Double Ginger Lemon Cookies

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably going over to someone else’s house to eat today’s dinner.  Although I am helping my mother cook this year, I still feel pressured to bring a hostess gift.  It’s something that’s been ingrained since childhood.

These cookies are quite honestly, perfect.  They are packed with flavor; loads of lemon zest and freshly grated ginger, only to be finished off with a slight crunch from the sugar that they’re rolled in.  I also love the scalloped imprint that they have from the back of a fork.  I am a sucker for pretty cookies, and to me these are exactly that.

I hardly think anyone after a Thanksgiving feast wants to eat something super heavy around 8 at night.  My mother always made a pot of tea and had a cookie or two before getting ready for bed; a tradition that goes back to my first memorable Thanksgiving dinner.

There’s something comforting about seeing my mother go through the same motions, every year: tea towel wrapped around the kettle to keep it warm, a flowery piece of good china from the back of the cupboard, only to place a handful of cookies on, and always the same cup, because it was her favorite; tiny ivy leaves winding up the back of the handle.

While the dough needs to rest for an hour in the fridge, I’ll use that time to shower and get dressed.  Overall these cookies are quite easy and quick to make, with a baking time of about 15 minutes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Adapted from Organic and Chic

Makes 60 – 70 cookies (For me, it made 67)

*Please note that before baking these, the dough requires at least an hour of chilling (up to 1 day).  So plan ahead!

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Ingredients

Dry

Three cups of white whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

Half teaspoon of baking soda

Quarter teaspoon of salt

Wet

Half cup of unsweetened applesauce (I used homemade)

Quarter cup of mild flavored olive oil (or any other mild flavored oil like canola)

2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed

1 cup of sugar

Quarter cup of freshly grated ginger (I know it seems like a lot, but it’s so worth it, especially with the amount of lemon you’re putting in. It’s a one-two punch of flavors.)

1 teaspoon of ground ginger

Grated lemon zest from 1 lemon, about a tablespoon (this is for an equal amount of lemon with ginger in flavoring, if you want the ginger to be more of a star, use half)

Juice from 1 lemon

Half teaspoon of vanilla extract

Half cup of sugar set aside, for rolling the dough balls in (optional, but really pretty!)

A handful of flour for your hands, to prevent the dough balls from sticking to your skin (I don’t mind, but some care)

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Equipment

One medium sized mixing bowl

One large sized mixing bowl

A whisk

A spatula

A cookie sheet (lined with parchment paper or greased) or two

Some plastic wrap or a tupperware container to let the dough rest and be chilled

A plate (to pour some sugar onto and roll the dough balls in)

A fork (to press into your cookies for a pretty scallop imprint, optional)

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In a medium mixing bowl add your dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk the ingredients together till well combined and no lumps are visible.

In a large mixing bowl add your wet ingredients: unsweetened applesauce, oil, ground flaxseed, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract.  Stir till well combined.

Add your dry ingredients into your wet, in increments.  Stir the two mixtures together until they are well incorporated.  At first, it’s going to look like a dry, chalky mess.  Keep going, it’ll come together.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap (or put it in a sealable/coverable container) and chill for at least an hour, up to 1 day.

When the dough is ready to go…

Place your oven racks in the upper middle and lower middle position in the oven.  If you’re using just one cookie sheet, then place one oven rack in the middle position in the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a plate, pour the sugar set aside onto it, if using.  Dust your hands with flour, if you are keen on not getting the dough stuck to your hands (I don’t care, more snack for me!).

Form the dough into about 1 inch balls (I basically rolled the dough ball to match the length from the tip of my thumb to my first knuckle…I think that’s about an inch).  Roll the dough balls in the sugar, if using.

Place the dough balls onto a lined or greased cookie sheet, about a 2 inches apart. With a back of a fork, if using, press into the cookie so that it’s imprinted.

Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes (this is how long it took in my oven) to 18 minutes, until they’re very slightly browned and firm the to touch.  These cookies will not brown much so be careful not to leave them in the oven for too long.

Let the cookies cool before eating, but honestly, I’ve eaten them warm and they were delicious.

Cooking Playlist 6

I always dread going to a party.  Even though tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I’m wondering how I can get out of it, as like clockwork, a pimple just popped up on my face.

This happens every time.

First time at Roo’s family’s tree-trimming party?  Giant pimple.

Christmas at my parents’? Pimple with its own zip code.

Retreat for work? Boulder underneath my skin.

Of course one could blame it on anxiety, rationalizing that the stress leading up to the party (ie thinking of having to socialize with others, ie ie dead silence in conversation = awkward ie ie ie social death) causes me to breakout. (Did you like what I did just there? Obviously.)

No.  My skin just wants to betray me.

Let me have my delusion.

At 30 years old I can’t believe that acne is still an issue.

But guess what? It’s the eve of Thanksgiving, and seeing how everyone else is writing about what to cook for the big day, I instead give you the sixth installment of LLN Cooking Playlist.

Because that’s how I roll.

In it are songs that make me thankful…of sorts.  Some songs were those that I heard in Roo’s car, as he played them unapologetically (and making me love him even more).  Some were recommendations from dear friends, most who live abroad and make me feel like I’m at home regardless what country we’re in. While others are from the past and remind me of the fun, irresponsible times that were had in high school.  And college.  And everything else pre-grad school.

Those were the days.

What are you thankful for?

Quinoa, Greens and Root Veg Soup

I’ve totally been embracing this whole “eating New England style” as November comes to a close.  “New England style” is basically eating the produce that’s available in New England during fall and winter.  It largely consists of storage crops and winter greens.  Produce like potatoes, winter squashes, onions, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and even tatsoi.

Also, soup has been served practically everyday in our little apartment.  LLN basically reflects what Roo and I eat, so hopefully you haven’t grown tired of the seasonal veg and soups that have been featured.  I honestly can’t get enough of it!  I am absolutely in love with swinging by the farmers market at city hall to see what’s available that day.  Sometimes I peruse the tables out of need for a recipe, and other times it’s to just pick up an item or two, if only to support the farmers that trekked into the city, just to sit in the cold all day.  Just a note: the more you frequent a vendor, the more likely they’ll remember you and try to give you a better deal (ie I’ve received a free handful of this or that and sometimes a couple of apples).  It really does pay off to shop local.

Ok, enough about farmers markets.

I’m here to write about soup.  Soup that I was able to make in thirty minutes after a quick chop of some seasonal produce and a stir in of quinoa.  Soup that has a bit of heat from red pepper flake, an earthiness from rosemary, loads of textures and a “complete protein” that makes even the judgmental of a plant-based diet hush as they dunk chunks of warm, crusty bread into the broth.

It’s incredibly flavorful and fast.  It’s a soup that warms our bones on nights when the heat drops below freezing and our uninsulated windows remind us that summer is over and it’s time for tea, blankets and baking.  Lots of baking.

And like most soups, it tastes even better the next day, as the flavors are able to meld together; potatoes completely infused with the spicy earthy broth.

Which leads me to ask, have you made a soup with quinoa before?  What do you typically use quinoa for?  I’ve used it in cakes, salads and now soups.  I don’t think there’s anything this little seed can’t do.

Inspired by The Urban Vegan Cookbook Recipe for Quinoa Soup

Adapted from Spicy and Hearty Potato, White Bean and Kale Soup

Ingredients

1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pot)

2 medium onions, diced

5 cloves of garlic, minced (love garlic, LOVE)

1 – 2 teaspoons of red pepper flake (if you’re heat sensitive, start with a half teaspoon)

1 bunch of collard greens, (about a pound) leaves removed from stems, torn with hands into easily edible pieces (you can use kale, collards were all I had.  I would not recommend spinach, unless if it was added right at the end, as it’s incredibly delicate compared to kale, etc.)

