Sweet & Spicy Cherry Pepper Hummus

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Since I became a vegetarian, hummus has been a staple of my diet. A relatively-portable food that goes well with pretty much anything (quesadillas, wraps, crackers, vegetables of every kind) is a necessity, in my opinion. Not to mention that it’s so delightfully creamy, I could eat it all day long!

This week, I’ve discovered something new to fuel my love of hummus: a stand at the local farmers’ market that sells marvelous hummus with interesting flavors. I’ve passed by week after week without a second thought, but I tried it last Saturday on a whim– and it was delicious. Their black bean & chipotle harissa hummus is spicy, but with a lovely, sweet undertone. I bought some, and it was gone within a few days.

I’d love to eat this hummus every day, but there’s a problem: it cost $5 for a small amount. That’s a lot of money, so I decided to try making my own. I’d never made hummus before; I’ve always stuck with my favorite Mediterranean hummus from Trader Joe’s. But with some advice from a friend, I jumped right in– and this is what came of it.

I love this new recipe. The cherry peppers add a beautiful, spicy, fruity taste to this throat-burning dip. It goes especially well with homemade tortilla chips, because they seem to help neutralize the spice. But yesterday was more of a vegetable-sticks sort of day, and that was wonderful, too.

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Cherry Pepper Hummus

Makes 2-3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 C tahini
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 5 spicy cherry peppers
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 t cayenne
  • 1/2 t dried basil
  • salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Boil black beans for 1 minute, then drain.
  2. Boil chickpeas for 2 minutes. Remove loose skins from the surface of the water; drain.
  3. Add all ingredients to a food processor; process for 2-3 minutes or until smooth.

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Confetti Rice

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The summer will be over soon, and I’ve found myself knitting a lot lately. I’d really like to fit in all of my projects before school starts again, because I’m feeling swamped. Knitting projects and college applications. They’re basically my life right now, and I feel like I’m drowning in them. The nice thing, I suppose, is that one is stressful and taxing, while the other is cathartic. Though at the same time, one is vital and the other’s just a hobby. But it’s not the actual knitting that’s making me feel overwhelmed; it’s the sheer number of half-finished projects that I would really like to just be done with so I can move on. I’d really like to make myself a sweater soon, but I have two scarves, a pair of socks, a hat, and a baby sweater to complete first. In fact, I’ve resolved to start no new projects until I finish my current ones. We’ll see how that goes.

The day I made this marvelous rice, I spent most of the afternoon knitting and looked up to see that it was 5:15. I’d been hoping to make up a new recipe that day, so with only about an hour before my family would want dinner, it had to be simple and fairly quick. This dish embodies both of those qualities rather well, in my opinion. The longest process is cooking the brown rice, so be sure to start that before you do prep the vegetables and you’ll have dinner in forty minutes. I’d call that a success!

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Confetti Rice

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 C brown rice
  • 2 C vegetable broth
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 1/2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 ears of corn (cut off kernels)
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 1/2-1 t chili powder
  • 1/2-1 t cumin
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 2-3 handfuls spinach, chopped

Directions:

  1. Bring brown rice and vegetable broth to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 40 minutes.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add peppers, zucchini, corn, garlic powder (because I forgot to do the garlic first), cumin, chili powder, juice of 1/2 lime. Put the lid on and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 6 minutes.
  3. Add black beans. Turn the heat to low and leave it until the rice is done.
  4. Place spinach in a bowl. Add hot rice and vegetables and mix together to wilt the spinach. Finish with the other half of the lime juice and serve.

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Kiwi was very interested in eating this rice as I was trying to take pictures of it. Come to think of it, so was I. And you should be, too, because it really is great.

Polenta with Balsamic Tomatoes

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One day while I was working, I was really, really hungry. My sister promised that she would have roasted broccoli waiting for me when I got home– for a price. I was to go to Trader Joe’s the following day to get a tube of polenta.

