Saturday, March 31

To Rest

How Beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward.
-Spanish Proverb

The gales of March have arrived so fiercely that I've lost my bearings.  Like a tiny dried up leaf on the swirling edge of a raging hurricane, I can no longer tell which way is up; which way is down.  West.  East.

So I'm taking a few days to sit quietly on a hill.  To let the sun slowly soak its way through my cold and weary body, until the winds calm and I'm warm once again.

To ground myself on a solid piece of rose coloured granite, and find my centre in the cradle valley between two snow covered peaks.  To reconnect.  To rest.

My children's giggles cut through the white noise in my mind. They are throwing food to a myriad of rainbow trout in a once still, pristine pool below. 

This is where I find my peace.

I'll be back in just a few days with more food, recipes, and photos.  Until then . . .

Monday, March 12

Give Me the Flavours of Summer

I've had coconut and lime on my mind.

Perhaps I'm longing for the light, tropical flavours of summertime.  Impatiently, I look for the first signs of life to emerge miraculously from this dry, dead, and frozen Earth.   

That first tentative green shoot in the Iris bed, peeking shyly from underneath the brittle blanket of last year's display.

That first sleepy bud on the Brandywine tree to open its rosy petals skyward and drink in the warm sunshine.

Winter here seems never ending.

Or maybe I'm in need of a real vacation.  I'm pining to return to Barbados, even just for a day.  To feel that warm ocean breeze, lightly scented with jasmine and sea salt.  To sip cool coconut rum from a street vendor with a violet cart.

Or maybe a simple picnic would do.  To sit in the shade of a large Cottonwood on the banks of a lake and enjoy a tall glass of fresh squeezed limeade while my children float their pretty paper boats on the calm, cool water.

In any case, I'm most certainly ready for summer.  Unfortunately, I still have several more weeks until I can even consider breaking out the sandals and the picnic basket.

In the meantime I'm enjoying summer vicariously from my dinner table.  And coconut and lime have been on our plates more times than I can count in the last few weeks.

I started with a warm salad of Quinoa, Mango, and Flaked Coconut dressed with a Honey-lime Vinaigrette.

Next I made Coconut scented Green Beans which were so fresh and easy.

More recently I prepared this Coconut, Lime, and Quinoa Fish Stew.  All the refreshing flavors of summer, but warm and hearty enough to eat year round.

In case you're wondering, coconut is not actually a tree nut, even though the US Food and Drug Administration recently categorized it as such.  It's actually a seed which has been thoughtfully designed to survive floating on the ocean for several months to a year.  They are extremely buoyant and the shell is waterproof.  The coconut water inside nourishes the tiny germinating seed until the coconut finds land.  Coconuts have been found floating in the sea as far north as Norway. 

Most people who are allergic to tree nuts do perfectly fine with coconut.  In India, however, where coconut is a very common ingredient, it is actually one of the top five allergens!  But keep in mind, I am not a doctor.  If you are allergic to nuts or seeds and have any concerns about eating coconut, please speak to your allergist first.

Coconut, Lime, and Quinoa Fish Stew

1 lb flounder fillets (or other white fish)
2 limes
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 large tomatoes, seeded & diced (or a 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained)
13.5 oz (400 ml) unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
4 scallions, white and green parts, sliced
1 cup organic red quinoa, washed well
1 1/4 cups water

Cut both limes in half.  From one half slice four thin slices to set aside for a garnish.  Juice the rest of the limes into a large resealable plastic bag.  Add the olive oil, garlic, and salt to the bag and mix well.  Add the fish.  Make sure the fish is well coated in the marinade.  Marinate in the refrigerator for one to two hours.

In a large deep skillet heat the coconut oil.  Saute the onion and bell pepper for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes more.  Nestle the fish among the veggies and top with the remaining marinade, coconut milk and cilantro.  Simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes until the fish is done.

Meanwhile cook the quinoa in the water, covered, for 15 minutes.  Allow it to rest five minutes, then place the quinoa in a large serving bowl and fluff with a fork. 