8 cups of low sodium broth (I used homemade vegetable)

Half to 1 cup of dry quinoa (1 cup results in a lot of quinoa with very little broth.  If you’d like to have a lot of liquid in your soup, use half a cup)

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons of dried rosemary

2 carrots, chopped (the smaller you cut them, the faster it’ll cook)

3 to 4 medium potatoes, chopped (the smaller you cut them, the faster it’ll cook)

1 (15 oz) can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

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Equipment

One large pot

A sharp knife

A vegetable peeler

A spatula/tongs

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Pour olive oil into your pot and place over medium high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onions, and cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the onions turn golden brown (it may take more than five minutes depending on your burner), add the garlic, red pepper flake and rosemary.  Cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the broth, quinoa, bay leaves, greens, carrots and potatoes.  Stir to combine the ingredients.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Once at a boil, reduce the heat to bring the soup at a simmer.  Cook until the potatoes are tender, about fifteen minutes.

Add the beans if using, and stir in.  Simmer for about five minutes longer, then serve.

(Practically Unsweetened) Homemade Applesauce

There were some reasons why I didn’t want to write about my making applesauce.

One, I’m absolutely addicted to homemade applesauce.  I love it.

Which results in two, when it’s done and I need to remove ingredients like lemon peel and cinnamon stick, they find themselves in my mouth, sucking off what little remnants of sauce are on them.

And three, Roo never knew how much I love applesauce and caught me trying to get said lemon peel off the roof of my mouth and into the garbage.

I’m incredibly attractive.  What a winner.

But, there are a few recipes popping up soon in which apple sauce is an ingredient, so why not use homemade?  It’s tasty (as I’ve already established), easy to make (just toss into a pot and simmer), and makes your apartment smell like love.

Yeah, love smells like apples cooking in cinnamon and lemon.  What, doesn’t your’s?

Adapted from Simply Recipes

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Ingredients

3 pounds of peeled, cored and quartered apples (I used Macoun because that’s what I blindly grabbed at the market)

3 strips of lemon peel

1 lemon, juiced

1 cinnamon stick

One eighth cup of sugar (it’s two tablespoons, in case you don’t have a wee little one eighth measuring cup)

1 cup of water

One quarter teaspoon of salt

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Equipment

A large pot with lid

A sharp knife (and a vegetable peeler if you don’t feel comfortable peeling your apples with your knife)

A spatula

*Maybe a potato masher

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Throw all your ingredients into a pot and stir to combine.  Bring the ingredients to a boil, then lower the heat so bring it to a simmer.  Cover the pot and cook for about 20 – 30 minutes.

In my case, after some stirring around with a spatula at 20 minutes, the apples really broke down and gave me a mostly smooth sauce.

Remove the applesauce from heat.  Carefully (be sure it’s cooled down a bit), remove the lemon peel and cinnamon stick from the sauce and dispose.  Please refrain from putting them into your mouth as it leads to awkward conversation if you get caught.

Serve warm, or wait till it’s cooled and throw it in tupperware to chill for serving.

This also freezes great, so you can divide it into half cup portions (if you’re into things like list making and planning for things, like crazy me) and throw it in the freezer.

*You could use a potato masher and get all zealous on the stuff and break it down more (if your apples are stubborn and refuse to break apart).

Recipe Redo – Banana Pancakes

Many people are worrying what the heck they’re going to cook for Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m worrying about what I’m going to eat before that meal, to keep me fueled for a long day of cooking.

Traditionally, my mother would wake up early to put the bird in the oven and then spend the rest of her day cooking; hungry, cranky, and maybe a little light-headed after having a glass of wine once the rest of the family started to show up.

That is not how I want to spend my day, especially because I’ll be cooking with my mother this year.  That’s all my dad needs: two hungry, cranky, not-all-there women trying to figure out how to relight the pilot on the stove.  Explosive is an understatement.

