Monday, April 29, 2013

Potato Leek Soup

Let's talk about leeks, Baby. (Sung, of course, to the Salt-N-Pepa's melody, proving I spent a bulk of my formative years in the 90's -- which were great years to grow up in. We had enough technology to enjoy Mario on rainy days but not too much that we didn't pass up the chance to roller blade when we could.  And then we jammed to Can't Touch This on our Walkmans while organizing our Lisa Frank stickers... by the way, all you need to say is, "In West Philedelphia, born and raised," and I cannot help but finish the entire song. Don't believe me? Try it next time you bump into me...)

And back to leeks...

These things are amazing. I have used them a couple of times before, and every single time I have a ridiculously tasty dish in front of me.  Leek & bacon baked eggs and a leek & asparagus quiche were my introduction to them, both packed with immense flavor, both needing very little 'other stuff' added to make that flavor so wonderful.

Actually, the first time I used them I had no idea what they were and I couldn't find them except in the frozen food section, so I broke my usual rule of relying on fresh produce to be the bulk of my purchases.  Wasn't the best combo for what I was using them for.  The next time I decided to get the fresh ones, but had no idea what I was looking for, until I asked the worker at the store.  He looked at me a little funny and then pointed right in front me, where a fairly prominent sign read: LEEKS.

Whatever.  It happens.

One important thing to know about these flavorful giants of the onion family -- you need to clean them very well as dirt can be trapped inside.  The easiest way to do this (or so I read and then did with successful results) is to chop first and then clean in a cold water bath.  Since you will probably just be using white and light green parts (unless you are making broth) don't cut up the dark green tops.  Just put the lighter colored parts in the water, use your hand to agitate any dirt off of them, pour out the water, and then repeat another time or two.  Takes about a minute and ensures that your leeks are ready for you to use.

Apparently, potato leek soup is a classic.  But like many foods that don't come stamped with a Kraft logo, I didn't know that.  For me, it is a new found treat.  I am a lover of soup, which you probably have gathered by reading my blog for any time, and this was one of the best I have ever had.  My husband declared it gold star quality -- and he isn't a fan of soup that much.  The ingredients are simple while the flavor is powerful.

One of my favorite parts? Except for the heavy cream and salt, every ingredient I used came from the Farmers' Market or my own herb garden (the chives).  And you KNOW how happy that makes me ;)



  • 2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced and cleaned (see above)
  • 3 cups broth, either vegetable or chicken (You can make your own ahead of time or use canned/bullion/whatever suits you) + 1 ½ cups water
  • 3 medium red potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • fresh snipped chives, to top

1.      In a large pot, combine leeks, potatoes, broth, and salt.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to medium.  Simmer for about 20 minutes, until vegetables are very soft (you can poke the potatoes with a fork to test).
2.      Working in batches of about 1/3 of the soup at a time, puree in blender.  Be careful to allow the heat to escape before closing the lid to the blender to avoid it exploding.  Transfer pureed soup to a new pot, and continue until all soup is pureed.
3.      Add heavy cream to soup, serve while hot, and top with fresh chives.

 COST: $5.10           COST PER BOWL (4): $1.28

Nutritional Information
calories 235   •    total fat 17.2g    •    fiber 1.8g    •    sugars 2.3g   •    protein 3.6g

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Earl Grey Cupcakes (and some lost recipes...)

Joy the Baker.  She's a favorite of us all, right?  Right.  And Sundays with Joy are such a good part of my week (or -- now -- every other week).  I try a new recipe from her book and then we enjoy something that is pretty darn amazing.  If only I kept taking pictures to keep track of it all...

Like carrot cake pancakes.  Those were fabulous.  But other than my word, there is no proof I tried the recipe. There was supposed to be proof.  I put some in the fridge to save to take pictures as we ate them for dinner.  Carrot cake pancakes for dinner?  Shouldn't that be breakfast or dessert? One might think so.  No regrets.  Except the fact that those pancakes in the fridge waiting for the light of day got forgotten about until two weeks later, when they were no longer beautiful but fuzzy and green.

