Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Recipes’ Category

Veggie Burgers à la Emily

Hello, hello, hello!

I hope you all had a fabulous weekend! Any fun adventures or exciting stories to share? I took a Sunday stroll to the village “brocante”, an event that lies somewhere between an antique market and a garage sale. Although the stands were mostly filled with other people’s “discarded treasures”, I did manage to snag a couple old tin teapots! Woo-hoo!

More about that later… today I’d like to take a break from flowers and share a fun recipe with you guys. I’ve been disappointed with the veggie burgers you can find in the grocery stores around here. They’re super salty and lack any kind of fun flavor. With high hopes for a tasty yet healthy burger, I set about coming up with my own little recipe. After perusing the internet and comparing various recipes, the ideal ingredients were decided upon. A southwestern style black bean burger packed with chopped vegetables accompanies by a spicy and tangy sour cream sauce.

Ingredients (serves 4 comfortably):

BURGERS

  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 can of corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 zucchini, grated
  • 1/4 of a stale baguette (or 1/2 cup of prepared bread crumbs)
  • 1/2 container of mushrooms (around 10 button mushrooms)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 handful of oats
  • 1 handful of parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika powder

SOUR CREAM SAUCE

  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 5 peperoncinis, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Step One: Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F). Chop the onions, mushrooms, and parsley. Grate the zucchini.

Step Two: Sauté the vegetables in a dash of olive oil and sprinkle with smoked paprika powder. Once the onions are tender, you’re ready to rock and roll! Use a food processor to magically transform the stale baguette into bread crumbs. Slightly beat the egg.

Put half of the black beans into the food processor along with the corn, sauteed veggies, egg, oats and half of the bread crumbs. Pulse until all of the ingredients have completely combined before adding the rest of the black beans and pulsing again. Scoop out a handful of the burger batter and form into a patty. Use the remaining half of the bread crumbs to coat the patties before placing them on an oiled sheet of aluminum foil and tossing them into the oven.

Step Three: Bake the burgers for about 5 minutes before flipping them and baking them for another 5 minutes. While the burgers are baking, you can get started on the sour cream sauce…. to be honest, there’s not much to it. Simply spoon in the desired amount of sour cream, add a few shakes of paprika, squeeze in some lime, and add either jalepenos of peperoncinis if you like it hot! :)

The eggs, oats and beans should give the burgers a nice, stable consistency while the veggies deliver a large dose of vitamins and minerals. You have a choice of serving options for this one… either place the patty on top of a bed of lettuce and add a dollop of the sour cream sauce and guacamole (optional) OR make a full-blown burger topped with cheese, sour cream sauce, guacamole, and chopped peperoncini.

Yum! I was super happy with the way the burgers turned out. The beans and oats deliver a healthy dose of protein and fiber while the veggies fill your tummy with much vitamins and minerals. Since the flavor relies heavily on herbs and spices, there was no need to add any unnecessary salt or other additives. This will definitely be a new staple in my kitchen… I actually have four patties waiting in the fridge for use to enjoy as an afternoon snack! :)

What about you? Do you guys have any fun veggie burger recipes?

Ooey-Gooey Goodness: Eggplant Parmesan

Hey guys!  With all this flower power excitement going on, I figured I’d take a little breather and share something a bit… tastier with you all. How about we take a trip away from the garden and head into the kitchen. If you’re lucky enough to grow yummy garden goodies like eggplant and tomatoes, this could be just the right recipe for you! I, unfortunately, haven’t had any luck growing either. Tomatoes always seem to turn brown and flop over… don’t ask me why… and the eggplants never seemed to ripen. I guess I’ll just stick with my zucchini, pumpkin, squash, carrots, green beans, spinach and lettuce until I’m up for another challenge! Hey, at least I’ve got some basil growing in my garden! :)

Today, I’ll be cooking up a pan-full of piping hot eggplant Parmesan. I was actually just introduced to this Italian favorite a few weeks ago… and I was immediately hooked. The gooey globs of cheese and deliciously flavorful veggies were a treat to the taste buds. I returned home, determined to recreate the dreamy dish myself.