As I was going through my old recipes I found that a lot of my favorite cakes were up to date with the plant-based diet Roo and I are now on, but classic breakfast items like pancakes were a bit lacking.

These banana pancakes are a new take on a previous recipe, but honestly, I think I like them more.  Ground flax seed and white whole wheat flour give it a substantial, nutty base, only to be topped with gooey, sweet and an ever so slight crunch, caramelized bananas, making a pancake that (gasp!) doesn’t really need maple syrup.

I love that after eating two or three I feel full, energized but not weighed down from the usual weekend breakfast fare one may get at a IHOP.  (Seriously, all you can eat pancakes? Why IHOP, why must you challenge me like this?)

While it may take some convincing to sit my mother down and make her eat something before we get our multiple sides, loaf of bread and two pies started (we prep like we’re feeding an army yet there’s only five people…strange), I think she’ll be happier about not feeling so light-headed after sipping on some Pinot Gris.  Hopefully you’ll take a little time for yourself as well, before starting on your Thanksgiving meal.

Adapted from Apple Topped Pancakes

Makes About 9 – 10 Pancakes

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Ingredients

Wet

2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds

1 cup of almond milk (I used “original” which is sweetened) or any other non-dairy milk

1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar

Quarter cup of water

Quarter cup of pumpkin puree (unsweetened applesauce may work)

2 tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce (or, if you’d like something richer, 2 tablespoons mild flavored olive oil)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Dry

One and a quarter cups of white whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

Eighth of a teaspoon of fine sea salt

And the rest

2 very ripe large bananas, cut into quarter inch slices (It should work out to about 4 slices of banana per pancake)

Olive oil, butter (like Earth Balance) or cooking spray; whatever you prefer to grease your pan with to cook the pancakes (if you want to be a healthy rockstar, go with the cooking spray)

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Equipment

A small sized mixing bowl

A medium sized mixing bowl

A whisk

A clean quarter cup measuring cup

A large skillet

A cookie sheet (optional, just to keep pancakes warm)

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If you’re using your cookie sheet, place it on a rack in the middle position in the oven.  Preheat the oven to 250F.

In a small sized mixing bowl, add the wet ingredients.  Whisk until well combined.  Set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients.  Whisk the dry ingredients till well combined, so that there are no lumps visible.  Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients.  Mix everything together till combined.  Let the batter rest for 5 minutes.

Add your olive oil, butter or cooking spray to your skillet.  Place the pan over a burner on medium heat.  Add the batter in a little less than quarter cup scoops to your pan.

Cook the pancakes for about three minutes, then add some sliced banana to the uncooked side (side facing up at you).  I like to add about four slices of bananas per pancake.  Cook the pancakes for another minute (or until the underside, side facing down on the pan, is well browned), then flip over.  Cook the pancakes for another two to three minutes.

As you finish cooking the pancakes, place them in the oven on the cookie sheet, if using.  If not, set them aside or serve them up as you go.  Just be sure to serve the pancakes caramelized banana side face up (ooooh! novelty!).  Offer maple syrup, but Roo and I find that the pancakes are plenty sweet enough from the caramelized bananas, ie deliciousness.

Roasted Cabbage with Lemon

Who’s on a roasting vegetable kick?

Anyone?

C’mon, it’s nearly winter.  Surely you must love keeping the apartment warm by roasting whatever vegetable you can think of in the oven.

Wait, is that just me?

I never thought of roasting cabbage until Roo asked the other day if brussels sprouts were just mini-cabbages.  We typically enjoy roasted brussels sprouts so why not cabbage?  Thankfully an internet search confirmed that it was possible and not entirely crazy.

A lovely coating of olive oil and lemon, cabbage leaves kissing the cookie sheet at roasting temps, yielded crunchy, caramelized leaves and a sweet, soft center.  It was like eating roasted brussels sprouts, but not.  Yeah.

