The Ultimate Tempeh Reuben

The Ultimate Tempeh Reuben - Traveling Fork

I feel like there's no middle ground when it comes to sandwiches - you either have a really good sandwich that is full of flavorful ingredients that complement each other in just the right way or you have a really disappointing sandwich that fails to satisfy and leaves you feeling very underwhelmed. Sandwiches can make or break a day. This sandwich definitely falls into former category - a really good sandwich. While I love the traditional rueben layered with corned beef or pastrami, swiss, sauerkraut, and 1000 island dressing in between two slices of grilled rye bread, this tempeh version is arguably just as delicious, if not more. If you're a meat-lover, you just need to keep an open mind ;) 

Tempeh is one of my favorite 'alternative' protein sources to eat because it has a great texture and just like tofu it absorbs whatever flavors you marinate it in. The marinade is the key to success when working with tempeh or tofu, as I found out during my 15-year stint as a vegetarian. But back to the sandwich. In between these layers of fresh rye bread, I piled in thick slices of maple-mustard tempeh, slow-cooked red wine onions, avocado mayo, swiss cheese, arugula, and homemade sauerkraut. Each component is super easy to make and can be prepared ahead of time for easy sandwich making on busy week days. I also highly recommend serving these tempeh reubens for a delicious weekend brunch feast. Serve with crunchy pickles and some good quality salt and vinegar potatoes chips.  

// The Ultimate Tempeh Reuban // Makes 2-3 sandwiches
As mentioned above, all of these components can be made ahead of time if you're short on time or want to prep lunches for the week. I wouldn't recommend making the sandwiches beforehand as they'll get soggy and soggy sandwiches are a no-go in my book. Also, if you have a panini grill, by all means use it! We don't have one, so we simply 'grill' our reuben's in a frying pan

For the marinade:
8 oz tempeh
1/3 cup safflower or canola oil
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon whole brown mustard seeds

For the red wine onions:
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup red wine, divided

For the avocado mayo:
1 large avocado
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon horseradish (optional)
Black pepper to taste

To assemble sandwiches:
4 slices rye bread (6 if you're making 3 sandwiches). Good quality makes a difference!
4 teaspoons butter, more if needed
4 slices swiss cheese
2-4 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/3 cup arugula
1/3 cup Sauerkraut

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Slice the tempeh into 1/4-inch slices (you should end up with 20-24 slices) and arrange slices in a single layer in a baking dish. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the oil, mustard, maple syrup, vinegar, salt, and mustard seeds. Pour marinade over tempeh and marinate for at least 30 minutes, flipping slices once or twice. Bake tempeh for 20 minutes. Flip slices and bake for another 18-20 minutes or until all marinate is absorbed and slices are browned

2. While tempeh is baking, make the red onions. Heat butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. Add red onions and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently. When onions are soft add 1/4 cup red wine, caraway seeds, and salt. Continue to cook for another 8-10 minutes or until red wine has been reduced. Add another 1/4 cup of red wine and continue cooking. Repeat until 1 cup of red wine has been used and onions are fully cooked. Transfer to a bowl

3. To make the avocado mayo, mash together the avocado, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, horseradish, and black pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside until needed

4. To assemble sandwiches, butter one side of each piece of bread with 1/2-1 teaspoon butter. On the other side of two pieces of bread (not the buttered side) spread about 2-3 tablespoons of avocado mayo. On the other two pieces of bread (again, not the buttered side) spread 1-2 teaspoons of dijon mustard. On the avocado mayo half, layer 2 slices of swiss cheese, 6-8 slices of tempeh, some red onions, small handful of arugula, and about 2 tablespoons or more of sauerkraut. Top with second piece of bread, mustard side down

5. Heat a large skilled over medium heat. Cook sandwiches one at a time, buttered sides down, for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Bread should be deep golden brown and crispy and cheese melted. Enjoy immediately

Walnut Pesto Margherita Pizza

Ever since Noah took up sourdough bread baking about a year ago, homemade pizza has become a serious addiction and not something that we take lightly anymore. He has delved deep into the pages of Tartine’s self-named book to learn the art of making a perfect sourdough pizza crust and when we need a quick overnight version he follows the recipe found in Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. Both crusts are delicious, but I have to say that the sourdough one wins out because of its complex flavors developed over days of natural fermentation.

