Tag Archives: fennel

Creamy Fennel Soup with Honey + Thyme

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Near the end of my spring term, my biochemistry professor began a week on both an uplifting and cynical note: he encouraged us not to stress about the class or final too much and then relayed the stark truth that we never know what the next day will bring and we should make the most of enjoying the present. I could tell from the weeks previous that something was happening in his personal life that was challenging, and though he shared only a hint beyond that particular day, his words really stirred me.

 

I’ve shared only a little of it here, but in the past couple years I’ve been going through somewhat of a personal growing up/life upheaval. Above all, I guess I’m slowly learning to simplify and downsize what I accomplish in a day and opt for a little less stress and “striving to.” I’m also working on letting go of a manic hold on the future and just let it happen. My mantra of High Intention, Low Attachment, one I learned from a Running on Om podcast, is one I have to remind myself daily. In the spare moments I have now, I’ve been trying to take it all in with all my senses: the colors, the scents, the sounds, and yes, the flavors.

 

I can for sure say I fail as much as I succeed, but I think it’s a growing up kind of pursuit that I need in the way that only big life challenges can ask of us.

 

One way I’ve been achieving more of living in the moment is by moving many meals outside. The other is by working with the freshest produce, whether it’s from our own garden, harvested right before dinner, or from local farms. We are truly spoiled in this season and getting to walk outside and harvest a basket of something different each day has me being reminded that being able to do so was both a major priority for William and I, and that we are so privileged to do so. It is a privilege I do not take for granted.

 

Wherever you’re at in this season within the grand scheme of things, whether everything is wonderful or larger struggles have come your way, I hope you take a little moment to stop and look around, and find simple joy in the process.

 

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Creamy Fennel Soup with Honey + Thyme, serves 4-5
Soup might seem an ironic thing to eat in this warm season, but energetically, it is helpful to our bodies to be heated mildly so we can use our internal thermostat to self-regulate back to a comfortable state. It is much less harsh and draining than eating very cold foods, like ice cream or large helpings of cold melon, to cool down quickly. For this reason I think, I tend to favor light soups more in the summer than in other seasons. This one, with its emphasis on fennel, is quite light and simple. The flavor of the fennel really shines through, and there is just a sweet hint of the honey and thyme with each bite. You’ll want to serve it as starter or on days when only a light meal is preferred. As I note in the directions, taste and adjust flavors at the end. Depending on preference, you might want to add more or less salt, honey, lemon, or even cashew butter. 

1/2 tsp. coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 large fennel bulbs, diced
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth or water
3/4 cup cooked white beans or garbanzos
1 tsp. salt + more to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 Tbs. cashew butter
2 tsp. honey

  • Melt the oil over a medium heat in a large pot. Add in the diced onions, celery, fennel, and thyme. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes, until the vegetables have softened but haven’t yet browned. Add a splash or two of water as needed.
  • Add in the garlic and cook, uncovered, for about a minute more. Add in the beans, then pour in the broth or water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • When the soup is done simmering, pour it into a blender in batches, to bring it to a smooth puree. On the last batch, spoon in the cashew butter and puree in.
  • Add all the now pureed soup back into the pot and then bring up to a simmer again. Add the lemon juice, salt and black pepper, and honey. Taste to check for seasoning and adjust as needed. You might find it needs more salt, pepper, lemon juice, or honey. Add a small amount of whatever it needs until it tastes balance and “right.” You’ll know and it will be lovely.
  • Ladle into bowls, and serve with warm bread as desired.

Apple, Fennel + Pomegranate Quinoa Salad

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For my birthday in May 2006, my college roommate and good friend gave me a paper bag full of apples. To this day, I  consider it to be one of the simplest and most thoughtful of gifts.

Though I tend to avoid using them in recipes (because I eat them all fresh), apples are my all-time favorite food and I tend to be persnickety about what a good apple tastes like. I have a slight obsession with the kind of apples that can’t be found in most grocery stores and with unique names like Zabergau Reinette, Poundsweet, and Sheepnose. There used to be an old-timer named Joe at the Corvallis market this time of year who would talk my ear off about the 100+ heirloom apple varieties in his orchard while handing me slices to taste, each with a different complex flavor. Basically, I looked forward to market day just to hear his apple stories.

