this week in my kitchen

Linking up for another fun week of peeking in each other’s kitchens! You can check out the rest of the great blog hop over at Beauty That Moves.

sparrowhopes.com:: roasted root veg ::

sparrowhopes:: picnic in the back green ::

sparrowhopes.com:: birthday dinner for my love ::

sparrowhopes.com:: ladybirds on a log ::

sparrowhopes.com:: birthday pie ::

sparrowhopes.com:: fresh fruit salad with vegan cashew cream ::

sparrowhopes.com:: little bird loves his mac and cheese with peas ::

sparrowhopes.com:: flat bread with borani esfanaaj (persian yogurt and spinach dip), perfect combination for a lazy afternoon weekend snack::

a crockpot kinda night

easy-peasy crockpot refried beans - sparrowhopes.com

Mondays can be rough after a fun-filled weekend, especially when said fun took the place of normal weekend activities… like grocery shopping and meal planning. Important weekly tasks, but a girl’s got to live a little, right? Starting the week without a stocked fridge and weekly menu sorted… That’s right, I live on the edge. On. The. Edge.

Thankfully, years ago we came across this amazing recipe that has become our go-to for busy days, and Mondays that come around just a little too soon. We almost always have dried pinto beans, onions and garlic, so this is a meal that comes together in a snap. It’s great paired with rice, tortillas and a nice green salad. It’s also really yummy with some fajita veg served on top. (Another great way to use up veg that has been languishing in the fridge a bit too long.)

tea

So what did we fill this weekend up with instead of housework and shopping? A chance to host a fabulous tea for some lovely folks and while away a very soggy Sunday afternoon warm and cozy with good conversation and plenty of tea sandwiches and cakes all around. It was such fun! We’ve just started volunteering as a family with ‘Contact the Elderly’ and it was hopefully the first of many such afternoons to come. Contact the Elderly is a brilliant non-profit organization that organises regular Sunday afternoon tea parties for people over 75, who live with little or no social support. Little N was in his element, (he ADORES anyone over 70) happily passing out strawberries, sharing photos and eating as many biscuits as he could manage when we weren’t looking. Quite the charmer.

Okay, on to the recipe… this is also great for vegetarian/vegan friends and you can really class it up with the toppings to make it guest worthy. Freshly sliced avocado, homemade guacamole or salsa, homemade tortillas, some yummy queso blanco. Oh the possibilities!

easy-peasy crockpot refried beans - sparrowhopes.com

Easy-peasy crockpot refried beans
(adapted from allrecipes.com)

  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • 3 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3-4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
  • water, to fill crockpot
  1. Place the onion, rinsed beans, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin into a slow cooker. Fill crockpot with water to about an inch below the top and stir to combine. Cook on High for 8 hours.
  2. Once the beans have cooked, strain them, and reserve the liquid. Mash the beans with a potato masher, adding the reserved water as needed to attain desired consistency.

note: I like to put my strainer in a big mixing bowl and then pour everything in the strainer. Easy way to catch all the liquid as you’ll want to make sure and keep some in reserve to add to any leftover beans. 

spring is in the air

Edinburgh is still in that funny space, okay we’re always in that funny space, where the seasons mix wildly from one day to the next… sometimes even from hour to hour. Edinburgh is not a place for tidy categories like ‘soup season’ and ‘salad months’. Soup is in season year round here, and if you want a yummy spring salad you just need to claim it. Just like the sun breaks, seize the moment before the next rain, otherwise your poor picnic blanket will always stay neatly folded in the cupboard.

The last couple of days have seen some truly glorious sunny spells, followed by a great thunderstorm yesterday afternoon. And all this lovely sun has made me crave easy, outdoorsy salads. This one is a winner. You could easily swap around veggies, add more or less ginger depending on your tastes, and with chicken or without is equally delicious. Simple, wholesome and so, so good.

salad 001

Sesame Quinoa Chicken Salad
(adapted from Simply in Season)

Serves 4

  • 2 cups / 470 ml chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoon tamari
  • 2 teaspoon sesame oil or olive oil

Combine and bring to boil.

