Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Tree Soup

The only thing I love more than participating in a holiday tradition is creating a new one - whether intentionally, or completely by accident. Last night was probably one of the best "accidental tradition creations" I've ever had!

While my mother-in-law and husband were out looking for a Christmas tree (in lovely Seattle-rain fashion), I dove head-first into my first pureed soup, with all the vegetables coming from our weekly farm share! It was a little daunting, I admit, when I was trying to figure out what I wanted the main flavor to be; Did I want to go exotic? Spicy? Ginger-y? Sweet? Did I want to do as my father-in-law not-so-subtly hinted at and add meat and, if so, what kind? What do I serve with it? Should I leave any texture to the soup and, if so, how much and with what? Will the food processor do a good enough job, or will this come out looking like semi-solid baby food?

As it turns out, I needn't have worried. The mix of vegetables in and of themselves were amazing, and lent a lot of flavor to the soup just by roasting them... and the vegetable stock and wine that I used were perfect. *sigh*

So, here's the final recipe that I came up with while my husband showed our almost two year old son what struggling with Christmas trees looks like:

1 acorn squash
6 medium carrots, peeled
1 large turnip, peeled
1 medium beet, peeled
1 small head of garlic, peeled
Canola oil
Salt and pepper
2 Tbs butter
1 large yellow onion
2 Tbs salt
2 tsp dried ginger
1 Tbs dried sage
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp nutmeg
pinch of red pepper flake
1 tsp chipotle hot sauce
1/2 cup red wine
3 cups of vegetable stock
2 red potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup of heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 415 degrees
Chop the squash, carrots, turnips and beet into roughly the same size chunks, and place on a cookie sheet along with the peeled garlic (leaving the cloves whole).
Drizzle with the Canola oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
Roast in the oven for 10 minutes (if you have a "speed back" option, 15 - 20 if you don't).
Meanwhile, finely chop the onion and saute in the butter on medium high in a medium, heavy-bottomed soup pot, adding the spices once the onion has begun to soften.
Take the vegetables out of the oven, and turn them over for even roasting.
Turn the heat on the spiced onions down to medium-low, and sweat for 5 minutes.
Add the wine and chicken stock to the onions, stirring quickly to get the browned bits off the bottom of the pot.
Chop the potatoes into roughly 1'' pieces, and add to the pot, increasing the heat to high. Boil for 5 - 10 minutes, or until mostly tender.
Remove the vegetables from the oven, and place in the food processor and pulse until they all are mixed together fairly well, then add the potatoes and some of the onions from the pot. (It's okay if some of the liquid from the pot gets in to the vegetables.) Pulse together well, until a fairly smooth texture is achieved; you may need to scrape the sides of the processor bowl on occasion.
Carefully add the pureed vegetables to the liquid in the pot, and stir to combine with the liquid.
Once combined, add the heavy cream and taste for seasoning.
Serve while hot!

Serving Suggestions
I made cornbread muffins, which were excellent alongside this soup. You could really serve any kind of bread, although sourdough might be a bit heavy.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Potluck? I'm in!

Sunday saw the return of the New Hope Ministries Annual Pre-Thanksgiving Potluck... and the return of my favorite, guilty pleasure... Stove Top Stuffing, in a Costco-sized box. Oh, the glory...

Unfortunately, it also meant the return to my yearly contribution - Jello salad. Now, let me get this out in the open: No matter what I do to this creature, it comes out tasting amazing. Yes... I AM that good! However, my attempts at making it in a nice, pretty mold have failed miserably.

2008: I forgot to put it in the fridge. I was 8 months pregnant... that's my excuse.

2009: My husband tried to remove the mold before it was ready - even after telling him "IT'S NOT READY!" - and guess what landed on the floor?

2010: It was perfect! The jello came out of the mold without a hitch, and landed just sliiiiightly off-center on the serving tray. I was ready to let it go, but a friend of mine tried to help... and the whole thing broke apart. *sigh* Well, that's why I made a second, smaller one! That one didn't break, and stayed gorgeous.