Adapted, just barely, from Eat.Repeat

Serves 4 to 6 as a side

Ingredients

A head of green cabbage

2 tablespoons of olive oil

3 tablespoons of lemon juice (just barely juice from an entire lemon)

Salt and Pepper to taste

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Equipment

A cookie sheet (lined with parchment paper if you’re lazy with clean up)

A sharp knife

A small bowl

A whisk or fork

A pastry brush, or just pour the sauce on

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Place the oven rack in the lower half of your oven.  Preheat your oven to 450F.

In a small bowl add the olive oil, lemon juice and salt.  Whisk together until the ingredients are combined.

Cut your green cabbage into eight wedges, leaving the core intact (it helps keep the leaves together when you have to turn them over in the oven).

Place the cabbage wedges onto a (lined) cookie sheet.  Brush the wedges with the lemon and olive oil mixture, turning over the wedges so that both sides are well coated.

Bake the cabbage for about fifteen to twenty minutes each side, until each side is well browned, leaving a lovely caramelized crunch that you can bite into.

Remove the cabbage from the cookie sheet and if desired, remove the cores with a knife (be careful! It’s very hot and the cabbage may be a bit slippery).  Otherwise, if you don’t mind eating around the core (we didn’t), season with more salt if necessary, and pepper if desired. Serve while still hot.

Pumpkin Cranberry “Bites”

Lately I’ve noticed my desire for something sweet after dinner has become worse and worse. Usually, I would eat piece of fruit after.  Somehow it progressed to a piece of dark chocolate, to now cookies or cake.  All of which wouldn’t bother me, except the feeling I get prior to satisfying my growing sweet tooth.

It’s a need.  Like, a feeling of unrest until I get something laden with sugar, kind of need.  I don’t feel this way after breakfast or lunch, so I’m at a loss as to why having something after dinner has become such an issue.  And unfortunately, this nighttime habit of having one cookie usually doesn’t stop at that.  It’s as if once I start feeding my sweet tooth, the bigger and more demanding it becomes.

I’ve also noticed that Roo gets a bit irritated after dinner when he goes rummaging in the kitchen and comes up empty handed.  There has even been a few times when he’s asked if I was planning on making a cake or cookies that evening.  Inquiries like that made me realize we’re probably not doing something right.

In an effort to curb our nightly vice, I poured myself into my one-too-many-cookbooks to find a treat that wouldn’t leave me jittery after, or my sweet tooth demanding more until it made me sick (it happens).  I wanted something light, made with few, but mostly natural sugars, and a hybrid between cookie and cake (because I couldn’t make up my mind about which one I wanted more).

What came about was a pumpkin cranberry “bite.”  It’s a cakey cookie packed with the quintessential flavors of fall, perfect for “eating in the now.”  Pumpkin and cinnamon wrapped around a few cranberries make a lovely after dinner treat, especially with just a dab of peanut butter.  I love making a cup of earl grey with lemon and having one or two of these while Roo and I sit on the couch watching Parks and Rec reruns.  While you don’t need a good cup of tea or Parks and Rec to enjoy these “bites,” if there’s any take-home-message, it would be to try them with just a bit of peanut butter.  Please.

Adapted from Happy Herbivore

Makes about 20 “bites”

Ingredients

Half cup of pumpkin puree

Half of a large super ripe banana (like black), mashed

2 tablespoons of non-dairy milk (I used “original” almond milk)

Half cup of sugar (this yields a not too sweet bite, which is what I was after.)