Ingredients:

  •  2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup stale bread
  • 1 cup Parmesan (either grated or finely sliced)
  • A few dashes of oregano (either dried or fresh)
  • About 10 leaves of basil (fresh or about 1/2 tablespoon dried)
  • 2 cans of tomato puree
  • 1 can of whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 2 large eggplants
  • 3 balls of mozzarella (about 1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • red wine (optional)

Gather all of your ingredients and preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). First you’re going to want to peel the eggplants… which for whatever reason ended up being much more difficult than I imagined it would be. Then you should try as best you can to slice the eggplants into 1/2 inch rounds.

Next, it’s time to mix up your bread crumb combination and whip up the two eggs for dipping. For the bread crumbs, put the stale bread, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and everything but a handful of the Parmesan cheese into a food processor. Blend well.
In another wide, flat bowl or dish beat the two eggs until fully blended.

Take one slice of eggplant and dip it into the egg mixture. Allow the excess egg to drip off and generously dip it into the bread crumb mix. Make sure each slice of eggplant is well coated before placing it onto a sheet of cooking paper. Repeat with each slice of eggplant.

Bake the eggplant for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown, and flip. Bake the other side for another 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

While the eggplant is baking, you can cook up a batch of simple yet tasty batch of tomato sauce. Saute the chopped onion and minced garlic in a thin layer of olive oil. Once the onions have turned translucent, add the cans of tomato sauce and peeled tomatoes into the pan. Pour a few “glugs” of red wine into the tomato cans and swirl around… my mom taught me this trick! It helps to get all of the good stuff out of the cans while adding a nice flavorful dimension to the tomato sauce.

Once the eggplant slices are finished cooking, remove them from the oven.

Slice the balls of mozzarella into thin rounds. Pour 1/3 of your tomato sauce into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Add half of the eggplant slices. Pour another 1/3 of the tomato sauce on top of the eggplant slices before adding half of the mozzarella.  Repeat the same process, ending with the mozzarella rounds. 

Sprinkle a handful of Parmesan cheese and some chopped basil on top of the delicious dish.

Crank the heat up to 400 F (205 C) before putting the eggplant Parmesan into the oven. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the tomato sauce begins to bubble and the cheese is well-melted. Let the dish stand for a few minutes before serving up!

I was really happy with how my first attempt at baking this “healthy” lasagna turned out… I use quotation marks because, yes, there aren’t any noodles (carbs, eek!!), but there is oodles and oodles of cheesy goodness. I know the huge hunk of cheesy mess plopped onto a plate isn’t the most attractive picture, but I sweat it was great! I think if I were to do anything differently, I would opt to forego the bread crumbs and, instead, rub the slices of eggplant with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs. Then I would simply stick them in the oven or grill them in a pan. I think this would make the dish just a bit healthier and wouldn’t detract at all from the taste.

That’s just my opinion. Give it a go yourselves and let me know what you think! :)

I hope you enjoyed our little break from the garden… don’t put your gloves and garden gear away, though, ’cause tomorrow we’re heading back outside!

A True French Treat: Blueberry Clafoutis

Happy Friday, friends!

In honor of the rapid approach of another wonderful weekend, I thought that it would be fun if you and I cooked up a tasty traditional French treat… clafoutis! I’ve long admired and munched on many a clafoutis at our local fancy-shmancy boulangerie. They come in lots of varieties (cherry is apparently the most traditional, but I’ve seen everything from apple to pear, strawberry or rhubarb), but I’ve found none to be quite as tasty as the blueberry version. This morning, I realized that I’ve ogled over the pastries hidden behind their glass casing for long enough… it was time to give it a go myself! After all of the crazy recipes full of foraged goods from the garden, I hope you won’t be too disappointed to find that this simple and nonchalant recipe doesn’t contain anything of the weedy sort.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • A sprinkling of powdered sugar for garnishing

 

Before rounding up all of your ingredients, go ahead and preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).

I chose to use frozen blueberries, mostly due to the fact the fresh ones aren’t readily available yet. I’ve got a handful of flowers getting ready to blossom on the bushes in the garden, but it will be a while before I can enjoy them… if I can get them before the birds do, that is! My favorite little blueberry stand in Wahlwiller doesn’t even have any yet. So, I guess I’ll have to adapt the age-old saying to my current cooking situation and rest assured that a blueberry in the hand is worth a few on the bush!

