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Snow Day Vegetable Soup

In My Kitchen, At HomeAmber BransonComment

Yesterday I got woken up to "WHAT, Um, we need to go to the store...." Apparently the forecast for the beginning of the week had changed and now we were finally getting our first "real" snow! I had already been promised a trip to the History Museum so on our way there, we made a quick stop at the store to stock up on some snow appropriate foods including the fixings for vegetable soup. Well, the weatherman was right so I took a break from my snow day work to make a batch of soup to simmer until dinner. 

Vegetable soup makes me think of my childhood. I remember my mom taking leftever vegetables from dinner and putting them into baggies and into the freezer. Once our freezer was full of half baggies of corn, green beans, etc, she would defrost them all and throw everything into a big pot to simmer throughout the day. When I was little, I loved the soup EXCEPT I would always beg for her to leave out the cabbage.... but I guess we all have to grow up at some poing so I now love cabbage in my soup. (thanks, mom!)

As you know, I like being flexible when cooking so feel free to substitute or change the ratios between vegetable or spices. I use some frozen vegetables because they are convenient but fresh can be an option. Also, I make my soup without a fat, using broth to saute the vegetables but if you prefer, they can be sauteed with oil or butter. This batch makes a lot of soup, probably enough for around 6 bowls. I like to cook one big batch and then freeze for quick lunches to take to work. Hope you enjoy! 

Vegetarian Vegetable Soup
1 celery stalk
3 carrots 
1 small yellow onion
1/2 small green cabbage
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup frozen green beans
1/2 cup frozen corn (I like fire roasted)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 can of crushed tomatoes 
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon thyme
1/2 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
48 oz of vegetable broth (approximately)
salt and pepper to taste (keep tasting as it cooks to adjust the seasonings.. I feel like I use a good amount of salt for this soup)

1. Heat a stockpot and add a few splashes of vegetable broth. Add chopped carrots, onion and celery, season with salt and pepper and saute until vegetables are softened, about 3-5 minutes. 
2. Add garlic, bay leaves, thyme and oregano. Stir until the vegetables are coated in herbs and fragrant. Add more broth if needed to keep from burning. 
3. Add frozen green beans, corn and peas, stir and add more salt. 
4. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and cabbage and stir. Pour in vegetable broth until you reach the consistency you like your soup. (I like mine more stew like, while my guy likes it more liquidy)

Bring soup to a boil and then cover and let simmer at least an hour. I usually try for about 3 hours. Once you are ready to eat, remove bay leaves and serve. 

Hello 2015

At HomeAmber BransonComment
 Namaste Everyday goals (on and off the mat) written on the studio wall!

Namaste Everyday goals (on and off the mat) written on the studio wall!

Hello friends! I hope your Holidays were filled with good food, good company and good health! I am finally back into the swing of things over here and can't wait to start putting my plans for 2015 in action. I know resolutions are always a touchy subject, some people make them and then some people are vehemently against them. I like to think I'm somewhere in the middle. I like to start right into the New year with a few goals that I know I can complete or get started on in good time. Work, life, etc gets in the way so why not make some short term resolutions that are do-able and will ultimately have a lasting impact? Here are my goals for the beginning of 2015:

Complete the Namaste Everyday Challenge - My favorite Yoga studio is hosting a challenge where you practice yoga every day for the month of January. My goal with this challenge (besides completing it) is to establish a better yoga practice and continue to go a few times a week once the challenge is over.
Read  - This one is pretty self explanatory and I have no excuse considering I received some great books for Christmas (see below).
Travel  - So far my guy and I have a trip planned to Chicago in the spring and then have talked about the possibility of taking a longer trip in the fall.
Devote time to documenting my cooking + health adventures - I finally invested in a good camera! Now I can actually enjoy playing with my food as well as show off the healthy places that St. Louis has to offer.

Online Gift Guide 2014

At HomeAmber BransonComment
 /// All images were found on the individual product websites

/// All images were found on the individual product websites

Still looking for a unique gift for the health-minded people in your life? Here are a few of my favorite gift ideas found online!

