We had a “practice dinner”, in preparation for our church’s annual Women’s Christmas Dinner (feeding two-hundred and fifty or so). It got me to thinking about the Thanksgiving table.
To help keep the dinner organized, I figured out where everyone was sitting ahead of time. I used a sharpie pen to write each person’s name on a colorful autumn leaf, which sat on their napkin, on top of each person’s plate. The table looked festive and everyone knew where to sit!
Below is a picture of the table, decorated with fresh-picked produce from our yard. We are blessed to have pomegranates, persimmons, and avocados this time of year, which make a colorful arrangement. Some kiwi vines also added greenery, although they need to be picked day-of, or they’ll get limp laying in the arrangement.
Below are links to some desktop wallpaper I created (in full-size picture form). I like to add a seasonal picture plus verse to my own computer background now and then, so I offer it as free wallpaper for you too, if you want it! A perfect verse for Thanksgiving- “”Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:4-5 (NLT)
To use for desktop wallpaper, left click on appropriate monitor size, then right click and choose “select :
The deli girls were craving another batch of granola bars. I must admit, I welcomed the idea- after all, we don’t live on bread alone! Tom does rely on a nice chunk of whole wheat sourdough bread for snacking on almost every day, so this would be a nice change of pace. I opted to change up the ingredients in the energy bars I often make, since I wanted to do something with pistachios. I was thrilled to discover the bars tasted a lot like baklava!
A hint of almond extract, mixed with the honey and toasted pistachios, makes these energy bars taste almost like the buttery Greek confection, baklava. Only healthier! Makes 20 small bars.
3 1/2 c. oatmeal (1 lb.) (gluten-free if necessary)
2 c. toasted hazelnuts (or sub almonds, or cashews)
1/4 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. butter
2/3 c. honey
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. almond extract
4 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. toasted pistachios
1 rounded c. pitted Deglet Noor dates
In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the oatmeal until a bit golden, stirring constantly. Or, toast it in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or so, until golden.
Process approximately half the oatmeal into flour in a blender (or food processor). Use: > 1 1/2 c. oatmeal
Set toasted oat flour aside in separate bowl. Process the other half of oatmeal a bit coarser, to give the bars some texture. Use: > 2 c. oatmeal
Add coarse-chopped oatmeal to the bowl of oat flour. Process the toasted hazelnuts in a blender (or food processor) until it turns into nut butter. Use: > 2 c. toasted hazelnuts
To the hazelnut butter in blender/processor, add: > 1/4 c. coconut oil > > 1/4 c. butter > 2/3 c. honey > 1 tsp. salt > 2 tsp. almond extract > 4 tsp. cinnamon
Add the hazelnut butter mix to the oats in bowl. Lightly process to coarse-chop: > 1 c. toasted pistachios
Add chopped pistachios to bowl; coarse-chop dates in blender next. Use: > 1 rounded c. pitted dates
Add dates to bowl of other ingredients. Mix with hands until blended. Press into 9″ x 9″ pan or dish; chill until firm (about an hour) before cutting. If desired, slice and wrap in wax paper; store in jar in fridge.
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t NOT put a little starch in the frittata I was making for a bridal shower this weekend. Because… I love how adding some kind of starch (typically, flour) makes it so much easier to cut. It holds up and is much more manageable. I originally thought I’d make the frittata spontaneous-style, but I ran out of time. “Spontaneous” as in like an open-faced omelet, topped with pretty veggies and cheese, broiled to a golden hue. I didn’t have time for that- I wanted to visit too!
I also knew a few of us were gluten-free, so I opted to try potato starch instead of flour. It worked! And we all really enjoyed it. Recipe below
The beauty of this dish for a brunch, tea, or other festive party occasion is that it is easy to make, bakes nicely at the last minute, AND is easy to serve! A little potato starch in the mix helps it to stick together so that slicing into serving pieces is easy. Trader Joe’s makes it easy too, since they have frozen artichoke hearts with nothing else on ’em. (Some of us would rather skip those weird ingredients found in marinated artichoke hearts. Plus, TJ’s are a better value!)
Makes one 13 x 9″ dish, to serve 15 or so.