Empty the two cups of blueberries (either fresh or frozen) into a medium sized bowl. Add two tablespoons of the granulated sugar and mix well. Let the berries soak up the sugar while you whip up the rest of the ingredients.
In another medium sized bowl (or food processor) add the remaining sugar, flour, eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. Stir the mixture until you reach the consistency of a smooth batter.

In a blatantly obvious attempt to emulate the clafoutis sold at our local bakery, I decided to insert individual baking paper linings into a silicon muffin mold. To recreate this casually chic look I simply ripped off squares of baking paper and stuffed them into each separate mold.

Scoop a spoonful or two of your sugar-coated blueberries into each muffin mold. You can add more or less depending on how fruity you want your final product to be. Next you’re going to pour a couple spoonfuls of your batter over the blueberries, making sure to fill the molds nearly to the top (they will expand in the oven and then shrink back once they’ve cooled down).

Stick your muffin mold in the oven and let it bake for about 35 minutes. You’ll want to take the pastries out once they’ve fluffed up quite a bit and turned a nice golden brown.

The final texture should be something in between a pudding and a cake… not spongy but not gooey either. Nice and moist, yummy and delicious!

While I’m showing you the texture, I may as well take a bite and let you know how it tastes… or maybe two bites, since I don’t think I got quite enough blueberries in that first bite.

One word of warning when baking these tasty treats: Be careful digging in… before you know it, it’ll be gone!

I’m so happy to be able to recreate one of my favorite pastries here in my own home. I hope you can bring a bit of Europe into your kitchen and dine on these dreamy and delicious goodies! They also aren’t so horribly bad for you… no butter or fats, just a bit of sugar. And everyone needs their daily dose of sugar, right? ;)

Have  a wonderful weekend, and I look forward to seeing you on Monday!

Paardenbloem Pesto

Good evening everyone, and welcome to the latest installment of “If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Eat ‘em”. Today we’re using handy, dandy and ever-so-abundant dandelions to our own advantage. I mean really, what lazy gardener would dare let these pesky weeds creep into her flower borders? *slowly raises hand* Guilty as charged. Try as I may, each and every spring these bright yellow rascals pop out from the must unexpected places to enjoy a few moments under the sun. But it’s not all bad news… I promise!

In some ways this weed can actually be a blessing for your garden. The dreaded deep taproot actually draws up valuable nutrients, drawing minerals and nitrogen to the surface of your soil. This peculiar plant is also edible in its entirety. That’s right. You can eat the flower, the leaves, and even the roots. It’s long been hailed for its medicinal properties and is often used as an herbal remedy. From caffeine-free coffee to dandelion wine… dandelions seem to belong better in the kitchen than the garden.

Today, however, we’re going to be using the vitamin and mineral rich leaves to make a delicious pesto with a kick. Much like an arugula pesto, the bitter leaves of the dandelion add a characteristically sharp flavor. So, come on everyone and let’s load up on some vitamin A, C, and K and chow down on this potassium, calcium, iron, and magnese rich dish!

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 young dandelion plants
  • 1 handful of pine nuts
  • 1 handful of parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 generous pinch of salt (to taste)
  • Olive oil

Make sure to pick your dandelions from a reliable location- somewhere you know hasn’t been sprayed by any chemicals… or animals. Bring the plants inside and remove the leaves from the thick root. Set a few flowers aside to use as garnish.

Place the leaves into a blender or food processor. While the leaves are blending, slowly add the olive oil. Continue adding the oil until the consistency looks about right (probably about 1/4-1/2 cup). Blend the leaves for about one minute to achieve a fine consistency.

Throw in the cloves of garlic, salt, pine nuts, and cheese and blend for another half minute. Using a spoon or spatula, make sure to regularly scrape down the sides.

Every cook is entitled to a taste test, so go ahead and enjoy a nibble. How is the flavor? Need any more cheese? Pine nuts? Salt? Use your own taste buds and judgement to create your finished product. Just to give you an idea, this is the amount of pesto I ended up with. It was more than enough to make a pasta dish for two and have lots of left-overs.

Boil your pasta, drain it, and add the pesto while the noodles are still warm (this will ensure an even coating). If you’re so inclined, you can add a sprinkling of roasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese on top… and if you really want to show off and impress your guests (or partner!) you can use some of your dandelion petals as garnish.