Whichever crust we use, our pizza nights have grown to involve at least 5 or 6 mounds of soft, pillowy pizza dough waiting to be stretched out (not rolled) on our limited counter space. The rest of the counter space is scattered with various toppings. Very rarely do two pizzas get the same topping treatment because that's boring and we like to be creative. One of our favorite pizza concoctions is this Walnut Pesto Margherita Pizza with beautiful heirloom tomatoes, toasted walnuts, and freshly made basil pesto. It’s not the most traditional Margherita pizza, but it’s arguably just as delicious. 

// Walnut Pesto Margherita Pizza // makes 2 pizzas
As mentioned above, we like to use homemade pizza doughs, but if you don't have the time (or energy) feel free to use store-bought ones. The heirloom tomatoes are non-negotiable, though.  

For the Walnut Pesto:
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cups packed basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup parmesan, shredded

~ 1 lb heirloom tomatoes, depending on how big pizza crusts are, sliced into 1/4" rounds
8 oz goat cheese
1/2 cup walnuts (not toasted)
1/2 cup packed basil leaves, julienned
2 homemade or store-bought pizza crusts

1. Preheat oven to 550 with pizza stone inside. Let preheat for at least 30 minutes

2. To make the pesto, place the walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, basil, salt, and black pepper in a food processor. Process for about 1 minute or until ingredients are roughly chopped, scraping down sides as you go. While motor is running, slowly add olive oil in a thin stream. Process for 2-3 minutes, scraping down sides again, until pesto is smooth. Transfer pesto to a bowl and fold in parmesan

3. To assemble pizzas, roll out dough on floured surface to desired thickness and place on a lightly floured pizza peel. Spread about 1/4 cup of pesto over dough (amount depends on size of pizza crust). Top with half of the tomato slices, goat cheese, and walnuts. Slide pizza onto baking stone in oven and bake for 6-7 minutes or until edges are lightly golden brown. Turn oven to high broil and bake for another 2 minutes. Remove from oven and repeat for second pizza. Garnish with basil and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  Eat! 

Fresh Shrimp Summer Rolls with Coconut-Lemongrass Dipping Sauce

Hello! How is your summer going? We've been (finally) enjoying some warm weather here in Seattle and it feels like we're packing a lot into our days. A few weeks ago Noah and I spent some much needed time out in the woods on the Olympic Peninsula. We visited the Enchanted Valley, which was my first actual overnight backpacking trip ever! Kind of embarrassed to say that seeing that I've traveled all over the globe and camped at least a million times... But now I'm hooked and can't wait to strap a 40lb pack on my back again and go on some more deep woods adventures! If you want to read more about our trip, check back in a week or two - we're planning a post about it. 

This week, though, we're talking about fresh shrimp summer rolls with a coconut-lemongrass dripping sauce. So good!! We make fresh rolls quite often in the summer because they're relatively easy to make once you get the hang of rolling them up (my job, not Noah's ;). And they don't require turning on the oven, which is a big plus on hot summer nights. These shrimp came straight down from Alaska gratis from Noah's parents (thanks!) and they are so sweet and delicious. If you decide to make this recipe (which I hope you do), please go for the good quality and sustainably caught shrimp because they're totally worth it - both for your taste buds and for the environment. Much of the frozen shrimp that are in the grocery store have been washed with chlorine to kill bacteria or treated with other chemicals. This leaves a definite chlorine or bleach taste on the shrimp that - to me - is unacceptable. Furthermore, shrimp harvesting practices range from sustainable to downright destructive. So please - do your research and care about where your food comes from. 

