Disclaimer: No husbands were seriously harmed in the consumption of this soup. This post is in honor of getting engaged three years ago today!
The farmer’s market has the most beautiful spring onions this time of year. They are displayed in lovely stacks of red onions and yellow onions with healthy green tops just begging to make their way home with your produce. So naturally, I bought some organic spring onions to take home. I’ve used these before for various things but had been ignoring them for weeks. I figured I’d think of something to do with them for a meal one night.
They sat on the counter for a few days until those vibrant green tops were threatening to become yellow tops and that’s when it came to me, Spring Onion Soup! Just like regular onion soup but with these guys. I’d been on a blended soup tear after buying myself an immersion blender (FAVORITE THING EVER, also, follow me on Instagram @alannaface for more pictures) so I thought I’d mix it up with a non-blended soup. I even took some great process images to share here.
Chopped up my onions with only a little of the green top, added butter and olive oil, deglazed with white wine, poured in chicken broth, salt, pepper and a few red pepper flakes and there you have it, soup! Looks good, smells good. I put it in bowls and topped with smoked gouda then broiled it for some bubbly cheese. On the side a little buttered toast with radishes and salt (my husband LOVES this combo). It looked good. And I was hungry, so even though the love of my life wasn’t home yet, I dug in.
Not very far into this bowl of soup I was feeling kind of full. I chalked it up to snacking on too much smoked gouda before getting to the soup. I ate my radish toast and figured since I hadn’t eaten much from this bowl I’d top it with another piece of cheese and my husband could have it when he got home with some fresh radish toast. I got up, cleared the table and put my dishes in the kitchen, and cleaned up a little. I even put the second bowl in a container and figured we’d have leftovers for later. But man, my stomach was not feeling right. I tried to go relax on the couch a little and officially entered stomach ache territory. I don’t have to tell you how this ends, right? Nonetheless, I figured I just was over full and it was my own darn fault I was feeling sick.
Enter husband after work and I present him with the rest of the soup and radish toast. He’s hungry so he digs in and devours his soup and toast in approximately 30 seconds. Then he cleans up his dishes and comes to tell me his stomach kind of hurts. Uh oh. His digestive tract follows the same course of events mine did but luckily I could assure him that it was just passing through and not there to stay! But he may never trust another soup I make him, again?
Naturally I threw away the leftovers that I had put away already because who knows what I did to this soup. I still can’t fathom why it wrecked both of our stomachs but I can only think it was the onions since everything were ingredients we use regularly. Luckily my husband (and I) lived through this experience to tell the story.
Have you ever made a meal that made someone sick (this sure isn’t my first rodeo with it!)?
Our friends moved from San Francisco (urban) south to about 10 minutes from where my husband and I live (suburban). Whenever they bemoan the fact that they are no longer urban dwellers I point out all the wonderful things about living where we do. Like having a backyard! With sun in the summer (it’s fog in SF during summers)!
Walking around the yard that my husband and I enjoy year round, noticing things in bloom, I feel happiness. I would be hard pressed to give that up for city street noise and summer fog. And in the other extreme direction, would the smell of cows on the wind and sharing the road with tractors be an improvement over the suburbs? For now I’ll stick with our suburban yard which means fences and a house in most shots of what’s in bloom because I have a little of both worlds. Above, my grapes– fruit varietals not wine varietals — look like they are doing great on the trellis I built and moved this one to.
The asparagus has done its thing but still doesn’t get very thick. I’ve let it go to fern so it’s strong for next year. Every year it seems to produce a little more.
All the roses are starting to bloom. This remains one of my favorites but I say that about more than one of them.
The irises that bloomed for the first time last year despite always being in the garden have bloomed again and I believe there might even be more of them? It’s very exciting because these purple ones still smell like “fake grape” to me.
I let the front little garden get purposely overrun by California poppies which look nice around the irises. It’s great spring filler and then once some of the other flowers start showing up the poppies can easily be pulled out but will still come back!
It may not be a big ol’ plot of land on a farm, it’s certainly not an urban garden, but I like it. I squeeze in everything I can into my garden and Spring sure does make me happy here. How about you?
If you’re lucky enough to have access to fresh artichokes now is the time to get these thistles. Spring is the official season for artichokes and with farmers’ markets full of them, it’s good to know how to quickly cook them for a weeknight dinner without having to boil a pot of water or turning on the oven.
How do you pick the best artichoke at the market? Look for ones with the petals (these are flower buds, you know) that haven’t opened much and listen for squeaking when you give them a gentle squeeze. This applies for any size of artichoke, the ones you see here would qualify as large. Medium to large artichokes are some of the best for steaming. With luck you will find artichokes with some stem like these which is great because the stem is edible and similar in texture to the artichoke heart.
