Every year the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry (BCEFP) hosts the EMPTY BOWL PROJECT to raise funds for our local food bank. It is their biggest fundraiser for the year. Local restaurants and caterers volunteer to make soup to be served at the event. People in the community buy tickets to taste the soups and vote for their favorites.
In addition, local artists create ceramic bowls that are part of a silent auction.
Photo by Terry Hagerti
Photo by Karen Kahan
All proceeds from the silent auction and the tickets go directly to our emergency food pantry. The goal for this year was to raise $30,000. I am very happy to report that we exceeded our goal. 700 people attended at $20 a ticket–so that was $14,000. The rest came from the silent auction, donations, and business and individual sponsorships. It was so much fun!!! Thank you to everyone who contributed.
This year, I was asked if I would like to participate by serving my Autumn Dal (split mung beans with kale). I have never made soup for 700 people, so I was a bit nervous if it would come out right. But I went for it and said yes. If you read my welcome page, you will see that I promised that there would be some community projects associated with this blog. I have always wanted to give back to my community, so I was thrilled to have my first opportunity to help. I will be doing more projects with the BCEFP. I will blog about them as I do them.
The timing of the 2109 EMPTY BOWL PROJECT was very special to me. It just so happened that my family was visiting me from Chicago during the week that the event was taking place. The Empty Bowl Project turned into 4 generations of soup for me.
The recipe started with my Nani-ji (grandmother), then my mom, then me and now I am passing it onto my niece, Leilani. She wanted to help me make the soup and I was grateful for her help. Leilani painstakingly spent two hours cutting up the greens.
I really enjoyed making the soup with Leilani. She was so eager to learn and help.
My dad helped me serve the soup.
It was a HEARTWARMING family and community experience. I look forward to doing it again next year.
On Saturday, my husband went down the road and brought home these beautiful vegetables from our neighbors, Fruitful Hill Farm. We a lucky to have such nice neighbors.
I was inspired to make 6 dishes. I did a marathon cooking session which included creating, testing, cooking and photographing the 6 dishes. I will be posting one dish per week for the next six weeks.
Here is a list of the dishes I created:
- CURRIED BABY TURNIPS–TOPS AND ALL
- SWEET POTATO AND KALE TIKKIS (CUTLETS)
- CARROT TOPS AND CORIANDER CHUTNEY
- CARROT TOPS AND PARSLEY PESTO PASTA
- COLLARD GREENS AND CHICKPEA STEW
- MUSTARD GREEN SAAG PANEER
Nothing went to waste. I used every part of the vegetables. I also made Roasted Carrots but I did not list it because it is a recipe I have already posted.
I had so much fun doing this marathon cooking session. I am looking forward to sharing the dishes with you. Please look out for them. I hope you like them.
A big thanks to the folks at Fruitful Hill Farm for growing the vegetables!!!
Inspired by the Polar Vortex, a recipe to warm your bones and your soul.
I call this recipe “Oatmeal Your Way” because it is very easy to customize to your liking. Once you make oatmeal from scratch you will never want to open an instant oatmeal packet again. This is the way my mom and Nani (my mom’s mom) made oatmeal. It is as easy to make as it is nutritious and delicious.
I made it for my godchildren, Sachi and her sister, Michi when they were about 4 and 5 years old. Sachi sent me the following letter asking me to make it again.
It is a very popular dish with children. It is also served to new mother’s and people who are ailing because it is nutritious and easy to digest. Sachi came to visit me a few years ago with her daughter, Aleia and I made the oatmeal for the cute little one. Here is a photo of Sachi, all grown up now, feeding oatmeal to her daughter, Aleia. Made me feel warm all over to pass on my memory of my mom feeding me oatmeal when I was little.
As I said, it is very popular with children. I modified the recipe for Aleia because she cannot have lactose. I used almond milk instead of regular milk. I also ground the almonds in a spice grinder so that Aleia could easily eat the oatmeal.
- 1 Tbsp. almond oil (customize by using butter or any flavor oil you like. For example, if I am making pecan flavor I use pecan oil. The options are endless–walnut oil, hazelnut oil, avocado oil, etc…)
- 1 cup of organic old fashioned oats (organic oatmeal actually has more of a nutty flavor besides being better for you. DO NOT USE INSTANT QUICK COOK OATS–they will turn out mushy.)