Yum, yum, yum. I’m a huge pesto fan, and I was surprisingly impressed with this dish. I’ll admit it, I was a bit intimidated by the idea of eating a common weed. After I successfully convinced my husband that I wasn’t trying to poison him and promised to keep a close eye out for any scary symptoms, we dug in and enjoyed. The left-overs, which I ate for lunch today, tasted just as delicious cold as they did fresh from the stove. Tonight, I’m cooking up a bit of pesto chicken with rice… so, here’s hoping we don’t get sick of pesto anytime soon!

If you’re not in the mood to have pesto for a few consecutive days, you can always choose to stick the extras in the freezer. This way you can enjoy “presto pesto”… tasty pasta in an instant :)

I hope you guys enjoyed today’s wild and weedy recipe. I hope you’ll be motivated to live life on the wild side and tempt your taste buds with some unlikely goodies from the garden!

Simple and Scrumptious: Violet Syrup

Hi there sweet friends!

Continuing to capitalize on the tastiest spring flower trend around… yes, that’s right, I’m talking about garden violets… today we’re going to boil up a batch of homemade violet syrup. As the warm weather continues and the soil temperature gradually rises, you might have seen these purple petals popping up in the garden. It seems as if each spring carries the promise of new, volunteer violet seedlings. This is, of course, something that I encourage.

Despite a relatively short flowering season, their fragrance and flavor are a welcome addition to any spring garden. Best of all, once the flowers have come to a halt, the neat rosette of fresh, green leaves sticks around all season. This petite and pretty little shade lover spreads itself through a network of stolons (above ground shoots) which then develop their own roots, beginning yet another cycle of new growth. If you’re in the market for a flowering groundcover to fill in a shady corner of your garden, these fragrant flowers just might do the trick.

In an effort to enjoy our mild weather and get outside, I grabbed a pair of gardening shears, a small basket, and the doggies before heading out into the garden. I looked high and low, parted blades of grass, and battled with stinging nettles (ouch!) in order to gather the six handfuls of flowers needed to flavor the syrup.

Once the flowers and I were safely inside, I poured them into a small bowl and gave them a good rinse. Then it was time to gather the remaining ingredients…

For traditional and tasty violet syrup you will need three simple ingredients:

  • 6 small handfuls of violet flowers (roughly 3 ounces)
  • 300 ml boiling water
  • 200 ml of white sugar (you’ll need roughly equal parts sugar to water, depending on how sweet you like your syrup)

This recipe is super simple, it really only takes a bit of patience and a little time (about 24 hours, eek!).

Put your freshly picked and rinsed violets into a small pot before pouring the boiling water on top. Place the cover on the pot and let the violet water infuse overnight.

You should get whiffs of a strong violet odor when you remove the cover from the pot. Before you start boiling, you’ll have to strain the liquid from the flowers. I tried to use a strainer first but found that a thin cloth actually worked best. This stopped any and all residue from sneaking into the syrup.

The final step of preparing the syrup is to add the sugar. In order to do this, you’ll need to create a makeshift “bain-marie”. Basically, all this means is that you’ll need one larger pot of boiling water and one smaller pot holding your violet water. Simply rest your pot of violet water on top of the boiling water, and voila, you’ve got a bain-marie. With your pot of violet water safely nestled into it’s boiling bath, go ahead and add the sugar. You can do little taste tests along the way, if you’d like, in order to achieve the desired level of sweetness. Stir the syrup until all of the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove the pot holding the syrup from the boiling water and set aside.

Allow the syrup to cool before pouring it into a sterile bottle (putting a glass bottle through a standard cycle in the dishwasher will produce a sterile enough receptacle). Seal it up and store it in a cool place. You can keep it in the fridge for up to six months… if it’ll last that long!

My concoction developed an odd blue-ish hue rather than the typical lavender hue you’d expect from violet syrup. Nevertheless, when it was combined with water, it immediately turned a very pretty pale purple. Phew!

And the taste… yum! This stuff is as good as any store-bought product, if not better. I love knowing that it comes straight from the garden! I added a few frozen violet ice cubes for aesthetic appeal before graciously gulping down my tasty little treat.

By the way, you need not worry that any violet plants were harmed in the making of this post. They were immediately divided up and replanted… the more violets, the merrier!

I hope you guys enjoyed this simple recipe, and, for those of you with volunteer violets in the garden, this could make for one heck of a weekend project! Whether or not you give this a try, I wish you all a wonderful weekend, and I look forward to seeing you again on Monday :)

Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue…

Good evening fellow foragers!