Before starting, prepare a microwave-safe dish — I use a glass one– with about 1/2-inch of water with a dash of lemon juice or white vinegar. Artichokes will oxidize and the acid will prevent them from turning brown. Also don’t forget to give these flower buds a rinse! They are from the outdoors and it’s best to rinse them of any contaminants (mine obviously had a visit from a birdy…).
If you’ve ever worked with fresh artichokes you know they have little thorns so use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the tips of the petals off. The top of the bud doesn’t need to be trimmed because you will be cutting off the top inch or so.
Don’t throw away that stem! Pull off any small leaves, slice off the old cut end and then use a pairing knife or vegetable peeler to peel the stem.
When you have peeled the stem, roll it around a bit in your prepared water to keep it from coloring. I’m only preparing two artichokes here but this method would apply to as many as you need to prepare (think bigger glass casserole dish!). Keep the water in the dish and cover with plastic wrap.
For two large artichokes, start with 10 minutes in the microwave and then check them for doneness. Time should be about 10-13 minutes depending on your microwave. Add time for more artichokes. CAREFULLY pull back the plastic wrap (there’s hot steam under there!) and use a fork or paring knife to poke gently, if it easily slides into the flesh, it’s done. If there’s resistance, recover and return to the microwave for a few minutes.
To clean the thistle out of the artichoke, turn them on their base and remember there’s still steam in there so they are HOT. Be careful. Let them cool a little if possible. Then 1) gently “open” the choke, 2) pull out the center smallest petals which still have spikes at which point 3) you should see purple petals which you 4) should use a spoon to gently scrape out including the little hairy bits.
If you’re feeling fancy these can be filled with a dipping sauce (like aioli or mayonnaise if you’re feeling lazy) or at this point you can put them on the grill, petal side down, for some extra flavor and char.
My husband and I enjoyed them as is with dipping sauce on the side. I mixed crushed garlic, fresh lemon juice, mayonnaise, kosher salt and harissa infused olive oil to make a dipping sauce. Melted salted butter, plain olive oil or a vinaigrette would also be great as a dipping sauce.
For those unacquainted with eating these, you simply pull off a petal and use your bottom teeth to scrape off some of the soft flesh. As you make your way to the more tender petals there’s more and more of the soft flesh to enjoy before you get the always wonderful artichoke heart.
This recipe is perfect for using up any sort of leftover meat (or tofu!). Really, even the vegetables could be switched up or added to depending on what you have available. The only things you absolutely need on hand are Sriracha, soy sauce, eggs, garlic and rice. Pantry staples. Otherwise, any meat and vegetables (frozen is great here) can be used. Everything on the plate below can be switched up depending on what you have on hand.
In our house there was a lot of leftover Easter ham (still is in the freezer!) so every year when I have more ham than I know what to do with this fried rice comes into play. This recipe is based on a recipe from The Sriracha Cookbook posted on Serious Eats, Sriracha and SPAM Fried Rice. While the canned pork product generally gives me the heebie jeebies (unless it’s SPAM masubi) it’s easy to use another protein in its place. I also had some yellow rice I had saved in the freezer– it’s yellow from Goya seasoning, regular white or brown rice is fine– and simply used some leftover onion and frozen peas as my vegetables. Corn, carrots, even green beans or broccoli would also be welcome additions. The only thing that’s not easily identifiable above would be the sesame oil on the far right but even that could be replaced with coconut oil, canola oil or another oil with a high smoking point.
Add the oil to the wok on high until it’s shimmering then throw in the protein and vegetables to get them a little brown. If your vegetables release liquid, just wait until it’s boiled off and cook, stirring constantly, until you get some charred spots.
Once the char is going on, add the rice and mix it in letting it get some char. Then smoosh everything to the sides of the pan forming a little “well” in the center, add the eggs and garlic to the little “well” and stir vigorously to scramble the egg. Once the eggs are mostly cooked you stir the rice into the eggs and add the Sriracha/soy sauce mixture and stir.
That’s it, done. All your prep work is done before cooking and it’s only a matter of throwing everything in and stirring until it’s done. You can garnish with a little extra Sriracha and green onions if you have them on hand (which if you keep them on your windowsill you should!)
Using less than 10 ingredients, and all of which are pantry staples or leftovers, you can have a very quick meal that’s better than takeout! Can you picture this with shrimp and asparagus instead? What about chicken and broccoli? I might have to try some other combinations so I don’t have to wait for ham next year to make this again!