Half teaspoon of ground cinnamon

One and a half cups of old fashioned oats

Half cup of white whole wheat flour

Quarter teaspoon of baking powder

Quarter teaspoon of baking soda

One eighth teaspoon of fine sea salt

A Quarter to Half cup of dried cranberries (or raisins, whatever your fancy)

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Equipment

1 medium sized mixing bowl

1 small sized mixing bowl

A whisk

A spatua

A clean tablespoon

A cookie sheet (lined with parchment paper, optional)

Cooking/Baking spray *this is a must as there is basically no fat in the cookies

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Place the oven rack in the middle position in the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a medium mixing bowl, add the pumpkin puree, mashed banana, non-dairy milk and sugar.  Mix till combined.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add the old fashioned oats, white whole wheat flour, ground cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Whisk the ingredients together until well combined and there are no lumps.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry.  Stir together till combined.   (*It may look dry at first, but keep going, it’ll all come together.)  Add the raisins/cranberries if using.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure that all the ingredients are incorporated.

With a clean tablespoon, spoon out the batter onto a lined or greased cookie sheet.  The bites don’t run together when baking, so they can be put fairly close to one another.

Bake the bites for about 15 to 20 minutes, until they are firm and springy.

Allow the bites to cool on the cookie sheet before eating.

*Seriously, try a little dab of peanut butter on these. So yummy!

Cooking Playlist 5

Sometimes your day goes as planned and you get to go to your yoga class.

Sometimes after taking time off from said yoga class, you topple over in navasana becuase that “core” you were working on is no longer.

Sometimes you’re so tired when you get back from yoga, you forgot that your boyfriend was visiting his mother so there’s no one to cook for.

And sometimes, when there’s no one to cook for, all you want to eat is the leftover soba noodles and tofu in the fridge.

And half a jar of peanut butter.

This playlist is taken from the Hip Hop Yoga class I went to after work.  It was taught by Erica Bornstein who is probably the best kept secret in Boston.  She’s incredibly genuine (I don’t think I’ve ever seen the girl without a smile on her face) and a fantastic instructor with a love for working on core.  I always feel lucky when I’m able to snag a spot to roll out my mat.

While I know this is not originally a “cooking playlist,” I feel it serves the same purpose: fun music to get you out of your head, allowing you to enjoy the experience.  So, stop thinking about whether you paid for cable, the laundry you may have to do or if you remembered to feed the cat!  Start playing some music and get going!  (But feed the cat first.  Seriously.)

Lemon Ginger Soba Noodles with Spicy Pan Fried Tofu

My mother is a post-partum nurse.  When I was a kid, having a mom as a nurse was pretty nice in that she always took care of my “boo boos” and I grew accustomed to a never-ending supply of pharmacy-type items (bandaids, alcohol wipes, ibuprofen, etc) in our hallway closet.  My mother always shopped in fear that if there was ever a pain or ache she would not have the remedy for it.

There are hazards that come with her job though.  Hazards for a now thirty year old me.

My mother basically works with mothers and their babies.  All the time.  It’s not just a little reminder that she doesn’t have grandchildren yet, but a giant, hey, let’s rub it in your face for an eight hour shift Monday through Friday, and then maybe sometimes on weekends.

At first I didn’t put any weight in the way my mom commented about how cute other people’s infants were at random places like the mall, because she has always loved babies.  It was when I was approaching my 29th birthday that I realized she was actually starting to panic that she may never have grandchildren.

“Maybe you should get your eggs frozen.”

“WHAT?!  Ma I’m 28!”

“You’re turning 29 next month.”

“And what, next comes 30 and then I’m barren?”

“Well, maybe you should get your eggs frozen.”

I didn’t get my eggs frozen.

Soon after our conversation I started receiving random gifts from my mother that my friends were convinced were symbols for my “barren uterus.”

Like a tea strainer and a drain strainer.

Both, my friends said (in case you can’t connect the dots), seemed all too similar to the shape of a uterus.

I still haven’t frozen my eggs.

However, I did call my mother recently to catch up, and knowing that if we talked about food, it would be a good distraction to the whole “grandbaby debacle.”

