Lemon Chia Seed Blueberry Bread {dairy-free}

I made this delicious quick bread last Sunday during nap time, and it was gobbled up before work on Monday.  The chia seeds are a nice swap for butter and the typical poppy seeds.  The almond yogurt replaces the need for milk or sour cream, and the blueberries and lemon complement each other perfectly.  

Be sure to mix the 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 1/2 cup of water in advance – at least 2 hours.  This gives the seeds time to do their magic and gel.  If you prefer to mix them in advance, just cover and store in the fridge.

The fresh blueberries and lemon flavor create a nice balance of sweet and tart.  I like to keep dried lemon peel around – I never know when I’ll need it and I am not always great about keeping fresh lemons in the house, as much as I adore lemons.

The batter is a lovely golden color.

This bread shapes nicely and looks no different than bread made with dairy.  You will, however, noticed that the bread is slightly denser and moister than quick bread made with dairy.  Do not under bake this bread – be sure to check with a knife or toothpick, even if your timer has run out.  Enjoy!

Lemon Chia Seed Blueberry Bread – makes 1 loaf

1. At least 2 hours prior to baking, combine 1/2 cup water with 1 tablespoon chia seeds.  Allow to stand at room temperature.  If preparing the day before, cover and place in refrigerator.

2. Grease with margarine, and lightly flour a loaf pan.  Preheat oven to 325º.  In a medium bowl combine: 1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon baking soda and set aside.

3. In a medium mixing bowl or with mixing stand, beat together 1 cup sugar, prepared chia seed mixture, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, zest of 1 lemon OR 2 teaspoons dried lemon peel, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Add in 3 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape bowl frequently.  Alternately add flour mixture and 6 oz of almond yogurt to the chia mixture, beating on low speed after each addition, just till combined.  Scrape sides frequently.  Fold in 1 cup of fresh blueberries.  Pour batter into prepared pan.

4. Bake in a 325º oven for 60 to 75 minutes or until a knife or toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool completely before slicing.

Salmon Cakes w/ Lemon Yogurt Sauce

This right here is one of my favorite types of meals – roasted vegetables and fish, specifically salmon.  I always start to crave this kind of meal when things start to turn towards autumn – even when I just think it is starting to turn.  However, it’s still hovering in the 90s around here this week.  Seriously, is it October yet?

The roasted veggies are simply carrots, red potatoes, a red bell pepper, olive oil, peppers, garlic flakes, and fresh rosemary.

These babies are easy – so easy I had to remember to write down what I did tonight so I could actually publish the recipe!  So much of what I cook is just on a whim and based on what looks right and feels right.  This blog has forced me to be more observant and also created more consistency from each dish to the next.  It’s also nice having my own personal portable cookbook to turn to no matter what home or coast I am on.

Is it October yet?!  Stay tuned for fun Walking Dead ideas for all your Walking Dead party needs!

Salmon Cakes w/ Lemon Yogurt Sauce – makes 4

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray an 8 x 8 inch pan with cooking spray or olive oil, set aside.

2. In a medium mixing bowl stir together with a fork, 1 – 14 ¾ oz can salmon, ⅓ cup panko, 1 teaspoon dill, and 2 eggs.

3.  For sauce: mix ½ cup plain yogurt2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice2 teaspoons lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley.  Top cakes with yogurt sauce and serve immediately.

4.  Bake 18 – 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top, setting the oven to broil for the last 2 minutes.  Top cakes with yogurt sauce and serve immediately.

North Carolina Transportation Museum + Spicy Roasted Vegetables

The past week has kept our family moving, moving, moving.  We were out of the house for a while on Saturday due to an open house.  We decided to head over to the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park for a walk on Saturday.  The weather was unbelievable – sunny and 73 degrees!

Greta enjoyed riding in her backpack and watching the re-enactors make dinner and sit around their tent encampments.

We only saw one Red Coat traipsing around the woods.