Today we’re gonna take a trip into the garden to forage for some wild violets, which I prefer to call by their Dutch name, “maarts viooltjes”. “March violets” gives you a little something to look forward to during a month not particularly renowned for its abundance of nature. The Dutch seem to have a very matter-of-fact and logical way of defining various elements of nature: Pinksterbloemen pop up right around “Pinksteren” (Pentecost), Meibloemen blossom in “Mei” (May), “blauwe druifjes” do, in fact, look like little clusters of “blue grapes”. But that’s all besides the point. Time to get back to the flower of the moment… or month.

Maarts viooltjes, officially known as Viola odorata, are tiny herbaceous perennial plants that can be found growing along the edges of forests or grasslands and in many shaded lawns or gardens. Sometimes seen as unwanted guests, these little fellows self-seed somewhat freely when given the opportunity. As you may have guessed from the name, they are both vivid violet and quite sweetly scented.

Both the leaves and the flowers are edible, although the flower is responsible for that characteristic violet flavor. To take advantage of one of the only flowers adding a splash of color to the garden at the moment, I thought I’d have a go at making some candied violets. You know what they say… Roses are red, violets are blue. Sugar is sweet, and… so are these candied violets! :)

To start off, you’ll want to pick a handful of violets from your garden (or snatch a few from an oh-so-generous neighbor). Make sure to leave a portion of the stem in tact as this will make handling the fragile flowers much easier. Crack open an egg and carefully transfer the egg white into a small bowl. Apparently it’s important to let the egg white reach room temperature. Soooo, while you’re waiting for the egg white to warm up a bit…

It’s time to give the tiny flowers a little bath! Gently dip the flowers, one by one, into the water and then set them on top of a paper towel to dry. Don’t let them dry for too long. I made this mistake and my flowers became a bit flimsy… oops.

Once the flowers have dried off for a short while, it’s time to gather the rest of your supplies. Besides the egg white, all you’ll need for this project is a small paintbrush and some fine sugar. If you don’t have any finely ground sugar on hand, just use a blender or coffee grinder to break your sugar apart a bit. This is what I did, and it worked out fine.

Carefully pick your violet up by it’s stem (try to avoid handling it by the petals) and place it face down on a flat surface. Gently paint the backsides of the petal with egg white, making sure to coat the entire flower evenly. Lift the flower up by the stem and, using your fingers as a backboard, paint the front of the flower with the egg white.

Once your flower is evenly coated with egg white, give it a generous dusting of sugar. When you’re happy with the aesthetics of your flower, place it face down onto a sheet of baking paper (or other non-stick surface) to dry.

Repeat the process with any other edible flowers or herbs that you have on hand. I gave it a whirl with scented geranium flowers, the petals that fell off (whoops), and a couple of basil and mint leaves. Let your sugar-coated goodies dry for at least 24 hours before you put them to work.

Although the scented geranium flowers were much too fragile to support the weight of the egg white and sugar, the separate petals turned out quite nicely.

The candied violets looked lovely and tasted great! If you’ve ever tried violet syrup, you would immediately recognize the characteristically sweet flavor… yum!

The candied basil leaf was also surprisingly delicious! Something about the aromatic basil surrounded with a punch of sweetness was very soothing to the taste buds.

Now it’s time to put your flowers to work! For the sake of taking a few pictures, I chose create a little floral collage on top of some bakery goodies we were getting ready to enjoy with coffee. I really liked the way that the mint leaves in combination with the violet flowers created the illusion of a complete plant. You can use as little or as few as you’d like… it’s really up to you!

Wouldn’t these look absolutely fabulous scattered around a wedding cake? If they aren’t in season when you’re planning a special event or dinner party, I think that candied rose petals would be a wonderful substitute! I’ll have to give those a try this summer and see how they turn out.

I hope you enjoyed this tasty treat of a project… and if you have an abundance of violets creeping up in your garden, you can always give this a shot over the weekend ;)

I wish you all a delicious weekend, and I’ll see you on Monday!

Curry Carrot Soup

Good evening everybody!

Soup’s on! You know me and my soups… I just can’t get enough of ‘em. Today’s recipe is all about another quick and easy “soup”er supper, curry carrot soup. Yum. Savory curry combined with the sweetness of fresh carrots. Sprinkle each bowl with a little coconut milk and a mound of chopped cilantro (coriander for you Europeans), and you’ve got yourself one tasty treat.