I did, however, remember to take pictures of the whole wheat honey and goat cheese drop biscuits.

It's just that I never got around to posting them.  Guess I was to busy eating them to post something.  That's because they were delicious in every way.  Not gritty like most whole wheat, not stinky like some goat cheese.  Just lightly sweet and fluffy and all around tasty.

This time I decided to make sure I did it all... Baked. Photo'd. Posted.  So what if I am a week behind the group's schedule with the posting part?  In the end the result is the same: a completely new treat that we enjoyed immensely.  And that's the whole point, right?

Joy's version was chamomile, but I like earl grey, so that's what we went with.  I followed Joy's recipe to a T (ha ha ha, I'm a knee slapper ;) ) except for the type of tea I used.  The rest however went just as she said, even down to 'share with lady friends over tea'.  Thank you for the suggestion, Joy.  I did, we all enjoyed, and now I have one more baking recipe I can file away in the 'I really can bake!' category.

To get the recipe for Joy the Baker's Chamomile Tea Cupcakes, visit her blog or go buy the book.  Either way, you will be happy.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Farmers' Market Friday: St. Petersburg, Florida

Today our post comes from the very talented Milynn at Love and Whimsy.  You know those blogs that you make sure you click on every post? That is Milynn's blog for me. A combination of her life-capturing photography and her joy in finding beauty in simplicity, I am never disappointed.  You will see what I mean right now... Go check her out.  You will be glad you did!
Hi everyone, my name is Milynn and I blog over at Love and Whimsy. I am so honored that Tiffany has invited me over here to share my favorite farmer’s market in St. Petersburg, FL. Like Tiffany, I too love going to the market on Saturday (appropriately named Saturday Morning Market).

I just started going to the Saturday Morning Market about a year ago when I moved back to St. Petersburg after graduating from college. The market is in the heart of our beautiful waterfront downtown. It’s a place to go to grab food, stock up on organic produce, listen to the live band and explore interesting crafts.

My favorite thing about it is having the chance to shop for local goods and food. Every week, there is a new set of local vendors that sell all sorts of things like chicken coups, rabbit hair yarn, clothing and jewelry. You never know what you’ll find. But it’s a great way to discover small business owners and support their craft. And then of course, there are food vendors. Fancy breads, cupcakes, cheeses, seafood, you name it, they probably have it.

Every time I go to the market, I feel a sense of community. Everyone is so, so very friendly and willing to strike up a conversation with you. And while you’re in line waiting to buy your farm fresh produce (and trust me, there’s always a LONG line) it would just be wrong if you didn’t go home with a few new recipes to try.

During my visit last weekend, I ended up buying a couple heads of cauliflower, kale and sunflowers for $10. I just had to splurge on the flowers. But with that I could’ve also bought some food from one of the vendors and topped it off with a popsicle. :)

Tiffany here again...  Thank you Milynn!  I just saw she shared a post of what she did with these purchases: rosemary cauliflower mash!  Oh yum...

Click the words above or the picture to get the recipe, and then go check out more  shots of her local market. 

And as always, be sure to share your farmers' market experiences with us using the link below.  Pictures of your market, a recipe you used with ingredients found there, whatever you've got... it is welcome!  We hope you get out and enjoy your local market this week.  In the meantime, stop by and say hi to Milynn using the links below :)      

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Wednesday Files

Some thoughts this Wednesday:

1) The Voice has proven to be the only talent show I can actually sit and watch the whole way through.  All the others I skim and just click the parts/people/acts that interest me.

2) I made some rockin' soup for dinner.  Can't wait to share it with you.

3) Seasonal allergies are evil.

4) Trader Joe's has brilliant tortilla options: totally handmade flour tortillas or whole wheat (with the same ingredients I use to make tortillas), brown rice tortillas for you gluten intolerant friends, and a wide assortment of many more.

5) This is the best season of Survivor EVER.  Or at least since I have been watching (like three years).