The following day, on Sunday, the weather was still warm, but more overcast.  My front garden is a riot of yellows, violets, whites, pinks, and green right now.  I am still impressed that the leftovers from my spinach and lettuce bed grew all winter long and are now in full bloom.  
On Sunday, we decided to head to the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina.  I know, what is it with us and the museums that display all things transportation?

The train ride and round house ride were fun.  Greta kept making buzzing train noises the entire time we were there.  
Greta was dying to climb on every train we encountered.  Luckily there were a few areas where steps had been installed to allow you to climb up and look inside some of the trains.  The sheer size of these machines is impressive.  

Each view made me want to come back with my old-school 35 mm camera loaded with black and white film.  Luckily, we did have the Diana and shot a few 120 mm film.  When that gets developed I will share the images with you.

 The lighting, lines, textures…all an art teacher’s dream place to take art students.

 Of course the orange school bus caught my eye.

This building has been recently remodeled and will eventually be open to the public.  As of right now, you are only able to stand behind the chained off areas.  This room will help turn this train-themed museum into a more transportation oriented visit.  
We walked around for a couple hours and looked at all the exhibits we were able to see.  The museum is still on its way to being spectacular, but is well worth the visit.  The parking lot starts at the train depot, there are plenty of picnic tables, plenty of sites, and the historic downtown Spencer is just on the other side of the tracks.  
Greta slept the most of the hour ride home and was ready for dinner as soon as we rolled into the driveway.  Luckily, I had an easy plan for dinner – leftovers and some delicious hot and citrus flavored roasted vegetables.  It must seem like we live off roasted vegetables and well, we do.  It is just simply the way I like my vegetables.  

Goodness this was an easy Sunday evening meal.  I had the vegetables all prepped from the day before – I simply sliced them, placed them in a pan, drizzled the marinade on the top, covered, and placed in the fridge until I was ready to roast.

Spicy Roasted Vegetables

1. Quarter and then halve: 1 small or ½ of a medium head of red cabbage.  Cut into wedges: 1 small onion.  Halve and then cut into 2-inch segments: 2 large carrots.  Arrange all vegetables on rimmed baking sheet.

2. For the marinade: spray vegetables with olive oil until well-coated.  Sprinkle lemon juice, lime juice, and chipotle hot sauce.  Toss until evenly coated.  

3.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

Dreaming of Key West + Lemon Garlic Roasted Carrots

Key West, Florida is a family favorite locale.  My parents and sister have been there more frequently than Eric and I – we have only been twice now.  I know, the shame!  Poor Greta has yet to experience Key West.  I have been daydreaming of spring break trips this year, as we are not likely to have one with the process of packing, selling a house, and moving on our radar this spring.  So, on this nice and sunny, 60 degree day in Greensboro, I dream of Key West.  Read on to find some highlights of our last trip to Key West in April of 2010 plus an easy side, a Key West inspired recipe – Lemon Garlic Roasted Carrots.

My family always stays in the same place – the Eden House.  This place is heaven.  This is the elaborate system of walkways with privacy fences between the pool and one of the houses that has been converted to suites.  We stayed on the second floor of one such suite.  There are a variety of rooms, suites, and even condo-like setups.

The front porch of the Eden House – I could spend an entire day sitting here watching Key West amble by.

This is our post wake-up and pre-breakfast meet-up.  This particular trip included myself, Eric, Brady (brother-in-law), Caroline (sister), my dad and my mom.  

Our suite had a porch off the back with chairs and a swing.  We spent most of our evenings out here watching the tour buses and people go by.

Eric and I love to take our Diana camera along on vacations – it takes lovely dreamy photos.  Analog film is still better than Instagram, if you ask me.  I was working on a watercolor painting of Eric sitting in the swing.

The Southernmost Point is a fun place to visit.  Be prepared to wait in line for your turn to take a photo, though.

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is a great place to ride your bike to.  They always have interesting sculptures set up along the walkways.  This year was no exception – this one made from twigs framed the water beautifully.  
Bring water along – the ride is warmer and sunnier than you think, but there are concessions to purchase at the park.  
You can also swim, rent chairs,
wade in the water, and enjoy a walk on their paths.  