I was happy that we were able to talk about dishes she used to make when I was younger.  Recipes that reminded me of home, when I lived there, wasn’t thirty and didn’t have the pressures of having a basketball sized belly from my mother (and Facebook).

While I can never promise my mother grandchildren, I can pay her a little honor by remaking her lemon and ginger soba noodles with pan fried spicy tofu.  While she didn’t give me specific measurements (my mother and Rachael Ray are kindred spirits, they never measure a thing while they cook), I used what she told me she threw in, and just added and tasted until it was “just right.”  I encourage you to do the same, as my love for bright lemon and spicy ginger may not be the same as your taste.

I realize that the soba noodles are served cold, but the lovely acid tones of the dish go so well with the spicy tofu on such a dreary, November day.  Even Roo, who has been adamant about hating tofu, slurped up the noodles with the red pepper flake and sesame oil infused fried bean curd.  I hope that you will give it a chance as well.

Recipe is from Mom

Serves 2 to 3

Ingredients

For the Noodles

Quarter cup of mild tasting olive oil, or a canola or vegetable oil will do

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon of mirin

2 teaspoons of sugar

Half teaspoon of fine sea salt

3 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar

Zest of one lemon

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (I used the my coarse microplane grater)

One bundle of dried soba noodles, when held together, about the diameter of a quarter

A large pinch of salt (for cooking the soba noodles)

For the tofu

2 teaspoons of sesame oil

2 tablespoons of soy sauce

1 teaspoons of red pepper flake

1 teaspoons of sugar

One green onion, diced

One fourteen ounce (if you have a larger size container, that’s also ok, it’ll work!) container of tofu

1 tablespoon of mild tasting olive oil, or a canola or vegetable oil will do (for frying the tofu)

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Equipment

A large pot

Two small sized mixing bowls

A whisk

A set of tongs or chopsticks (I love cooking with chopsticks)…a fork will also suffice

A large saute pan

A colander

A plate lined with one or two paper towels

A plate to serve with

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Fill your large pot three quarters of the way with water.  Place over a burner on high heat.  Make the sauce for the soba while you wait for the water to boil.

In a small sized mixing bowl, add the olive oil, sesame oil, mirin, sugar, fine sea salt, rice wine vinegar, lemon zest and grated ginger.  Whisk the ingredients together till well combined.  Taste.  I like this sauce full of punch from the lemon and ginger.  Too tart?  Add more sugar.  Too acidic?  Add a bit more olive oil.  Make this sauce yours.  Set aside.

In another small sized mixing bowl add the sesame oil, soy sauce, red pepper flake, sugar and green onion.  Whisk the ingredients till well combined.  Set aside.

By now hopefully the water has come to a boil.  Add the soba noodles and cook.  When done (I like them to have the same consistency as pasta), drain and rinse the noodles in cold water until the noodles are cold.  Drain again and set aside.

Pour the olive oil into a large saute pan and place on a burner over medium heat.  While the oil is warming, remove the tofu from its container and rinse under cold water.  Pat the tofu dry with paper towels. Cut the tofu into about quarter inch pieces.  For instance, cut the tofu in half, down the long ways.  Then, cut one of the halves again in half, down the short way.  Then cut that half into four pieces.  Repeat with the other half (and quarter) of tofu.  I got 16 slices.  If you get more or less, it’s ok!

By now the oil should be shimmering.  With a new paper towel, pat the individual slices of tofu dry before placing into the pan.  Lay out as many pieces of tofu into the pan, without touching.  If they touch, they will stick together in the cooking process.  (Thankfully I am able to lay out all 16 slices in my mega pan.)

Cook the tofu on low heat for about five minutes, until the side facing the pan gets golden brown.

While the tofu is cooking, take your soba noodles and put them on your serving plate.  Pour the half the soba sauce over the noodles.  Toss the noodles with your tongs.  Taste.  Does it need more?  Add more sauce.  Set aside.

