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SURE SOOTHING…

The girls and I have been under the weather for what seems like forever. We’ve been jumping from sore throats to coughs to sniffles the past four weeks. In an attempt to cure us I’ve been making elderberry syrup and chicken and vegetable stock (for everyone), and Ginger Hot Toddys and my Sore Throat Remedy (for me), around the clock. There have been a lot of rainy days spent inside with stock simmering on the stove and Les Misérables playing from the speakers or the live stage version booming from the television (Gigi’s obsession with the musical continues… she’s going to be Cosette for Halloween). There’s also been plenty of cuddling, which is pretty much the only good part of being sick.

Most of the stock that I’ve made has been getting a boost and turned into ramen broth. Ramen has become a true staple around our house. We’ve eaten it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner multiple times during the past few of weeks. The homemade broth is loaded with ginger and garlic, which are sure soothing and fortifying whether or not you feel under the weather, and I sincerely hope you don’t.

We vary our ramen depending on the day, and what we have in the refrigerator. The simplest approach is to top the rich broth and creamy ramen noodles with a little scallion, super thin slices of spicy thai red chili, and a pinch of toasted sesame seeds; this is my favorite way to eat ramen for breakfast or lunch. For dinner I quickly fry up some marinated tofu and serve it on the side of the soup. Sometimes we spice it up with a little Sriracha. The variations are really simple and there are so many possibilities!

One “trick” I’ve started doing is that I make ramen broth when I make my stock, then I put the ramen-ready broth straight into the freezer. You could do this ahead with store-bought stock as well, although nothing beats homemade stock which is really easy and inexpensive to make. When we want ramen for a meal, which is all the time, I just pull broth from the freezer and while it defrosts and rises to a simmer I cook the ramen noodles and slice up the toppings. It makes a true from-scratch meal in about fifteen minutes with minimal dishes to clean.

The recipe below is for the version I usually make for dinner, with fried tofu in a sweet, salty marinade, but you could play with whatever toppings and variations you like. Enjoy and stay healthy! This recipe is equally delicious with chicken stock or vegetable broth, depending on your taste and preference.

RAMEN WITH TOFU

Ingredients.
For the Broth.
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2” piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 green onions, trimmed and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons white miso
1 tablespoon mirin
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

For the Tofu.
1 package firm tofu, drained
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons agave or honey
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup corn starch
canola or vegetable oil

For Toppings.
toasted sesame seeds
green onions, white and light green part only, very thinly sliced on the bias
thai red chili, seeded and very thinly sliced (optional)
Sriracha hot sauce (optional)

Directions.
In a medium sized pot, heat the broth to a simmer. Stir in the ginger, green onions, and garlic, and simmer the broth, covered, for thirty minutes.

Turn off the heat and whisk in the miso until it’s incorporated. Strain the broth using a fine mesh strainer, and discard the ginger, green onions, garlic, and any bits of miso that stay behind in the strainer.

Return the broth to the pot and whisk in the mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar. Cover and let it sit while you cook your ramen noodles and tofu.

Heat a pot of water to a boil. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the toasted sesame oil, honey or agave, and soy sauce for the tofu, and set it aside until the last minute.

Put the corn starch in a medium bowl. Press the block of tofu with paper towels to soak out some of the water before slicing the tofu into 1” cubes. Toss the cubes around in the bowl with the corn starch to coat, transfer them to a plate. In a large non-stick skillet, heat a few tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil over very high heat. Carefully place the tofu cubes in the hot oil and gently toss until the corn starch has crisped up and the edges are just starting to darken, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain for a few minutes.

Toss the ramen noodles into the pot of boiling water and cook, according to the directions on the package. Drain the noodles and transfer to bowls. Give the broth a good stir before adding plenty of it to the bowls along with the noodles. Top the ramen with green onions, sesame seeds, and chili or Sriracha if you choose.

Quickly toss the tofu in the marinade and serve everything immediately.

