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curried cauliflower soup

Here’s a soup to warm the cockles of your heart.  No idea what I mean by “cockles”, but by soup I mean silky and warm, subtly complex, aromatic spoonfuls. If you think you’re not a fan of cauliflower, but are feeling up for a small culinary adventure, I think you’ll be surprised – the cauliflower just lends itself to the overall  creaminess of this soup and never brags about its starring role (which I respect in a vegetable.)  When we seek a warm refuge from winter’s chill, it’s nice to know we’ve got…..

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Curried Cauliflower Soup

(makes about 2 quarts)

3 Tablespoons coconut oil (see NOTE)

1 large yellow onion

2 teaspoon sugar

2 to 3 teaspoon green curry paste

 2 teaspoons (or more) garam masala (see NOTE 2)

¼ teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon cumin powder (or 1¼ t. seeds, dry roasted & ground)

Sea Salt as you go

1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets 

2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed

5 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock or broth

1 medium green apple, peeled, pared and chopped

1 can coconut milk

1 fresh lime

 Garnish: ¼ cup plain whole milk yogurt + 3 Tbl. chopped cilantro (+ lime wedges)

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Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C) Wash the cauliflower and cut into florets. Melt 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, and drop into a medium-sized bowl along with the cauliflower and a good sprinkle of sea salt. Tumble onto a baking sheet or a roasting pan, sprinkle with a few pinches of the  garam masala and roast until tender and lightly browned.CurriedCauliflowerSoup-5

While the cauliflower is roasting, gently sauté the onion in 2 Tablespoons coconut oil until translucent. Add 2 teaspoons of green curry paste to start. Later you can add another teaspoon if you decide you like the warmth and want more. (I use 3 and don’t find it overly spicy at all.) Add the sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and the remaining spices and continue sauteing for one minute. Add the cubed potatoes and chopped apple and stir over the heat for another couple minutes.

Add the broth and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer. After 15 minutes, add the roasted cauliflower and continue cooking until the vegetables are very tender.

Remove the pan’s contents in several batches and puree in a blender until completely smooth. (Be careful not to overfill the blender, and put a folded towel on the top to ensure hot contents don’t sputter up.) Return pureed soup to the pot . Check for salt and add to taste. Stir in a can of coconut milk and reheat the soup.  Again check for salt. Squeeze in the juice of one-half lime, and cut the remainder in wedges for serving.

Mix together the yogurt and chopped cilantro. Ladle soup into bowls, put a dollop of the yogurt/cilantro mixture on top, a little sprinkle of cilantro bits for extra color and serve with lime.

{ to print the recipe, click }

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NOTE:  Coconut oil comes in a jar, usually in the vegetable oil section at your market. It’s solid at room temperature. It comes in either refined or unrefined form….the unrefined has  more of a coconut aroma and a somewhat lower smoking point than the refined. If you do the research, you’ll find that coconut oil and coconut milk have a variety of healthful properties  I keep both on hand, but like the unrefined for this and most dishes. Read more

this little light…..& shortbread cookies

for those of us who live north of the equator, we’re only 4  days from the darkest day of the year. But for many among us, it felt as though last Friday must surely have been that day.

. . .

in this hurting world

don’t think that for one moment

your light goes unnoticed.

don’t think for an instant that your light,

just now, is too dim to shine for anyone.

. . .

don’t believe that what we face

is either too big or too complicated,

or that our little light

is powerless

in the creeping shadow of it.

. . .

in this hurting world, the one thing,

the one thing, we can each do

is let our own light shine.

whatever shape or brilliance your candle,

it is exactly what the world needs…

this shimmering little light

that is yours alone

to share.

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Sometimes, when it feels like sadness might overtake us,

we bake.

something so small.

An unseen part of us knows though that an ancient comfort

is resident in our kitchens. When hope seems dim, or our candle flickers,

and we really haven’t much of a clue where to put our sorrow,

we can always bake cookies to share.

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these little shortbreads are aromatic and truly lovely. if you already know and love lavender in the kitchen, go for the full teaspoon. if you’re trying for the first time, you might start with the smaller amount. but if you don’t have lavender at all, it can be omitted. or try replacing it with ¼ to a scant ½ teaspoon fresh rosemary, very finely minced. (Culinary lavender is easily obtained on-line.)

however, if chocolate is your flavor, a recipe for chocolate shortbread follows.

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Lemon Lavender Shortbread

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½ cup butter at room temperature

½ cup powdered sugar (unsifted)

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

¾ to 1 teaspoon culinary lavender  (see above) 

¼ teaspoon lemon extract

1 cup flour

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Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Drop the powdered sugar into a small bowl. Mince very finely the zest of lemon and the lavender and add them to the powdered sugar. Add the lemon extract.  Stir to mix; then add to the butter and cream together. Work in the flour, scraping the bowl as you go.  Once the dough has mostly come together, remove to an unfloured board and knead  until nice and smooth.