Hopefully by now the tofu is golden brown on the side facing down on the pan.  Flip all pieces of tofu over with tongs, a fork, chopsticks, whatever.  Cook the tofu for about another five minutes.

When the tofu is golden brown on both sides, plate it and pour the sauce over the tofu.

Serve with the soba noodles immediately.

Creamy Broccoli Soup

Hey.

Did you realize yet that it’s halfway through November?  Are you in denial about cooking for Thanksgiving like I am?

Good.

Roo and I have been keeping warm in our poorly insulated apartment with soups.  Lots and lots of soups.

And maybe cats.

Pissed off cats.

Around this time last year, I made Roo a broccoli soup that was full of cheese, whole milk and half and half.  You’d think I was trying to collect a life insurance pay-off with what I plated for him.

“Oh no, half a block of cheddar is good for your cholesterol level of 250.”

Little did I know at the time, he doesn’t have life insurance.  Little does he know, I have no shame, and like my Aunt Kathy, I planned on putting his ashes into something affordable, like a vase from Pier 1 Imports, where my Uncle Dan now rests.

I’m just keeping it real.

This year, I wanted to make broccoli soup a little differently as Roo and I have recently adopted a plant-based lifestyle.  Yet, when I told Roo what I was making for dinner, he was a little concerned.

“How are you going to make broccoli soup without cheese or cream?”

Thankfully I had a bit of luck with my last supposed-to-be-cream-based-soup so I knew where to start.  Even though Roo hates my mentioning it (it’s all in the name really), nutritional yeast rounds out the flavors that would instead taste like broccoli broth without it.  Paired with almond milk and blended potatoes, it makes a creamy, cheesy soup that I loved submerging large chunks of warm, crusty bread into.

The soup has loads of body, as half of the vegetables are blended, then put back in.  And with just a little bit of chili powder to raise the flavor up a bit (that and the sherry give it “that little something”), you soon realize that it’s not just rosemary that’s added.  It’s good.  It’s, put down the cat you’re using as a shawl, good.

Adapted from Appetite for Reduction

This Serves About 6

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Ingredients

1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pot)

1 large onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

Quarter teaspoon of chili powder

4 cups of low sodium broth (I used homemade vegetable)

4 potatoes (about the size that individually fit in the palm of your hand), cut into about half inch pieces

2 carrots, diced

5 cups of broccoli, cut into less than half inch pieces (if you can use only the stems, do it. Save the florets for some roasting, stir fry, etc where you’ll be able to appreciate the textures.  This soup is just going to get blended at the end.)

1 cup of unsweetened, unflavored almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

2 tablespoons of sherry

Quarter cup of nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon of butter, like Earth Balance (optional)

Salt to taste

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Equipment

A sharp knife

A very large pot with cover

A spatula

An immersion blender or a blender

Ladle

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Add one to two tablespoons of olive oil to your pot.  Place the pot over a burner on medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the diced onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent.  Add the minced garlic, rosemary, and chili powder and stir to incorporate the ingredients.  Cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the broth, potatoes and carrots.  Stir till the ingredients are incorporated.  Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat so that the ingredients are at a simmer.  Cover the pot and simmer for about ten minutes.

After ten minutes have passed, add the broccoli and simmer for twenty minutes, covered.

After twenty minutes have passed, add the almond milk, sherry and nutritional yeast.  Stir and heat the ingredients through.

With an immersion blender, blend about half of the soup, or to the consistency that you wish (I like to have some bits left whole in my soup).  If you don’t have an immersion blender, ladle some soup into your blender, but be careful to not fill more than half way.  Lid, cover with a towel (to protect your hand), and immediately blend (do not let steam build up in the blender or else you may risk of eruption and burning your hand!).  Add it back to the soup, and continue this until the soup is down to the consistency you desire.

Salt to taste.

*Does it need to be just a little bit creamier?  If desired, add a tablespoon of butter, like Earth Balance.  Otherwise, you’re done!  Serve immediately.