Drama aside, here's the recipe (as I fiddled with it, at least):

Sparkling Jello Salad

1 box of Raspberry Jello
1 box of Berry Fusion Jello (Blackberry would also work)
2 cups of raspberries
1 cup of canned mandarin oranges (the sweetness is needed, so definitely used canned)
4 cups of water
4 cups of Ginger Ale, very cold

Heat the water to boiling in a medium pot.
In a large bowl, add the boiling water to the jello and stir for 2 minutes to fully combine.
Add the Ginger Ale, but only stir ONCE - this will keep all the sparkly bubbles intact
Pour into your jello mold of choice, or leave in the bowl
    - I had to use one large mold, and one small.
Add the raspberries and mandarin oranges, scattering around the jello evenly
Refrigerate for 4 hours, until fully set

Monday, September 13, 2010

Late Summer Blueberry Crumble

What's better than gobbling down handful after handful of fresh blueberries? How about picking them yourself, sneaking a few (okay... a LOT from the bucket as you go), and watching your toddler do the same! 

My Grandpa BoBo (term of endearment, I swear) lives on a blueberry farm in Olympia, Washington. Every summer, as kids, we would drive down and spend a day... or two... picking as many blueberries as we could. Grandpa would then weight them - the bigger berries, the better, though! - and pay us for our labor. Of course... all of the smoked salmon, hot peppers, and various blueberry dishes were payment enough for me!

This summer, my husband and I took our 20 month-old son down to the farm with the rest of my family for a supremely glorious late-summer afternoon of berry picking. Not only did we find THE BEST blueberries ever, but we got to catch up with my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, while sharing some of my past with our little guy. It was awesome. 

Here is a recipe - adapted as noted - that I found on, thanks to my iPhone's "AllRecipes Dinner Spinner" app. I made it last night, and it's already half-gone...

Late Summer Blueberry Crumble Bars

Late Summer Blueberry Crumble Bars Recipe
(Adapted from AllRecipes)
  • 1 cup sugar (plus extra 1/2 cup for blueberries)
    • I used 1/2 cup white and 1/2 cup light brown for extra flavor (and 1/4 cup white, 1/4 cup brown for the blueberries)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tbsp. nutmeg
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (plus 1 tsp. for the blueberries)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries (frozen is fine - it's what I used and prefer, as they hold their shape better)
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • Enough cinnamon sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan (I used cooking spray - worked great!).
In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder.  Use a  pastry cutter to blend in the butter, egg and vanilla. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan so that the entire bottom is covered and one, even layer.
In another bowl, stir together the sugar, vanilla, and cornstarch. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer. Dust the crumble with cinnamon sugar.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

This was my first ever Crumble! My mom made them every summer when we were kids, so I knew I loved them, but the thought that I could make one of my own never entered my head. This recipe fit in immensely well with my "Eat Seasonally" mantra, and it also was low-egg... something that I have to be careful of with my son's egg allergy. It stays moist, but has a flaky, crumbly top (go figure, right?), and would loan itself to many different fruits. I'm already contemplating a strawberry-chocolate version...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bring on the Zuc!

Have zucchini you can't get rid of?
(Well, first, give me some!)
Need a refreshing summer-time recipe, perfect for the not-so-hot Seattle days of August-September?

All credit for this recipe goes to and to Google, for magically delivering it to me on my iGoogle homepage this morning.

Spicy Zucchini Soup Recipe

If you are using extra large zucchini, scoop out and discard the seeds first. And if the skin is thick or tough, peel it and discard the peels.


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno chile (seeds, stems and ribs removed), chopped
  • 3 chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 pounds chopped zucchini (skin on)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped day-old bread
  • 3 cups chicken broth (use vegetable broth for vegetarian option)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper


1 Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and jalapeno chile and sauté for 4-5 minutes until the onions are translucent, but not browned. Add the garlic and zucchini and sauté for another 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle with salt.
2 Add the bread, broth, and water, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
3 Remove from heat. Add the mint and cilantro (if using). Purée in a blender or food processor until smooth, working in batches if necessary. Or use an immersion blender.
4 Return the soup to the pot. Add the lemon juice, and salt, and pepper to taste.
Garnish with lemon wedges and sprigs of mint or cilantro.
Serve hot or chilled. Keeps for a week in the fridge.
Serves 4.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hot Weather = Cool Food

Seattle's summer came late, as usual... arriving on July 5th. With it, a mini heat-wave has descended upon our green city, leading me to bring out any/all warm weather recipes for my family that I can find.

