Polenta & Orange Salad With Fennel Salsa (GF)

Another recipe, wahoo! Like I said last weekend, I broke into my cookbook collection for some recipe-inspiration. Husband and I love polenta on the grill. Remember my gluten-free grilled polenta bruschetta? Something just magical happens when sizzling brown grill marks are formed on the polenta, making it crispy on the outside and warm and creamy on the inside...mouth watering...Anyway! When going through Makini Howell's cookbook, Plum, and saw the recipe for Polenta & Orange Salad with Fennel Salsa, I knew that was a must try recipe! Grilled Polenta — Vegan — Gluten Free — What are you waiting for? Fire up your grills people!

I ventured slightly off the recipe, what else is new, right?

1 - 18 oz. sleeve of polenta — If you have ever made polenta from scratch, you know how time consuming it can be, stirring endlessly for proper consistency — This is an excellent short-cut to get dinner on the table quickly after work.
6 cups arugula
orange-cilantro vinaigrette
fennel salsa

Orange-Cilantro Vinaigrette
1 T. vinegar
1 T. chopped fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
1 T. gluten-free tamari
1 T. minced, peeled fresh ginger
1 t. sugar
3 T. olive oil
2 T. orange juice

1. Whisk together the vinegar, cilantro, tamari, ginger, sugar, olive oil and orange juice.

Fennel Salsa
2 T. olive oil
2 T. white wine vinegar
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
2 t. gluten-free tamari
2 t. minced, peeled fresh ginger
2 t. sugar
3 medium oranges, peeled, segmented, pith and membranes removed
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into 1/4-inch-wide by 2-inch long matchsticks
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
sea salt & freshly ground pepper

1. In a medium bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, cilantro, tamari, ginger, and sugar. Gently stir in the oranges, fennel, and onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Any leftover salsa will keep a good two weeks in the refrigerator. You can use it as a salad dressing or even as a condiment on a sandwich!

To Serve
1. Cut the polenta into discs and lightly brush each side with olive oil. Heat the grill to medium-high heat, and cook the cakes for 1-3 minutes on each side or until distinct grill marks form.

2. In a large bowl, combine the arugula and fennel salsa. Dress the mixture with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette.

3. Divide the salad among the plates and arrange your polenta cakes alongside the greens.

4. Enjoy!

Another excellent recipe from Plum is the vegan mac & cheese, check out the recipe here.

Creamy Vegan Pasta Salad with Quick-Pickled Chiles

Dear food, it's been a while...

Hello kitchen, you've been underutilized. Do you feel purposeless?

Appliances and utensils, do you want to come out and play?

My goodness. I went from the Queen of the Kitchen to Queen of the Couch in the last six months. It is so very interesting how you really have no idea how pregnancy will affect you until it really does. The last six months looked a lot like this:

Morning sickness.
Something random and nothing with spinach for lunch.
Midday sickness.
Take-out because there was no way I could possibly fathom cooking anything, plus I was starving.
Evening sickness.

Thank goodness I'm coming out of that horrible routine and feeling up to cooking again! ...still wondering why it's called "morning" sickness and not killer-all-day-sickness...

Last recipe I posted? Snow (ice) cream, back in January! Time for a new recipe huh? With the last few months's meals consisting of ginger ale and saltines, I was a bit short on food inspiration, so I hit up my Pinterest boards. Being that it is now officially summer, I decided a pasta salad would be quite fitting.

This recipe is: Lemony. Bright. The pickled chiles adds a touch of heat but with an excellent added dimension. Punchy saltiness with the olives. Creamy. Mmm-mmm-mmm, it is just plain good!

Creamy Vegan Pasta Salad with Quick-Pickled Chiles
Recipe by Laura Wright


for the quick-pickled chiles
1 large or 2 small hot chiles, seeded + de-stemmed
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
fat pinch of sugar
pinch of salt

for the sauce
4 green onions
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp grainy mustard
3 tbsp oil

for the pasta
4 cups dry pasta, a small shape like orecchiette or elbows is preferable
10-12 asparagus spears
handful of snap peas, ends trimmed
1/2 cup olives (pitted or not—your choice!)


Chop the chiles into small pieces and place in a small, non-reactive bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons water, sugar and a pinch of salt to a boil. Pour this mixture over the chopped chiles and set aside for at least 10 minutes.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Drain, rinse, and set aside.

