Friday, November 29, 2013

Shrimp and Fall Fruit Salad

The inspiration for this salad came from a recipe in Melissa's Great Book of Produce for persimmons. I had two that I couldn't figure out what to do with, so I decided to peruse my cookbook collection until something popped out at me. A recipe for a salad of persimmons, blue cheese, pomegranates and walnuts with a cider dressing sounded really delicious, but I wanted to add a few more things to it. I skipped the blue cheese, but added in some cucumber slices and some bay shrimp.

For the dressing, I used apple cider vinegar and mixed in some ground mustard and some herbes de provence. I can't tell you how good this salad tasted! Every bite came with a "oh wow" and a "this is good!" and "holy crap!" I don't think I've made a salad this good since I made my salmon, avocado and asparagus salad a few years ago. While persimmons and pomegranates are in season, you have to give this salad a try!

Shrimp and Fall Fruit Salad
adapted from Melissa's Great Book of Produce

Serves 2

1/4 lb bay shrimp
2 persimmons, cut into wedges
1/4 c. pomegranate seeds (I bought a cup with just the seeds, was a super time saver!)
1/3 cucumber, sliced
1/4 c. walnuts, chopped
chopped romaine lettuce

1 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp herbes de provence
salt and pepper

1. Mix together ingredients for dressing, set aside. 
2. Put a handful of lettuce on each plate, then layer cucumber slices on top. Add half the bay shrimp to each salad, piling the shrimp into a small mound in the center of each salad. Sprinkle walnuts, pomegranate seeds, and persimmon wedges over the top, then drizzle dressing over.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Favorite Banana Bread (Dairy and Egg-Free, Vegan)

I'm one of those weird people that can't eat a banana if it has any brown on it, so I tend to put the ones with the brown spots into my freezer. I usually have at least a gallon bag filled with frozen bananas, even after I've made several loaves of banana bread.

I love making banana bread. It is one of my favorite breads to make because it stays so moist and delicious, even after you freeze it. I like to add chocolate and walnuts to mine to add more crunch and sweetness to it. My versions is egg and dairy free, of course, and I use flax seed and almond milk as substitutes. Because I freeze the bananas before using them, they end up a lot sweeter naturally, so I reduce the added sugar in my banana bread by a lot.

Next time you have a few extra bananas that are a little ripe, pop them in the freezer for a few days to sweeten, then make some of this delicious banana bread! Trust me, you won't want to go back to the sugary version!

Rachel's Banana Bread
adapted from Better Homes and Garden Cookbook

Makes 1 loaf

1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp flaxseed, mixed with 6 tbsp water
5 medium bananas, thawed slightly
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. cooking oil
1/3 c. chopped walnuts
1/3 c. dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the flaxseed with water and set aside. Thaw bananas by defrosting in the microwave for about 5 minutes. Peel bananas and put in bowl. Mash with a potato masher to get a uniform consistency. Add sugar and oil and mash a few more times to combine. 
2. In another bowl, mix together flours, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, walnuts and chocolate. Stir to combine. Add flaxseed mixture to bananas, then add banana mixture to dry ingredients. Stir to combine just until all the dry ingredients are moistened. 
3. Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan with Pam. Pour in batter, then bake in the oven for 55-60 minutes until a wooden toothpick comes clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before releasing from pan. Cool loaf on a rack until you can't handle it anymore and have to eat a slice (cuz who wants to wait overnight, right?)


Monday, November 25, 2013

Kale and Noodle Soup

Chicken noodle soup is a staple in my kitchen whenever I'm feeling a little under the weather. I have shared my quick version here before, but the last time I made this soup, I decided to skip the chicken and add in kale instead for a healthy, meat-free soup.

The flavor is just as incredible as my chicken noodle soup and just as healing. I loved the addition of the kale, especially since kale is one of my favorite vegetables, with the sweet carrots and hearty onions and garlic. The noodles put it over the top to make a most comforting meal.

Kale and Noodle Soup

Serves 6

1 tbsp olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4" wide half moons
1 c. dried noodles
4 c. vegetable broth
1 bunch kale, washed and cut into 1" strips
salt and pepper
Crusty bread, for serving

1. Heat olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat, then add onion and cook until just beginning to turn brown, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, stir, cook for 30 sec then add the rest of the ingredients except the kale. Season with salt and pepper, then bring to a boil over high heat. 
2. Reduce to a simmer for about 7-8 minutes until noodles and carrots are cooked. Add kale and heat until gently wilted. Serve with crusty bread.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Auburndale Park

Auburndale Park
31700 - 108th ST SE Auburn, WA

Features: Playground, Open grassy area, 1/4 mile walking trail
Great for: kids, walkers, picnickers

For the past few years, I've been collecting a list of local parks  that I wanted to visit. I didn't really go to many of the parks, other than a few that I normally go to, such as Roegner Park and Game Farm Park here in Auburn since that is where the White River Trail is and I love to go running there. I have a rather large list that spans from parks north of Everett to south of Olympia. A lot are small neighborhood parks, but I'm hoping to find a few sparkling gems.

