Back home to comfort (food)


It’s always something I look forward to after travelling: returning to my kitchen and to my comfort food. Comfort food – often synonymous with indulgence food – for me is actually the healthy, nutritious, veggie-full meals we eat in our house*. It’s comforting because it satisfies both mind and body, and I crave it when I’m away from it for too long. Traveling in a country like Colombia, where green vegetables are not (at all) the forefront of the cuisine and I’ve eaten one-too-many deep fried empanadas ….makes me long for the salads, stews, curries, fritattas, stir frys, and all other veggie-centered dishes that are a regular at home.

*don’t get me wrong, ‘comfort food’ to me also means all things chocolate ;)

I also return home inspired by the many foods I’ve sampled, techniques I’ve observed, new spices and textures and flavors I’ve discovered. So I’m off the plane and anxious to cook, whether it’s Colombian arepas or a comforting veggie-ful lentil curry.

Here’s a little bite of the food in my life since I came home… just a little detox from empanadas, fried plantains, queso, queso, and more queso.

quinoa falafels over greens & carrot-orange-ginger juice

Quinoa falafels with tahini sauce via Sprouted Kitchen, & fresh carrot-mango-orange-ginger juice

kabocha squash lentil curry

I-could-eat-this-every-day Kabocha Squash Lentil Curry via Pinch of Yumover kale with toasted naan

Jamie's sourdough boule


My sister’s sourdough boules… maybe ate a little too much of this, but who can resist warm, crusty, chewy, fresh baked bread?!

sourdough boule with apricots + almonds

homemade butterfingers

And in lieu of store-bought Easter candy, we made homemade vegan butterfingers, which blew us all away with their spot on texture and peanut buttery goodness. Continue reading

Overnight Christmas Strata

kale, herb + gruyere strata

It’s about time I added this recipe to the blog, after it appeared on our table many a Christmas morning and days after while we had family at the house for the holidays. Let me tell you what’s great about this breakfast/brunch dish:

  1. you prepare it the night before so all it takes is a pop in the oven in the morning,
  2. the herbal aroma warms your whole house as it bakes,
  3. the combination of eggs, good bread, cheese and herbs is comfort food at its best for cozy winter mornings,
  4. its appetizing looks make you quite the impressive cook when you have guests around,
  5. everyone loves it (even my non-dairy-eating sister can’t resist).

Unfortunately I didn’t get to share this before prime holiday time and all those family gatherings, but perhaps you can try it as your hangover cure on New Years Day, or for your next lazy Sunday morning brunch. The recipe is not strict about add-ins or spices, so feel free to change it up with different kinds of bread, cheese, no cheese, or different combinations of greens and herbs. This is my favorite version, and I’m not a big cheese eater so I would also love it without.


Overnight Kale, Herb + Gruyere Strata, adapted from Good Housekeeping

  • 6 large eggs (can substitute liquid egg whites for 3 of the eggs)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 T dijon mustard
  • salt + pepper
  • big handful of spinach or kale
  • a bunch of chopped fresh herbs – basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley
  • 1 loaf French bread OR multigrain loaf OR rosemary loaf
  • 6 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded Continue reading

A farm{ette} to table gathering

You know all those ethereal scenes on Pinterest of long dining tables set up outdoors in the midst of a lush farm, adorned with mini lanterns and flowers hung from tree limbs in mason jars…. the scenes that seem just too perfect to be real life?

You know, like this. Maybe I’m just unaware, maybe this is a common occurrence for people these days.

Anyway if you were wondering… they exist in real life. I went to one :)

The Lyons Farmette in Lyons, Colorado, a miniature farm with a lot going on. Complete with cuddly baby goats, flowing stream, mountain backdrop, even vintage airstreams parked throughout as housing for the farm interns.

The family and I went out to CO to celebrate my sister’s grad school graduation and help her move to her new home in Aspen. Of course we also fit in lots of good eating, like this “Pizza Night on the Farm”. Dinner featured a mobile wood-fired pizza oven and pizzaiola who produce the tastiest, lightest, chewiest, charred, rustic crust you can imagine, and tops it with farm fresh veggies and meats.

The copper oven kept churning out pizzas for as long as we would have them. And the evening’s menu made it hard to stop: there was a classic margherita, an asparagus, roasted red pepper and goat cheese, a crème fraiche, applewood smoked bacon, lemon arugula, and sweet onion, and everyone’s favorite: chimichurri, slow roasted pulled pork, pueblo chilies and fresh mozzarella.

And with plentiful wine, roaming chickens, sun setting over the mountains, cute babies, good company, and the feeling of being in some kind of magazine photo shoot, it was difficult not to have a sensory overload.

You can see for yourself below, but no photo could ever compare to a bite of that crust.

Seeded Butternut Squash Braid

This bread was so good we made it twice within 3 days and gobbled up every last crumb.

My sister Tara is a bread baker wannabe and her first attempt over our Thanksgiving break was good but not what she wanted. The whole wheat dough was wet and didn’t exactly rise. So when our other sister brought home this recipe for a butternut squash braid [Tara’s pretty obsessed with squash :], she decided to go for round II.