1. Mandala Coloring BookSometimes meditation can be hard with our busy lives. This coloring book will help calm the mind as you focus on the mandalas, putting you in a zen state. Plus, who doesn't want to feel like a kid again?

2. Purple Lettuce UmbrellaJust a little reminder to eat your greens on a rainy day... a little bit of a splurge, but how can this not make you smile? It also come in green too.

3. Coconut Milk CaramelsUsually store bought caramels are made of ingredients such as corn syrup, refined sugar, preservatives and food coloring. These caramels, made with coconut milk, will satiate your vegan sweet tooth without all the bad stuff.

4. Root for Vegetables Tote BagThe perfect tote for Farmer's Market hauls and a little reminder to eat your vegetables! Note: occasionally this item says no longer available. Usually if you wait a day, it will become available again.

5. Beet T-shirtDon't just eat your veggies, wear them!

6. SpiralizerWith people being more mindful of the carbohydrates they eat, the spiralizer is the new "it" kitchen gadget. There is even an entire blog based on recipes using a spiralizer. (we are obsessed with zucchini pad thai at our house)

7. Himalayan Sea Salt LampThese lamps naturally ionize the air, benefiting allergy sufferers, as well as helping to reduce the amount of electro-magnetic pollution caused by electronics in the home and at the office.

8. Fermenting CrockThe benefits of probiotics are finally known mainstream so the next thing is to make your own kimchi or sauerkraut at home!

Happy Shopping!
Amber
 

 

Final CSA

In My Kitchen, At HomeAmber BransonComment

Here are the past three CSA shares, concluding my little project! Over all, I loved the produce I received and it taught me a lot about eating seasonally as well as challenged me to use things I wouldn't typically buy at the store. For next year, I've decided not to participate in a CSA but instead visit a weekly Farmer's Market to do most of my shopping. I feel like I will be able to control any food waste better if I can buy week to week and purchase according to our eating habits. If you are interested in a CSA, I would highly recommend it! Unfortunately, the farm I used is taking a break in 2015 but the Local Harvest site is a great resource to find a CSA near you! Also, see the little animation below I made to show you the arch of seasonal produce. Enjoy.

Local Gift Guide 2014

At HomeAmber BransonComment
 *all photos used are either from the business' website, facebook, instagram or etsy shop with the exception of Maven and Cheryl's Herbs.

*all photos used are either from the business' website, facebook, instagram or etsy shop with the exception of Maven and Cheryl's Herbs.

Gift guides are all the rage right now so I thought I'd share some items on my wishlist but with a little twist... all local to St. Louis stuff! With Small Business Saturday this weekend, I wanted to show off some of the awesome, healthy gift options we have right here in the center of the USA; Heartland Revival style!

1. Perennial Herb Drying RackPerfect for your favorite gardener. Not only practical, it is made entirely of upcycled materials.

2. PuraVegan Treats — It wouldn't be the Holidays without some indulgence so why don't we indulge guilt-free? The treats at PuraVegan are organic and made with only a handful of ingredients!

3. Body Sticks from MavenConfession, I already have their deodorant but who can have too much of that? It's by far the best working aluminum-free deodorant I've tried. Now, the face oil cleanser I haven't tried yet but it has spirulina in it so that automatically puts it as a want. Both would make great stocking stuffers.

4. My Coconut Kitchen Everyone has heard the good word about Coconut oil but what about flavored coconut butter?! The Divinely Dark flavor would be awesome in bulletproof coffee!

5. Essential Oils from Cheryl's HerbsCheryl does 'em right. Their products are top quality and made in-house. My favorite is the Lavandin oil (stronger than Lavender oil) and their tea tree oil.

6. Missouri Cutting BoardMade entirely out of Missouri wood, this would make a great gift for the ultimate host in your life.

7. Body soap from Buddha Bath and Body Made from natural and sustainable ingredients, their soap is the most luxurious of homemade products I've found. BONUS, they just opened a store down on Cherokee!