Sriracha and Ham Fried Rice (Adapted from here)
1/8 – 1/4 cup Sriracha (depending on your heat tolerance)
1/8 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (or another high smoking point oil like peanut oil, coconut oil, etc.)
1 1/2 cup ham
1/2 onion, diced
1 cup frozen peas
3 – 4 cups cooked rice, cooled (preferably day-old)
1 clove garlic, minced
Sliced green onions, green part only, for garnish
- In small bowl, stir together Sriracha and soy sauce. Set aside. Make sure all ingredients are prepared before moving on (mise en place!).
- Heat a wok (or nonstick or cast iron skillet) over high heat with 2 tablespoons of oil is shimmering. Add the vegetables and protein and stir occasionally until charring begins. This could be 3-5 minutes if your vegetables are not wet, otherwise, wait until the water boils off and then charring should begin.
- When the vegetables and protein have some browning/charring add the rice and stir to coat rice in oil and combine ingredients. Continue stirring to get char on all ingredients, no more than 3 minutes.
- Once all ingredients have a bit of char, move everything to the sides of the pan to make a “well” then add the last tablespoon of oil and heat for about 15 seconds. Add the eggs and garlic, stirring vigorously. Cook the eggs until cooked through then combine with the rice mixture.
- Add the Sriracha and soy sauce mixture and stir to combine while heating for another 30 seconds or so.
- Serve and garnish as desired. Enjoy!
Sometimes when you make pizza at home you have to go all out with a high hydration, 24+ hour rise dough and homemade sauce (from your own tomatoes) and the fancy pepperoni from Whole Foods and pull out all the stops for a resulting pan pizza that will make you wonder if you should probably open your own pizza joint because, gosh darn it, the pan pizza (recipe here) you just made should not be kept from the world. And sometimes you just want to use a little leftover sourdough starter up, a little leftover canned Trader Joe’s marinara, and you happened to remember to buy shredded mozzarella and pepperoni.
This is that pizza. The recipe I used was from King Arthur Flour but with more water so I have listed the updated recipe below. The crust doesn’t get super brown because sourdough changes the pH of the dough but if possible, you should bake on a stone or in cast iron because it will help the bottom brown. This post showed the difference between baking in cast iron and a standard cake pan which makes all the difference in the world here.
If you don’t have a 12-inch cast iron pan in your arsenal? A pizza stone or a pan placed directly on the pizza stone may work. Or parchment paper on a pizza stone if you use the higher hydration. Or go get yourself a 12-inch cast iron pan already.
I did not use the preheat the pan then try and plop a pizza in a blazing hot pan method. I stretched the dough in an unheated pan with plenty of olive oil, topped it and then put it in the oven waiting for the top to brown a little. I probably could have left it in there for even longer but I got hungry. It smelled so darn good.
One of my favorite parts of the recipe is that it makes enough for two 12-inch pies (my second ball of dough went in the freezer with the rest of the shredded mozzarella, pepperoni and some sauce!) or you can make one larger square pizza with all of the dough. If I’m making pizza dough these days, I like to make enough to freeze some for the next time my husband suggests pizza for dinner which is at least every other week! In our house, pizza gets served with a simple green salad with chickpeas and an Anchor Steam on the side.The best part about this recipe is that you can use unfed sourdough starter which is great for those of you who might have starter but forgot to feed it however many hours in advance you need to. Or even for those of you who have “discarded” starter after feedings. See the King Arthur recipe for way more details than I give you below which only tells you how I made my pizza.
Recipe: Sourdough Pizza Crust (originally from King Arthur Flour)
1 cup sourdough starter, unfed (straight from the fridge is fine)
3/4 cup hot tap water (do not overheat water as it will kill the yeast)
2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1. Stir sourdough starter and measure 1 cup into mixing bowl. A stand mixer with a dough hook works great for this soft dough.
2. Add ½ cup of the hot water and the rest of the ingredients. Mix to combine, then knead, adding the additional water (and more as needed) until dough is smooth and slightly sticky, about 7 minutes at medium speed using a stand mixer. Dough should easily come away from the side of the bowl. If it’s still sticking to the bowl, you may have too much liquid and may want to sprinkle in a little flour and continue kneading.
3. Pick up dough and oil the bowl then return to the bowl for a rise. The dough should double in bulk, about 2 to 4 hours. If your starter is not used often, this rise will take longer and if you regularly use your starter it should take less time.