It smelled delicious, looked incredible, definitely doubled—maybe tripled—in size, and tasted… divine. Perfection, with the exception of being slightly undercooked and doughy, which didn’t bother our family of dough-lovers. We ripped off wads of it like challah and let it melt in our mouths, sinking into a ball of dough in the pit of our stomachs that stayed there all night. Quite filling, but it was impossible to have just one piece!

So after the successful test run my sisters decided to make it again for Christmas dinner. We let it bake all the way through this time, the crust turning a shiny golden brown. The inside texture was airy and soft—the way it’s meant to be—but we actually preferred the dense, doughy loaf :]

Moral of the story: we’re not master bread bakers, so this loaf should be fairly simple and  fool-proof for beginners if you follow the directions. The butternut gives it a richness and makes it soft and moist, and the texture reminds me of challah. This is definitely a keeper in the bread recipe files!

Seeded Butternut Squash Braid, from taste of home

Prep time: 45 min + rising, Bake: 20 min. Yields 18 servings.

  • 2-3/4 cups uncooked cubed peeled butternut squash
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm milk (110° to 115°)
  • 2 tablespoons warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1/2 cup pepitas or sunflower kernels (we didn’t use)
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened (we used Earth Balance)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour


  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup pepitas or sunflower kernels

Place squash in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain and mash squash (you will need 2 cups); cool to 110°-115°.

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk and water. In a largebowl, combine the pepitas, butter, egg, brown sugar, salt, cooked squash, yeast mixture and 2 cups flour; beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into thirds. Shape each into a 26-in. rope; braid ropes. Transfer to a greased baking sheet; form into a circle, pinching ends together to seal. Cover with a clean kitchen towel; let rise in a warm place
until doubled, about 45 minutes.

For topping, beat egg and water; brush over braid. Sprinkle with pepitas. Bake at 350° for 18-23 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to wire rack. Yield: 1 loaf (18 slices). Per slice: 192 calories, 7 g fat, 31 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 7 g protein.

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pumpkin spice and everything nice

Is there such thing as too much pumpkin spice at this time of year?

I don’t think so. But just to warn you, I may be about to go [a bit] overboard with this delicious combination…

First on the list is this spiced up pumpkin bread (above) which is originally vegan (I used a real egg however), whole grain, fat free and contains just ½ cup of sugar! It’s so moist and soft—almost scoopable—and is perfect warmed up for breakfast with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Needless to say it was devoured.

Next I tried out pumpkin beer bread, which does not contain actual pumpkin but rather pumpkin ale (aka the best kind of beer) and pie spices. I always loved when mom made beer bread at home…. so I have no idea why I’ve never tried to bake it considering how simple the recipe is!

The dry ingredients (above). I used whole wheat pastry flour and lots of cinnamon :]

Then pour the beer in and watch the bubbles take over!

Now the ultimate fall breakfast: pumpkin pie french toast. I spotted the idea here, but didn’t really feel the need to follow the recipe. Just whisk some milk, egg, pumpkin puree, vanilla and spices, dip your bread and throw it on the skillet! Then of course drown in maple syrup :]

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spiced sweet potato chapatis

While making these banana chapatis recently I came across some sweet potato flour Mom had sent me. Obviously I started imagining how tasty these flatbreads might be with pureed sweet potato in place of the banana and some warm spices sprinkled into the dough.

The flavor was great, but my chapati-making skills are just not quite satisfactory. I don’t know what it is… they seem to be cooking slowly and not bubbling up, and then all of a sudden they’re burnt and crispy. Sigh.. I’ll get it right some day…

But any way you happen to mess these up, just slather on some honey, butter and cinnamon and you’ll be in sweet, blissful heaven. The whole wheat makes them hearty, and the sweet potato puree and flour gives them an earthy taste and slight sweetness without any added sugar.

Keep the leftovers wrapped in the fridge and heat up for a light, comforting snack.

spiced sweet potato chapatis, by me

½ cup whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting

½ cup sweet potato flour

½ cup pureed sweet potato

1 T olive or canola oil

½ t garam masala

½ – 1 t cinnamon

salt to taste

water or milk as needed [I use vanilla soy]

Boil chunks of peeled sweet potato and mash or puree until smooth. Combine with wheat and sweet potato flours, spices and a pinch of salt to make a stiff dough. Add oil and water/milk as needed and knead well to form a smooth, medium-soft dough. After dough is smooth, cover and set aside for 10-15 minutes to rest.

Divide dough into 1-1/2 inches pieces and roll each into a small ball. Either dust the balls with flour or sprinkle flour onto a flat surface to prevent sticking. (Careful not to incorporate too much extra flour or chapatis will be tough). Roll each ball out with a rolling pin until it resembles a thin pancake (about 1/6” thick).