// Fresh Shrimp Summer Rolls with Coconut-Lemongrass Dipping Sauce // makes 6 large rolls
Summer rolls are one of my favorite summer meals because they are fresh and light for hot days. Not to mention delicious! But, they are kind of time consuming to make... Totally worth it, though, in my opinion! You can even use up random ingredients in the fridge or garden without having to run to the store. Try different protein, veggie, and dip combinations. If this is your first time rolling rice paper wrappers, the first few rolls that you make probably won't look too pretty, but keep at it! They'll get better with practice :)

For the Coconut-Lemongrass Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup lime juice
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Noodles:
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated cane sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces bean thread noodles
4 cups boiling water

Summer Roll Fillings:
12 large, frozen and thawed shrimp, uncooked and unshelled - about 1 pound
1 small ripe mango, sliced into strips
1 small avocado, sliced into strips
1/4 cup peanuts, roughly chopped
12 long strips of red bell pepper
12 large butter lettuce leaves, more if needed
~1/4 cup each of fresh thai basil, mint, and cilantro
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
12 summer roll wrappers

1. To make the coconut-lemongrass dipping sauce, place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high-speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour sauce into a bowl and refrigerate until needed

2. To make the noodles, place dry noodles in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, and salt. Bring 4 cups water (roughly - no need to measure) to a boil. Pour hot water over noodles and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water. Let drain again until all water has been removed. Toss noodles with sauce and let sit until ready to make rolls

3. To cook the shrimp, bring a large pot of water to a boil. When boiling, salt heavily and turn heat down to medium-high. Add the shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes or until shrimp are red and tails have curled under slightly. Drain and rinse with cool water. Remove shells

4. To make rolls, lay out all filling ingredients on plates and platters so they are accessible. Fill a pie dish or large bowl with warm water for rehydrating rice wrappers (you will need to keep replenishing the warm water as it cools). Place one wrapper in warm water and let sit for 1 minute. When soft, lay wrapper flat on a dish towel. Place 1 butter lettuce leaf in the center followed by ~2 tablespoons noodles, 1 slice mango, 1 slice avocado, 1 strip bell pepper, 2 shrimp, 1 teaspoon peanuts, 1 teaspoon scallions, and 2 leaves each of basil, mint, and cilantro. Fold the left and right sides of the wrapper toward the center over the ingredients. Then fold the bottom side of the wrapper up over the center. Using your fingers to hold the ingredients in place, start to roll up from the bottom, making sure the sides stay folded in and the ingredients aren't pushed out the top. Continue to roll until you have reached the top and the 'package' is complete

Spain part 2: Basque Country + A Spanish Tortilla

Welcome to Spain part 2! After exploring Barcelona by foot and bike for a few days, we rented a car and headed west toward wine and Basque Country. Our first stop was Logrono where we got our first taste of real Spanish (or Basque) tapas called pintxos. We sampled them according to tradition - hopping from bar to bar (each bar is known for its special pintxos) and with copious amounts of red wine. If you aren't familiar with pintxos, they're basically little bites of food skewered on top of crusty baguette slices with a toothpick. Bars display plates loaded with a wide variety of colorful pintxos on their countertops and patrons choose the ones that they want. You pay for the toothpicks later. The great thing about pintxos is that wine is basically free. Seriously! Single pintxos cost anywhere between 2-6 euros and you usually get a half glass of wine with that :) Truthfully, though, Noah and I were a bit disappointed with our pintxos experience in Logrono. There were only a few amazing standouts - freshly grilled fish and turkey and buttery mushrooms with a tiny shrimp on top. The rest of the pintxos were ok, but that was probably because they sat out on countertops for hours to accommodate the tourists who eat between 5-7pm and the locals who eat any time after 9pm. Definitely go for the pintxos that are grilled or sautéed to order! Another pintxo peculiarity that dismayed us was that after ordering, the pintxos get zapped in a microwave. We'd point to a tasty looking one that had beautiful ribbons of Iberico ham on top and before we could say "no microwave" into the microwave it went for 60 long seconds. The ham (or whatever else was on top) would come out sad looking and defeated. Sigh. Again, go for the pintxos that are fresh. 

After Logrono, we made a pit stop in the medieval defense-turned-wine town of Laguardia. No cars are allowed in the walled area, so we spent the rainy, chilly afternoon walking the narrow stone streets and ducking into little bodegas for snacks and wine. A bodega is basically a wine cellar that serves pintxos and local - often made-in-house - wine. Underneath Laguardia is a honeycomb of wine cellars and we decided to visit the caves of Carlos San Pedro Perez de Vinaspre for a wine tour. Unfortunately, the next tour wasn't in English, but it was really cool to see the musty, moldy old cellar where their wine is made and aged. Coming from a country where almost everything food-related is sterile and stainless steel, it was striking to see the balls of mold on the walls and bottles caked in grime. These people know the benefits of good bacteria! 