Your local supermarket can be pretty hit-or-miss when it comes to finding local and/or seasonal produce... heavy on the "miss" if you're completely honest. A lot of the stuff you'll find in there has been shipped across the country (or the world), frozen, or packed full of preservative and/or pesticides. Then there are those rare moments when... *insert choir of angels singing here*... you luck out.

Last night was my lucky night!

I stopped by Safeway on the way home, and they had the biggest, freshest, most AMAZING watermelons I have ever seen! Already wanting to try out a recipe for watermelon & cucumber salad, I was able to form an entire meal around this delectable treat... and my family LOVED it!

Last night's dinner:

 - Hawaiian-style baked Tilapia
 - Watermelon & Cucumber Salad
 - Corn on the Cob

1. Hawaiian-style baked Tilapia

5 frozen Tilapia loins, thawed
1 TS salt
1/4 c. Soyaki Sauce (Trader Joe's)

Preheat the oven to 400 (F). Spray a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray, and lay out the Tilapia. Sprinkle with salt, then pour the Soyaki marinade over the fish. Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes or until the fish is nice and flaky.
... isn't that EASY?!

2. Watermelon & Cucumber Salad
1/2 c. white vinegar
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 TS red pepper flakes
8 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
4 English cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1/4 c. sweet chili sauce

Combine vinegar, sugar and pepper in saucepan. Bring to a boil; boil 1 minute, remove from heat and cool. Slice cucumbers and toss with 1 tsp of salt. Let sit in colander for 30 minutes. Pat dry. Just before serving toss watermelon with salt in a large bowl. Add cucumbers, red onions, celery, pepper syrup, and sweet chili sauce and toss. (recipe adapted from:

See you in the kitchen....!

- Krystal

Thursday, June 17, 2010

End-of-Spring Spontaneity Dinner

One of the first foods that comes to mind when I think of spring is:

What can I say? It's a charmer.
In my continuing effort to cook as season-mindful as possible, I've found that just listening to your gut (every pun intended) is the best resource. We naturally crave lighter meals in warm weather, and tend to prefer heartier, warm dishes in the fall and winter. What a considerate body you have! That's why asparagus is such a great spring-time vegetable; it not only tastes great, but has the fiber that our bodies are missing from the other 'light' spring foods, or the heavier, meatier items we consume in the colder months.

The Dinner:
Panko-crusted Chicken
Sauteed parsnips, asparagus, and garlic stalks
Yellow mashed potatoes

The Recipe(s):

Panko-crusted Chicken

... well, I bought it from Whole Foods, already seasoned and ready to go. I know, I know, I cheated! Unfortunately, I received my just rewards for said cheatery, as the only thing the chicken had going for it was its crispy topping. The bird itself was dry, and the seasoning in the crust was bland. I have learned my lesson.

Sauteed parsnips, asparagus, and garlic stalks
  • 3 large parsnips, peeled and cut diagonally into 1/2'' slices
  • 1/2 bushel of asparagus, trimmed at the 'natural point'
  • 1/2 bushel of garlic stalks
  • 1 TS butter
  • 3 TS herb flavored olive oil
  • 2 TS soy sauce
  • 1/4 c. Soyaki Sauce (Trader Joe's... so good)
  • 1/3 c. chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, add all of the veggies, and toss them to evenly coat in the oil/butter mixture. Saute for 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce, and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the Soyaki and chicken stock, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
** It may seem like too much chicken stock, but trust me; the veggies absorb most of it,
and the rest is turned into a really nice, thick coating thanks to the sugars in the Soyaki sauce. **