6) I am increasingly grateful for the ways technology keeps us connected, here to Afghanistan (in the past), here to Rwanda (present), here to Brazil and Micronesia (always)...

7) The ice machine on the fridge scares me whenever it randomly drops ice and I am home alone.  I'm a pansy, I know.

8) The Gravitron still rocks, even if you are the only adults riding in it.

9) April is almost over... meaning 1/3 of the year is almost over.  WHAT?!

10) I love hugs. Romantic hugs, hugs from kids, hugs from friends. I am grateful to live a life that is abundant in hugs.

I would love to hear what's on your mind this Wednesday... please share! :)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Quick Fix: Basil and Salmon Sandwich

Some call it bagel and lox.  I simply call it a bagel and smoked salmon sandwich.  Po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to.

Whatever you call it, it simple and tastes pretty darn good.  Viva simplicity!

COST PER BAGEL (2 open sandwiches/1 serving): $4.00

Monday, April 22, 2013

Real Talk. Plus Tacos.

It's time for some real talk.

Last week my heart hurt, a lot.

It started with hearing about the Boston bombing, about the lives lost.  The limbs needing to be amputated.  The people who thought they were coming out for a day of world-wide community fun and wound up with their lives never going to be the same again.

Obviously, it breaks my heart for them. It also breaks my heart for us. Not just as a nation, but as a world. As human kind. I realized last week that in the span of this school year, Scholastic has sent me three emails out of the norm: "How to talk to children about the theater shooting in Aurora" / "How to talk to children about Newtown" / "How to talk to children about the Boston bombing" ...  What is 'getting worse' to you and I is 'just life' for my nine-year-olds.  As far as they know, that's how life goes. And that breaks my heart.

Then I realize how incredibly blessed we are that this 'only' happened three times this year. If we were living in Syria or Afghanistan or SO MANY OTHER PLACES, three times would be so few, such a relief.  And that, too, breaks my heart for those who live in this daily.

Then there was the explosion in West, Texas.  Which I hardly batted an eye at, because really -- it was sad, but I was busy grading papers and putting on band-aids and making dinner.

Until I was driving home from work on Friday and the DJ on K-LOVE said that young man, a soldier actually, had just called in to talk to a pastor there (which K-LOVE has as they are a Christian music station).  He is serving in Afghanistan and was so fortunate to get a three-day furlough to see his wife and parents.  He got on the plane, eagerly anticipating to see the look on his wife's surprised face, counting down the hours... until he arrived at his home in West, Texas, so find his home was no more, and worse -- his wife had died in the blast.  And he didn't know how to go on from there...

That's when I realized what happened. That lives were lost. I cried in the car a little, for this young man I do not know but I will never stop praying for. This nameless soldier from West, Texas, whose life will never be the same...

And then, on Saturday, I woke up to the news that one of my friends, one of my closest friends, has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. I sat in bed, still in my pajamas, with tears coming from my eyes, and asked over the phone to our friend who was breaking the news, "How long does she have?" I don't really know the answer that, and I don't know if she or the doctors know, but I know that life is hard. I have lost many I love to many things -- suicide, accidents, even violent murder.  Death can come and rob us of our lives at any moment.  It could be a bomb, an unexpected accident, an illness... and I don't always know what to do with that.

However, today I echo the words of this precious friend of mine who just found out her life has taken a turn she never expected. She said yesterday:

I know life is good, I know God is good, and I know things will get better.

And this, this, is the heart of my real talk. Life is hard. For some, it is REALLY hard. But I do still believe it is beautiful. And I know God to be good. My heart? Yes, it is still broken. But I have hope. And that's what I rest in, when things around me don't make sense, just like my friend said above.

You are probably wondering why on earth I am sharing pictures of tacos with all of this. I was thinking weekend a lot about the things I shared in post. Thinking as I was cleaning, thinking as I was walking, thinking as I was cooking. Eventually, I thought to myself, "No matter how hard, life goes on."  But there, in the kitchen, where I was cooking and baking, I realized that at the hardest times of my life -- losing my mom, losing dear friends to a brutal attack inside their home, and some other things -- time kept ticking, whether we felt it should or not. So, I bring you tacos, because no matter what goes on in the world, we still need to eat. Not going to say much about these, because really, that's not why I am here today. But they are good, and you will most likely enjoy them.