After leaving Laguardia, we headed north to the heart of beautiful Basque country. We passed epic landscapes of vibrant green hills, abandoned stone villages, and densely wooded forests. Basque country is easily one of the prettiest places I've visited yet and that's just from seeing it during early spring. We'd love to go back in summer! Our stop for the next three nights was in a tiny, tiny town called Elortza. We had booked an airbnb there mainly because the host has two donkeys and I have a huge soft spot the furry beasts. This stop turned out to be one of our favorite highlights from the trip. Phil - our host - took us on a day hike with the donkeys (Momo and Django) into the surrounding hills and we explored the depths of a crystal-studded limestone cave. Amazing! Hiking with donkeys is not a rushed affair, so we took our time and enjoyed the fresh air and Basque countryside. The recipe inspired by this leg of our trip is a Spanish tortilla that Momo made every effort to eat when we stopped for lunch atop a steep bluff overlooking the valley. Who knew donkeys liked eggs and potatoes?! 

The last leg of our journey through Basque country was along the northern Bay of Biscay coast from Elantxobe - a tiny fishing town built into steep coastal hills that slide into the ocean - to Zarautz, one of our favorite towns that we visited in Spain. The road between the two towns is rugged and beautiful, dotted with small villages with names like Ea and Lekeitio. Zarautz is a mid-size town right on the coast with a great, laid back feel and a gigantic sandy beach. We didn't spend much time in the popular San Sebastion, but I got the feeling that Zarautz was sort of like its lesser known cousin with amazing boutique shops and great restaurants. Our airbnb host sent us on a great walk from the town center of Zarautz along backroads to the neighboring town of Getaria. We passed an abandoned and graffitied coliseum that definitely looked out of place amid the vineyards and sheep pastures, but would be a perfect venue for a music or skateboarding video. I practiced my handstands. In Getaria, we spent a few hours walking around, had a fantastic lunch, then walked back along the coastal footpath to Zarautz, taking some time to sit on the rocks and watch the ocean splash at our feet 

Next up: Southern France and a decadent breakfast

// Spanish Tortilla // serves 6-8
A Spanish tortilla isn't what you normally think of when you hear 'tortilla'. Most people think of Latin American tortillas made out of flour or corn and food like quesadillas, tacos, fajitas, etc... But a Spanish tortilla has neither flour or corn - it's made almost entirely of potatoes, eggs, onion, and olive oil. It's kind of like a frittata, but better. A note about the olive oil: this recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of olive oil. Don't freak out, you don't actually consume all that oil, it's just used to fry the potatoes and onions and the rest is saved for another use (like salad dressings). I added kale to this recipe because I'm a greens fanatic, but feel free to leave it out for a more traditional version. Oh, and watch out for donkeys - they like Spanish tortillas.

1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, about 1 1/2 cups sliced
2 pounds yukon gold or russet potatoes
2 1/4 teaspoons salt (2 teaspoons if you're sensitive to salt)
8 eggs
1/2 cup packed parsley, chopped
6 large lacinato kale leaves, roughly chopped (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Gently heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed deep frying pan or skillet. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion slices and cook for 8-10 minutes or until they're translucent, but not super soft. Stir often

2. While the onions are cooking, peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/4" thick rounds. Add the potatoes and salt to the onions and oil. Try to submerge the potatoes as best you can under the oil for even cooking. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes over low heat, checking on the potatoes every so often to make sure they're all cooking evenly (i.e. stir and flip as needed). The potatoes are done when they can be easily pierced with a  fork or knife. With a slotted spoon, transfer onions and potatoes into a colander placed over a bowl to catch the extra oil. Pour out remaining oil from pan and save for another use