When the fish is done, pour it over the quinoa and mix gently.  Top with the sliced scallions, and garnish with more cilantro and the sliced lime.

Shared with: Cybele Pascal's allergy friendly friday, slightly indulgent tuesday, allergy free wednesday, real food wednesday, fight back friday, pennywise platter thursday, sunday night soup night, hearth and soul, Family Fresh Meals

Saturday, March 3

A March Snowstorm and Warm Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's another snowy March evening here in the Colorado mountains.  March, notoriously, is our biggest snowfall month.  This one is proving to be no different.   I love March snow.  Big, thick, heavy snow flakes drifting around sleepily before settling softly on the damp ground.  The air smells of sweet rain and pine needles.

In Colorado they say, "If you don't like the weather wait five minutes."   So true!  Just yesterday I was digging rich, dark compost into the garden under the hot sun.  Now I'm wrapped in my warmest sweater, drinking hot green tea with mint, and writing while winter once again whirls and dances outside my window.  I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing.

The snow quietly arrived as I was on the way to my son's school this afternoon.  By the time we headed home the lazy flakes had swelled into an angry storm with nearly white-out conditions.  I inched along the icy roads, while the kids, heedless of the treacherous conditions, talked joyfully of their favorite "snow foods" in the back seat.  Someone mentioned chocolate chip cookies and milk, and I remembered that my husband asked me last week to make him cookies to take to work. 

When, at last, we made it home I mixed up a batch of these wonderful white and dark chocolate chip cookies. I slid them into the oven to bake while the kids played on the living room floor, and the snow quickly enveloped the house.  No better to spend a Friday afternoon, don't you agree?

I know most of you have your own favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and, if you're like me, you're not going to give it up.  I'm certainly not asking you to.  There may be a few of you out there, however, who just haven't found the right one yet.  Or maybe you've recently moved - say to the Colorado mountains - and the higher elevation is wreaking havoc with your tried and true recipes.

I spent many years living on the sea shore before finally moving back to Colorado -  first on the Mediterranean Coast of Italy, then the Gulf Coast of Florida.  I'd built quite a repertoire of recipes that worked very well at sea level.  Not so well up here!

When I moved back I nearly had to rewrite the entire baking section of my recipe box.  Not to mention I now have a peanut allergy to contend with, as well.  Some of the recipes I could adapt, others I had to throw out altogether.  One of my greatest frustrations was finding that perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie.  You know, the ones that are crispy on the outside, chewy and soft on the inside.  The ones the rise gently in the oven and then settle into delicious pillows as they cool.  Those are the ones I sought.

I finally found a recipe on the Andes Mint baking chips package (which are gluten-free, nut-free, and peanut-free, by the way) that fit the bill.  Here's the original recipe.  They work perfectly at our high altitude, keep their shape, and don't melt all over the cookie sheet like the rest of them.

As usual, I've modified the recipe.  I don't like my cookies overly sweet.  So I've cut the sugar, and in our dry air I cut the flour as well.  I make these with every kind of chip you can imagine.  Mint, cherry, white chocolate, and semisweet - as long as they're peanut and tree nut free.  I like to order them from here.  The unique mixing order results in a tender, smooth, and chewy texture.  Never again will I have to search for that perfect high altitude Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
10 oz baking chips (Andes Mint, chocolate, butterscotch, etc.)
2 1/3 cups flour

In a large bowl cream the butter and sugars until fluffy.  Add the baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, salt, and eggs.  Beat until well combined.  Fold in the chips, then stir in the flour.  Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 45 minutes to one hour. 

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 360 F (180 C) and line your cookie sheets with parchment.  Scoop the dough out by rounded tablespoon and place on the cookie sheet.  Press slightly to flatten.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the edges are golden.

shared with: full plate thursday, mangia mondays, melt in your mouth monday, family time tuseday, sweet tooth friday, sweets for a saturday