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.
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.
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!!!
This past July my neighbor brought me fresh figs from his tree. I glazed these figs and I use them in many recipes. The first recipe I posted was my Fig Fillo Bites
I had some glazed figs leftover so I used them to make this parfait. I also used them to make frozen fig cubes for a cocktail my husband created, called Texan Raspberry 75
INGREDIENTS: (Serves two. Double or quadruple the recipe as needed.)
- 8 glazed figs with their glazing liquid (see my recipe, Fig Fillo Bites for step by step instructions on how to glaze the figs.) NOTE: There are 4 figs per serving.
- 1 cup of Greek yogurt. You can buy it or make your own. I have made my own by using My Mom’s Yogurt recipe. NOTE: There is 1/2 cup of yogurt per serving.
- 1 tablespoon of raw shelled pistachios
- 1 tablespoon of agave nectar (you can also use honey)
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground fennel seed powder (you can make the powder by grinding up fennel seeds in a spice grinder)
ASSEMBLING THE PARFAIT: in your favorite parfait or martini glass
- Place a teaspoon of glazing liquid and one fig in the bottom of the glass.
- Next place a dollop of Greek yogurt. Sprinkle with pistachios and a pinch of fennel powder. Drizzle on a bit of agave nectar.
- Next place two glazed figs with a bit of the glazing liquid. Add more pistachios, fennel powder and agave nectar.
- Add more yogurt. Sprinkle with more pistachios, fennel powder and agave nectar.
- Place the fourth fig in the center of the parfait and top off with a single pistachio for a pretty presentation.
Fruit parfaits like this are simple, delicious and impressive looking. They are also very versatile. Choose any seasonal fruit you like and any spice you prefer. I have served yogurt/fruit parfaits for breakfast, brunch, a snack and even dessert. As an added bonus, they happen to be nutritious and figure-friendly.
Please try this recipe and let me know your feedback in the comments.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE EGGPLANT SLICES:
- In this recipe, I used 5 medium sized eggplants because that is what my neighbor brought to me from his garden. If you buy eggplants from the store, you will need 2 large ones.
- 1/2 a cup of my Indian Spice Mix
- enough kosher salt to lightly sprinkle over the eggplant slices
- grapeseed oil to sauté the eggplant
INGREDIENTS FOR THE YOGURT SAUCE:
- 1 cup of plain yogurt. You can buy it from the store or make some of My Mom’s Yogurt
- 1 tablespoon of Labneh. Labneh is a yogurt cheese made by removing the water content of yogurt. It is basically extra thick Greek yogurt. It lends a tangy flavor. If you can’t find it, use sour cream instead.
- 1 teaspoon of dried mint
- 1 small fresh mint leaf to garnish each eggplant slice.
- 1 teaspoon of freshly toasted and ground cumin seeds. I will show you how to prepare the toasted cumin powder later in the recipe.
- 1/2 teaspoon of black salt. Black salt is an Indian salt with a high mineral content. If you don’t have this substitute your favorite salt.
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried mango powder. In India, this is called Aamchoor. It is the dried skins of small green mangoes. It lends a complex tart flavor. You can buy it in an Indian grocery store. If you can’t find it, substitute lemon juice or Sumac.
PREPARING THE TOASTED CUMIN POWDER:
- Place a teaspoon of cumin seeds in a small sauce pan. Turn flame to low and toast until you can smell the cumin. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.
- Transfer the toasted cumin seeds to a glass bowl and let them cool to room temperature.
- Place then in a coffee or spice grinder and whiz until you have a fine powder.
I keep two spice grinders in my kitchen. One for sweet spices, like the ones I use to make my chai masala, and another for hot and savory spices. This way I don’t have to clean my spice grinders. I have had the same grinders for over 25 years and they are still working!!!
PREPARING THE EGGPLANT:
- Using a serrated knife, cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch discs
- Lightly sprinkle them with kosher salt on both sides
- Place in a glass container and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. This allows excess water to be extracted from the eggplant. This process also makes the eggplant less able to absorb oil.
- Remove the eggplant slices from the glass container and place onto paper towel sheets to dry off excess liquid. Discard the liquid at the bottom of the glass container.
- At this point place the salted and dried eggplant slices, in a single layer, into a clean glass container
- drizzle on some grapeseed oil and sprinkle with my Indian Spice Mix
- turn over the slices and repeat on the other side
- Add another layer of eggplant slices and coat with oil and spice mix. Repeat until all the eggplant slices are used up.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight.
COOKING THE EGGPLANT:
- Coat a large non-stick skillet with grapeseed oil
- Turn the flame to medium and get the oil hot
- Once the oil is hot add a layer of spiced eggplant slices. Do not crowd the pan. Cook the slices till they are golden brown on the first side. Flip and repeat until the slice are brown and crispy on both sides.
- The cooking time is longer than you think. It is 10 minutes per side. Once the eggplant is brown on both sides. Test it with a fork. Once it is fork tender remove it to a glass baking dish.
- Continue this process until all the eggplant is cooked. Keep placing each slice in the glass baking dish once it is cooked.
When I am cooking a lot of eggplant, I use two pans on the stove. This saves time.
PREPARING THE YOGURT SAUCE:
- Place all the ingredients, except the fresh mint leaves, into a glass bowl and stir.
- Taste the salt and adjust the salt to your liking.
ASSEMBLY: Here I have served the dish family style by arranging the sautéed eggplant slices on a platter. Garnish each slice with a dollop of yogurt sauce and a fresh mint leaf.
This is one of my favorite ways to eat eggplant. The spices make the dish very flavorful. The slow sauté makes the outside of the eggplant crispy while the inside stays creamy. Don’t rush the sauté time because the slow cooking is essential to getting the right texture. The yogurt sauce adds tang and creaminess. The mint tops it off with a pop of freshness.
When I am having a sit down dinner party, I put 4 eggplant slices on a salad plate and serve it as the appetizer course. It can also be served as a main dish for a vegetarian.
I appreciate your feedback, so please leave a comment to let me know your thoughts. ENJOY !!!