3. Crack eggs into a large bowl and whisk until well combined. Whisk in most of the parsley and all of the kale if using (reserve some parsley for garnish). Add 3 tablespoons of oil back into the frying pan and turn heat on low. Layer onions and potatoes in the skillet, flattening them out as best you can. Pour eggs over onions and potatoes and cook for about 15 minutes over medium-low heat. Gently pull away the sides of the tortilla from the pan with a spatula to allow eggs to run over the side and cook. When eggs are mostly done, place tortilla in oven to finish cooking for 3-5 minutes. Turn oven on to broil and broil top for 1-2 minutes. Remove tortilla from oven, let cool 5 minutes then either flip tortilla upside down onto a plate or slide it out of the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature 

Lemony Quinoa Dolmas

I looove dolmas. They're my go-to snack when I'm out grocery-shopping or running errands and need a snack stat. I get hangry pretty quick.... They're also great on mediterranean platters, which Noah and I have at least once a month - olives, sliced bell peppers, hummus, cucumbers, crackers, cheese, dolmas, etc... In fact, we ate our last dolmas on a plate such as this while watching the Super Bowl this past Sunday. Definitely not your typical Super Bowl fare! 

I've made dolmas from scratch a couple of times before, and while they're a bit time consuming, the pay off is huge. The store bought kind are good, but can be somewhat mushy on the inside, you know what I mean? Homemade dolmas retain their texture and flavor and are much cheaper than buying them pre-made. Plus, they store really well in the fridge so big batches go a long way. 

I made these dolmas with somewhat unconventional ingredients. Traditional dolmas are basically rice, onion, garlic, lemon, and maybe dried fruit or even meat. I used quinoa (rice could be substituted), lots of parsley, mint, lemon, and almonds. The insides are totally adjustable to your liking, but the outside grape leaf is what really makes the dolma. I made the mistake of not reading the instructions on the grape leaf jar (rookie move) and just used them straight from their soaking juices. Apparently you're supposed to rinse them first and them steam the leaves to make them more tender... Next time :)  

// Lemony Quinoa Dolmas // Makes a lot... Maybe about  5-6 dozen?
These dolmas are time consuming, so only attempt them if you have a few hours to spare. But, once they're made you have a  delicious, healthy snack ready to go. I used quinoa here, but you can also use brown rice or other whole grain if you prefer. Also adjust the seasonings and flavors to your liking. I think next time I'd add chopped raisins or currents for a touch of sweetness or maybe some crumbled feta

1 cup quinoa, uncooked
2 cups water

2 lemons, zested
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup packed parsley, chopped
1/4 cup packed mint, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoons salt
Pinch of cayenne
1 jar of grape leaves
Olive oil for storing in fridge
Sea salt

1. Place the quinoa and water in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil, then turn heat down to low. Cover and let cook for 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool

2. In a large bowl, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, mint, almonds, olive oil, garlic, salt, and cayenne. Stir well then add cooled quinoa. Toss to combine and adjust seasonings as needed

3. Remove grape leaves from jar and rinse under cool water, separate each leaf as much as possible. Place leaves in a steamer and steam for 3-5 minutes. Depending on how many leaves you have, you may need to do this in batches to make sure all leaves get steamed evenly. Remove leaves from steamer and let cool on a clean towel

4. To make the dolmas, lay out a few grape leaves on a clean, flat surface. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon into the middle of each leaf. Fold in the sides of the leaf over the filling, then roll them up from bottom to top. This is probably going take practice, so don't get discouraged when your first few don't turn out ;) 

5. Place finished dolmas in a glass baking dish or storage container. When all dolmas are made, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt to help them soften and marinade. Store in fridge

2016-0126 - Dolmas_0267.jpg

Tempeh-Wakame Salad

We've been kind of quiet around here lately, enjoying some much needed downtime after our busy holiday travels. I haven't been doing much cooking (!), instead relying on easy things like beans and grains and roasted whole chicken (we've vowed never to buy chicken breasts again - whole chickens are so much better). It's also been rainy and grey, which doesn't help with motivation or inspiration...

During my traveling days I remember seeing women steaming big blocks of temeph in banana leaves in Indonesia. It was an eye-opening moment because while I had eaten tempeh numerous times before, I always assumed it originated from Japan or China or Korea (it is soybeans after all). But nope, it's from Indonesia. And it's delicious. This salad is a perfect combination of tempeh, wakame seaweed, sunflower seeds, and veggies. I hope you try it!