  • 1 cup / 250 ml uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained

Add quinoa to broth mixture, bring back to a boil, reduce to simmer for 20-25 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Allow quinoa to rest 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

  • 2 green onions (sliced)
  • 1 large sweet red pepper (chopped, optional)
Stir in. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

  • 1 1/2 cups / 375 ml sugar snap peas or snow peas
  • 3/4 cup / 175 ml broccoli florets or sliced courgettes
Steam peas 1 minute. Add broccoli or courgettes and steam 2 more minutes or until crisp-tender. Rinse in cold water and drain.

  • 1 cup / 250 ml cooked chicken (chopped)

Add to quinoa with broccoli (or courgette) and peas.

  • 1/4 cup / 60 ml lemon juice
  • 4-6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons tamari
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-2 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1-2 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
Combine and mix into couscous mixture.

  • 1/4 cup / 60 ml slivered almonds (toasted)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (toasted)
Mix in immediately before serving. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

saturday soup and sewing

We woke up this morning to another windy and rainy day here in E-town. Thankfully, I had a yummy soup and long anticipated project all lined up and ready to go. So, while the weather may have been less than ideal, J and I had a lovely little domestic day in.

When J and I got married I hated mushrooms. As a young child I apparently loved eating raw mushrooms, but from adolescence onward I viewed mushrooms as gross, slimy things to be avoided at all cost. (I had a particularly awful sautéed mushroom encounter in Santiago, Chile when I was 17…) However, J grew up loving mushrooms and his family had them often, so as a new member of the family I decided to just go ahead and give them a try. And guess what? They weren’t bad. In fact I really liked them raw, and as the years have gone by my love of mushrooms has only grown. I now love them in any form and J and I enjoy them so much we are gearing up for this next fall, and once we return to the states plan to buy a couple of these. I know there must be others of you out there scarred from early childhood experiences of poorly cooked mushrooms, or even worse mushroom soup from a can (bleh!). I promise you this recipe is so much better than any other mushroom soup you’ve tried that it may just be able to win over even the most skeptic mushroom-haters. So, don’t hate, cook! I think you’ll be really glad you did.

Mushroom Soup
adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

Ingredients

  • 15 ounces fresh mushrooms (try a combo of whatever is fresh at the farmer’s market, or a mix of shiitake, portobello, and cremini… really any mixture will do, you could even use dried mushrooms in a pinch)
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme plus 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts, thoroughly cleaned (2 leeks)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • truffle oil (optional)
  • lemon

Directions

Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a dry paper towel. Don’t wash them! Separate the stems, trim off any bad parts, and coarsely chop the stems. Slice the mushroom caps 1/4-inch thick and, if there are big, cut them into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

To make the stock, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pot. Add the chopped mushroom stems, the onion, carrot, the sprig of thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add 6 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid. You should have about 4 1/2 cups of stock. If not, add some water. (I know this step seems like a lot of effort, and if you really have to you could use store bought vegetable stock. However, this stock is absolutely gorgeous and is a large part of what makes this soup so delicious, I highly recommend trying it!)
Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the remaining 1/4 pound of butter and add the leeks. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the leeks begin to brown. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for 10 minutes, or until they are browned and tender. Add garlic and stir for a minute or two more. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine and stir for another minute, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the mushroom stock, minced thyme leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the half-and-half, cream, and parsley, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and heat through but do not boil. Serve hot and garnish with the following: Mix together a pinch of salt and pepper with the zest of one lemon and the juice of half of it. Drizzle the soup with a drop or two of truffle oil and place a slice of grilled crostini topped with a bit of the lemon zest mixture on top of the ladled soup. Delish!

Laundry Sacks x 2!

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will be well aware that space in our little flat is at a premium. For a long time now J and I have been trying to figure out a better way to store our dirty clothes as there isn’t room for a proper laundry basket. The default became an awful florescent pink Rubbermaid tub that we used for shipping stuff over here when we first moved. A complete eyesore. But thanks to an easy pattern out of this book, the Rubbermaid is no more! (This book has lot’s of great ideas, but I’ve found the directions a bit cumbersome… better for those with a bit of sewing experience.) Our laundry has now found a nice new home on the back door to our wee box room. And our bedroom just gained back some highly prized floor space. Success!