8. Growler from Scratch BrewingEverything is good in moderation, right? If you're going to drink beer why not drink some that has been "brewed with home grown and locally farmed and foraged ingredients". (a little further from St. Louis than the others but definitely worth it)

9. Honey Masters HoneyA great organization as well as local. Good for your soul and immunity during the cold & flu season!

10. Sunflower Massage Gift CertificateNot all massage studios are created equal. This one is privately owned and all of the therapists are very professional and considerate of your health history and any concerns. And they use Cheryl's Herbs essential oils to boot!

11. ReTrailer TeaOne of my very favorite local brands, Lisa's teas are not only delicious but have Ayurvedic healing properties.

Please see either the websites linked or Facebook pages on where to buy. I know that I did not cover all the great, healthy gift ideas St. Louis has to offer so if you have anything additional to add, please share below!

Happy Shopping!

Pumpkin picking + Red, White, Green "Hen" Chili

At Home, In My Kitchen, Out and AboutAmber BransonComment
pumpkinpicking2015

Happy Halloween! On Sunday, we made our annual trip to a pumpkin patch to pick out the perfect pumpkins for our stoop. We visited a new-to-us patch, Stuckmeyer's Farm Market, since it was closer and we were short on time. For some reason we always seem to go on the hottest day in October so we didn't hang around too long, just enough to find our pumpkins and for me to gawk at the chickens for a bit. Once we got home we each started a pot of chili (meat for him, no meat for me) and let that simmer while we carved away.

 

henofthewoodschili

Recently, we were given some hen-of-the-woods mushrooms that had been scavenged by my boyfriend's dad and when we discovered it had a meaty texture, I knew I had to use it for a mock white chicken chili.  I love white chicken chili but haven't had it since I became pescatarian. Once I started collecting ingredients, I realized I was unprepared and only h one container of white beans. So enter red beans, green chilies, bell pepper and tomatoes, making this a Red, White, Green "Hen" Chili.

Ingredients:
1 medium onion
1 medium bell pepper
2 cloves of garlic
2 cups hen of the woods mushrooms (any meaty mushrooms would work - such as portobello)
1 small can diced green chilies
2 containers of beans (26.8oz combined)
1 can or jar of diced tomatoes
32 oz vegetable broth
2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 cup coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Dice onion, bell pepper, garlic, and mushrooms. Saute in stock /chili pot until vegetables are soft and onions are translucent. Stir in spices and saute for about a min until fragrant. Add beans, green chilies, tomatoes, broth and maple syrup. Stir and then bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce to low. Simmer for at least an hour. About 15 minutes before serving, stir in coconut milk.

I topped mine with sour cream and some tortilla chips. Here is a cashew sour cream for you vegans out there.

Note /// Spices are very subjective so feel free to improvise. The chipotle chili adds some smokiness and then the maple syrup balances out the spiciness. I actually had added some cayenne pepper to my batch and it turned out very spicy so I omitted it here.

Be well,
Amber

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Sourdough English Muffins

In My Kitchen, At HomeAmber BransonComment

In our house, we try and limit the carbs but sometimes a girl just needs some bread. So the latest gluten-full thing I have been making are sourdough English muffins using my trusty old sourdough starter. Besides the occasional Ezekiel bread purchase, (ok, and that box of pumpkin cornbread I got at Trader Joe's the other day) I prefer to make homemade bread so that I have control of the ingredients and I know what I'm eating. After a quick recipe search, I came across this recipe and have since made it twice. Practice does make perfect but they taste delicious all the same. See my recipe interpretation below for some ingredient options in case you have a dairy allergy or want to make it vegan-friendly.

SourdoughMix

Here's what you need to make them:
1/2 cup of sourdough starter
1 cup of milk (use unsweetened dairy-free milk to make vegan. I prefer coconut milk)
2 cups of flour (whole wheat preferably)
1 Tbs of honey (or use maple syrup to make vegan)
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking soda

Flour or cornmeal, for dusting

Stir the starter into the milk until it's dissolved and then add the flour.  Stir to combine, cover with a plate or plastic, and leave out for 8 hours or overnight. I have left it for only 6 hours and it's done fine.