- 1/2 cup raw slivered almonds (customize by using whatever nut you are in the mood for.)
- 1/4 dried berries (here I used a combination of goji and cranberries. When Aleia was visiting, I used dried blueberries because she loves blueberries.)
- 1/4 tsp. of my Chai Masala (basically a combo of ground cardamom and fennel seeds)
- 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon (customize by using your favorite spice. Depending on the flavor you want to create, use pumpkin spice, apple pie spice mix, etc…)
- 2 cups of milk (will make a porridge like consistency. You can use more milk if you want to make it thinner.) I used Fairlife Milk here. It is lactose free and high in protein. You can use any milk you like–almond milk, cashew milk, soy milk, etc…
- 2 Tbsp. of Agave nectar (customize by using your favorite sweetener–maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, molasses, etc…)
- 1 medium sized organic apple diced into large chunks.
Again, you can customize the flavor by using your favorite fruit. You can also leave out the fruit. I use what seasonal fruit is available.
- Freshly ground nutmeg as a garnish for those who want it.
NOTE: by customizing and changing the ingredients, the flavor combinations are endless. One Christmas morning, I made a giant potful of banana walnut oatmeal sweetened with maple syrup and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. I used a whole can of oatmeal to make sure there was enough for everyone’s breakfast. It disappeared in 10 minutes. I had to make another batch!!!
- Coat a medium sized stainless steel saucepan with 2 Tbsp. of almond oil.
- Add 1 cup of oats and turn the flame to medium-low. Toast the oats while stirring occasionally. You will know the oats are done when you smell a nutty flavor and the oats turn slightly golden.
- Add the 1/2 cup of slivered almonds and continue to toast till the nuts turn slightly brown.
- Add the 1/4 cup of dried berries along with the spices. Stir and toast for another 30 seconds. The toasting will bloom the spices and you will smell them.
- Add the 2 cups of milk. You will hear a sizzling sound when you add the milk.
- Stir in the milk. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the milk starts to boil. Small bubbles will appear.
- Turn off the heat. Stir in the diced apples and place the lid. Let sit for five minutes. This is enough time to warm the apples while still leaving them crunchy.
Remove the lid and serve.
Garnish with a grind of fresh nutmeg if desired. Enjoy as is, or with a cup of tea or coffee. Makes a great breakfast, brunch dish or dessert.
Roasted vegetables are my favorite, especially in the autumn and winter. They are delicious and easy to make. I found some beautiful golden beets at the neighborhood farm stand. I decided to roast them and use their fresh leaves in a chimichurri. Nothing goes to waste around here. Either we eat it or we feed it to our animals.
- 4 medium beets. Their tops will be used in the chimichurri
- fresh leaves from the tops of 4 beets
- 1 bunch of parsley
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro leaves (leave this out if you don’t like cilantro)
- cilantro stems chopped up (cilantro stems have a lot of flavor)
- 1 serrano chili (optional)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 tsp. chili flakes (optional)
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 2 Tbsp. of my Italian Spice Mix for coating the beets
- 2 Tbsp. of olive oil to coat the beets
- 1/4 cup of olive oil for the chimichurri
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
PREPPING THE BEETS:
- Cut off the tops and bottoms of the beets
- Save the fresh beet leaves for the chimichurri
- Coat the beets with olive oil amd my Italian Spice Mix
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Roast in a 400 F oven until fork tender (about 15 to 20 minutes)
MAKING THE CHIMICHURRI:
While the beets are roasting make the chimichurri.
- Toast the cumin seeds. Let them cool to room temp. Grind them into a powder in the spice grinder.
- In a small food processor add the following:
- beet leaves
- parsley leaves
- coriander leaves and chopped up stems
- 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 serrano chili, roughly chopped
- chili flakes
- toasted cumin powder
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
Whiz everything up. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cut the roasted beets into half inch slices.
I prefer thicker medallions. If you want to make them thinner that is totally fine. Place the beet medallions on a platter and top off with a dollop of chimichurri.
This is a delicious appertizer or side dish. It can also be served as a main vegetarian or vegan dish if you increase the portions size.
I had cauliflower and peppers on hand so I decided to create this dish. It is vegetarian and gluten free. It can be served as a side dish or a main dish.