By the way… when I share these recipes with you guys, in no way am I pretending to be some kind of gourmet chef. My recipes often aren’t complex, they don’t take a crazy amount of technique, and they are often ready in a jiffy. These are just recipes I either think up, expand upon, or experiment with and enjoy sharing with you guys. So don’t worry, I’m not a foodie-wanna-be or egocentric cook… I’m just having a good time throwing ingredients together and seeing what comes out!

Servings: 4 + leftovers

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 herbal bouillon cubes
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 8 carrots
  • 3 potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of ground curry (more or less, according to your own personal taste)
  • 1 small package of coconut milk (optional)
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro (coriander) (optional)

Coat the bottom of a soup pot with the olive oil (approximately 3 tablespoons). Heat the olive oil over a medium-low heat.

Chop the onions into small chunks and the cloves of garlic into thin slices. Add both ingredients to the olive oil and sprinkle with a generous amount of curry powder. While the onions and garlic are sauteing, it’s time to get to work on the “meat” of the meal… your carrots.

Slice the carrots and add the vivid veggies to the mix. While you peel and slice your potatoes, let the combination of curried carrots saute for several minutes.

Add your peeled and diced potatoes to the pot, followed by about 1 liter of water and 2 cubes of bullion. Bring to a boil before reducing the heat to a simmer. Let the soup simmer for about 30-45 minutes, or until the carrots and potatoes are nice and tender. Using a hand blender, blend this vitamin-rich goodness into a thick-ish soup.

Pour the soup into however many bowls you need. Add a generous serving of coconut milk… I always find it fun to play around with shapes and designs. A little abstract art in your bowl of soup never hurts!

Top your artistic arrangement with a little chopped cilantro (optional), and dig in!

This soup was a real winner with the main man in my life, so I suspect that I’ll be making it more often!  I hope you’re tempted to give it a try, and maybe even put your own spin on this scrumptious soup :)

Have a wonderful day, and see you tomorrow!

Easter Eggs Au Naturel

Happy Monday everyone… and I hope you’re ready to spend a whole week hopping to it with me and getting crafty for Easter!

Today I figured we’d start at the very beginning,  a very good place to start… Gosh, I love The Sound of Music. Don’t worry though, I won’t sing my way through this project. I’ll try to stop while I’m ahead.

Okay, so where were we? Ah yes, the very beginning…  the fundamental basics of Easter decorations. Dyeing eggs.

I’m going to walk you guys through three variations on the same theme- dyeing Easter eggs using various edible garden goodies… all of your favorite foods that leave behind killer stains! While you can choose from a plethora of colorful fruits and veggies, I decided to stick to a blue-ish and gold color scheme. The edibles that best ticked these boxes were blueberries, red cabbage, beets, and curry powder. Red cabbage will produce a soft teal color, while the beets lend themselves to subtle pinks. Blueberries give  you a grey-blue hue, and curry produces the most wonderful muted mustard yellow.

To prepare your dyes, you should bring about one cup of your fruits and/or veggies (feel free to mix it up, too!), 3/4 liters of water, and 2 tablespoons of vinegar to a boil. For spices (curry, cumin, turmeric  chili powder, paprika, etc) you only need several tablespoons. Once the concoction is boiling, reduce the heat and let it simmer for about half an hour. You may choose to strain out the edible matter and use only the liquid, but this will usually result in a more subtle color.

Variation One: Full Blown

Some crafts, like using empty eggs as ornaments, require blowing out the insides of an egg. To do this, you simply poke a hole in both ends of your egg (I used a metal skewer). At the widest end of your egg, the “bottom”, you’ll want to make your whole a bit bigger than the “top”. Continuously poke the insides of the egg with the skewer in order to break up the yolk and allow for an easy exit. Finally, give the egg a few shakes in order to keep the insides flowing out. Once the egg is empty, give it a rinse with water, and you’re ready to go!

After your egg is rinsed and patted dry, dip the egg into a jar full of your dye. It might take a while for the air to fully exit the egg, and you just might have to weigh it down with a spoon (or some other heavy object). Let the egg sit in the jar for anywhere between 20 minutes to overnight. The longer you leave your egg in the dye, the more saturated your final color will be. Just to give you an idea, I let this egg sit in a dye bath of red cabbage for about 20 minutes, and it turned out the most beautiful shade of robin’s egg blue.

