Vegetarian West African Peanut Soup

There was this little café near the river. We used to walk there hand in hand.  We visited often. There were freshly picked flowers on the table and room for about 30. At night, candles flickered and glowed.

Harrison-1

Their menu was concise and ever changing with the season. But the one constant was their focus on surprising (and tasty) soups.

It was there where our creative minds, which constantly bounce with ideas, found comfort and groundedness as we sat peacefully over two bowls of steamy soup.

Peanut Soup-8

I think about that space in time often…

how there always seemed to be just one perfect table by the window waiting for us…

how the café’s size was intimate but its energy expansive….

and how the dining space was full of soft chatter and the tantalizing aroma of complex simmering soups.

While the café still remains by the river and ideas continue to fill up our heads, physically we’ve moved on.  But this week, my mind took me back there, to snowy Vermont.  And with those thoughts came cravings for soup. Flavorful spicy soup made with whole foods.

Peanut Soup-2

So I pulled out this little gem of a recipe from Cookie + Kate and cooked it with love.

Peanut Soup-4

This week, I hope you’ll take time to enjoy a quiet night with this simple soup with spicy notes… inspired by a little café called That’s Life Soup.

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Vegetarian West African Peanut Soup
{adapted from a recipe from Cookie + Kate, original recipe from Local Bounty: Vegan Seasonal Recipes}
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Ingredients
  • 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch collard greens, ribs removed and leaves chopped into 1-inch strips
  • 3/4 cup unsalted peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste, or 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • Hot sauce, like sriracha (AKA rooster sauce)
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped peanuts, for garnish
Directions
  1. In a medium stock pot, bring the broth to a boil. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and salt. Cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
  2. In a medium-sized, heat-safe mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter and tomato paste, then transfer 1 to 2 cups of the hot stock to the bowl. Whisk the mixture together until smooth, then pour the peanut mixture back into the soup and mix well.Peanut Soup-7
  3. Stir in the collard greens and season the soup with hot sauce to taste. Simmer for about 15 more minutes on medium-low heat, stirring often.
  4. Serve over cooked brown rice if you’d like, and top with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts.
Peanut Soup-14
Until we simmer with spice again,
a+h

Homemade Veggie Potstickers

He loves to teach. Go ahead. Ask him a question. He’ll show you how. A hand drawn illustration almost always is included.

Trust me. I know.

Over dinner at Mizu, I asked about potstickers… “how they’re made”, “what’s his technique”, yada yada

The following night he had me elbow deep in potsticker dough. The time: midnight.

creating dough for potstickers

Like I said he never just tells. He loves to teach. Luckily I love to learn.

So about those potstickers…

1. They are a bit time-consuming to prep but super freaking easy to make. You could use pre-made potsticker wrappers but we made a simple dough from scratch using the ratio below.

  • 4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups of boiling water

hand stir until the mixture forms into a round ball that will be smooth

creates roughly 30 potsticker rounds

2. When rolling out your dough, be sure to make your dumpling rounds large enough to fill and properly close without tearing. It might be worth testing out a few sample sizes to see what works best for you. We went with about a 4-inch diameter.

Rolling Dough_Veggie Potstickers

3. The filling options are endless. We’re trying to back off of meat a bit (after our holiday meatapolloza here and here) so we went veggie. We had cabbage and carrots in our fridge so we used that as our base and lightly braised with ginger, shitakes, spinach, onions and some of Nathan”s ‘light you up’ dried peppers from Shore Farms.

filling for veggie potstickers

3. Did you know that the name potsticker stems from their cooking technique? They literally stick to the pot. To cook you first fry them lightly in a liberally oiled pan until the bottoms brown. Next water is added to the pan (Be careful! Expect some sizzling commotion!). You’ll need to cover to steam the tops while you also release the sticky bottoms from the pan.

searing potstickers

seared potsticker

5. Feel free to freeze. You can quick freeze them separately on parchment paper on a sheet pan if you do not need (or immediately devour) the entire batch. Be sure that they do not touch in the freezer, and once frozen solid, place in a freezer bag for safe keeping. They’re perfect for entertaining at the last minute or for sneaking out for a late-night snack… like I do.