1 lb. grated jack cheese, divided
4 oz. goat cheese, ricotta, or other creamy cheese
1-12 oz. package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1-2 TBS. Italian dressing
1/2 c. potato starch
3 slices tomatoes, if desired
1. Stir eggs well. Use: > 12 eggs
2. Add half the grated cheese, plus all but the tomato slices. Stir well, using: > Half of grated Jack cheese > 4 oz. goat cheese (or other) > 1 package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed > 1-2 TBS. Italian dressing > 1/2 c. potato starch
3. Pour into buttered 13 x 9” dish, topping with: > 3 tomatoes, sliced
4. Top with: > The other half of Jack cheese
5. Bake at 375 degrees 30 minutes until golden on top. Let cool a few minutes before slicing.
Last year I posted this recipe for a real nice chocolate mousse, low in carbs, high in deliciousness! I’ve discovered since then that you don’t really have to whip the egg whites separately- left on high for ten minutes or so, the whole-egg version whips up light and fluffy on its own. Still low in carbs, high in yummy-ness, but also: Even easier to make. Whoot!
I like that this recipe is streamlined. Although cocoa powder can be difficult to sift into mixes without getting lumpy, in this recipe, it’s mixed into the honey first, which removes any lumps. Perfect! This mousse can serve 4, but two hungry people have been known to polish it off on their own…
4 eggs (room-temperature for best volume)
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1/3 c. honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 can coconut cream, chilled
1. Whip room-temperature eggs until light and fluffy, about 5-10 minutes on high. Use: > 4 eggs
2. In an oiled glass measuring cup (or small bowl), measure in the following. (The oil will keep the honey from sticking.) Use: > 1/4 c. cocoa powder > 1/3 c. honey > 1 tsp. vanilla > 1/4 tsp. salt
3. Gently fold the cocoa-honey mix into the whipped eggs. Set aside.
4. Coconut cream is thicker than milk, although some canned coconut milk is almost solid when you shake it- that’s what you’re looking for. When removing the coconut cream from the can, you can set any liquid that’s settled to the bottom of the can aside for other uses, as it might water the recipe down a bit. Whip the pre-chilled coconut cream in separate bowl. Use: > 16-oz. can coconut cream
5. Fold all the ingredients together, then pour into cute little mason jars or stemmed glasses. Place in refrigerator several hours, or overnight, to set.
6. Garnish with fresh fruit or a bit of chocolate, if desired, to serve.
I needed a fast recipe for a quick birthday cake. I needed a small recipe, cuz we didn’t all want to get fat. I’d just read how good hazelnuts are for you (Mark’s Daily Apple, article on Nuts About Nuts). I had a Trader Joe’s bag of roasted hazelnuts on hand, and some chocolate chips, butter, and eggs. So I made THIS!
We used to make this salad at The New Deli; we would deliver it throughout the Bay Area to various health food stores. Back then, hardly anyone in Pinole had heard of Tabbouleh; it wasn’t as popular on home turf. It’s popular in our house though- goes great with lamb. And, if you want gluten-free, just substitute quinoa for the bulgar
This whole-grain side dish is quite refreshing. Add more or less of various ingredients to suit personal tastes. Increase the recipe for larger crowds! Serves 4-6.
1 1/4 c. Bulgar wheat, or Quinoa (for gluten-free)
1 c. boiling water
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1/4 c. chopped spearmint
2-3 single green onions, chopped fine
1/4 c. olive oil (virgin, if available)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 c. lemon juice
1. Pour boiling water over Bulgar in a bowl; let it sit until cooled (20 minutes or so): > 1 1/4 c. Bulgar* (or see quinoa directions, bottom of page) > 1 c. boiling water
2. Prep the veggies: Peel cucumber, cut it in half the long way, running finger down the middle to remove seeds. Use organic cucumber if available (as they are on the Dirty Dozen list otherwise!). Cut tomatoes in quarters, removing seeds/pulp (reserve for a sauce or soup?). Chop the herbs and dice the green onion. Use: > 1 small cucumber > 2 tomatoes > 1/4 c. parsley > 1/4 c. spearmint > 2-3 green onions
3. Add the prepped, chopped ingredients to the soaked, cooled bulgar. Toss with: > 1/4 c. olive oil
4. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper, toss again: > 1/4 c. lemon juice > 1/2 tsp. salt > 1/4 tsp. pepper
5. Serve with grilled meats or vegetarian main dishes.
Variation: You can use coconut milk for all or part of the liquid, bringing it to a boil before adding the Bulgar. Alter the flavors by omitting the olive oil, spearmint, tomato, and cucumber. Add lime, if available, and some chopped almonds. If you have organically-grown roses, use a few petals, slivered, on top for garnish. Crumbled feta can also be a welcome addition.