In a saucepan, bring about 4-5 cups of water to a boil. Remove and discard the hairy end bits of the green onions and chop off just the white parts; you’ll use the greens later. Once the water is boiling, throw the white parts into the water and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Remove the onions with a pair of tongs (you’ll be using the water again) and place them in the pitcher of a blender.

To the blender, add the lemon juice, mustard, a splash of water, the oil, some salt, pepper, and a bit of the vinegar from the quick pickled chiles if you’d like. Blend the mixture on high until everything is mixed and creamy. Check the dressing for seasoning, adjust, and set aside.

Bring the saucepan of water back up to a boil. Chop the asparagus into small bits and throw them into the water. Simmer until the pieces are slightly tender, about 3-4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent further cooking.

Thinly slice the greens from the green onions. Chop the snap peas up as well. Drain the pickled chiles.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, pickled chiles, cooked asparagus, chopped green onions and snap peas, the olives, and the dressing. Toss it all together and add salt and pepper to your liking. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

What is your go-to pasta salad recipe? Or have you found a recipe on Pinterest you'll be trying this week? Please share!

25 Week Ultrasound

This past week I scheduled an ultrasound and invited my sister, Joy, to attend. To give a brief background, Joy is about to embark on her final year of nursing school...but on a major adventure! From August through November she will be studying abroad in Zambia! Personally, I am so glad she is going because it is definitely an opportunity of a lifetime. But, while in Zambia, our little Valor will be born. Because she will miss the birth, I really wanted her to be a part of the experience and attend an ultrasound. It was such a cool experience. As I laid on the bed, stomach glazed with the jelly, Joy and I held hands and watched Valor squirm around on the ultrasound screen. I will never forget those moments as I watched my sister's eyes fill with delight and the happy tears stream down her face.

Joy, I couldn't ask for anything better than a sister — because of you, I'll always have a friend. Even if I got to choose who Valor's aunt might be, I'd still choose you. Valor is going to be so blessed to call you Aunt!

Only an Aunt can give hugs like a mother, can keep secrets like a sister, and share love like a friend. — unknown

Valor is a healthy little boy, weighing almost two whole pounds — 1 pound 12 ounces! He was moving and giving the tech a bit of a hard time. The only slight concern is that Valor is comfortably in a breech position, as he was at the 20 week ultrasound. He does have time to adjust his position before his due date and I am praying he does, so that my doctor won't have to forcibly turn him. The ultrasound tech said that we will most likely have one more ultrasound closer to the due date to check on Valor's positioning. So, prayers are definitely welcome!

To follow Joy's African nursing adventure this fall, visit her blog.

Summer Solstice 2014

Happy first day of summer! Summer solstice! The longest day of the year! I know for me, summer excites my taste buds. Farmer's markets, fresh local produce, budding vegetable gardens, a surplus of fresh herbs, blazing hot grills, late night meals on the patio complete with candles glowing - and the list could go on...I don't know what summer may mean to you but to me, it means eating!

This morning Braxton and I spent some time on our sunny patio and perused cookbooks for inspiration while sipping on a variation of my vegan kick-start shake. Okay, well that's what I did. He mostly watched for squirrels and birds to (wishfully) catch.

As I sat on the patio, I admired how well my teeny-tiny garden has been growing. The basil plant booming into a bush already. Numerous yellow tomato blossoms and two little green tomatoes. And I can tell the English cucumbers are just going to take over the space, as they're already spilling over and outside of their designated area of the garden. This year is going to be fruitful!

How do you go about your summer meal planning? Is it much more relaxed than the rest of the year? For our family, I find that each menu is an assault on our senses - vibrant colors, fresh flavors, bright scents...I cannot wait to start cooking this summer's bounty!

So far this week I have four menu items and may be just hitting the market to see what else might be yummy and in-season.

Grilled zucchini with green olives, cilantro and tomato

Polenta and orange salad with fennel salsa

Heirloom tomatoes with grilled shiitakes and freshly made green goddess

Cactus tacos

As always menu suggestions are always welcomed! What are you cooking this week?

Dearest Valor: Our Secret Bond

To My Dearest Valor,

I was thinking about you early this morning, like I always do. But this time I was thinking about our special, secret bond we share. For this short moment in time, for a quick nine months, I am carrying two heartbeats - yours and mine. And we share our secret language that no one else knows - just you and me. It's your small, strong kicks and movements. I love and cherish each movement you make. It's so fun, special and secret. You move around, letting me know you're there, but no one else can feel it. I just cannot wait to meet you and discover the bond we will have when you arrive. I daydream of all the adventures we are going to have together. I wonder what our thing might be. But for now, I'm enjoying our secret bond that know else can feel or know. It's just you and me.