 

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When I was working in Ireland several summers back, I traipsed around counting, weighing, and mostly eating berries all day but one of my highlights was the day Andy asked if I’d like a tour of the orchard. I practically jumped in the jeep before the words were out of his mouth. Prior to that, I toured a couple orchards in northern Washington during my experience at the farm & cooking school, Quilasascut. I was the nerdy annoying girl asking too many complex questions the day we visited the apple trees. And before that in pomology, my favorite class at UCD, we visited farmers who, like Joe, had orchards filled with hundreds of varieties. On our farm tours, we walked and talked, eating apples all the while.

Basically, I love any chance to follow farmers around all day letting them share some of their wisdom about apples.

 

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If ever I come into possession of a few acres to plant a gazillion ancient apple varieties, I might be on to a new calling. In the meantime, I’m trying to convince William to tear out all the worthless pretty flowering cherry trees in our front yard and replace them with apples. He’s basically the yard maintenance guy in this household and after all the work he put into those cherries this summer with no payout, he’s mostly convinced.

 

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Apple, Fennel + Pomegranate Quinoa Salad, serves 4

For this month’s Recipe Redux, we were asked to show what’s in our Plant Protein Power Bowls, or what I refer to as grain salads. Packed with protein, fiber and color, plant power bowls are trendy and delicious. William and I happen to eat some variation of a one-dish grain salad for dinner at least a couple times each week and have been since way before eating plant-based or from a power/Buddha/yoga/nourish/etc.-bowl became a thing. This one, with it’s seemingly interesting ingredient combination, came together out of what was on hand one evening–and because from previous experience, I love the caramelizy-sweet fennel, fresh sage and apple combination. The kale, quinoa, and baby lima beans just happen to be good additions and the pomegranate seeds provide a little festive something extra. I made this twice in a row and much to my dismay and delight, William (who avoids leftovers) took most of what was left for lunch. This little well-rounded salad was so good, colorful, and as I said, festive, that I might just be making it again for some of our upcoming holidays. Enjoy!

3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 cups cooked baby lima beans (or other white bean)
2-3 cups finely chopped kale
1-2 Tbs. fresh sage leaves, minced
1 small apple, sliced thin
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup roasted/toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1-3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar, use to taste
sea salt + pepper, to taste

  • Rinse and drain the quinoa and then place it, along with the 1 1/2 cups water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • In a sauté pan over medium-high, heat 1/2 Tbs. olive oil and then sauté the onion and fennel, about 5-8 minutes, until both are soft and golden. Remove from the heat and slide into a big bowl, along with the cooled quinoa, and lima beans.
  • In a small bowl, combine the chopped kale and remaining tablespoon of oil with your hands, gently squeezing the kale to soften it up a bit. Then combine it, along with the sage, sliced apple, pomegranate and hazelnuts, to the quinoa mixture.
  • Add 1-3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar, tasting as you go, and season with salt and pepper as needed.


to go on

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I can’t go on. I’ll go on. – Samuel Beckett

We were headed back from the coast last weekend and I had been admiring the views and the changing season when I looked out and realized it is September(!) and I suddenly saw not the slow slide of summer into fall but the trajectory of my life these last few months. I realized that I have been so busy feeling my way through this year that I haven’t been able to truly see the world around me, much like that summer I was in Ireland for the second round and one of my co-interns spent so much of her time capturing the experience on her camera that she never stopped to appreciate the views beyond her lens. When I look up and out, it is so easy to feel and see the change in season right now, and as we drove back into town last weekend, there was a bittersweet sadness hanging in the air. This and the last few posts have reflected that bittersweet vibe, as I’ve been sharing bigger matters that have sat heavy with me this year.

 

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One of these is whether I’m even writing a food blog anymore. I have always had more of an interest in talking about life in this space than in hyper-focusing on the food. Over the course of the last few months, I’d like to think I’ve been doing more of that and through the process become more honest in sharing the bigger things that matter. As I’ve done so, I have contemplated moving away from sharing food at all because it often doesn’t seem to go with the message I’m conveying. I think about my readers too. What do you want from this space? Why do you come here? How much is too much information? And I think about why I began the site, to share life and food.