Just so you know, the color of the water doesn’t necessarily translate to the final color of your egg. As you can see below, the red cabbage liquid was a vivid indigo, but the eggs turned out a very light turquoise blue.

Which brings us to Variation Number Two: Cooking in Color.

For this variation, you will cook your raw eggs in a bath of color. You should follow the same directions for making the dye, adding the raw eggs after the edibles have simmered for about 30 minutes. After plopping your eggs in the colorful water, let them cook for 30 minutes over a low heat.

The curry bath (picture above on the right) produced this gorgeous muted mustard egg. I think this is probably one of my favorites!

The blueberry, however, was incredibly underwhelming. The charcoal grey (pictured below on the right) wasn’t exactly what I was imagining for a fun and springy get-together.

Finally, we arrive at Variation Number Three: Stocking Stuffers.

For this variation, you will follow the previous directions for the methods of creating the dye and cooking the eggs, but with a twist. Literally. You’ll twist your egg into a square of cut up nylons and secure it with a twisty-tie. This method allows you to incorporate any fun shapes, plants, or stickers into your dyeing design.

I chose a small parsley leaf for my trial run.

After you’ve tied the stocking tightly, use scissors to trim off any excess material.

Like before, let the egg simmer in the dye bath for about 30 minutes before removing it from its wrapping.

The parsley leaf and a dye bath of red cabbage produced a rich, blue egg and a perfect botanical imprint.

With natural dyes, you’re not likely to achieve the vivid, neon colors of artificial dye kits… but that’s fine by me. I find the muted shades of blues, purples, pinks, and yellows to be soothing and simple.

If you’re looking for other colors, then I would suggest spinach and parsley for pale green. Raspberries, pomegranates, and beets for pink. Cooked carrots, chili powder, and paprika for orange. Grape juice for purple. For other yellow agents, you can also choose ground tumeric or cumin.

Go ahead and rummage through your cupboards, dig through your fridge, and take a tour around your garden to see what creative combinations you can come up with… as long as you stick with edibles, a little experimentation never hurt! ;)

Edit: I let a few eggs “bathe” overnight in the red cabbage dye and they came out the most wonderful deep, dark navy blue. I think if you’re going for richer shades and more dramatic colors, leaving them overnight is the key.

What’s Cookin’? Tex Mex Soup!

Hi there culinary companions!

Today we’re back in the kitchen, whipping up another batch of flavorful soup… grilled pepper, tomato and black bean soup, to be exact. Add a couple shakes of Spanish pimentón (smoked paprika) and a few dashes of Chipotle Tabasco, and you’ve got yourself a seductively smokey, well-rounded meal in a bowl! You know me. My favorite dishes are never too challenging, and, most often, pretty easy to throw together. So roll up your sleeves, grab a knife, and let’s get crackin’!

Ingredients (comfortably feeds four):

  • 7 sweet red peppers
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tablespoons of pimentón (smoked paprika… normal paprika should do alright if you’re in a bind)
  • 1 400g can of tomato puree
  • 1 cube of herb (or chicken) bouillon
  • 2 400g cans of black beans
  • Chipotle tabasco (optional)

Step One: Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F) on the “grill” setting.

Step Two: To get started, we’re gonna rinse our peppers with water, chop off the tops, and remove as many of the seeds as possible. Line your oven rack with a layer of parchment paper and stick the peppers in the oven.

Step Three: The peppers are going to need to cook for about 30 minutes. Once the skins are blackened and bubbly (after about 15 minutes), go ahead and flip them over. While they finish cooking, we can get started with chopping up the rest of the ingredients.

Step Four: Chop your onion into small-ish pieces and set aside. Chop your (de-seeded) tomatoes into chunks. Now is also probably when you’ll want to remove your peppers from the oven. Set them aside to cool down.

Here comes the fun and flavorful part!

Step Five: Over a low flame, heat about one tablespoon of olive oil in a medium to large pot. Throw your onions in the pot, giving them a good toss in the oil. Add about two teaspoons of pimentón, coating the onions evenly and stirring occasionally. They should start to smell sinfully spicy… yum! Keep these goodies cooking for about 5-10 minutes.