Yellow mashed potatoes
  • 5 large yellow potatoes
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 6 TS butter
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 2 TS freshly ground salt
  • 3 TS freshly ground garlic pepper
 Peel the potatoes, and chop into 1 - 2'' chunks all roughly the same size. Place in a pot, and cover with chicken stock. Bring to a boil. When the potatoes are tender (stab them with a fork to tell), drain them and put them immediately back in the hot pot. Add the butter and milk, and mash them to your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper.
** Putting the potatoes back in the hot pot helps to evaporate any left-over
moisture that makes the potatoes seem gummy or mushy. **

The Verdict:
Well... everyone ate it - that's usually a good sign. My 18 month-old even picked up the chicken from his father's plate and gnawed on it until it was gone!
In the future, I would, again, make the chicken myself instead of letting Whole Foods do the work for me. It would have been worth the additional 2 - 5 minutes of prep-work for better flavor.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sweet Cherry Crostata di Ricotta

* 1 pie crust (can be found near the cookie dough in the refrigerated section)
* 3 tablespoons raspberry jam
* 1 can cherry pie filling
* 1 cup ricotta cheese
* 1 egg
* 2 tablespoons sugar

* Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
* Unroll pie crust and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
* Spread raspberry jam around the edges of the pie crust, leaving the middle of the crust completely empty.
* Spread the cherry pie filling into the middle of the crust, up until the edge where the jam is.
* Randomly place tablespoon-sized dollops of ricotta over the cherry filling.
* Fold in the edges of pie crust over the filling.
* In a small bowl, beat the egg and brush over pie crust so that it is evenly distributed.
* Sprinkle the crust with sugar.
* Bake for 20 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is puffed slightly.
* Remove to a wire rack, cool 10 minutes.


So... meat. Have to have it, gotta love it, wouldn't-be-a-meal-without-it, meat.

Did you know that even MEAT is a seasonal food?

If we take a moment to think about it, it makes sense. Let's look at salmon, which is an ideal example of a seasonal protein. While yes, you can find them any time of the year, there are certain times that the local variety will be better than others (and you ARE eating locally now, aren't you...?). Salmon start bulking up in the winter months, getting ready for their epic up-stream battles spawn in the spring and early summer. If they are Atlantic salmon, they will likely survive this trip and make their way back out to the ocean for Round Two. If they are Pacific salmon, however, this will be their last hurrah... but hey, at least they get to go out spawning, right?
Anyway, this herculean effort of swimming hundreds of miles from ocean to spawning grounds in the spring and early summer produces a firm but flaky flesh on our fishies, while still maintaining high levels of amino acids and peptides that our bodies need. But if you go after a salmon once they have spawned, and have exhausted themselves from the journey, you may literally find yourself with rotting fish-flesh, as they tend to die-off once they have completed their procreational goal.

I told you all of that to tell you this: Everything has a season; your fruits, your veggies, your fish/poultry/beef, everything. Hell, even your fashion has a season... not that some of you notice...

Here's a handy starting point (by no means exhaustive) to whet your appetite for a more careful selection of proteins (thanks to Delicious Living): 


Emphasize lighter meats, like chicken, white-meat, and turkey. Fish is very moist, so in the damp spring months, it’s best cooked with techniques that don’t add liquid.
Best dishes: Grilled chicken breast, baked white fish, broiled salmon


Eat less animal protein in general, and emphasize white fish and mollusks, which are cooling and moist. White-meat chicken is okay, especially if eaten cold.
Best dishes: Steamed mussels, lightly sautéed scallops, boiled shrimp, chicken salad


You can begin to increase your intake of animal protein, and add some heavier selections, like dark-meat chicken and turkey or lean beef. Oily fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines are ideal now.
Best dishes: Broiled salmon, lean steak


Dark, heavy meats cooked with more liquid bring warmth and moisture to the body during the cold winter months. Or choose fatty fish in thicker cuts to allow longer cooking times.
Best dishes: Roast beef, lamb stew, buffalo burgers, bouillabaisse

Whatever you decide to make, I hope that you will consider the benefits of eating seasonally!