4. When dough is doubled, divide in half if using a 12-inch pan. Reserve half the dough or wrap in plastic wrap and freeze. With the other dough fold it in half to deflate then coat the bottom of a baking pan liberally with olive oil, and place dough in the pan. Gently stretch the dough to the edges of the pan.
5. Preheat the oven to the highest setting, for me this is 525-Farenheit. Let the stretched dough rest for 15 minutes while the oven preheats.
6. Top the rested dough and pop the whole thing in the oven. Bake until the edges are browned and the cheese is brown and bubbly, 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!
Every holiday, whether fabricated or not (I’m looking at you, Valentine’s Day), is a good excuse to make sure your cherished ones know how important they are to you. Not that we need an excuse, but hey, if it includes an excuse to eat candy– which we do need an excuse for– then it’s just frosting on my cake. Which brings us to Easter, a day that meant a lot more to me as a child when I took pleasure in Easter egg hunts and wearing a new spring dress than it does as an adult when I don’t even get a day off from work for it.
If memory serves, since I’m not seeing that I wrote about it on the blog at all, I’ve hosted maybe two or three Easter brunches in years past. Family and some friends have convened over ham, brunch food and chocolate eggs because it somehow seems strange to ignore Easter. Which is exactly what I wad going to do this year. Our dishwasher (you know, the one that is only two years old from our kitchen remodel!?) is broken so I said, “No hosting since we can’t do dishes.” But then everyone kept asking, “Sooooo…. are you hosting Easter?” And I finally gave in with my husband’s permission. But, you all get paper plates and plastic utensils!
And since of course it’s me, we didn’t just end up with a small Easter gathering but a group of 10 to be hosted. That’s about the size of a Thanksgiving for us which I spend weeks thinking about. However, we decided to do this gathering with only about three days notice! Luckily, everyone volunteered to bring brunch dishes and I simply made a ham, a chicken in the slow cooker (thanks, Pinterest!) and baked some bread the day before. Easy peasy.
One Polish tradition that I have been forgetting to do for a while is breaking the “Christmas wafer” or in Polish, “oplatki,” before our meal. I distinctly remember doing this before dinner at my grandma’s house and at my great uncle’s home for Christmas and Easter each year. Everyone gets a small piece of the wafer and then goes around and breaks it with everyone else. Then we say a prayer and eat it. From Wikipedia:
Breaking off and exchanging part of opłatek with someone is symbol of forgiveness between two people and is meant to remind participants of the importance of Christmas, God, and family.
In our family we did it for the big holidays (Thanksgiving too? I can’t remember!) and it was a nice way to mingle with family. I haven’t done this in years and years and though this stuff is a big mouthful of cardboard (flour and water) it brought back memories of when I was little as soon as I tasted it on Sunday. I may have to hunt down more and keep this tradition.
Hosting a sit-down meal on the fly for 10 makes me think I’m going to have challenge myself to a bigger gathering for the next Thanksgiving! I’m glad we were able to have everyone join us and we had a beautiful meal with ones who I’m happy are part of our lives. I was also happy my sister and I were able to introduce everyone to a Polish tradition we value.
Do you have any holiday traditions that you celebrate on Easter or another holiday?
Is there any better time of year than when spring shows up with budding leaves and blossoms? Sure, fall brings us lovely foliage and summer brings sun and my beloved tomatoes while winter brings… cold? But I think spring takes the cake for most exiting season. Heck, if you’re not in California spring is still surprising you with snow!
This past weekend my husband and I joined family and friends for an annual trip to California’s Gold Country and the first signs of the season were coming into full bloom everywhere. Starting March 15th, a local attraction opens up, Daffodil Hill, and we ventured out to Volcano, CA to experience 10 different types of the flower.
Generally each type of daffodil was planted in a section of its own but there were a few sneaky outliers. Of course there were some of the standard flowers you see normally (like the yellow ones that live at our house) but there were a few varieties I had never seen before like this cream one with a sunset colored cup!
It was still a little early to see absolutely all the flowers in bloom but there were enough of each type that we could see all the varieties. I also was impressed with some extra large yellow on yellow flowers that were really the size of a cup and saucer. Should have seen if I could have taken some of those home!
The one below is an interesting variety that had multiple blossoms on one stem!
Plenty of daffodils to take in and enjoy. A perfect way to take in a little spring on a sunny but still slightly chilly morning.
Of course there were also some photo ops requiring our significant others to take pictures of the women folk. I call this, “Four Cameras, Four Men.”
Back at my homestead I’ve been enjoying the freesia blooms from the bulbs my grandma gave me! This is one of my favorite bulb flowers because they smell amazing and these ones are the most vibrant fuschia. they are sprouting alongside reddish orange giant poppies and red nasturtium right now so it’s quite the site. While I love having the flowers outside, I had to bring a little branch inside and our living room smelled lovely.