We ride our rental bikes everywhere on the island.  The island is flat and the roads easy enough to ride on – cars are well-versed in tourists on bicycles.  We enjoy riding around the entire edge of the island at least once.  This trip always takes us out to the pier. Everyone smiles in Key West – how could you not with this backdrop?

Usually we see pelicans on the pier.

The wide path behind Eric is what we ride on for a good length along the beaches.  I can almost feel the ocean breeze now.  Sigh. 

We always make time for the Ernest Hemingway home.  This beautiful home was built in 1851 and became the famous author’s home in 1931.  I love the two-story porches and green shutters. 

 The furniture inside the home was used by Hemingway and his family.

The different shades of green are fitting for a Key West home.  I love the painted floors!

 The home and gardens are filled with cats.  There are about 40-50 poly dactyl cats around the house and grounds – all descendants of Ernest Hemingway’s 6-toed cat named Snowball.  This particular marmalade enjoys its place on the bed.

There are signs of the cats everywhere – footprints in the concrete around the house and pool.

 The cats are sleeping on furniture, in the gardens, and in the house.

 There is even a little cat graveyard in the garden, complete with a cat house for the living.

This last trip, we headed over to the Martello Tower, which is now the Key West Garden Club.  This is a free destination in Key West and was once a fort during the Civil war, but now home to a lush garden full of interesting plants.

These white angel trumpet flowers formed a shady canopy overhead.  

The colors were just a riot.

 The lizards are everywhere.

This spiny tree was my favorite.  
Eric even found a coconut.  

The inside of the Key West Garden Club still looks very much like a military fort, except for the motorized wooden chair mounted on the wall.  This was another one of the artworks that can be found all over the island.  
Blue Heaven is our favorite breakfast place in Key West.  This pretty calico was sunning herself on the porch at the entrance of this interesting place.  
The walkway into the restaurant’s courtyard is paved in brick and lined in lush foliage.  

Once inside the courtyard, you are in, well Blue Heaven.  The stage hosts live music, the bar is stocked for breakfast or drinks, and the ground is sand and usually teeming with chickens.

We watched this hen and rooster scratch around while enjoying some of the best banana bread on earth.

Another fun place to eat is Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Grill & Brewery.  This is in the former headquarters of Pan American Airlines and boasts themselves as the southern most brewery.  It has a wonderful second floor deck/patio we like to sit at while we enjoy its very own beer.  I enjoyed the coconut shrimp and Havana Red Ale.

A great place to eat with a killer view is Turtle Kraals.  We found ourselves at here after a day of wandering around the island, before heading to Mallory Square for the evening entertainment.  

The rooftop views of the boats and the marina can’t be beat.  This is a lovely place to enjoy drinks while the sun sets.

I ordered an amazing meal of mango crab cakes with coconut rice and a creamy, tropical coleslaw.  Heaven on a plate!
Just down the street from the Eden House, is the Help Yourself Cafe & Market.  The menu here is everything healthy – smoothies, salads, wraps, noodle dishes, raw food dishes, and amazing breakfasts. I highly recommend you check this place out, if you get the chance.  If only it were down the street from me now…
But I will have to make do with Lemon Garlic Roasted Carrots in the meantime.  

This recipe is so easy – it takes only the above ingredients, and after slicing my carrots, I prepared the rest with only one arm, due to a Greta Monster.  These are a delicious side to any meal, are fast, easy, and cheap!

Lemon Garlic Roasted Carrots
1. Slice 4 to 6 carrots in half, lengthwise and again in half, vertically.  Arrange carrots on a rimmed baking sheet.  Spray with olive oil.  Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper, dried garlic flakes, and lemon juice.  
2.  Bake in a 450 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until softened and sauce is bubbly.  

Creamy Lemon Dill Pasta & Shrimp

I whipped this meal up in a total of a whopping 20 minutes this evening.  We made a quick run to the grocery store to stock up for the week and then of course needed something quick like and in a hurry to fill the hungry bellies.  

 The flavor for this dish comes from two complementary sources: dill and lemon.