The first on my list was Auburndale Park, on Auburn's Lea Hill. I used to attend Green River Community College, and the park is nearby, but I never knew it was there. I had no trouble finding it with my GPS, unlike the other Auburndale Park on my list (see address above for the correct one).

The park was calm and quiet, except for a rowdy pack of little dogs that were finishing up their walk with their humans. A mom with her young boy was walking along the street, and when I finished my walk, there was a UPS guy taking a break in his truck at the park.

The park itself is a little small, but it has a little playground, plenty of benches for a picnic and a large grassy area for running around. The park also has a 1/4 mile long trail loop that would be a fun walk for kids, or for a run on a nice short winding track though the woods. If you are in the Lea Hill neighborhood and are looking for a nice, quiet place to read, walk or just enjoy the peace, Auburndale Park is a great place to stop.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Butternut Squash Soup with Orange and Rosemary

I love making soups whenever the weather starts to get dreary and cold. This soup is one of my favorites to make since it comes together quick and is full of flavor. The orange adds a nice light zing while the rosemary gives a nice warming flavor.

The soup is so creamy on its own without any thickener or cream. Its so easy and quick to make too and I love to serve it with crusty sourdough bread.

Butternut Squash Soup with Orange and Rosemary
adapted from Cooking by Chic Simple

Serves 8

1 tbsp olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
1 tsp dried rosemary
4 c. vegetable stock
1/2 c. orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
salt and pepper

Sourdough bread, toasted, if desired

1. Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until just beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 25 minutes until squash is tender.
2. Let the soup cool slightly, then puree in a blender. Return to pan and keep heated until ready to serve, with sourdough bread if desired.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Update on my Etsy Shop: November 2013

I'm so excited that I have my Etsy shop up and running! I've had a few sales now and it is so exciting. I love making new things and taking pictures of them, but I never realized how much work it really goes in to posting an item on Etsy, especially when you include how much time it took to make it!

I'm absolutely loving every minute of making my shop larger. I am constantly knitting hats and making jewelry and I'm even dabbling into sewing and possibly hand embroidery. I've found the more I create, the more creative I get and I come up with so many more ideas and designs! My style is constantly evolving and I love that. I also love that I make really unique pieces that I don't really duplicate, so they are truly one of a kind.

I would like to now showcase some of my newest items I have made:

I have been making a lot of knit hats with this super bulky yarn that I just love. I'm making 4 different designs out of each color and I'm in the works of designing an infinity scarf in the same colors. The design in the hat I'm wearing above is what I call my "Mossy Hat" and I just love the texture!

In the earring department, I have made these colorful beaded earrings that I love so much that I kept a pair for myself! The colors are so beautiful and I love the contrast of the light sea mist with the dark teal and black beads.

And finally, I made a lot more of my clear leaf earrings, but this time with gold, copper or brass wire. These are probably some of my favorite earrings and I kept a green pair and a clear pair for myself. I've gotten so many compliments on them whenever I wear them!

That's the news for my shop for this month. I'm going to try to do an update every month with new items I'm posting so you can read and see what's new!

Thanks for stopping by!


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Smoked Salmon and Pea Pasta with Herbed Goat Cheese

This was one of those dishes that was made out of necessity. I had to make dinner, but didn't want to run to the store. I had smoked salmon and herbed goat cheese in my fridge, pasta in my pantry, and peas in my freezer. Smoked salmon and peas are a favorite combination of mine, but I was really wanting a creamy sauce. I found some herbed goat cheese and knew that was going to be perfect.

The goat cheese melted nicely to lightly coat the pasta, salmon and peas, and turned this easy and quick dinner into a divine meal. If you are short on time, this dish will cook up in no time!

Smoked Salmon and Pea Pasta with Herbed Goat Cheese

Serves 4

1/2 fillet smoked salmon, flaked
2 c. dried orecchiette pasta
2 c. frozen peas
3 tbsp herbed goat cheese
Salt and Pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil, then cook pasta according to package directions, adding peas during the last minute. Drain, return pasta and peas to pot, then add salmon and goat cheese. Toss until goat cheese coats pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon into bowls and add an extra dollop of goat cheese on top for good measure.


Friday, November 1, 2013


I have forgotten how important taking long vacations are. I haven’t had a real vacation that wasn’t jam-packed for years now, and it felt so good to finally take one. It felt way too short, and I could have stayed there another week easily. I did come back with a few good lessons:

-I need to stick to my normal eating patterns. I ate a lot of fish (most of it fried) and veggies, but not nearly enough fruit and beans and grains. It was delicious, but I definitely felt out of sorts because of it. I didn’t get my daily banana, or my daily apple and I sorely missed them!

-I need to take more vacations. I felt so rested (except for one day when I couldn’t seem to shake the sleepies), and I could immediately feel my body relax while driving south. 

-I need to explore more. It’s something I love to do, just wander around a strange city, meet interesting people, and see amazing sights. I felt so alive and so grounded. It was the best thing to do. And it helped me cross off a few more places off my travel list (like Rainbow Falls State Park, which was rather disappointing, and also the towns of Pe Ell and Ilwaco).

I’m not sure where I’m going to travel next to, but wherever it is, I’m so excited for it.

What has been your favorite vacation?

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