Here's to life.  Here's to hope.  And here's to love that is stronger than hate and pain and brokenness!




  • 1 ½ T. olive oil
  • 10 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb. low-fat ground beef
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 2 avocados, halved and then fruit cut into medium sized chunks
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • juice from one lemon
  • Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 pack soft taco tortillas (or make your own)

1.      Heat non-stick skillet over medium heat with olive oil.  Add mushrooms and cook until soft, about 4-6 minutes. 
2.      Put mushrooms in a bowl and add ground beef to skillet, adding salt/pepper to taste.  Cook until browned, stirring and breaking up meat chunks regularly, about 6-8 minutes, adding the chives about half way through.  Remove beef from skillet and mix with mushrooms.
3.      In a medium bowl, gently stir avocado and onion together. Squeeze lemon juice over and top with salt, to taste.  Carefully mix so that the onion and avocado are coated yet the avocado is not mashed.
4.      Assemble tacos, beef first, then avocado salad, and top with dairy. Makes about eight tacos.

 COST: $10.72           COST PER SERVING (4): $2.68

Nutritional Information
calories 717.8   •    total fat 41.5g    •    fiber 8.9g    •    sugars 2.5g   •    protein 38.1g

Friday, April 19, 2013

Farmer's Market Friday: Ribeirao Preto, Brazil

What a week.

First off, let me say my heart is broken.  For those in Boston, for those in Texas, for those trying to figure out how to go on from here.  We as a nation are strong, that I know.  But individual families are hurting right now, and for them, and all of us, we pray for strength and comfort.

Personally, it was a good week, but a tiring one.  Bachelorette weekend in Napa, camping with 24 children and 13 of their parents -- most of whom had never camped before -- in the rain, hours upon hours of parent teacher conferences... all since the last time I posted one week ago.  I know I promised you Rio de Janeiro this weekend, but my friend in Rio had a week of taking care of sickies and other things that pop up in life, postponing Rio until another day.  And so I bring you the farmers' market in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil!

Remember last week when I said that I initially fell in love with farmers' markets while in Brazil?  This is the one, folks... the one that opened my eyes.

Ribeirao Preto, or Black Stream, is a city of around 600,000+ inhabitants, yet is not considered to be a large city at all. With Sao Paulo coming in at over 11 million and Rio de Janeiro at a little more than 6 million, you can see how a measly 600,000 is in comparison.  If I were to compare it with an American city in size and number of stores/etc, I would say it matches a 70,000 person city here.  Which is to say not a big city, but not a small city either... something in the middle.  Unlike most tourist destinations in Brazil, it is not found along the coastline.  Instead, it is in the 'interior' of Sao Paulo state, about four hours to the nearest beach.  Despite the lack of beach, it is commonly referred to as the "Brazilian California" because it has an economy based off of agriculture and technology, as well as having a high number of wealthy people and sunny days.

As all cities, Ribeirao Preto is broken up into bairros or neighborhoods, most of which having their own feira livre.  This feira livre (or 'free market') serves the bairro my in-laws live in.  A collection of fresh fruit and vegetables line the street as people walk up and down inspecting the produce, looking for a bargain on something fresher than fresh.

And this is great. That's why we go to farmers' markets, right?  Well... in Brazil there is another reason to go to the feira livre.  That reason?

A late morning snack with friends, made up of pastel and caldo de cano.

THIS is why I came to the feira livre week after week.  Fresh produce?  Nice.  Pastel and sugarcane juice?  Even better.

Pastel, a deep fried pastry with assorted fillings such as cheese or meat or even pizza flavors, is a Brazilian street food that I am sure everybody loves.  Maybe not everybody eats it every time as deep-fried-anything is not always the healthiest, but I am sure life has taught you that deep-fried-everything is a little tastier than the norm.  Pastel is that and even more.