I am not usually one to like cream sauces, due to the dairy.  This dish was light and dairy-free by swapping milk and butter for almond milk and margarine. 

I used up the pasta in my pantry and combined two boxes.  Be careful though – you may end up with two different cooking times.  The combination of these two was really good.  The veggie pasta is a nice way to get another serving of veggies.

I added the shrimp to the pasta water at the end of the cooking time.  After all, efficiency is just smart laziness.

I love it when the food I eat is bright and colorful, as well as tasty.  

We had our pasta with more of those delicious Immaculate Baking Crescent Rolls.  If you have not tried them yet, you really ought to.  Let me know what you think.  We have plenty of leftovers for lunches this week.  I love starting a work week off with food prepped and ready.  I am a true Midwestern with my need to squirrel away supplies, I guess.  Enjoy your week!

Creamy Lemon Dill Pasta & Shrimp

1.  In a large saucepan, bring water to boil for pasta.

2. In a small saucepan, melt 2 to 3 tablespoons margarine or butter.  Saute 1 small yellow onion, diced until soft. Add 1 cup (almond) milk and bring to low boil.  Add 1 tablespoon flour and whisk until smooth.  Stir in the juice from 2 to 3 lemon wedges1/2 teaspoon dill and fresh ground pepper.  I used freeze-dried dill, and equal proportions to using fresh dill.  Cook on low heat until thickened.

3.  Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions.  During the last 3 minutes of cooking, add 15 to 20 thawed, raw, de-veined shrimp.  Cook until shrimp are pink and opaque.  Drain pasta and shrimp mixture.

4.  Mix together shrimp and sauce mixture.  Optional topping: serve with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Lemon Poppy Seed Yogurt Cake

One of the things I love about working at the school I teach at, is the family atmosphere that is created by the staff members.  We look out for one another, and we show an honest warmth.  We also love a reason to celebrate – weddings, babies, retirements, and of course birthdays.  My particular teaching team takes turns bringing in cake for the birthday boy or girl, and we eat it together during our lunch break.  I jump at the chance to bake birthday cake – it is always better to share cake.

Today we celebrated a birthday with the following cake.  The recipe was originally a plain yogurt cake from a publication I picked up in a Minneapolis grocery store called Lund’s back in 2009.  I adapted it slightly with lemon, lemon glaze, and poppy seeds.  I also doubled the recipe below to make about 16 servings – just the right amount to feed my coworkers.

I liked this recipe – I had all the ingredients on hand.  The yogurt replaced milk and cooking oil replaced butter.  4 teaspoons of vanilla don’t hurt either!

I opted for Chobani plain yogurt for this recipe.  The yogurt makes this cake really dense and moist.  

I zested one entire lemon for this recipe.  
When I zest, I tend to go a little nuts. 
The batter is so thick, you must spread it out once you pour it into the pan.  
I mixed up powdered sugar and lemon juice – honestly I do not know the measurements since I just throw it in a bowl and add more sugar if it is runny or more liquid if it is too thick.  I drizzled it in an abstract-textile-road map sort of way. Leave it to the art teacher to frost a cake in an homage to Abstract Expressionism.  One of my favorites from this time period is Pollock’s Mural from 1943.  It is owned by the University of Iowa and I spent many an afternoon gazing at this large painting during my under grad years.  What is your favorite artwork?  

Lemon Poppy Seed Yogurt Cake – serves 8.  Adapted from Real Foods Magazine, 2009.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan and dust with flour, knocking out any extra.  Stir together 2 cups flour, 1-1/4 cups sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large mixing bowl.  Whisk together 2 large eggs, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt, and 2 teaspoons vanilla in a bowl.  Pour the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until moistened.  Add the zest from one lemon and fold into batter.

2. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top of the cake is light and golden and a knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

3. Let the cake cool for about 5 minutes in the pan.  Then, place on a wire rack too cool completely.  Drizzle in glaze made from powdered sugar and lemon juice.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds, slice, and serve.

4. Wrap in plastic wrap or store in cake keeper for 2 days at room temperature.