Step Six: Peel the skins from the grilled peppers (if cooked long enough, they should come off very easily). Slice ‘em and dice ‘em, and toss ‘em in the pot.

Step Seven: After the flavors of the onions, pimentón, tomatoes and peppers have had a few minutes to get to know one-another, it’s time to add a can of tomato puree. Stir in well.

Add about 3 cups of water (you can always add more later on in the game if the consistency turns out too thick) and bring to a boil. Go ahead and add your cube of bouillon. If your taste buds so desire, now would also be a good time to add a few dashes of Chipotle Tabasco.

Step Eight: Drain and rinse your cans of black beans before adding them into the soup. Let the whole Tex-Mex medley simmer for a bit (about 20 minutes) before going to town with a hand-held blender.

Serve into bowls, and voila! Feel free to add a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of cilantro, or whatever else your hungry heart may desire! :)

Personal anecdote: I actually received the pimentón as a gift from my good friend, Natasha. It was a parting ways gift after graduating from college. She used it all the time to make the most delicious lentil soup ever. I suppose my constant begging for bites of her lentils gave her the awesome idea of supplying me with my very own pimentón, the first spice package to grace my kitchen cabinets. I’m sure she’ll get a kick out of knowing that, after all these years, I still put it to good use!

So, on that note, let’s raise our glasses and dedicate this meal to Natasha!

Now put your glasses down, grab a spoon, and dig in :)

What’s Cookin’? Tortilla Espanola!

Hi there lovely cooking companions!

I was hoping you’d like to join me for another delicious dinner whipped up in less than an hour… so yummy, so simple, so flavorful! This colorful combination of grilled sweet peppers, onions, and arugula is my own tasty variation of Tortilla Espanola. Basically, it’s a heartier, firmer, flatter version of your good ol’ fashioned omelette…. and frankly, it’s a heck of a lot easier than messing around with all that flipping business. What do you say? Shall we put on our collective virtual aprons and get cracking?

Ingredients:

  • 3 sweet red peppers
  • 4 small potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • chunk of desired cheese (I used pecorino)
  • handful of arugula
  • 6 eggs

Step One: Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F) on the “grill” setting. Wash the peppers, cut off the stem, and remove the seeds. Don’t worry about the skin on the peppers, it will slip right off after a bit of time in the oven. Before sticking the peppers in the oven, place them on a layer of aluminum foil or wax paper (they have a tendency to leak juices while cooking).

Step Two: While the peppers are grilling, peel and chop your potatoes. Warm a bit of olive oil in a heat-resistant pan over a medium flame and add the taters. Allow the potatoes to brown just a bit, and then add a cover in order to make the potatoes softer rather than crunchier.

Step Three: After about 15 minutes, once you see the skin of the pepper “bubble” up, flip the peppers. The peppers should be sufficiently grilled after 30 minutes. You will notice a blackened, bubbly skin, which is just perfect. Remove the peppers, and allow them to cool for just a few minutes. Keep the oven on, though, since you’ll need it again in just a few moments.

Step Four: Once the peppers have cooled enough to handle without burning yourself, remove the skin. The grilling process should allow the skin to peel right off. After you’ve removed all of the skin, chop them into bite-sized bits.

Step Five: Now is the time to add your eggs to the pan o’ potatoes. Simply crack the eggs right on top of the potatoes and mix up the yolks and egg whites just a bit.

Step Six: Crumble your cheese on top of the “omelette”. Once you notice the egg whites thickening and cooking through, place the arugula leaves on top of the whole shebang.

Step Seven: When you’re confident that the omelette is 90% cooked through, it’s time to stick it in the oven. 10 minutes in the oven should allow for the remaining 10% of cooking time, making the top of the “omelette” just as well-done as the rest.

When you take the tortilla out of the oven and cut it into slices, remember that the handle will be very hot!

All that’s left to do is slice it up, serve it up, and eat it up! I like to add a few dashes of chipotle Tabasco- the chipotle flavor really complements the grilled peppers.

*Disclaimer* Instead of grilling the peppers yourself, you can also use jarred grilled peppers. This will reduce the cooking time from about 40 minutes to only 15-20 minutes. I’ve tried it, and, to be honest, it’s equally as delicious.

Thanks for keeping me company while we were busy in the kitchen! I wish you all a wonderful evening, and bon appetit! :)