- Krystal

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mac & Cheese for Mama, Please!

I like the idea of being able to eat what I want, when I want, and however I want... but, unfortunately, my *insert problem area here* doesn't always feel the same way - nor does my commitment to eating seasonally. Foods that are as hearty and rich as this recipe is should really be saved for the fall and winter seasons, when our bodies are naturally craving things with a little more "oomph", instead of the salads, grilled fare, and lighter options of spring and summer.

Even though I may strive to eat a healthy, balanced diet, there are some times when I just have to cave in and eat what I'm craving. I don't call it weakness, no... I call it "listening to my body". While not wise to do all the time, well, everything in moderation. So there.

Finally, this is a great recipe to make for a sick friend, or for new parents. It's comforting, hearty, and definitely something to sit back and enjoy before running to the nearest treadmill!


  • 8 slices of thick-sliced bacon (I like peppered bacon for an extra kick)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 1 1/2 cups 2% milk (do NOT use nonfat!!)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 ounces Brie cheese (rind removed), at room temperature
  • 3 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
  • 2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 bag of frozen sugar peas
  • 1 cup Breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flake
  • 2 teaspoons paprika


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in 1 layer on the baking rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan carefully from the oven - there will be hot grease in the pan! Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and crumble when it is cool enough to handle.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth.

Off the heat, add the cheeses - Brie, Cheddar, blue cheese - then 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Add the cooked macaroni, crumbled bacon, and frozen sugar peas and stir well.

Pour into a baking dish.
Add 2 tablespoons of melted butter, red pepper flake, and paprika to the breadcrumbs and stir to combine. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

- Original recipe by Ina Garten, with modifications by Krystal Bishop

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Changing of the (dietary) Seasons

The idea of "eating seasonally" is something my husband and I have thrown around for the last few years. We usually toss ideas around, debate a bit, and end up with these questions:

1. How do you find out what's in season?
2. Where would you find what you're looking for?
3. Isn't it expensive... all those fresh fruits and vegetables?
4. Do cattle, poultry, and fish have "seasons"? If so, when's the best time to get them?
5. Can you still eat seasonally by shopping at a major grocery chain?

After losing nearly 200 lbs through weight loss surgery, hard work, and diet changes back in 2006, having a rapidly growing toddler, an abundance of local farmer's markets in the Seattle area, and a nearly obsessive love of cooking for my family... I decided to take the plunge and just DO it already.

Pretty words, to be sure... but how the hell do I put it into action? I mean, really; look at the title of this blog - it is't "So Much Free Time, So Tasty!", is it?

As with any lifestyle change - and yes, that is DEFINITELY what it's going to take - it is important to break things down in to manageable pieces.
Do I want to serve all organic, non-GMO food at every meal? Yes.
Is that going to happen overnight (or any time in the near future)? Ha. Not likely.

My goal for this season (spring) is to only make dinners that contain items that are in-season, barring of course spices, stocks, pastas and (for now), grains. That means that any fruits, veggies, and meats that I buy must be in-season... and, even more, preferably in-season in my state. There are so many reasons to eat local; less cost, fresher/riper produce, promotes the local economy, and it just plain tastes better.

So, there you have it - one busy mom's goal for her family, and their very hungry bellies. I would seriously encourage you to give seasonal eating a try, and see how it might benefit you and your families!

Stay Tasty,

Homemade Tartar Sauce... for frozen fish sticks.

An original recipe, this was born when I finally acknowledged that the frozen fish sticks and tater tots that I was making for dinner weren't my most original meal items.


~ 1 1/2 cup Mayonnaise (use mayo, not "whipped dressing" or Miracle Whip)
~ 1/4 cup sweet relish
~ 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
~ 1 tablespoon soy sauce
~ 1 teaspoon each pepper, dill, and lemon pepper
~ 1/2 teaspoon finely minced/grated garlic


Stir everything together. Store in the fridge for an hour before serving to let the flavor set. (I've used it immediately, and it's still AWESOME!)