Minestrone soup takes me back to my childhood. To birthdays, starry nights and lots of laughter. From ages 1-7 our family lived in Sebastopol in the cutest little log cabin surrounded by hills covered in green grass perfect for running and exploring in. One of the restaurants we always went to and my dad still talks about to this day is Dinucci's in Valley Ford. It amazes me that at age 40 the drives there and home and the restaurant itself are so strong in my mind. On the way home I would be so tired and can remember resting my head on the window and seeing all of the stars shining bright. My dad to this day still talks about this restaurant and how he loved that it would be full of lawyers in their suits sitting at the bar next to dairy men in work clothes and rubber boots. My mom always had a quarter for my sister and I to play Mrs. Pacman in the bar while we waited for our table. Every birthday dinner was spent there where we enjoyed rainbow sherbet with the sparkling candle that never blew out. The raviolis were tasty but what they were famous for, and still to this day is their minestrone soup. I have since discovered they have what could be compared to a cult following for this soup. When I was 27 met someone in North Carolina who grew up across the street from the restaurant and his mom waitressed there her whole adult life. Talking about the minestrone soup was like discovering someone else that belonged to the same secret club as me. This just proves the power of food and how connected it can make us. Unfortunately I do not have their recipe but I have figured out how to make a decent runner up soup to theirs. What is great about minestrone is that it can be made with whatever is in season at the moment. Zucchini in the summer and the greens and winter squash in the colder months. Most recipes call for celery, however I like to use fennel in it's place because I am not a fan of celery. Use whichever one you prefer.
It had never crossed my mind to buy fresh fennel. I always associated it a strong licorice flavor and was convinced I would not like it. When it became available for our boxes I knew I was going to have to put my pre-conceived notions to the side and do some experimenting. The best people to ask on how to cook something are the farmers who grow it themselves. That is how I found out that roasted fennel and raw fennel taste completely different. After reading countless roasted fennel recipes on Pinterest I decided just to keep it simple. Instead of that strong licorice tasteI was pleasantly surprised roasted fennel has a sweet mild flavor that is not overwhelming at all. Bonus, it is super simple which is always something I appreciate.
I am a self professed pasta lover. If I had to choose between giving up sweets and desserts or pasta, I would give up desserts. I have made my own raviolis but this week was the first time I had made noodles on my own. I am not sure why but there was this image in my head of a huge mess and lots of hours invested. I was so wrong. Making your own pasta is super easy. I played around with a recipe and found that adding a vegetable into the dough was super easy. My 6 year old daughter Maggie has inherited the love for carbs from me, however her love for vegetables changes daily. One day she is snacking on carrots and asking for kale for dinner. The next day she dislikes any and all produce. There is never a day that she says no to noodles though. We made pasta with roasted kabocha squash and it was a huge success. The squash taste is very mild but it adds such a beautiful fresh flavor.I don't think I will ever by store bought again.
Winter Squash Pasta
When you were a kid did you eat the mini pot pies from the freezer section? I loved those as a kid. It was not until a few years ago I even considered making chicken pot pie myself. For some reason I thought it would be a lot of work, turns out I was wrong. This is a great way to use left over turkey from Thanksgiving or produce that needs to be used before it goes bad. To make it even easier I suggest using store bought pie crust or next time you make pie make a double batch of crust and store in the freezer until you are ready.
Sometimes I crave something fresh and crisp. Salads check all of the boxes but lets face it, regular green salads can be boring. Salads can be so exciting and not just that mix in a bag with ranch dressing on top. This is the perfect winter salad that can fix that craving.
I have a love for all food cheesy and gooey. Potatoes au gratin is definitely on the top of the list. Sometimes it is fun to mix things up though and put a twist on our favorites. Butternut squash is so diverse and is in abundance this time of year. Try this recipe in place of your potato dish for Thanksgiving this year.
What is Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce. Perfect side and a must for leftover turkey sandwiches the next day. This year lets ditch the can (which has 105 grams of sugar) and go with fresh delicious homemade pomegranate cranberry sauce. This is a super simple recipe that will impress everyone and take some of the stress off of you.
12 oz fresh cranberries
1/2 c fresh pomegranate juice
1/2 c water
1/2 c brown sugar
Bring all of the ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes
Mash all ingredients together and allow to cool for one hour.
This can be made the day of or the day before.
Both of my parents were self employed when I was growing up. I am pretty sure every child labor law was broke because I started working for them as soon as I started asking for new toys. When I was in high school and finally old enough to start working my first job was at a pizza place. I have been a little picky about how pizza should taste since then. One thing I have learned over the years is almost every pizza dough recipe is basically the same. It is also super easy to make. A few tips, make sure you knead the dough long enough. If when you roll it out and it wants to shrink back then it was not kneaded long enough. Once it is rolled out use a fork to puncture holes throughout it. This will eliminate those big air bubbles. And even though it is really easy to make, it can be very messy, especially if kids are helping. This recipe makes enough dough for several pizzas. If you are only having one the rest can be put in the freezer for another night.
2 cups warm water
1 package of yeast (this equals about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 tbs salt
5 cups flour (I like to use half all purpose and 1/2 Llano Seco spelt flour)
1. In a large bowl mix the water with the yeast and let it sit for about 5 minutes.
2. Add in 2 1/2 cups of the flour to the water and yeast mixture. Mix together for several minutes. If you have a Kitchen Aid you can use a dough hook to make it easier.
3. Now add the remaining flour and salt. Sprinkle a little flour onto a surface place the dough on it and start kneading until it is smooth.
4. Form the dough into a ball and place back into a bowl. Cover the top with a damp kitchen towel and let sit for 20 minutes or until it rises.
5. Splt dough into 2 - 3 balls, depending on the size of the pizza you are making. Roll out on a floured surface and use whichever toppings you desire. Brush olive oil around the edges and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
I do not go to coffee shops very often. I drink my coffee black and other than a chai tea as a treat once in awhile I am not a big fan of lattes or mochas. When my mom came to visit over the summer she walked in the door with this pink Starbucks drink. I took a sip and it was not love at first taste. To be honest, I really did not know if I liked it or not. So I took another sip and then I was hooked. It was not over the top sweet and had such a refreshing crisp flavor. I turned to the first place I could think of, Pinterest, and started to look for copycat recipes. To my surprise they were all different. Extremely different. I decided to try on my own and see what I came up with. I have not tried side by side but I think what I came up with is pretty darn close.
4 hibiscus tea bags
4 green tea bags
7 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 cups very cold water
1 cup berries (I used fresh blackberries but any combo fresh or frozen will work)
1.) In a pot on the stove boil 6 cups of water and add the tea bags. Remove from heat. Let the tea steep for about 30 minutes. I like to add some of the berries to the tea as it steeps.
2.) In another pot boil 1 cup of water and then add the 1 cup of sugar. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat.
3.) Remove the tea bags and pour into pitcher. Add the sugar water and mix together. Add the rest of the berries into the tea. Add the ice cold water and mix together then store in the fridge.