My friend came over for lunch yesterday. When we were trying to decide what to make, I found that polenta in the pantry. We’re overloaded with tomatoes and basil, so… well. This is what came out of it. It’s marvellous– we’ve made it for lunch again today.

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Polenta with Balsamic Tomatoes

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

  • 1 tube of pre-cooked polenta
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 445g tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 t olive oil (I used garlic olive oil)
  • 1 t balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small handful basil, chopped
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut the polenta into 1-centimeter-thick circles. Brush both sides of each with olive oil. Heat a pan over medium heat; cook polenta until browned on both sides (~5 minutes per side).
  2. Meanwhile, mix tomatoes, (1 teaspoon) olive oil, vinegar, basil, salt, and pepper. Serve polenta circles topped with tomato mixture.

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Summer Vegetable Pasta

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It’s always rather exciting when members of my family go away for a week or two, because their dietary preferences go with them. Which, of course, means that I get to cook with ingredients that are normally off-limits. This week’s ingredient: the eggplant.

I bought three at the farmers’ market on Saturday, along with some other beautiful summer produce. I wasn’t sure what to pair the eggplant with, but I decided that I couldn’t possibly go wrong with bell peppers and zucchini. After all, I thought, they do share a season. So of course that means they must go well together... I hope.

But what to do with the vegetables?

Do you remember back here, when I bemoaned my inability to keep a plant alive? Well, there’s one exception to that. Basil. In the corner by the roses… it’s a bit out of control, but it’s very happy! And so am I, because it means that no matter how much pesto I make, the basil never runs out.

So: pesto + summer vegetables… Pasta. Of course. And here it is:

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Summer Vegetable Pasta

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 150 g whole-wheat fusili
  • 1 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-cm cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 small zucchini, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 T olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • paprika
  • dried basil
  • pesto

Directions:

  1. Place chopped eggplant in a colander. Sprinkle with salt. Let it sit for about 35 minutes, until you see beads of water forming on the surface. (This helps draw out the bitterness.) Preheat oven to 420°F.
  2. Rinse eggplant well and pat dry. Toss with a 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a bit of salt, and a liberal sprinkle of paprika. Spread on a baking tray. Then, toss bell pepper and zucchini with the rest of the olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried basil. Spread on another baking tray. Place 2 cloves garlic (skins on) on tray as well. Roast vegetables for 20 minutes or until soft and slightly caramelized, stirring halfway through.
  3. Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente. Mix pasta, pesto, vegetables, and (peeled & chopped) roasted garlic, and serve.

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Roasted Carrot & Lentil Salad

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Before today, it had been a long time since I’d eaten lentils. I’d forgotten how delicious they were, and, fortunately for me, this also happens to be the best batch of lentils I’ve ever made. The flavor is perfect, and they are just at that stage between crunchy and soft where lentils are simply heavenly. It is a truly beautiful thing.

Roasted carrots, too, are a beautiful thing. Roasted anything, actually. In my opinion, that’s the very best way to cook vegetables. It keeps all of the flavor and color locked inside, concentrating it until they’re sweet, soft, lightly browned, and absolutely spectacular.

And apparently, as I’ve learned today, roasted carrots and lentils are a perfect pair, particularly with a cilantro-lime vinaigrette that could genuinely be drunk straight from the jar. Not that I did that…

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Roasted Carrot & Lentil Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 C French green lentils, dry
  • 2 C water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, cut into 6 pieces
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t ginger

Dressing:

  • 2 T minced shallot
  • 1 t dijon mustard
  • 3 T lime juice
  • small handful of cilantro
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 4 T olive oil

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Toss carrots in oil, cumin, ginger, and salt. Put on a parchment-lined baking sheet; cover with foil and seal the edges. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil, then bake for 25 minutes or until nicely browned.
  2. Meanwhile, put lentils, water, bay leaves, and garlic in a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until cooked but still slightly crisp.
  3. Make the vinaigrette. Mix shallot, mustard, lime juice, cilantro, salt, and pepper in a small container. Whisk in olive oil (whisking quickly, pouring slowly).
  4. Mix (cooled) carrots, lentils, spinach, and dressing. Top with toasted pecans and serve immediately.