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 4 peppers
- 2 Serrano chilies (optional)
- 1/2 a bunch of parsley
- 1 medium onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 4 cups of marinara sauce. Use your favorite. I have used a homemade mushroom marinara sauce.
- 1 teaspoon of red chili flakes (optional)
- 2 cups of grated Parmesan cheese (preferably grate your own)
- 6 ounce bag of shaved cheese (mix of Parmesan, Romano and Asiago)
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
- 4 Tbsp. of olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Serve as a side dish with any protein you like. If you are eating meatless, serve a larger portion as a vegetarian main dish.
ENJOY!!! Let me know your feedback by leaving a comment.
This is a winter pumpkin dish my grandmother used to make. It was one of my favorites. She used to use a small deep orange pumpkin, I am using a Japanese pumpkin, called Kabocha squash, because that is what I have on hand. I also like Kabocha because it has a creamy, sweet flavor.
- 1 medium Kabocha squash
- 3 Tbsp of ghee ( if you want to keep it vegan use grape seed oil instead)
- salt and pepper to taste
Starting at the 6 O’ Clock position, and then going counter clockwise the spices are as follows:
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 20 pods of green cardamom
- 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
- 1/2 tsp of cinnamon powder
- Chop the Kobocha into large pieces. Keep the skin on if the squash you are using has an edible skin. There are lots of nutrients and fiber in the skin.
- Using a spice grinder, grind the 20 cardamom pods into a fine powder. The cardamom powder is shown in the small bowl on the lower right.
- Toast the cumin seeds. Let them cool to room temp. and grind into a fine powder. The toasted cumin powder is shown in the small bowl on the lower left.
Traditionally, this dish is served with plain home made yogurt, lentil soup and rotis. You can buy the yogurt or make your own using My Mom’s Yogurt recipe. The lentil soup is called dal, I posted my Autumn Dal (split mung beans with kale) last year.
Today I served it with spicy pan-fried Black Drum that my hubby brought home 2 days ago.
Here is a photo of his catch and how I prepared it.
The Black Drum is the large fish on the far right. The 4 little fish are trout. My hubby fileted the fish and I coated the filets with my Indian Spice Mix.
I then pan fried the filets and then de-glazed the pan with our local Texas, Messina Hof Gewurztraminer. I made a pan sauce by adding a pat of butter. Gewurztraminer pairs well with spicy Indian food.
RECIPE TIP: Use the wine you are going to drink to make the pan sauce. This way the dish will match your wine.
I am so lucky to have a hubby who catches fish for me. I rarely get a Black Drum catch, so I was so glad to have it.
Hope you like this recipe. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment.
I first got the idea to make this dish when I was with my dad at a farmer’s market in Chicago. I found these beautiful sunburst squash and I just had to use them. I told dad that I would make scallops and squash for our dinner. Dad told me that he doesn’t like scallops, but he was excited about the squash because it was so fresh and reminded him of an Indian squash called Tinda. Tinda is also called “Indian Baby Pumpkin.” I told him that I would season the scallops with Indian spices and cook them just right so that he would like them.
Dad was willing to try it, so here is the recipe. He loved it, by the way, and now has become a scallops fan.
- a dozen large scallops
- 6 small squash (you can used any small squash that is just a bit bigger than the scallops in diameter.) Here I have used patty pan squash.
- 3 Tbsp Indian Spice Mix. The Ingredients for the spice mix are shown in the small bowls. For full list of ingredients and how to make the spice mix click on the link provided.
- Grape seed oil to drizzle over the scallops and squash.
- 2 pats of butter for cooking the scallops.
- Freshly ground pink Himalayan salt and black pepper to taste. My dad likes a lot of black pepper.
- Pat dry the scallops. If there is a little piece of adductor muscle attachment on the scallop remove it. It is called the foot of the scallop. It peels off easily. It is the tough tendon that attaches the scallop to its shell. Please remove it because it is not edible.
- Sprinkle on 1 Tbsp of Indian Spice Mix. Drizzle on enough grape seed oil to coat. Toss gently until well coated. Do not add salt until right before cooking. Place in the fridge, uncovered, while you prep the squash.
- Cut the ends off of each squash. Then cut in half. You should have pieces of squash that are one inch thick. Again sprinkle on the Indian Spice Mix. Also add salt and pepper and coat with grape seed oil. Let sit for 30 minutes before cooking.