PRINTABLE RECIPE.
RAMEN WITH TOFU

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  • Rebeka - This looks fantastic. I’ve been craving ramen-type soup this fall. Do you have a favorite ramen you use in this?ReplyCancel

  • Kacie - I’ve been using and really liking this brand!

    http://www.hakubaku.com/content/view/54/75/ReplyCancel

  • Megan - This sounds delicious! Love the tip about freezing too. :-)ReplyCancel

  • Laura Morris - I was so excited when I saw this post title! My husband and I absolutely live for ramen! I’ll never forget the first time I tried the real stuff after growing up eating Top Ramen – I never wanted to go back! Thanks for this post!ReplyCancel

I mentioned last week, Earth’s Best asked me to help spread the word about their EB Special Delivery. Earth’s Best has created a newly designed line of diapers and baby wipes! These Earth’s Best diapers and wipes will be available at select Target stores featuring new packaging. They sent us some earth friendly diapers in Lulu’s size, as well as some for my newborn twin nephews (which was incredibly thoughtful), as well as some of their premium and sensitive wipes.

As you know, I am a big supporter of cloth diapering, but I always have current-size disposables on hand, and we only use disposables at night. It’s wonderful to have an alternative that is earth friendly but affordable! In the past we’ve bought Pampers because the other earth friendly brands weren’t in our family budget, but true to my past experiences with Earth’s Best, these new diapers and wipes are a good match for our family both in price and eco-consciousness!

Earth’s Best is hosting an amazing contest on Instagram:

One very lucky grand prize winner will take home a year’s supply of Earth’s Best Tendercare diapers and wipes! And many others will take home a crate full of Earth’s Best product! 

How to Enter: From today (Thursday, Oct. 23rd) through Wednesday, February 11th follow Earth’s Best (@earthsbest) on Instagram, take a photo of yourself with your favorite Earth’s Best products, and tag Earth’s Best using #EBSpecialDelivery and #Sweepstakes.

*This post is sponsored by Earth’s Best. A trusted brand of our household. Thank you for helping to support the sponsors that help to support my family.

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  • Lisa - We have that same bunny as shown in the last photo. Only it’s rather grey by now and not so fluffy any longer (it is very loved)…
    I wish we had such great products in France – the eco-responsable stuff ist way too expansive for us (and they leak!).ReplyCancel

A LITTLE BIT OVERBOARD…

The rain has settled in for the day and I am perfectly content with it as I was looking for a reason to put on my cozy pants and have a quiet afternoon in. Kyle spent some time in the emergency room last week after an accident at work, and was in California all weekend, and we’ve been fighting a bad cough, so a quiet afternoon… make that a quiet week, is just what we need around here.

For the past couple of weeks our kitchen has been a non-stop, stocking-up station. I’ve been pickling the last of our green tomatoes, made a half gallon and a quart of pickled jalepeños, and we have enough chicken and vegetable stock, Sweet Potato Soup, and Leek and Potato Soup to last us all fall. Besides an excursion into making Korean Tacos (which included making Korean BBQ Sauce, which included making Orange Marmalade, and Cucumber Kimchi, Korean Slaw, and Korean Salsa) I’ve been sticking almost entirely to creamy vegetable soups and hearty chicken soups. In fact, I may have gone a little overboard.

Something about the dumping rain and dramatic cloud cover just drive me to cook, and cook, and cook, and cook. It also drives me to buy way too much fresh bread from the local bakery. But we need all the bread to go with all of the soup! I’ve promised myself that this week I would take a break from stocking up (except for the chicken stock currently simmering on the stove), and that I’d make very simple dinners in an effort to carve out some time to think through all of the different aspects of my busy little life.

Somehow I’ve always managed to run a photography business, this blog, and my local food website simultaneously while parenting. Lately, this ability to work and parent at the same time has ground to a halt. For the last six months this has been pretty much impossible to get anything done and it feels like something is always taking a hit. I’m trying to figure out a way to make it all work on my own since we need my income and hiring any childcare isn’t in our budget. It’s one thing for me to be cooking, taking photos, and journaling ideas, but working on the computer while they are up and running is proving to be a losing endeavor all the way around. I’ve always been a “doer” and a relatively good planner so I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

In the meantime, I’ve got a pretty impressive stash of soup in the freezer to nourish us while I attempt to break things down, and problem solve my own personal balance of work, motherhood, and personal health and sanity. The kids are napping now, the rain is still falling, and I have reheated some leftovers to eat for lunch while I attempt to divide the current pile of multitasking madness that is my life into something organized and doable! I should be able to figure it out before they wake up from this nap, right?