Until we stick and steam again,

a+h

Lucky ’13

It’s said that whatever you do on New Year’s Day is a reflection of what you’ll do all year long. I sure hope that’s true.

On the first day of 2013, I started my day in yoga class with lots of deep breathing and long “ommmmms”. My resolution is to be more fearless and with that in mind, my attempts at inversions and back bends were happily met with greater ease.

He on the other hand woke up inspired and was off to the kitchen for concocting. His creative brain was busy that morning piecing together a southern meal for good luck and good fortune filled with black-eyed peas, collard greens and pork.

That afternoon out came extra tables and chairs and “supper club” friends were called. Casually they arrived with hugs and well wishes…one by one by one.

bloody mary with dilly beans and candied bacon

The impromptu celebration was kicked off with Harrison’s (now) famous spicy Bloody Marys filled with horseradish ice and garnished with dilly beans and sugared bacon shared all around.

Later he followed those up with blackberry, mint and maple cocktails just as the soft January sun set.

blackberry mint cocktail

We exchanged resolutions; we laughed at resolutions and we revised resolutions all while The Black Keys played.

candle-lit mantle
We ate in good spirits. Thirteen of us, oddly and appropriately enough, to welcome 2013.

new years dinner tablescapemixed greens salad with beets, blue cheese and garden radishes{Mixed Greens with  roasted beets, goat cheese, spiced pecans, radicchio, radishes (fresh from our garden!) with aged balsamic drizzle}

stauber farm lamb{Roasted Leg of Stauber Farm Lamb on a Himalayan Salt Block with herbs, shallot & roasted garlic}

pork roulades{background: Grilled Pork Tenderloin Roulade with havarti, charred red pepper, asparagus, scallion & oven roasted tomato & fig balsamic  // foreground: Spinach & Tomato Pie with mascarpone, ricotta, roasted garlic & onion}

new years day buffet{foreground: Creamed Collard Greens with toasted pecans, blue cheese, mascarpone & homemade bacon}

old fashioned chocolate cake{Marlene’s chocolate cake with raspberry filling & chocolate sour cream icing}

new years eve buffet line

{throw in some hoppin’ john with our black-eyed peas, smoked pork, sauteed collards and you have….  just a modest little Littell spread…}

That night we said ‘cheers’ to celebrating each other and to the community that food builds together.

its a wrap

And today we again say ‘cheers’ to delicious new beginnings, a lucky ’13 and to all of you.

tablescape

Until we toast to new beginnings & dear friends again,
a+h

AHHHHHHHH Christmas

The holiday season is like a race to the finish line in this family. Here, the advent calendar serves as a countdown to sleep and a startling reminder of the diminishing number of days left to get it all done.

Wrapping paper flies and delicate bows are tied with a fury. We run through that final gift list as the stores’ doors close with a bang of finality on Christmas Eve. Ah Christmas; or more accurately – AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Christmas!!

christmas tree 2012

Do you ever feel the same?

But on that night before Christmas, as our table was set, the candles were lit and we hugged and cooked all that warms our souls, the season finally settled in. There was a comfort in the stillness that night and we were merry….

christmas candles 2012

christmas eve table 2012

beet salad

And thanks to this ginormous standing rib roast, we all fell asleep peacefully and well fed.

standing rib roast

sauce

christmas eve dinner 2012

devils food cake cookie sandwich with peppermint gelato

Until we eat with twinkling lights and merry hearts again,

a+h

Savoring The Season

Hey guys. Pardon our absence. It’s December and in the catering world it’s “no sleep ’til Christmas”.  Yes indeed – the holiday feasting season is in full swing.

Salmon Platter

Bibb Lettuce Mandarin Oranges Goat Cheese Cranberries & Housemade Balsamic

Short Ribs over soft polenta, confit tomatoes & grilled eggplant

Harrison and I have this agreement each December: He is responsible for staying awake and keeping himself alive during the non-stop prepping, prepping, prepping, setups, setups, setups, cooking, cooking, cooking, shift after shift after shift.

harrison and charles

In exchange, I try to keep our holiday spirit alive after work on the home front with lots of twinkling lights, hodge podge decorating, presents wrapped under the tree, non-stop playing of Norah Jones Christmas, and this year, an endless supply of freshly baked treats.

batter for devils food cake cookies

This year’s baking frenzy began with my friend T-Bone’s annual Christmas Cookie Exchange….