* Quinoa Directions:To go gluten-free, sub quinoa; add 2 1/4 c. boiling water to 1 1/4 c. quinoa. Simmer for 12 minutes or so, until it has absorbed water. Let cool, then proceed with recipe.
This is a simple blend of ingredients, but an exquisite soup- the sum is greater than the parts! Use organic peppers if possible, although a good roasted paprika will substitute well, and will remove the time-consuming step of peeling the roasted peppers. Serves 20 or so at The New Deli (but you can make a smaller batch for the home crew).
1. Roast peppers ahead of time if possible; this makes it easier to pull this soup together! To roast, get an iron skillet smoking hot, adding peppers (and a lid, if available). Roast each side for about 5-6 minutes, rolling peppers over about four times, to get all sides blackened some. When done, set aside peppers to cool until easy enough to handle. Roast: > 2-3 red peppers
2. Peel peppers after they’re cool. Remove outer blackened skin as well as seeds. Reserve juices as well, as it’s very flavorful. Set aside. (Skip Steps 1 and 2 if substituting paprika.)
3. Peel sweet potatoes, chop into big cubes, and add boiling water to cover. Simmer until tender. Use: > 3 lg. sweet potatoes
4. Caramelize onions in medium pan. It’s best if they’re crowded some, so they juice up a bit. As the onion juices slowly simmer away, the sugars in the juice caramelize, giving the onions a wonderful sweet flavor. Use: > 3 lb. thick-sliced onion > splash of olive oil for sautéing.
5. In soup pot, use immersion blender to puree the cooked sweet potatoes, the caramelized onions, and the peeled red peppers. (Or use food processor, or blender.) Blend in: > 1/3 c. olive oil
6. To pot of soup, also add: > Any extra liquid from roasting peppers > 2 tsp. dried ginger > 1 TBS. grated ginger > 1 TBS. salt > fresh-grated black pepper > more liquid (or stock) if necessary, to get to right consistency.
7. To garnish, you can infuse some olive oil with paprika to make a bright orange oil, for drizzling. Or a touch of parsley also works!
These brownies have become quite popular at The New Deli. A few folks were hoping to get the recipe too. It is in my first cookbook, From the Land of Milk and Honey. But I thought I’d share it below too!
Aren’t mint and chocolate a perfect combination?! You’ll never have to buy peppermint patties again. And this is a fairly simple recipe. Melting the butter for the mint layer is the key; when it firms up, it’s just like candy. If my schedule is tight, I might make these several days early; after cutting them into squares, they can be frozen until serving. Serves 10-15.
1 stick (plus 1 stick) butter
1 TBS. water
3/4 c. sugar
1 1/3 c. chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. EACH salt and baking soda
1 c. flour
1 TBS. cream
1-2 drops green food coloring
1 tsp. mint extract
2 1/2 c. confectioner’s sugar
5 sq. unsweetened chocolate
1. Microwave 1-2 min. in ceramic bowl: > 1 stick butter > 1 TBS. water > 3/4 c. sugar
2. Add, mixing in until melted: > 1 1/3 c. chocolate chips
3. Next, add the chocolate mix to the following in mixer bowl: > 1 tsp. vanilla > 1/4 tsp. EACH salt & baking soda > 1 c. flour > 2 eggs
4. Mix all the above in mixer, 3-5 min. on high. Pour into 9 x 13″ pan, lined with foil for easy cleanup. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 min. Let cool completely in refrigerator, then turn out of pan, pulling foil off bottom. Put back in pan, spreading the following on when brownies have cooled (several hours).
Mint Filling: PREPARATION
1. Microwave 1 minute in glass bowl, or melt in pan: > 1 stick butter
2. Add to bowl: > 1 TBS. cream > 1 drops green food coloring > 2 drops yellow food coloring > 2 tsp. mint extract
3. Mix the above well, then add: > 2 1/2 c. confectioner’s sugar
4. Mix again; this will be a thick mixture. Spread/pat onto cooled brownies and chill for a few minutes while preparing topping.
Chocolate Topping: PREPARATION
1. Microwave 1-2 minutes in glass bowl, or melt carefully on low heat (or in double broiler) on stove: > 5 sq. unsweetened chocolate> 1/2 c. chocolate chips
2.Drizzle melted chocolate on top of mint layer. Spread evenly over top with spatula. This will be easier if the mint layer hasn’t chilled for too long (otherwise, the melted chocolate cools before it can all be spread). Chill 15 minutes or until chocolate layer is firm, then cut into bars. Store in freezer if desired.