Next, add the honey, salt and baking soda and mix well. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes with wet hands. Flatten it out to 3/4" thick and cut with a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass into rounds. Repeat with scraps until they've all been made into rounds. Place muffins on a surface dusted with cornmeal or flour cover and let them rise for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Spray skillet (or griddle if you're fancy) lightly with spray oil or add a little butter. (If it’s nonstick, you may not need any grease at all.) Heat to medium high and cook muffins for about 4 minutes on each side, or until browned on the top and bottom and cooked through.

Notes /// Using WET hands when touching the dough is very important! I also run the biscuit cutter under water to keep it from sticking.

Recipe adapted from here. For more information on a sourdough starter go here.

SourdoughProcess
SourdoughEat

These muffins make a perfect quick breakfast for me as I'm known to roll out of bed and head for the office. After cooking up a big batch, I let them cool and then go ahead and split them, individually wrap and then store them in the freezer in ziplock bags. When you're ready to eat one, just pop them into the toaster and top with your favorite nut butter. (or in my case, peanut butter with chia and flax seeds from Trader Joe's.) They are pretty great at other times of the day too. Mini pizzas with homemade sauce and fresh mozzerella? Done. Tuna or Egg salad? Easy-peasy. Quick snack to cure the hangries? Been there, done that. 

Interested in easy ways to implement a more-fun, fewer-ingredients way to eat? Contact me for a FREE session to go over all of your health and food desires.

Be well,
Amber

CSA:8 + CSA:9

In My Kitchen, At HomeAmber BransonComment

Big changes over here with a move and merging of two households! I've basically been making the same dishes with my CSAs so I am combining 8+9 into one post. Despite the hectic schedule that comes with a move, I was still able to can and preserve some of my CSA. I mainly canned tomato sauce and pickles with these two CSAs and also made a batch of sun-dried tomatoes in the dehydrator.  Looking forward to having fresh produce during the blustery Missouri winter months.

 

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CSA 8:

Tomatoes: salsa, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce
Cherry and/or Plum Tomatoes: sun-dried tomatoes using the dehydrator
Green Beans: sauteed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Melons: (watermelon) as a snack!
Onions: misc.
Cucumbers: maple bourbon pickles for Christmas gifts (and as a special garnish for Bloody Mary's)
Summer Squash: curry squash soup
Sweet Peppers: salads
Garlic: misc.
Lettuce: salads

photo(14).JPG

CSA: 9

Loose-leaf Kale: Kale Ceasar salad
Okra
: Fried okra (recipe courtesy of Riverbend Roots Farm)
Tomatoes
: tomato paste (to be made into Ketc
Green Beans
: sauteed with onion and bell pepper (omitted the bacon grease and used butter instead and vegetable broth to make it vegetarian friendly
Cherry or Plum tomatoes
: in salads and bruschetta
Cucumbers: cucumber salad and pickles
Sweet Peppers
: in salads
Summer Squash: squash au gratin
Zucchini
: hashes
Onions
: misc.
Garlic: misc.

CSA:5

At Home, In My KitchenAmber BransonComment
CSA:5

My CSA pickup was on July 3rd right before the holiday weekend so I wasn't able to plan and start enjoying until the Sunday after the 4th of July. Boy, was I glad to come home to some fresh vegetables after the (to many) fried fair foods and sweets. So far, this is the share that I am most familiar with except for the fennel... to be honest, the fennel makes me very nervous. I am not a fan of licorice and when I put the fennel away, I caught a whiff of just that. After some googling "fennel recipes", I decided on Roasted Fennel with Parmesan from Food Network. The reviews claim that the licorice taste goes away when roasted, and I love anything with parmesan on it so this seemed the best choice. As I am writing this, I have made most of the below except for the fennel so I will come back and update my experience. Hope everyone enjoyed the holiday weekend!