Christmas Cookie Exchange Party

Christmas Cookies Exchange Party

And I have been covered in powdered sugar and ‘licking the spoon’ late into the night ever since.

baking devils food cake cookies

There’s just something calming about baking, you know? And in the middle of this hectic time it’s nice to find time to just slow down and savor the season.

devils food cake cookie sandwiches

These days, here is the cookie we love eating the most…
Devils Food Cake Cookie Sandwiches

Ingredients

For the cookies
(GASP! Yes this recipe calls for a boxed mix but you can always make your own from scratch)
•    2 packages devil’s food cake mix
•    4 eggs
•    2/3 cup vegetable oil

For the frosting
•    1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
•    1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter, room temperature
•    3 cups powdered sugar
•    1 tsp almond extract

Instructions
For the cookies

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Place all ingredients into large bowl and beat with electric mixer until well blended. Batter will be stiff.
  • Form batter into small balls, place onto baking sheet and flatten slightly.
  • Bake 8-10 minutes and cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting

  • Place cream cheese and butter into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Add almond extract.
  • Place frosting onto one cookie and then place another cookie on top of the frosting to form a sandwich.

devils food cake cookie sandwiches

Fresh warm cookies. Ice cold milk. Midnight chats.  Those are our simple pleasure these days. What are yours?

Until we share late-night treats again,

a+h

Collards And Hoppin’ John

Since it’s our first day back in town following a two-week stint down south, we’re considering this to be the official start of our “New Year” here in Vermont.  All day we have been dreaming and scheming new plans.  And thanks to the inspired southern new year meal Harrison cooked up for us this past week, we’re hoping luck will be on our side as we navigate the big year ahead.

Southern New Year Meal Recipes Collards and Hoppin John

Luck or no luck, it sure was good.

Here’s a peek inside the impromptu dinner date we shared with Harrison’s mom and step-dad at the family’s catering kitchen back in Winston-Salem where we reflected on the year behind and encouraged good fortune in the year ahead…

Black-eyed peas are said to represent coins and good luck. Folklore says to eat one black-eyed pea for each day of the year. I love them so much I think I doubled my luck.

Collard greens are said to represent wealth and symbolize folding money

Our take on hoppin john: black-eyed peas, cabbage, carrot, onion

First he was sauteing and tossing...

 

Then he was tieing and knotting so his "photographer" didn't miss a beat...

 

Cheers to new beginnings!

 What New Year’s tradition does your family share?

 
Until we dine and dream again,
 
A + H

Breakfast Casserole {Holiday Recipes}

Dear December,
Where have you gone?  It was just Thanksgiving and *poof!*, here we are with one week until Christmas.  While Harrison has been off working at Main Street, I’ve been hoofing it around MontP in my warm boots trying to get festive and gift local.  This is the first year we haven’t driven to a Best Buy or a Target to pick up gifts. An adjustment in thinking at first, but it does inspire you to get more creative.

One part Hanukkah. Three parts Christmas.

Because we know this has been such a busy month for all, we wanted to give you one of our favorite simple but seconds-inducing dishes that is perfect for a busy Christmas morning.  You can prep this one the night before and easily modify ingredients to your family’s preferences.  Hopefully this will be one “to-do” that is a delight to quickly check “done!”.

Let’s let loose on our Christmas Brunch Casserole, shall we?

How about a slice?

This recipe yields 3 quarts.

Ingredients – for your custard base:

  • (9) eggs
  • (2) and (1/2) cups of milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

1.  Combine the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
Ingredients – for your filling:

(feel free to modify here like make veggie only or switch out meats and cheeses… let loose!)

  • (1) pound of ground sausage, cooked and lightly rinsed in colander to remove grease
  • (1/4) pound of crumbled blue cheese
  • (2) – (3) apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (we used Macoun apples from Champlain Orchard )
  • (2) ounces of fresh arugula
  • (2) Tablespoons of fresh sage, chopped

Our filling.

  • (1/2) a loaf of whole wheat or white bread

We enjoyed Manghis' wheat bread for this one.

