameless. Not so terrible after all.

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