Oh, I love you so much already. xoxo

Forever & Always,

Celebrate Dads

He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it. —Clarence Budington Kelland

This year, as Husband and I prepare our hearts and home for the arrival of our first baby, Father's Day takes on a whole new meaning in my life. To my Husband and father to Valor, I am so eager to see you become a daddy. I'm so glad to be doing this parenting thing with you!

To my dad, thank you for always being available to me. I am thankful that you taught me the importance of being handy, just like your dad taught you!

Happy Father's Day! You both are well deserved of celebration!

24 Weeks

24 weeks – viability! I know it's been a little while since I've posted an official pregnancy update, I guess that would be due to the fact that life has been pretty hectic. We're over half way through with this pregnancy — I guess it's true — time flies when you're having fun (ahhh, morning sickness)! With my job status change, I am also switching OBs and where I'll be delivering our son. Tomorrow is my first visit with my new physician, praying all goes smoothly! Unfortunately with the change, Husband will no longer be able to join me at my appointments, which we both loved going to together.

Baby Size: A cantaloupe! He is approximately 10.5 to 11.8 inches long and weighs about 12.7 to 20.8 oz.

Weight Gain: Going through my medical records that I'll be bringing to my appointment tomorrow, from my eight week appointment to my appointment four weeks ago, I have only gained a total of five pounds! I guess that's what happens when "morning" sickness takes over. I feel like I've really started to pop and think I've probably put on a few pounds since the last visit – we'll see tomorrow!

Overall Feeling: The "morning" sickness has gotten MUCH better! I'm not only getting sick every few days at the most — PRAISE! I've been struggling a bit with backaches — but thankfully my dearest Hubby bought me a prenatal massage certificate. Now I just need to decide when I'm going to do a little spa day!

Excited For: Feeling Valor's kicks – I cannot wait for them to be strong enough for Husband to feel! It seems every time I tell Husband, "Quick! Feel right here..." our little stinker stops moving.

Everything grows rounder and wider and weirder, and I sit here in the middle of it all and wonder who in the world you will turn out to be. — Carrie Fisher

Naming Our Son

So, you may find the name for our Babe to be an interesting choice — one I about guarantee you've never heard. Maybe because technically it isn't a name you would ever find in a baby name book. Husband and I chose our son's name based on meaning. Together Husband and I have discussed, so many times, how we want our son's name to be something to live up to. Our son's name is Valor.

Valor Emerson

val•or [val-er]
boldness or determination in facing great danger, especially in battle; heroic courage; bravery: a metal for valor.

intrepidity, spirit, courage

Our call to war, to love the captive soul,
But to rage against the captor;
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole
And will fight with faith and valor.
When faced with trials on every side,
We know the outcome is secure,
And Christ will have the prize for which He died—
An inheritance of nations.
Lyrics from O Church Arise
By Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

Dear Valor,
I love saying your name and praying that you are full of boldness, bravery and courage! Life definitely throws curve balls, but our hope for you, is that you're a boy that is true to his name. But most of all, we want you to know Christ as your Heavenly Father and believe that He is the source of your strength. Your Daddy and I cannot wait to meet you and get to know your unique personality. We're counting down the days Little One.

Indiana Baby Shower & Gender Reveal

Last weekend, our dear friends Alison and Jagen hosted a fantastic baby shower and gender reveal for us. We are so blessed!

Husband, Baby and Me

Jagen and Husband

Alison (hostess with the mostess), Baby and Me

Our shower was such a beautiful day with dear friends and family. I'll let the photos do the talking:

Alison had everything planned down to the last detail, with vegan appetizers, cake, a devotional lead by my mom, and I think possibly everyone's favorite was the bib and onesie decorating! Our babe will be well dressed within the first few months, and it will be fun to remember who lovingly made each piece as it is worn.

Husband and I diligently kept a big secret until our shower. On Monday, May 11th we had our mid-pregnancy ultrasound and found out our Little One's gender. We had to hold the news in for three whole weeks, until last weekend. Can you believe we didn't even slip once? I'll be honest, there were times it was on the tip of my tongue, but held it in! Many friends and family members tried to pry the information out, but we prevailed!

Oh Baby BOY, look how many people love you, even before your arrival!