Normally during nap is when I prep my dinner stuff, so that means tonight we will be having…. soup! From the freezer! My favorite thing I’ve made in these past couple weeks has been a very simple Leek and Potato Soup. I planted dozens of leeks in the “bed” along the back of our house so making this soup also involved my favorite activity: harvesting. There’s something wonderfully satisfying about pulling heavy-with-soil leeks from the ground!

I’ve halved the recipe below because I’m assuming most of you didn’t plant too many leeks this summer, and I ended up with about 10 servings after freezing half! My version of Leek and Potato Soup is simple, rich, silky, and it feels completely appropriate to enjoy on a rainy evening. We will have big bowls of soup tonight, topped with a dollop of mascarpone cheese, a little flaky salt, and minced parsley or chives.

LEEK AND POTATO SOUP

Ingredients.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 pound thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only (ends discarded)
1 quart low-sodium vegetable stock
1 cup water
1 pound peeled and cubed russet potatoes
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup heavy cream
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
mascarpone cheese (optional)
very finely minced Italian parley or chives
Maldon or flaky salt

Directions.
To clean the leeks, place the sliced leeks in a large bowl and cover them in cold water. Agitate to loosen any dirt that is hiding in the layers. Lift the leeks from the water bath into a strainer and drain.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with a 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil. Add in the leeks, a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few turns of pepper. Sauté the leeks for about five minutes on medium high heat until they have softened a bit. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook the leeks for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are very soft and tender.

Add the broth, water, and potatoes to the pot. Bring it to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are completely cooked and soft. Move the pot off of the heat before stirring in the cream, half and half, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.

Using an immersion blender purée the soup until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, transfer the soup in batches to blender and purée until smooth. Leave the plug off, covering the whole on the small hole with a thickly folded towel. This allows some of the steam to escape so you’re not created any pressure. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the soup to bowls, top with a little mascarpone cheese, a pinch of flaky salt and fresh herbs.

Serves 10 adults.

PRINTALBE RECIPE.
LEEK AND POTATO SOUP

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  • Amanda Kelley - Such pretty spoons! I need pretty spoons. I’m POSITIVE it would increase my productivity in the kitchen…..positive…..:) You are amazing as usual. Love this imagery.ReplyCancel

    • Kacie - Amanda,
      They were my Grandma’s. :) And, yes. They would totally make you more productive! Not just in the kitchen, but in life. xxReplyCancel

This summer, Earth’s Best sent us a special delivery: a care package loaded some of their fantastic Earth’s Best Organic Formula, and lots of their new products. The popular products are probably things that, if you have small children, you are really familiar with…

The Earth’s Best formula has been a staple around our house both when Gigi was starting solid food, and now as Lulu continues her transition to whole foods. Having two very slight babes, I relied on Earth’s Best to boost their puréed foods and cereals with extra calories. Neither of them ever drank it the traditional “supplement” sense, but we used it in a capacity to make sure they were getting extra calories anywhere we could manage. Adding a scoop or two of the formula gives me a huge sense of relief, knowing that Lulu is getting those extra calories.

Amongst the new items they sent our way, the following were our favorites:

01. We didn’t use the Cold Relief Vapor Ointment much this summer but we have been using it a lot already this fall! I feel so much better about using this ointment than the Vick’s children’s brand! It smells the same and works the same as the Vick’s stuff but knowing it’s natural and mostly organic makes me feel better about rubbing it on Gigi’s chest. She’s had an irritated cough now for a month and this really helps her sleep.

02. The Calming Bubble Bath was a hit! We used this as a special treat, a little at a time, as a reward for fabulous behavior, and the girls loved it!

03. The Sleepytime Shampoo and Body Wash and the Sleepytime Lotion are so great. They smell amazing and feel luxurious!

(04.) Not pictured is their new sunscreen which I LOVED. There’s no photo because we used it all up! It was so silky and easy to apply. It came out of the bottle rather thick but then disappeared into a thin sheen when I rubbed my palms together. I’m crazy about sunscreen and my fair little gals need plenty of it!

And as you know we are HUGE fans of their baby food. Particularly their “squeezy foods”, as they’re referred to around here. I love that they do so many hearty, vegetable heavy combinations. These have saved me on-the-go so many times!