- Start the squash first. Coat a large skillet with a Tbsp of grape seed oil. Place on medium-high heat. When oil is hot place the squash slices in a single layer. Cook until golden brown on first side and flip. While the second side is cooking, start the scallops. The second side should cook for 3 minutes. At the end of 3 minutes turn off the heat.
- Place two pats of butter in a non-stick skillet. Place on medium-high heat. While the butter comes up to a foam, season the scallops with salt and pepper. When you see the butter foaming, placed the scallops in the skillet. It will take two to three minutes to develop a dark crust. Once the crust has formed, flip the scallops over and take them off the heat. Wait 2 minutes for the carry over heat to cook the scallops through.
Above is a photo of my plating when I enjoyed this dish with my dad. He likes red wine, so we served this with a Shiraz. Shiraz is the original wine grape from the Middle East. It goes very well with any spicy food. In my opinion, it goes very well with Indian food.
When I recreated this dish at home, I came up with fancier plating.
I served it as a first course for a dinner party. Each piece of squash is topped with a scallop and then garnished with a dot of home made mint chutney and a mint leaf. I will post the recipe for the mint chutney in the future.
Hope you like it. My dad loved it 😊💕
Please write your thoughts in the comments section. I always appreciate your support and feedback. 😃
Fall is upon us and here, in Central Texas, it is pear season. My neighbor brought me some beautiful Kieffer pears from his tree. They inspired me to make this salad.
- 3 hard pears (Kieffer pears are hard and sweet)
- 2 heads of butter lettuce
- 1 small red onion
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 8 ounces of gorgonzola cheese
- 3 sprigs each of oregano and thyme
- 1 teaspoon of agave nectar
- red vine vinegar (3 tablespoons for soaking the onion + 1/4 cup for the dressing)
- Gravenstein apple balsamic vinegar (3 tablespoons for coating the pears + 1/4 cup for the dressing.) The vinegar I used is from CONOLIOS.COM. It is really delicious. You can substitute white balsamic.
- Pecan oil–1/4 cup for the dressing
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Peel the onion and slice it thinly. Place in a bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Season with a little salt and pepper. Toss together and set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. This will allow the sharpness of the onion to mellow out.
- Peel and core the pears. Cut into thin strips. Place in a bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons of the Gravenstein apple cider vinegar. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the salad.
- Crumble the blue cheese. Place in the frig until you are ready to assemble the salad.
- Toast the pecans. Let them cool. SET ASIDE 6 WHOLE PECANS FOR GARNISH. Rough chop the rest.
- Pull the herb leaves off their stems. You should have 1/2 tablespoon of fresh herbs.
- Clean the lettuce as needed. I used a living hydroponic lettuce so there was not much cleaning to do. Tear the lettuce into bite sized pieces.
RECIPE TIP–notice that I have seasoned each component of the salad separately. I always do this because it makes the salad taste better. Each component has its own flavor so nothing is bland. The individual flavors play off of each other to create harmony.
Next, I will make the salad dressing and use it to coat just the lettuce leaves before assembling the salad.
PREPARING THE DRESSING:
- In a ball jar, add the 1/4 cup of each of the vinegars and 1/4 cup of pecan oil. Grind in a bit of salt and pepper. Add the herbs and the Agave nectar. Shake vigorously.
- Taste the dressing, add more red wine vinegar if you need more acid. Adjust the salt and pepper as needed.
ASSEMBLING THE SALAD:
- In a large bowl, add the lettuce leaves and sprinkle on half the dressing. Toss and taste. Add more dressing if you need it. Put the rest of the dressing in a gravy boat for the table. This way your guests can add more dressing if they need it.
- Next add the onions, pears and 1/3 of the chopped pecans. Toss gently. Place the mixture on your serving platter.
- Sprinkle the salad with 1/2 the cheese crumbles. Put the rest of the crumbles in a bowl for the table. This way if anyone wants extra gorgonzola cheese they can have it.
- Lastly sprinkle on the rest of the chopped pecans and use the whole ones to make a little flower in the center of the salad platter.
This salad is almost a cheese and fruit course. I like to serve it at the end of a meal with a glass of French Sauterne or Canadian Ice Wine.
Enjoy and please leave your feedback in the comment section. I love hearing from you!!!