Heat a griddle over medium-high heat. When hot lightly grease with oil and place a chapatti in the center. Turn it over with a spatula when small brown spots and small bubbles appear, about 1 minute. Continue cooking about 2 minutes until both sides have brown spots. Makes 8-9 chapatis.

Enjoy while warm with cinnamon, honey, butter, jam, yogurt, apple butter – anything your heart desires :] Continue reading

banana chapatis

Bananas find their way into my diet every day, although I can’t remember the last time I’ve actually peeled and eaten one. Such an abundant, cheap and versatile ingredient—they can be used to sweeten and lend subtle flavor to breads and smoothies, pureed to replace fats in baked goods, even grilled or roasted into caramelized sweet goodness.

I actually get anxious when I wake up in the morning and walk into a banana-less kitchen. Whatever I’m going to eat that day, I know it’ll somehow involve nanas. Someday [soon] I’ll post a list of my infinite banana ideas and creations.

I even have a pinboard on Pinterest dedicated to banana recipes, which I am rapidly working my way through. One of those pins had been catching my eye lately: sweet banana flat breads or chapatis. Chapatis are a type of Indian whole-grain flatbread cooked on a griddle– thinner than a pancake but thicker than a crepe, bubbly with big air pockets, and they typically accompany spicy Indian dishes. But with the subtle sweetness of mashed bananas I found these perfect for breakfast, spread lightly with butter and drizzled with honey and cinnamon.

Chapatis are SO simple to make, considering that the basic ones are solely whole wheat flour and water. That leaves the spices and other additions up to your imagination ;]

sweet banana chapatis, from here

1 cup whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting

½ cup mashed banana

1 T olive or canola oil

salt to taste

water or milk as needed

Mash banana well and combine with flour and a pinch of salt to make a stiff dough. Add oil and water/milk as needed and knead well to form a smooth, medium-soft dough. After dough is smooth, cover and set aside for 10-15 minutes to rest.

Divide dough into 1-1/2 inches pieces and roll each into a small ball. Either dust the balls with flour or sprinkle flour onto a flat surface to prevent sticking. (I later read that you shouldn’t incorporate too much extra flour into the chapatis or they will be tough, which I think is what happened with mine). Roll each ball out with a rolling pin until it resembles a thin pancake (about 1/6” thick).

Heat a griddle over medium-high heat. When hot lightly grease with oil and place a chapatti in the center. Turn it over with a spatula when small brown spots and small bubbles appear, about 1 minute. Continue cooking about 2 minutes until both sides have brown spots. Makes 8-9 chapatis.

Enjoy your flatbread warm with some butter and honey or jam!

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pan de yuca

Along with my cravings for Latin American flavors, I was inspired to attempt on my own many things I tasted in Ecuador this summer. One of these I thought I would never be lucky enough to taste again. I was on a late morning bus between cities and starving. Luckily for me, nearly every time buses are stopped, whether waiting in the station or dropping someone off, vendors come aboard trying to sell their goodies, from skewers of roasted pork and plantains, to candy that they shove in your hands and five minutes later either make you pay for it or take it back. So, on this morning an old man walked aboard carrying a large basket covered in a cloth. I was planning to buy whatever it was because I was so hungry, but I saw the man lift up the cloth for a woman in front of me, and what I saw intrigued me. They were steaming, bright yellow and white rolls, very different than anything I had seen in the panaderías on the streets. I asked for one, paid him 50 cents(!) and ripped off a small piece. What a strange texture! It was crispy on the outside, bright yellow and chewy on the inside. At first I didn’t realize it was cheese because I couldn’t see distinct pieces of cheese apart from the dough—it was a uniform consistency. All I knew was that it was warm, salty and delicious, and I gobbled it up and wished the old man was still on board! I had no idea what this bread was called, nor what unique ingredients created its odd texture, so my hopes for ever finding a recipe seemed pretty meager.

Fast forward 3 or so weeks later, and as I’m searching the web for Ecuadorian recipes I come across these ‘pan de yuca’ bites which looked curiously close to what I remember eating on that bus. I was so excited—could this be them?! The recipe was so simple. Tapioca starch, crumbly queso blanco, an egg, baking powder and water. I went to our local international foods market and found tapioca starch, or yuca harina [a very fine white flour], and gave my best guess out of about 30 different quesos.

To make the yuca bites, you simple combine the ingredients and knead into a dough, adding water until it sticks together to form a ball. Pinch off little balls, place in the oven, and in 15 minutes you have little ping pong balls of chewy cheesy bliss!

I knew instantly upon biting into these little rolls that this was it. Success! Just as I remember—except bite-sized and homemade by me (I’m sure the old man’s pan de yucca was homemade as well)! I made mom try them and although she is skeptical about some things I make, she loved the unique texture just as I did. They’re perfect to accompany any Latin-inspired meal, or as a bite to pop in your mouth with coffee or tea. I have Tamara from T’s Tasty Bits, an Ecuadorian cuisine blog, to thank for sharing this recipe. I am so happy to have found it and will definitely make these again and again as long as I can get my hands on some yuca flour!

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