We got to craving a new soup at The New Deli, and came up with this. Wowzers- we LOVE it! We have a good, creamy goat cheese on hand to drizzle on it, though you could sub yogurt or sour cream.
This is a light soup with a wonderful blend of flavors. Makes 2 quarts or so of soup (12 servings); it will freeze well too.
1 lg. onion, quartered
4 carrots, in chunks
1 oz. (2 TBS.) minced garlic
1 TBS. fennel seed
3 pts. (6 c.) canned tomato
1 lb. tomato paste (or one 8-oz. can and one 12-oz. can)
1 tsp. salt
1/3 c. olive oil
1 TBS. fresh chopped rosemary
1 TBS. fresh chopped thyme
2-4 oz. goat cheese for 6 servings
1. In pressure cooker, cook until tender in enough boiling water to cover: > 1 lg. onion, quartered > 4 carrots, in chunks > 1 oz. (2 TBS.) minced garlic
2. In hot skillet or in toaster oven, toast until golden: > 1 TBS. fennel seed
3. Grind toasted fennel seed in small electric spice/coffee blender or hand-crush with mortar and pestle.
4. Add the fennel to the cooked veggies along with: > 3 pts. (6 c.) canned tomato
5. Process the veggies, fennel seed, and tomato pieces until smooth. Add: > 1 lb. tomato paste (or one 8-oz. can and one 12-oz. can) > 1 tsp. salt > 1/3 c. olive oil > 1 TBS. fresh chopped rosemary > 1 TBS. fresh chopped thyme
6. Heat the mixture to serve, or reserve some for the freezer, for future meals. For a tasty garnish, use a few ounces of creamy-style goat cheese; mix it with a bit of warm water to correct consistency, and drizzle on top of soup before serving. Use: > 2-4 oz. goat cheese for 6 servings (or sub yogurt or sour cream)
Below is an index to what’s found in my ebook, “Soup’s On, Made From Scratch”. These recipes can be found here at the website too, but if you want everything in one handy book, then order a copy! You can view ebooks on your computer, phone, Kindle, or tablet… pretty handy
Artichoke Garden Soup: Easiest soup ever?! I use Trader Joe’s frozen artichokes- they have a better texture than canned ones. (You can use fresh ones, if you have the time…) From there, you just add some steamed zucchini, some garlic, whirl it up in the blender with some chicken stock or cream.
Asparagus Soup with Tarragon and Goat Cheese: Cook up some asparagus (saving tips for garnish). A simple roux pulls this soup together.
Barley Mushroom Soup: A whole-grain, simple recipe; the tomato, rosemary, and garlic blend perfectly.
Black Bean Chili: A hearty vegetarian soup; a protein-rich, flavorful, simple recipe. It’s an extra thick mix (that you add water to to serve), so it freezes real well into portioned “blobs”. Makes such an easy last-minute dinner!
Borscht: A great way to use beets, in a healthy version of a Russian classic. Containing potatoes, carrot, and cabbage too, and some toasted caraway seed for authentic flavor.
Broccoli Potato Soup: An extra healthy soup recipe. Potatoes thicken it, so it doesn’t need flour (yay, gluten-free!). The broccoli is cooked in water; use that broth to cook the potatoes. Then, the broccoli gets processed (with immersion blender or food processor); the potatoes get processed in next. They don’t go in at the same time, since a little over-processing will turn those potatoes to glue!
Butternut Squash Soup: Using a simple method of cooking squash; pureed with apple juice and a simple spice mix for a quick, delicious, creamy soup, that’s still healthy!
Carrot Soup w/Dill: A gluten-free recipe flavored with caraway seed. A bit of cooked red quinoa adds the perfect garnish.
Carrot Soup, Curried: A gluten-free, flavorful soup using pureed carrot, potato, and coconut milk.
Cauliflower Soup: With garbanzo beans making it buttery, creamy. Roasting the cauliflower brings out its flavor, and toasted coriander seasons it perfectly.
Celery Leek Soup: With potatoes thickening this soup (no flour), it’s gluten-free. Celery seeds add a lot of celery flavor. Delicious!
Chicken Stock: Simple, but good. You don’t really have to put anything else in the pot, except some chicken bones (yumm, “bone broth”!). When using the stock in soups, other veggies, herbs and spices can be added then.