Either spray with non-stick vegetable spray or brush a thin layer of vegetable oil on the bottom and sides of your pan. Firmly press the dough into the pan. (I used a clay pan with Scottish thistle imprinted on it, but an 8-inch round cake pan or 9-inch pie tin will work just fine!) Prick the entire surface with a fork and bake at 325°F (165°C) for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until lightly browned. Set the timer and allow the shortbread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and flip the pan over onto a wooden cutting board. (If it doesn’t release right away, tap one edge of the pan.) Cut the shortbread into 8 pieces while still warm.

( to print lemon lavender recipe, click. )

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spicy carrot pickle presents

A deep downy fog wrapped around our cold hill this morning. The firs that can usually be seen waving their skirts and climbing high into the sky were barely faint shadows in the white soup. The birds we feed dropped in by the hundreds, out of a dense snowy nowhere. Such a quiet fell on this place! I so love a good foggy morning! (Do you?)

The car wouldn’t leave its garage today. There’d be no stop and go, bumper-to-bumper for me. No crowded stores with pokey elbows. No waiting in long queues at the post office. It was the very day I’ve been hoping for, a day to stay at home, to stare out the window for some peaceful moments … and to pickle me some presents.

I could have done a better job of matching today’s recipe to the weather by making a good thick pea soup. But peas weren’t what I had. What I had were carrots. (I was going to give them to you yesterday, being Wednesday and the day I normally serve you up some veggies, but I got very distracted with choirs of little ones singing, and bells ringing on street corners and all the rest of it. You know.)  Anyway, back to the carrots.

SpicyCarrotPickles-1Instead of just EATing them, here today gone tomorrow, let’s make them last. And let’s help them take a little chill off of winter while we’re at it.

(And even if you’ve never canned before, these are NOT hard to do.)

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Spicy Carrot Pickles

(makes 4 pint jars)

2 pounds carrots, trimmed & scrubbed

5½ cups cider vinegar * (5% acidity – important)

1 Tablespoon pure kosher salt

3 Tablespoons sugar

3 cinnamon sticks

3 bay leaves

8 dried hot chilies, stemmed

4 cloves garlic, sliced

4 sprigs thyme

1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (to suit your taste)

½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns

½ small white onion, thinly sliced lengthwise

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* I used an unfiltered apple cider vinegar.

Wash and (if desired) peel your carrots. (Here’s an opportunity to insert a Spreenkle 7.1 – Garbage disposals do NOT like your peelings. I heard it on authority…you know the guy, who’s asking for a belt for Christmas. I would have thought disposals would love them, eat them up, but noooo.  Your garden however, does love your peelings. And here’s a word from our Luke – “Those ends you’re trimming – now would be a nice time to toss your faithful Golden with the silvery muzzle a little something to show your appreciation for the many times he gets up in a day to follow you around and lie at your feet.”)

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Trim the carrots into 4-inch lengths, to fit upright in pint jars. Cut them so that they’re no thicker than ½-inch. Set aside in a bowl (or pitcher) of ice-water.

SpicyCarrotPickles-2Put your canning pot on the stove and fill with enough water to cover the jars by at least 1-inch. Bring the heat up. Wash the jars and keep them hot in the canning pot. Place the flat lids in a heat-proof bowl.

Gather your ingredients together and have them handy.

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Best Food Blog 2012 contest…

 No strangers to beauty…

If you follow my blog, you undoubtedly follow others. And if you frequent (or are a part of) this expanding world of food-writing and recipe-sharing, you’re no stranger to some jaw-droppingly beautiful food photography either. As a member of this community, I’m in some pretty wonderful (and at times very humbling) company. It was a real honor then to learn I’d been nominated for Best Food Blog 2012 in the Food Photography category. (The contest is sponsored annually by FriendsEAT.com…an online social community for foodies.)

Contest winners aren’t evaluated and selected by a panel of judges. This is a contest judged  by a jury of readers and followers like you. And there’re only a handful of days in which to vote. If it would please you to vote for Spree, it would please me no end! And if (by chance!) you wanted to pass the word around to family or friends and ask them to have a look… JOY!

You can vote here.  **

**  (Please see exactly HOW to register your vote at the bottom of this post.)

Voting concludes the end of this week on FRIDAY, December 14! And only one vote per person per category.

The gallery below samples some of my work over the past year-and-a-half of blogging… to scroll through the photos, click any image and use the right and left arrows that appear at the sides…

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dark chocolate & pear torte

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

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A chocolate torte with pears…

and a dollop of gingered whipped cream.

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I came upon this gluten-free flourless, deep dark chocolate torte, baked with the pear of song, and knew it was destined for you.

Simple…and well, sort of heavenly…

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Dark Chocolate & Pear Torte

(8 to 12 servings)

1 cup butter (2 sticks, salted)

7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (see NOTE)

1 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs

1½ cups toasted and finely ground almonds (see NOTE)

1 firm-ripe pear (Comice are wonderful here!)

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Powdered sugar, for dusting

Fresh Ginger Whipped Cream, for serving (recipe follows)

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NOTE:   To toast the nuts: Spread on a baking sheet and bake in a 350F oven for 5 to 8 minutes or until they start to brown. Allow to cool and then grind finely in a food processor. I used toasted ground almonds…but you could just as well use pecanswalnuts or hazelnuts.