Around this same time last year I was already planting my egg carton seedlings but I learned the hard way that it was just too early for them to go in the ground. As in, they all died. They had been started in February so this year, I’m a few weeks later getting them started but hopefully that means I will have significantly more success with my seedlings!
That huge stack of egg cartons? Yup, I asked my husband a while ago to start saving them for me. He’s so good to me! I took my egg cartons, my potting soil (you can also use garden soil), my trowel, Digz gloves and of course my seeds outside to get to work. I didn’t buy any new seeds this year as I have a pretty good stash so I plan on trying to make it through a few more of what I already have before I buy anything new but I sorted the seed packets (and saved seeds) into sections first.
Once everything was laid out in categories– for example all squash-type things went together like pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelon and zucchini– I could decide what was a late spring crop that could go directly in the ground like Brussel’s sprouts and what needed to be started in the carton like watermelon.
It’s as simple as adding dirt, labeling and popping in the seeds. Later, I lined the lid of each carton with foil so that it holds the seeded part and keeps the bottom dry. But before I could do that, I was precariously carrying my three cartons into the house all together just asking for this to happen:
That’s right, I completely dumped out one and a half cartons. Arg. So what I actually did is refilled one carton with what seeds I could see and emptied out the third carton. Looks like my surprise squash planting last year is becoming a tradition where I plant some seeds and have no idea what I’m growing. Makes it more exciting this way???
Are you working the garden yet? I’m looking forward to seeing our grape vines start to grow little leaves and to see if the peas I planted in a new spot this year do well. What are you planting?
Instead of traveling over the long weekend my husband and I stuck around while I did some of my favorite things: spent time in the kitchen, time in the garden, built something, and took a little drive. I can be very predictable. I took some phone pictures along the way and thought I would share some of my sunny weekend with those of you who had snowy long weekends, instead!
While I was initially intimidated by making my own yogurt (any recipe that requires over an hour of waiting scares me off at first pass) I finally got around to it using this recipe. It’s exactly like the store bought stuff and it so much cheaper that I will definitely be doing this again. Using four cups of milk and four tablespoons of yogurt yielded two pint jars and a not-quite-full half-pint jar. This method can be used for ANY type of yogurt (soy, coconut, goat milk, etc.) by using the “milk” and yogurt of matching types.
I strained my yogurt to get thicker yogurt like the Greek stuff. I save my whey as I’ve mentioned before to add to beans, bread, soups, and anything else I can think of. It still has vitamins and nutrients in it so I either freeze it to use later or in this case, I made a big pot of soup last night and it all went into the pot!
While I didn’t take any pictures of the finished product, I built a simple trellis for one of my grape vines over the weekend. The first step was to do a little digging and put in the posts but as is true in our backyard, before digging we always run into a few cinder blocks. Luckily I only found one and it came out of the ground pretty easily. Digging out the grape vine to transfer it to this new location was not as easy and I’m hoping it makes it after all the cutting I did. Oops. At least it won’t have to share the arbor with a rose, wisteria and another grape anymore.
So I guess it’s spring-ish around here? Came across the first (and always tiny) asparagus shoot in the garden. For size comparison, that’s one of my Digz gloves you see it on. While small, it was delicious fresh from the garden.For my grand finale, I give you my new favorite tile: glass and travertine. Let me explain how I came across this: The husband and I like to take Sunday drives occasionally and explore the area. There is a really, really, fancy, expensive neighborhood a short drive away and as we found ourselves purposefully getting lost, we saw a sign for an open house. The conversation in the car went like this:
Wife: “Ooooooo, open house. Let’s go!”
Husband: “What? Why? That house is going to be sooo expensive.”
Wife: “I know, I just want to see it, it’s an open house. Look, there’s another sign, we’re already here, let’s just go!”
Husband: *Begrudgingly drives to house*
As soon as we pulled up out front we knew we were soooo way out of our league. Someone had bought a house here, razed it, and built a brand-new fancier (exponentially more expensive) new construction home with all the premium finishes throughout. After we both embarrassed ourselves with the real estate agent showing the house (we were the only ones there since the house was so darn expensive so we had to chat and expose our out-of-league-ness) a neighbor showed up to see the house and we snuck off to see the place. And the highlight was this tile. I love it. Maybe it’s not too late to put a backsplash in our kitchen?
How was your weekend? Any cooking going on? Have you started gardening yet or is it still too cold? Are you an open house crasher, too?