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Fresh & Summery Tomato Soup

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My grandmother has an incredible gift for gardening.

During the summer, her tomato plants resemble a jungle, quite frankly, bursting with sweet, succulent, bright-red fruit. They’re truly a marvel. And though my tomato plants are shriveled, sickly little things (I, apparently, inherited none of her talent), I still get to benefit from the fruits of summer. She sends them over by the pound; today, we had so many on the counter that they simply had to be used up, and fast. What’s the quickest way to use up several pounds of tomatoes at once?

Why, tomato soup, of course!

I have very little experience making tomato soup, but, true to form, I jumped right in and made it up as I went along. I tend to do the same when I’m knitting. It’s a terrible habit, but I just can’t seem to help it.

It was a terribly hot day, so I really did not want something creamy and sort of heavy, like some tomato soups. This one is fresh, light, and summery, absolutely wonderful both warm and cold.

Tomato Soup 2Tomato Soup

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 large cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 3 stalks celery, halved & sliced
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 C vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add celery, shallot, and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant.
  2. Add cauliflower, tomatoes, vegetable broth, thyme, lemon zest, and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is soft.
  3. Blend until smooth, then return to the pot. Add lemon juice, pepper, and more salt. Bring to a boil again; reduce, stirring constantly, until it’s thickened to desired consistency. Add a tablespoon or two of flour to help with the thickening, if you want. Taste, and adjust spices as necessary.
  4. Serve with goat cheese, chives, and toast cut into small squares.

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Cinco de Mayo Soup

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I have been craving soup.

It’s been terribly hot for several weeks, but spring has finally decided to return to its normal (70-degree) temperatures. Still too warm for my taste, but cool enough to justify soup-making. And tea! I’ve missed my ritual peppermint tea, but I couldn’t bear a warm drink with the ridiculous heat.

On Monday, when my mother requested some sort of Mexican-inspired dinner, I immediately decided that it must be soup. This one, though not strictly “Mexican” (I’ve never actually been there), was inspired by ingredients (seemingly) often found in Mexican cooking. Be warned, though– it is fairly spicy. If you’re sensitive, be sure to lessen the quantities of the spices. If you do over-spice it, a bit of sour cream stirred in just before serving should tone it down.

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Cinco de Mayo Soup

Serves 6-7

Ingredients:

  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  • Chili powder
  • 48oz vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cans black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 C frozen corn
  • 1 generous tsp oregano
  • 2 generous tsp chili powder
  • 2 generous tsp cumin
  • 1 generous tsp onion powder
  • 2 generous tsp garlic powder
  • 1 generous tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a bowl, toss bell peppers and onion with olive oil and some chili powder. Roast until soft and slightly brown at the edges.
  2. Heat vegetable broth, black beans, diced tomatoes, corn, and spices in a pot over medium heat. Add roasted vegetables and let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste. If it’s too spicy, add 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to offset the spiciness.
  3. Serve with sour cream and avocado.

Honestly, this is one of the simplest, most low-maintenance, and most delicious soups I have ever made. It is definitely going to appear on our table again.

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Orange-Cardamom Buns

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Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit New England.

I had never been there before, and it was absolutely lovely. It was still rather wintry and cold; all of the trees were bare and the landscape was mostly brown. However, the brown there is very different from where I live. Where I live, when the vegetation is brown, it’s a dry, dead-looking sort of brown. In Massachusetts, it seemed to me, the brown was very much alive. It’s difficult to describe, but Massachusetts, even in the winter, is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. I hope I have the chance to live there someday and see it in all of its seasonal splendor. (The place I live now doesn’t have particularly distinct seasons, so the idea of real seasons is tremendously exciting.)

While I was there, I wandered into a lovely little pottery shop somewhere in Vermont. I bought a beautiful blue mug, and I adore it. I have used it nearly every day since I got home. Peppermint tea is delightful as it is, but it’s even better when it comes from a mug with  memories attached to it.