Chili, Traditional Style: Cook your own kidney beans! Much better texture than canned, plus you save money. And it’s a smaller carbon foot-print, since it’s easier to ship dry beans to your home, than to ship them to a processing plant that cooks them, plumps them full of water, and eventually gets them to a store…
Chipotle Potato Soup: There’s an easy way to make a “Chipotle Drizzle” (using dried chipotles, virgin olive oil, and a little boiling water and salt). Other canned chipotle products have a lot of cheap ingredients, and just a little chipotle in ’em. Just get the dried peppers!
Cream of Chestnut Soup: This is a classy soup. It takes awhile to shuck chestnuts, but there is a method that makes it a little easier. A labor of love, but worth it.
Cream of Corn Soup w/Cashews and Cilantro: What an easy recipe. Cashews can get presoaked, but because they’re already a softer nut, they’ll blend up into a nice “cream”. Add frozen corn (thawed), cayenne, and some cilantro for garnish. This is a good gluten-free, vegan soup.
French Onion Soup: A classic recipe, using saved up, frozen meat drippings and stock for rich flavor, plus a unique “roux” using some red wine vinegar instead of the usual Vermouth. Tastes at least as good, and it’s more economical.
Golden Pepper Soup: It’s nice to take advantage of produce when it’s cheap and plentiful. to use at a later date in things like this soup. Roasting peppers is a way to preserve them, and it is really quite easy. At The New Deli, we used to do them under the broiler, but found that a piping hot iron pan was even easier. We add the peppers, put a lid on it (yes, we have an awesome, heavy iron lid, which I recommend). Then we turn them every six minutes or so until charred/blackish on all sides. From there, we can make stuff like this soup. Or save the roasted, peeled peppers in the freezer- they freeze perfectly.
Green Chili Cheese Soup: So easy- mostly just some potatoes, with some canned tomato pieces added. As mentioned in the above paragraph, green chilis are easy to roast at home (or “cheat” and use canned). A little toasted cumin seed and cilantro add extra flavor.
Lentil Soup: The New Deli’s “hippie-style” soup, from our vegetarian days. Lots of soups can be vegetarian, but of course the ones with legumes in them will offer more protein. A dash of liquid smoke and some chili powder make this a pretty exciting soup.
Mushroom Soup, Creamy Style: You can make this the traditional French way, by cooking down some pureed mushrooms until they are fairly dry. The French then even dehydrate them more, then grind them even finer. This is how a very hearty mushroom flavor is achieved without just having a pile o’ mushrooms in the bowl. My favorite way to make this soup now is to just buy some Porcini mushroom powder on Amazon, because… well, the other way is fairly labor intensive. The porcini powder is so worth it. And then, making this soup becomes a total breeze!
Potato Cheddar Soup: This soup is made with an economical (but good quality) cheddar, even though it tastes like it was made with a fancy smoked cheddar. How’s that? Just add a touch of liquid smoke- a perfect combination with the creamy potatoes…
Potato Swiss Soup: Using Swiss and blue cheese, plus Dijon mustard, nutmeg- a New Deli favorite
Red Lentil Soup: Popular for its quick-cooking, as well as its flavor; the sweet potatoes and curried spices add nutrition and an ethnic twist
Seafood Gumbo: Maybe part of the secret is in using shrimp with heads on (lil’ feelers and all). The heads made a great stock! This is a classic recipe, Cajun-style, made by heating and stirring the roux until dark and rich.
Split Pea Soup: a low-fat, vegetarian version of the classic.
Sweet Potato Autumn Veggie Soup: Cauliflower pairs up nicely with sweet potato, for a Paleo-style soup.
Thai Curried Rice Soup: It’s tricky for that Japanese eggplant to keep it’s color, but there’s a healthier way to do that, without deep-frying. Adding green curry paste makes it exciting, although regular ginger can sub for the “galangal”, and lemon zest might do in place of lemon grass. Still good!
Tomato Basil Soup, using a unique blend of lemon, orange, and bay leaf, mellowed out with the addition of cooked carrot
Tomato Soup with Dill: Creamy tomato soup with more seasoning; toasted fennel seed adds a nice touch.
Vegetable Rice Soup: Using a simple tomato paste/spice mix for a base (AKA “Thousand Island Mix“), just add veggies and rice, for a quick, easy soup.
White Bean Tomato Soup: Cook up some white beans from scratch- they don’t take much more than an hour. Add some canned tomato, some fresh rosemary and garlic. Oh, some kale goes nicely in this too!
Wild Rice Winter Squash Soup: Sometimes I need an excuse to cook up some wild rice- it’s so fragrant! For those with allergies, wild rice is of a completely different family than other grasses, so it’s usually a safe food in that respect. Good stuff.