// Tempeh-Wakame Salad // Serves 4-6
Like tofu, tempeh needs to be marinated to take on the flavors on the dish. I would recommend at least 30 minutes, but  a few hours is the best. Also,  2 tablespoons of wakame may not seem like a lot, but it expands quite extensively!

For the marinade:
2 8-oz packages of tempeh
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

For the dressing:
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup mayo
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon mellow miso
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons wakame
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced, ~3/4 cup
5 stalks celery, ends trimmed, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
3 tablespoons roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds

1. Cut the tempeh into 1/2 inch cubes and place in a shallow oven-safe dish. The tempeh should fit snugly. In a small bowl whisk together the rest of the marinade ingredients (soy sauce through ginger). Pour marinade over tempeh, making sure all sides of tempeh are coated. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, up to two hours, flipping tempeh occasionally to make sure all sides get marinated

2. Preheat over to 350 °. Bake tempeh for 15 minutes. Flip tempeh then bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool

3. In a bowl or measuring cup whisk together the dressing ingredients (lemon juice through salt). Set aside

4. Place wakame in a medium bowl and steep in 2 cups of hot water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside

5. In a large bowl combine the tempeh, wakame, onion, celery, carrot, sesame seed, and sunflower seeds. Toss well. Pour the dressing over the tempeh and stir until everything is well coated. Season with salt as needed

Wintery Kale Salad

The holidays were a bit hectic for us this year. We meant to post this salad pre-Christmas (doesn't it look Christmas-y?) but somehow that never happened. Now it's almost the second week of January and I'm just now finding time to sit down and write up a post. How does the time slip by so fast!?

For Christmas, Noah and I flew down to Bishop, California where my brother and his fiancee (!) recently moved and my parents joined us from Vermont. Fun things we did there: a sunset hike to the Druid Stones, a soak in a natural hot spring with nothing but the mountains and big sky surrounding us, scrambling around the ButtermilksStar Wars up in Mammoth, a walk around Mono Lake, and many, many moments playing with the cats. There were also some good laughs during Cards Against Humanity and lots of wine and good food. And Noah got to go snowboarding. Fun times. 

After Bishop (and a terrible pair of flights) we arrived back in Seattle for a night before heading out for second Christmas at Noah's parents place in Sequim. Noah treated us to his awesome homemade sourdough pizza and I succeeded in making some delicious sourdough cinnamon rolls which I will most definitely be making again. There was also a road trip to Port Townshend, cider tasting at Finn River, lots of puzzle time, and pre-bed soaks in the hot tub under the stars.

Overall it was a great few weeks, but I'm definitely glad to be home :)

// Wintery Kale Salad // serves 4-6
This winter salad would be a great addition to a Christmas dinner or for a New Year's celebration. Pomegranates are in season during the winter months and they're one of my favorite fruits. A bit of a pain to get all the seeds out, but definitely worth the effort. If pomegranates don't work for you, then mandarin oranges would be really tasty or even sliced up persimmons. 

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup quinoa (uncooked)
1 cup water or broth
2 bunches lacinato kale, washed, dried, and de-stemmed
1 pomegranate, seeds removed
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
4-8 oz goat cheese
salt to taste

1. Whisk together the dressing ingredients (lemon juice through black pepper)

2. Add quinoa and water/broth to a small sauce pot. Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to simmer, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes

3. Tear the kale into bite sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Add a splash of the dressing and massage the kale with your hands until its starts to turn deep green and becomes tender

4. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and add to the kale. Add rest of dressing and mix well. Season with salt as needed

4. At this point you can either add the pomegranate seeds and almonds to the bowl or you can dish up the kale into bowls/plates and sprinkle the seeds and almonds on top. Top with crumbled goat cheese

Salmon Cakes with Creme Fraiche Tartar Sauce

We've been meaning to post this recipe for over a week now, but it's been super busy around here. I've been busy with my new job and Noah has been busy with work. In between we've put up a Christmas tree, decorated our front porch with lights, crafted some Christmas presents, and attended a Christmas party where we chatted for 4 hours with the hosts about our upcoming trip to Spain. We would have gone to a holiday cookie party too, but Noah decided to go snowboarding instead. Still kind of bitter about that.... Especially since we just got our stand mixer delivered to our door! Don't worry, cookies are still happening. 