  • (1) stick of unsalted butter, melted

Beginners: This is melted butter.

2.  First, select the dishes that you will be using for your casserole.
We opted for four different sizes.  You can do the same and fill the dishes with different fillings using the same custard base if you would like to offer variations for your guests.

3.  Remove the crust from your bread and cut slices to fit the bottom of your dish(es).

You may have to cut your bread slices in multiple sizes and shapes to line the bottom of your dish.

4.  Butter the bottom of your dish and then butter both sides of your bread evenly and line the bottom of your pan.

Make sure you butter each side liberally but don't over do it.

A perfect fit and a perfect size for an individual portion (like for that brother that only eats meats and cheese).

5.  Next, layer in your ingredients then pour your custard mixture over top.

I think I could dig right in as is! We layered ours first with bread, then apples, then cheese, then sausage, then arugula.

Be sure not to overfill with custard. First pour a little and let sit. Then pour the rest. This allows air pockets to dissipate.

You want to fill each dish to 1/4 inch below rim. If the dish has no rim, then fill 1/2 inch to top.

6.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximate times which will vary by dish size.  For small ramekins, we baked 20 – 25 minutes.  For large dish, we baked for 35 – 40 minutes.  A 3 quart dish would take approx. 45 minutes to one hour.  Check your dish(es) regularly and use a cooking thermometer to measure doneness.  You want your casserole to temp out at 165 degrees.

Check that temp. Looks gooood to me!

Warm, cheesy, savory … grab a fork and enjoy!

Until we eat again,

A + H

Decadent Spiked Hot Chocolate {Holiday Treats}

This past weekend while Harrison was off doing a stage, I put on my double layers, toboggan, boots and gloves and briskly walked downtown to see my home girl Jen on display at the “Touch of Vermont Holiday Market” at City Hall.

Guess whose friend got a new camera? No one's safe.

As I waited for the line to subside at her booth, I went ahead and moseyed around to see what this market was all about.  I, of course, gravitated towards a booth ‘o baked goods belonging to Butterfly Bakery of Vermont and got a whiff of some decadent vanilla that I just couldn’t resist.

Sweetest little bottle. Butterfly Bakery is located at 87 Barre St in Montpelier, VT.

When I returned I waved it around in front of Jen to show off the dreamy little bottle to which she asked, “So whattcha going to make?  Cookies? A cake?”

“A cocktail!”, I interjected and slid the little vial back in my camera bag and off I went.

Well actually I waited for Harrison to return so I could put in my request.  “How about a hot toddy?”, I announced.  “If you mean another hot chocolate…” he replied back with a knowing look in his eyes. “Yep, that’s right,” I said. “But this time, let’s make sure it’s spiked!”

Perfect for your upcoming holiday parties… why don’t we let loose on some Decadent Spiked Hot Chocolate, shall we? Two thumbs up, yes we shall.

Oh yeah. This is going to be good.

Ingredients:

  • (2) cups of organic whole or 2% milk
  • (1) cup of mini chocolate chips
  • (1) teaspoon of organic vanilla (we just loved ours from Butterfly Bakery of Vermont)
  • (1) Tablespoon of raw sugar
  • (1/4) cup of Bailey’s Irish Cream

Optional Additions:

  • (1) ounce (a.k.a. one shot) of peppermint schnapps
  • (4) to (6) ounces of freshly brewed dark roast coffee
  • (1) ounce of vodka (we like Barr Hill)…add this and you have what we call a Hot Black Russian

Directions:

1. Whisk your milk, sugar and vanilla together in a medium sauce pan and bring to a simmer on medium heat.

2. Then add in your chocolate and Bailey’s Irish Creme and whisk until blended (reduce heat to low).  You want to achieve a rich, velvety texture then turn off heat to serve.

Warm milk and chocolate. Feeling dreamy already...

3.  Pour into your cups and top with some fresh whipped cream (plus coffee or other optional additions if you please).

I wanted to just pour it straight into my mouth. But, got to be a lady.

Bottoms Up! Spiked with coffee to make a mocha on your left. Spiked with peppermint schnapps on your right!


Until we get decadent and dreamy again,

A + H

Want to see what Jen had on display?  Check out her etsy shop here.