Food is important to me. I love learning about it. I love talking about it. I really like helping others with it. And if you are newer here, if you read back to this post, you’ll see the making and partaking in food is so much more to me than finding peace through this year’s challenges or in fueling life on the run. All my interests, joys, and even problems circulate and intersect in and around food. And though I’ll chatter your ear off in actual conversation until you politely ask me to shut up about it, I don’t particularly enjoy writing about food in this space anymore.

 

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In a recent conversation with a friend, the topic of my eating disorder and food came up and I shared, It’s not about the food. Just like every person has his or her tools or mediums with which to create a life (or destroy it), my strengths–and also weaknesses–are both food and words. Like my eating disorder, this space seems to be about food but is also not about food.

Inevitably, I have opted to continue with the recipe sharing because when I talk about the highs and lows of life here, I share the meals that feed my soul through the process, recipes that hold meaning not because they have this or that ingredient in or out, not because of any label or food trend but because they are simply feeding me through this life. I’ve considered deleting posts which I think are silly now or old recipes that I no longer partake in, but those too are all part of my experience. Those meals, like the more recent ones, fed me through those ventures into becoming the better person I am today. For that alone, I want to have them recorded.

 

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In this transition of seasons, I too feel as if I’m wading through a big life transition. As I take a deeper and bigger-picture look at my trajectory, as I sort through my life and organize my thoughts around the point of this space, I want to share with both the readers who have held on for the long haul and those that are just jumping in, the basic reason for this blog hasn’t particularly changed. It is a space where I can use my creative tools to share real life more honestly; to go on, when a part of me is actually afraid to share what I really feel, is afraid to move into life’s changing seasons, is often frustrated and saying simply, I cannot go on.

 

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When I am standing fearfully on one of life’s cliffs, not ready to jump yet somehow poised for whatever the next adventure brings, when I am at the point where I begin to question everything, when my mind wants to give up and fight like hell simultaneously, that is when I know I am right where I need to be. I will get through this changing season and I’ll be better for the challenge with which it came. I will be glad too that I was willing to share the experience here, rather than waffling on about some random ingredient.

After all, isn’t this life little more than the accumulation of these daily lessons and joys, of conversations and meals good and bad, of being vulnerable, of putting plans into action and seeing hard work pay off, or spinning wheels in useless worrying which we can’t seem to move on from, until, for whatever reason, we do?

 

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Two-Tone Fennel + Pistachio Zucchini Bread 

This zucchini bread has been a work in progress for many years and I’ve held off on publishing because every recipe, like the most vulnerable blog posts, is not quite ready to share. Originally adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, it has taken on a life of its own with the switch to quinoa, brown rice, and almond flours, two types of summer squash, fennel seeds, and pistachios. It is the type of recipe that feels right in this (nearly there) return to cooler days and comforting foods season, and it’s likely my last bout with zucchini this summer. My plants have been producing steadily since mid-June and they’re telling me their time has nearly come. Onwards!

1 lb. zucchini and yellow summer squash, (about 2 medium or 3 small)

2 Tbs. ground flax seeds

6 Tbs. hot water

3/4 cup  sugar

1 cup quinoa flour

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup almond flour

1/4 cup tapioca starch

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. fennel seeds

1/4 cup plain non-dairy yogurt (I used unsweetened coconut)

1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

3 Tbs. coconut oil

1/4 cup toasted pistachios, chopped

  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil and flour the bottom and sides of a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.
  • Shred the mixture of zucchini and yellow squash on the large holes of a box grater and then transfer to a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Allow to drain for 20-30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, mix the ground flax seeds with the hot water in a small dish and set aside to form a thick slurry.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the flours, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, fennel seeds, half the pistachios, and 1/2 cup sugar together. Set aside.
  • After the zucchini has drained, squeeze it dry between several layers of paper towels. Mix the dried zucchini with the yogurt and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Beat the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and coconut oil with a whisk in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the flax slurry and incorporate well. Add half the flour mixture and half the zucchini mixture and mix until just incorporated. Add the remaining flour and zucchini and mix once more until the mixture just comes together.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the top with the remaining pistachios. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, about 55 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then tranfer the loaf to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, or once cool, slide into the fridge for a day or two, as the flavors really develop overnight.

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