The first batch of these salmon cakes happened a long time ago. Like beginning-of-my-first-recipe-log-book-that-is-now-full long time ago. But they were so good that I actually remembered to make them again for a photo shoot. We have a (dwindling) supply of fresh-frozen salmon thanks to Noah's dad who is a fisherman up in Alaska, but unfortunately some of our filets  got freezer burn in our chest freezer, so I decided to turn them into salmon cakes. It was an excellent idea! They they are so good! I'm about 75% confident that canned salmon would work well here too if you can't get your hands on fresh or frozen salmon. 

// Salmon Cakes with Dill Creme Fraiche // makes 6-8 cakes
As I mentioned above, you could probably get away with using canned salmon in this recipe. 1 1/2 lbs of fresh salmon is 24 ounces of canned.  Given the option, though, I always go with the freshest possible. These make a great small meal or are perfect as an appetizer. 

1 1/2 lbs fresh or frozen (thawed) salmon, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup panko + more for crusting (about 1 cup)
1 egg
1/2 cup grated parmesan or sheep's milk cheese
1/4 cup red onion, finely minced
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper

5 oz creme fraiche or 1/2 cup plain yogurt (not greek)
1/2 cup seeded cucumber, finely diced
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
1 tablespoon red onion, finely chopped
Pinch of salt and pepper (to taste)

~4 tablespoons oil for frying (I use sunflower or safflower)

1. In a large bowl combine the salmon through black pepper (using 1 cup of panko). Mix well

2. Place about 1 cup of panko on a large plate. Form the salmon mixture into 6-8 patties, depending on what size you want them. One at a time crust the salmon cakes on both sides with the panko and place on a clean plate. 

3. Gently heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. When the oil is hot add 3-4 patties and cook for 4-6 minutes or until the undersides are golden. Flip and cook another 4-6 minutes. Remove from pan and place patties on a paper towel-covered plate. Add another 2 tablespoons of oil to pan and repeat with remaining salmon cakes.

4. To make the tarter sauce, combine the creme fraiche or yogurt, cucumber, dill, red onion, and salt in pepper in a small bowl. Mix well and add more seasonings if needed.

5. Serve salmon cakes hot with a small spoonful of tater sauce.  

Sweet Potato + Chicken Hand Pies

My mini-vacation is over. I started a new job this week and I love it. The people, the work, the company - all amazing. I've only had three (long) days of training, but I'm already excited about diving in and learning and more. The company is Omada Health and it's based out of San Francisco. Omada is a startup healthcare-tech business who's mission is to help people lower their risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes through technology and digital health coaching. I will be one of their Health Coaches in Seattle and my job is to provide support, motivation, and education for our participants. From what I have seen, I think it will be a very rewarding and engaging experience. I can't wait to get started!    

Of course, I'll still have plenty of time to cook, especially since I will be working from home. My breaks from the computer will probably be spent washing dishes, stirring a pot, or rotating something in the oven. I still have so many recipes that I want to try and others that I need to perfect. This recipe was one that I made out in Sequim. The crust is buttery, flaky, and crisp and the filling is a perfect combination of sweet and savory. I absolutely love sweet potatoes. We usually make them into sweet potato fries on burger nights, but this may be a new favorite... I highly recommend you eat at least one hand pie straight from the oven (maybe let it cool a bit) because that's when they are the best.   

// Sweet Potato + Chicken Hand Pies // makes about 18-24
The number of hand pies this recipe makes really depends on how big you make the circles. I used a 3 1/2 inch cutter for mine, but you can use larger or smaller (I wouldn't go too small, though because then they'd be a pain to seal). This may also mean that you might end up with extra dough. If that's the case, you can freeze it for another time, use it as a crust for a mini-quiche, or bake it with some toppings for a rustic galette.   