NOTE: This might be an occasion to splurge and buy an extra-special chocolate – though of course it’s not necessary. Guittard is such a chocolate. I used the bittersweet.

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Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat; brush some of the butter onto the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Lower the heat beneath the butter and add the chocolate, stirring slowly until the chocolate has melted.

Remove from the heat and transfer the butter chocolate mixture to a medium-sized bowl. Add the sugar and whisk until well blended. Allow it to cool for 5 minutes.

Whisk in the eggs – one at a time – until completely incorporated. The batter will be smooth and glossy. Stir in the ground nuts until well-blended. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the mixture to your buttered springform pan.

Peel, core and quarter the pear, from stem to base. (Using a melon baller to remove the core will help maintain the pretty appearance.) Slice each quarter in half, and then in half again (4 slices/quarter.) Fan the pears around the batter to form a wreath. Bake until the pears are tender and the center of the torte is set, about 40 (to 45) minutes. Set the springform pan on a wire rack to cool completely.

Run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the pan and release the pan’s ring. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving with the whipped cream.

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recipe for gingered whipped cream follows…

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beet & goat cheese salad with toasted hemp & sesame seeds

If it’s Wegetables, it must be Vednesday.

Confession: with waning light this time of year, in order to photograph in natural light, I’ll often prepare some dinner-ish item and eat it all by myself for lunch. If it’s a salad of sorts I’ll usually dress just enough of it to satisfy my lunch appetite, save the rest and share it with the guinea pig when he gets home. You’re getting the picture…this time of year, I’m my own guinea pig. (To be perfectly honest, I don’t mind the job. And today, I flat out loved it. I halved the recipe and ate it all. Drop the “guinea”, keep the “pig”…thank you very much!)

Ever taste hemp seeds? – ok maybe that’s the wrong question – Have you ever bought packaged hemp seed at the grocery store and used your debit card to pay? Toast these little things and they’re about the nuttiest nubbins  you’ll ever eat. Plus, as if taste weren’t enough (and let’s be honest – it really isn’t) they’re jam-packed with nutrition (especially Omega-3’s and -6’s, so super good for your heart and brain!) Add them to your cereal in the morning, your muffins or other baked goods, into your soup, into your … well, whatever!  (I swear to you, these do not taste like hay…or even like grass!)

If you can buy your beets with the greens still attached, that’s a good idea for 2 reasons – decent looking greens means the beets don’t belong to last month, and braised beet greens are the bee’s knees.

You can use a mixture of fresh greens for this salad, but the bitters are so delicious with the sweetness of the roasted beets and the creamy tang of the goat cheese. And then you’ve got all that nutty goodness going on. My goodness, this is good!

Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad with Toasted Hemp & Sesame Seeds

BeetGoatCheeseSaladHempSeed-1enough for 4

for the salad

small to medium beets – 8

hemp seeds – 2 teaspoons

chicory, or baby arugula, or add a bit of radicchio or spinach – about 7 oz. total

goat cheese – 12 to 16 slices

a handful of mustard greens and water cress

sesame seeds – 2 teaspoons toasted

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for the dressing

red wine vinegar (I used sherry vinegar) – 1 Tablespoon

Dijon mustard – 1 Tablespoon

Hemp Seed Oil – Or Walnut Oil – 1 Tablespoon

Olive Oil – 3 Tablespoons

Parsley, coarsely chopped – 2 Tablespoons

Salt & Pepper to taste

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Preheat the oven to 375° F. (190°C.)

Prepare the dressing. Mix the vinegar and the mustard together and then add the oils. Stir the parsley in and then season with a good grind of pepper and a sprinkle of salt.

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Spreenkle #7

Keeping our herbs fresh longer.

It’s been a long time since we had a little trivia from in and around spree’s kitchen. So here’s one for you (and there’s a stack of others in the wings.)

Basil hates the cold. There’s no softening the truth of it. Turns all black and soon slimy if put in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator. If it can’t be in the sun, basil likes being out on your counter, in the warmth of your kitchen. Give the stems a fresh cut, put them in a glass of tepid water, cover them with a plastic bag or cloche and they’ll last for days and days. They may be so happy they’ll put down roots.

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If you won’t be able to use your basil up before it starts to wither, you can puree it with olive oil, spoon into ice-cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, spill them into a zipping freezer bag where they’ll be happy for ages.

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On the other hand, Cilantro (aka fresh coriander) doesn’t seem to mind the cold of the fridge. But it does still prefer its stems in water. Give the stems a fresh trim, place them in a glass of water, cover them loosely with a plastic bag and place on a shelf in your fridge. They’ll be happy for a good week. (Possibly more.) Parsley (when asked) prefers the same treatment as cilantro.  If you can’t decide what to do with all that parsley within the week – try turning it into salsa verde! So easy to make, and it’ll freshen up just about anything you drizzle it on. Sage will be happy in a refrigerated & covered glass of water too. Best to change their water every couple days.

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