I love Earth’s Best because, as a parent, I’ve really relied on their baby foods and formula when I couldn’t make my own food, and couldn’t make enough milk! I love that they sponsor Sesame Street; one of our favorite morning PBS shows around here. I’ve found Earth’s Best to be an affordable, consistent brand. But even more important than that, their brand has brought me a lot of comfort and peace of mind over the last 4 years. This is why I was so excited when they wanted to work with me. They’ve asked me to help spread the word about a brand a “Special Delivery”! It’s a few new products that are coming soon… Earth’s Best is teaming up with Target to release something new and exciting; I can’t wait to tell you more about it next week! In the meantime you can check out what Earth’s Best is up to on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram using #EBSpecialDelivery!

*This post is sponsored by Earth’s Best. A trusted brand of our household. Thank you for helping to support the sponsors that help to support my family.

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SWEET, SALTY, AND SMOKY…

We got home late Monday night from a whirlwind run up to visit our families in Seattle. The main purpose of our trip was so that I could spend time with, and photograph, my newborn twin nephews. Kyle and the girls camped out at his parents house so I could spend all day Saturday with my sister and her family. It was so wonderful to get to hold not one, not two, but all three of my handsome nephews.

We returned home to a very messy house, a very empty refrigerator, and a very happy garden (it was in the 80’s all weekend). I spent yesterday morning drinking too much coffee and jittering through my cookbooks creating a monthly menu while the girls had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast… and for lunch.

Monthly menu planning is something I aim to do each month but it doesn’t always happen because it takes a big chunk of time up front, but once I commit to it and plan everything out, my whole month is so much easier. Kyle and I haven’t been eating as healthy as we usually do these past few weeks. Between his birthday and all the craziness that just seems to creep up on us, we have been eating more processed food and sugar than we normally do, and eating out a lot more. So this month’s menus focus on healthy eating, using what’s available in the garden and at the farmers’ market, and working on some new recipes. It felt wonderful to sit down and write out, and shop for the majority of, a whole month’s worth of healthy meals.

I have to admit that after a few hours of planning and shopping I wasn’t really in the mood to cook last night! But we had a wonderfully healthy salad with fresh corn, black beans, feta, and a bright dressing which went perfectly alongside these grilled sweet peppers. I’m not exactly sure what the name of these heirloom peppers are; one or both of the girls, most likely Lulu, went through the garden shortly after all of our starts were planted and pulled out my markers so I didn’t have any clue what I’d planted! But any sweet pepper will do for this recipe, and if you can’t find a fun, heirloom variety of sweet pepper, even a orange bell pepper could work! These particular peppers are about 5-6 inches long and turned from a dark, earthy green, to a bright, waxy orange. Ask your produce person, or favorite farmer at the market, for a fleshy, sweet pepper that has no heat at all, and you’ll have something that will work perfectly.

The preparation of this side dish is so incredibly easy that I almost hesitated to share it. But, this simple side is just the kind of thing that helps elevate a otherwise dull dinner, or save me when I don’t feel like cooking at all. These peppers are simply seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper, charred on the grill, and then topped with a nice, heavy drizzle of honey and lots of crumbled feta. They are sweet, salty, and smoky. We’ve been eating them prepared this way by the bowlful. They make a great side, or a wonderful addition to a tapas-style dinner. We had them as a small plate last week along with a few hard boiled eggs, serrano and cheese, and some sautéed spinach. You really can’t go wrong.

GRILLED SWEET PEPPERS WITH FETA AND HONEY

Ingredients.
6 orange sweet peppers (an heirloom variety is ideal, substitute with 3 orange bell peppers)
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2-1 tablespoon of honey
a few tablespoons crumbled feta

Directions.
Heat your grill to medium high.
If you’re using bell peppers, cut the meat away from the core, and discard the core. If you’re using sweet heirloom peppers, leave them whole.

Put the peppers, or pepper slices if you’re using bell peppers, in a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and season with a bit of salt and pepper.

Place the peppers on the grill and cook for about 3-4 minutes on both sides, until they have a nice char and grill marks but are still tender and colorful.

Transfer to a serving dish and let them rest for a couple minutes. Drizzle with honey, sprinkle with lots of gets, and serve.

PRINTABLE RECIPE.
GRILLED SWEET PEPPERS WITH FETA AND HONEY

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  • Allison - Yum! This sounds amazing. I’d love to see your monthly menus! I love planning but have a hard time coming up with stuff.ReplyCancel