Caldo de cano, or sugar cane juice, is another big hit at the farmers' markets in Brazil.  Squeezed straight out of the sugar cane, it is naturally sweet.  Add a bit of lime and you are in Juice Heaven.

This is why I fell in love with the feira livre!

All of that produce isn't that bad, either ;)

So, what can you get for $10 in Ribeirao Preto?  Well, a friend of mine visited a farmers' market near there recently.  For $6 she got six carrots, a large bag of oranges, two cloves of garlic, ginger, three limes, and half a dozen eggs.  Not bad at all!  Looks like with the extra four bucks we could add some of those potatoes and a pineapple.  I'm telling you... quality meets quantity at the farmers' market.  Time to get yourself out there!

// via on facebook //

I have a few links for you this week that I am sure you will like.

Find your local farmers' market here, and then be sure to like them on Facebook so you can stay in-the-know with all things farmers' market related!

Head over to Cost Plus World Market to get some great Farmers' Market necessities, like cute bags to tote your stuff and cookbooks that tell you what to do with all of your great finds.

Make sure you are storing your fab finds correctly so they stay fresh.

See you next week, with a glimpse into a Florida market :)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Farmer's Market Friday: Why I LOVE it.

In case you haven't noticed, or didn't read my post last week, I adore farmer's market.  I told you I have the habit of repeating myself again and again, and yes, again when I find something I like a lot.  Hope you are used to that because every Friday we are going to be hearing this phrase, but from many different people who come from many different places.  From Rio de Janeiro to Tel Aviv, California to New Hampshire, I have quite the lineup to be shared -- and I am freakin' excited about it!

(Click the picture to be taken to the recipe.)

So, you get it.  I love farmer's markets.  But maybe you don't know why.  I mean, really, it's just a street with vegetables and fruit... at least that's what I used to think.  In fact, I didn't really even know what farmer's markets were when I was younger because we never went.  Then I got to college and would see the local market every Friday afternoon and the people walking through, but I had no need for veggies or fruit because I had a cafeteria, so I just drove on by.  But then I moved to Brazil for a summer and going to the feira livre to pick up fresh produce and eat pastel became my favorite part of the week.

(Click picture to be taken to the recipe.)

As great as that was, I came back to the States and forgot all about it.  Sure, a trip here and there happened, but for the most part my local market was completely ignored.  Until recently.  I woke up one day and decided I had $20 in cash that would be good for one place, and only place only.  I stocked up on produce and then, instead of my usual make-the-menu-first-then-do-the-shopping plan, I made a weekly menu based off of what was in front of me.  And my eyes were opened.

(Click the picture to be taken to the recipe.)

Opened to what?  New produce, new dishes.  Trying things I had never tried before (parsnips), doing new things with veggies I rarely used (beets and asparagus), cooking with whatever was in season (carrots and kale).  I even revisited a veggie I thought I hated (chard) but found out it wasn't so bad, after all... Seriously, this has been one of the biggest game changers in how I cook, second only to the day I decided I needed to learn to cook REAL food.

(Click the picture to be taken to the recipe.)

Know what else?  The people are great.  There is a sense of community.  Instead of swiping a plastic card into a machine with a mechanical voice, money exchanges hands while being surrounded by conversation.  My grocery bill has gone down, and the variety in our meals has gone up.  All in all, it's been a win-win.  And I like win-wins.

(Click the picture to be taken to the recipe.)

And this last week?  What did my trip yield for me? Well...

// carrot soup //          // kale strata //          // parsley topped steak //

That's seven dollars worth of produce (all I had in my wallet) and three new meals.  SCORE!

So, yes, I love Farmer's Market.  But I think I have good reason to.  I don't know if you a regular visitor or have never visited before, but I want to encourage you to get out there and try it out once in awhile.  And let me know how it goes.  Every Friday you can come back here and link up any post you have  -- recipe, fab finds, a photo tour, whatever! -- as long as it has to do with you and the farmer's market.

Next week --> Rio de Janeiro!  Make sure you stop on by :)
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