Carrots: pickled and roasted
Potatoes: roasted and mashed
Celery: chopped and then froze for soup bases this winter
Bunched Purple Baby Onions: in salads and hash
Fennel: roasted with parmesan
Cabbage: roasted with carrots and potatoes
Cucumbers: cucumber salad
Summer Squash: squash au gratin for one
Zucchini: breakfast hash with easy-over eggs
Parsley: garnish, in cucumber salad

 

FENNEL UPDATE /// In attempt to use up the rest of my CSA, I combined the cabbage, carrots and fennel, roasted with thyme and rosemary, and then topped with fresh parmesan cheese. As a whole, it wasn't too bad! I am still getting used to the fennel flavor but am open to using it other ways to see what I like best. After all, it it very good for you!

CSA:4 + Sesame Seed Dressing

In My Kitchen, At HomeAmber BransonComment
CSA4

After receiving Kohlrabi in my share last week,  I was a little perplexed. I had never seen or eaten Kholrabi so I was at a loss as to how I was going to use it. After some research, I found a few salad recipes to try it in and ended up making a salad of mixed greens, red onion and equal parts Kohlrabi + apple. I am a fan of making homemade salad dressings and have gotten pretty good at winging it so for this salad, I made up a sesame seed dressing. I'd say it turned out pretty well so I thought I would share the recipe.

Sesame Seed Dressing
scant 1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. rice vinegar
1/2 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
salt and pepper to taste
Put all ingredients into mason jar or container with lid and shake until combined. The dressing will store in the refrigerator for about a week. Shake to recombine before using.

Here is what's up with the rest of the share:

Chinese Cabbage - stir-fry cabbage
Peas - for a snack with hummus
Beets - juice!
Basil- grilled pesto shrimp
Summer Squash - in foil packs on the grill
Parsley - juicing
Scallions - in foil pack with squash, sauteed with cabbage
Garlic Scapes - in everything
Lettuce - salads
Kohlrabi - in salad with apple, red onion and homemade sesame dressing (see recipe above)

 

 

 

CSA: 3

At Home, In My KitchenAmber BransonComment
photo(14).JPG

Here is the latest and greatest from my CSA. This week's share had several items that I had never eaten or cooked with but I am up for the challenge. Using more ingredients sourced locally and in season has started to change my thinking when shopping at the grocery store. I can tell tremendously the difference in quality of foods out of season compared to in season. It feels good to be more in tune with nature!

Swiss Chard: Lemon Garlic Swiss Chard
Lettuce: Salads, of course
Bag of Lettuce Mix (not pictured): Same as above
Scallions: in stir-frys, salads, everything
Kohlrabi: Shaved with Apple and Hazelnuts
Bok Choy: Salad from CSA:1
Turnips: Caramelized, served with an egg on top. (made this for last Sunday's breakfast, SO GOOD)
Strawberries: In salads and in breakfast overnight oats
Peas: As a snack or in a stir-fry
Garlic Scapes: In salad dressings, stir-frys, wherever I would normally use garlic

What new vegetables have you tried lately? It's so easy to Google recipes and find how to prepare foods; there are no excuses with today's technology. Next time you are at the store or farmers market, purchase a vegetable that you've always wondered about but never had the courage to try it!

Pumpkin Carving + Seeds

At HomeAmber BransonComment
PumpkinCarving.jpg

Yesterday, we finally got to carve the pumpkins we picked up at Eckert's a few weeks ago. I also had a pumpkin seed request, which I happily obliged. Since I don't eat a lot of meat, they are a great source for iron as well as making my keto guy happy. Pumpkin seeds are also packed with magnesium, potassium, zinc, fiber, healthy fats, and protein.

I made 3 variations, one simple with just olive oil and sea salt, the second with olive oil, bbq seasoning and cayenne pepper and then the third, a "sweet" version with coconut oil and cinnamon. A little trick I found helped a lot with this year's batch; boil the seeds beforehand! It makes them easier to digest as well as helping the outsides get crispy without burning the interior seed.