Would you like to know what else makes peppermint tea delightful? Orange-cardamom buns. I made them for the first time yesterday, and they worked splendidly. For quite awhile, it looked like they were going to fail miserably– first the dough was too sticky, then too dry, not elastic enough, and so on. However, this recipe really is foolproof. Try it. It’s life-changing.

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Orange-Cardamom Buns

makes 12 buns

Adapted slightly from this recipe.

Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 50g sugar
  • 60g butter, room temperature
  • 150ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 325g flour

Filling:

  • 60g butter, soft
  • 60g sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • zest of 1 orange

Directions:

  1. Whisk the egg and divide in two– half for the dough, and half for the glaze.
  2. Put the flour and butter in a bowl. Rub with your fingers until the butter has been incorporated. Fold in salt, nutmeg, and all but 1 teaspoon of the sugar.
  3. Scald the milk. Then, put the milk aside and let cool to 110°F. Stir in yeast and the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar; let sit for about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir the egg (only half) into the milk-yeast mixture, then pour into dry ingredients. Stir with a spoon, then work with your hands until you have a smooth, stretchy dough (~5 minutes). Cover bowl with a damp tea-towel and leave in a warm place for an hour until the dough has doubled in size. Knock back and knead again for 2-3 minutes.
  5. While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Place butter, sugar, cardamom, and orange zest in a bowl and mix with a fork until well combined.
  6. Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Roll it into a large rectangle until the it is about 1/4 inch thick. Spread with the filling, then roll up into a sausage. Use a sharp knife to cut into 12 slices.
  7. Place 12 muffin wrappers on a baking sheet. Lay each slice, cut face up, on a muffin wrapper. Cover with a damp tea-towel and leave to rise for at least an hour until doubled in size.
  8. Preheat the oven to 390°F. Take the remaining egg and mix with a tablespoon of water. Brush the buns with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake the buns for about 10-12 minutes until golden.

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(That’s my mug in the background, by the way.)

Banana Bread

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Today, the ninth of April, marked my first foray into food photography.

It did not begin well.

I arranged my little loaves of banana bread neatly on a yellow cloth. I added a banana and an apple, then sprinkled chocolate chips and pecans around the base of the bread. I began taking my photos from above—and they were anything but compelling.

I began to think. What is wrong? I’ve done everything correctly.

Then, I had an epiphany.

My pictures had no depth. Because I had placed everything straight onto the cloth, there was nothing to add visual interest, nor was there any sort of a story portrayed. It was simply bread and fruit on a table, without purpose.

From the moment I realized this, everything went quite smoothly. I am really proud of the results. Certainly, I failed at first. I would show you how terrible the first set was, but I deleted them out of sheer embarrassment. In hindsight, it would be nice to have a record, to show how much such a simple lesson can change. First and foremost, I reinforced for myself the fact that failure is truly positive if used as a stimulus for growth. I have learned quite a lot today—and it all began with failure.

Now, for the recipe. This is a favorite of mine. I’ve made it so many times, I know the recipe by heart.

ImageBanana Bread

makes 1 loaf

Adapted slightly from this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 + 1/3 C unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 C honey
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 mashed overripe bananas
  • Plenty of chocolate chips and chopped pecans. Seriously, don’t be afraid to dump in a whole bag of chocolate chips. It’s marvelous.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together applesauce and honey. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture, just to moisten. Fold in chocolate chips and pecans. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and let cool completely before cutting.

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Welcome

Hello.

I’m Haley: amateur photographer, decent cook, lover of learning, improvement, and growth. Expert at failure, but lover of that, too.

As the Walrus said in Lewis Carroll’s poem, “The time has come… to talk of many things.” And, indeed, it has. It’s time to share my culinary undertakings. I intend to write about food, photography, failure, growth, and life in general. Some recipes will be mine; some will be others’. I’m here to learn. I hope you’ll help me, and perhaps learn something yourself along the way.

Welcome to my journey.