For the filling:
1 lb sweet potatoes or yams
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb chicken breast
1 tablespoon butter
1 large leek, ends trimmed and cut into small slices (I cut mine in half lengthwise twice)
Salt and pepper

for the crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
10 tablespoons butter, preferably frozen
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sour cream
7-8 tablespoons ice water, more if needed

2 eggs, beaten
Brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Wrap sweet potatoes together in tin foil and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and let cool

2. In an oven-safe frying pan or skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Place chicken breast in the pan and generously sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken for about 7-8 minutes or until the underside is golden, but not crispy. Flip and cook for another 7-8 minutes. When both sides are golden, cover and place skillet in oven for 10-15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160°.

3. For the leeks, heat the butter in another skillet (or you can use the chicken pan if it's out of the oven already. No need to wash it). Add the leeks with a little bit of salt and pepper and cook until leeks are very soft and a bit caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and scrape into a large bowl. 

4. Remove the sweet potatoes from their skins and add to the bowl. Shred the chicken with two forks and add to the bowl. Mix the sweet potato mixture well and season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool. 

5. To make the crust, combine the flours, thyme, and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Either grate the butter into the flour mixture, taking care to keep it as cold as possible, or cut the butter into large chunks and work it into the flour with your fingers or pastry cutter. The butter should end up being about "pea" size. At this point I usually put it back in the fridge or freezer for 10 minutes to make sure the butter stays cold, but that's up to you.

6. Mix together the sour cream with 7 tablespoons of ice water. Slowly dribble the ice water mixture into the flour and stir with a fork until the dough looks ragged, but feels like it will come together. If it seems too dry, add a bit more ice water. Gently knead the dough until it forms a cohesive mass, folding it over on itself a couple of times to get layers of butter that later mean a nice flaky pastry. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least 30 minutes

7. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut dough into 3 portions and roll out one portion on a lightly floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick (keep remaining dough in fridge). Cut out circles and wrap unused dough in plastic wrap and place in fridge. Transfer circles to a baking sheet and brush tops with egg. Add the sweet potato filling, the amount will depend on how big your circles are, but it'll probably be 1-3 big tablespoons. Fold one side of the circle over the filling to meet the other edge of the circle. Seal with the prongs of a fork. Place in fridge if there's room - this helps prevent a tough pastry. Continue rolling out dough and making the hand pies until you run out of filling. 

8. When all the hand pies are made, brush tops with egg and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake at 350° for 25-27 minutes. 

Cucumber Tuna Salad

When I get excited about making a new recipe, it's usually for something sweet or baked like ice cream or scones. Not always, but usually. That's not to say that I don't like making healthy or savory things to eat, because I do, almost everyday. I just need to dig deeper to find inspiration for those kinds of meals. My go to lunch recipes are usually big bowls of grain salads with lots of veggies and a simple dressing. They can last me throughout the week and if I get bored with it I can make it into baked patties or add a large spoonful to scrambled eggs in the morning. I also like clean-out-the-fridge dinners because they usually come together quickly and it's satisfying to make a tasty meal out of odds and ends. 

This recipe kind of falls in the middle of finding inspiration and using what we already had on hand. I love the combination of cucumber and feta, so the idea for this recipe was originally just a simple cucumber-feta salad with parsley, olive oil, and balsamic. But when my mind starts thinking about developing recipes, it's hard to reign it back in. So, I ended up with a longer ingredient list than expected, all of which (except the olives) we had on hand. This recipe is super versatile, you can add any Greek/Italian/French tasting edible and it will be delicious. 

//Cucumber Tuna Salad// Serves 4-6
This salad comes together quickly and its ingredients are super versatile. If you don't have olives, try capers or even some anchovies. Hard-boiled eggs would also be delicious as would new potatoes. We served ours over some lettuce, but an open-faced sandwich may be next.    

1 large cucumber
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup olives, roughly chopped
2 cans water packed tuna (we like this brand)

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup feta

1. Peel the skin off the cucumber in a striped pattern. Half cucumber lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Slice cucumber into half moons

2. In a large bowl, combine the cucumber, red onion, parsley, cherry tomatoes, olives, and tuna

3. In a smaller bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic powder, sugar, and red pepper flakes

4. Pour the dressing over the cucumber salad and toss well. Crumble the feta on top and serve.