Birthday Dinner!

I am a sucker for birthdays.  I love celebrating my friends’ birthdays, and I’m not going to lie – I love my own birthday.  Guess I was born without the Peter Pan gene – I don’t mind growing up.  Each year has gotten better and better, and surely this year will not disappoint.

To celebrate this year, I wanted to cook a meal. A BIG meal.  I’ve had some bouts of insomnia lately, and ended up spending those sleepless nights pouring over cookbooks, including my new Lavender cookbook, a gift from my dear friends Krista and Ryan after their recent trip to a lavender farm in New Mexico!  What a treat this little book has proven to be.cookbook perusingI decided birthday dinner would include the following:

  • butterscotch pumpkin muffins with honey lavender butter (the lavender cookbook by sharon shipley)
  • giant crusty and creamy white beans with greens (supernatural cooking by heidi swanson)
  • jasmine rice mushroom pilaf with lavender (the lavender cookbook)
  • savory autumn cobbler (a recipe shared by a dear friend)

I spent all day cooking, and I can’t imagine a better way to enjoy a birthday. Except maybe the addition of croissant french toast with strawberries from Gold Standard….but I’m not complaining.  I’ll try that jam sooner or later ;)

BEFORE:birthday groceries

AFTER:birthday dinner

Recipes to follow. I’m sleepy.

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Soup Group: Philly Edition

One of the gatherings that kept me going during my 3 winters in Fargo was Soup Group.
(Three?! Whoa. With one winter in between in Philly. That’s another story.)

ANYWAY. Soup Group became a very special weekly ritual for me.  Started out in my little 10th Ave apartment in downtown Fargo.  Post-church, friends and family would arrive one by one, bringing with them bread, cheese, cider, and the like.  And I’d be at home, brewing up pots upon pots of soup.  So many warm memories.  People would eat standing in the kitchen, sitting in the guestroom, chilling on the living room floor.  Old friends became dearer.  Friends I didn’t know I had (like my dear Melissa) showed up unexpectedly and became family.  And my heart was full.

This tradition made Fargo feel like home in ways that had earlier proven hard to find.  I missed Philadelphia something fierce, and the community that I cooked and shared meals with on a regular basis.  Slowly but surely, with each pot of soup, I began to feel at home in the place I grew up.

Days before I moved back to Philly in February 2012, I decided I needed one last soup group.  With only a night’s planning, my sweet mom and I put together a soup group for me to say goodbye.  I am forever grateful for my mom’s understanding of this important tradition, and her company in the kitchen time and time again.  I don’t remember now what we made, but I remember this little guy, Otis, was there.  A founding soup group member from the 10th Ave days.  And that meant the world to me.

soup group with otis

Once I got back to Philly, I immediately felt at home.  And as fall rolled around and the weather cooled, I knew soup group needed to be rekindled, east coast style.  Turns out, people everywhere love soup (whew).  My dearest friend Krista was visiting at the end of October, and that was that – with a fellow Fargoan in the kitchen, it was time to kick it off.

Krista gifted me with a beautiful lavender cookbook from a farm she and her husband visited in New Mexico. So we decided we better try out a new recipe – butternut squash bisque with lavender cider cream.  Joined by my staple curried lentil soup, we started this coast’s soup group with a bang.

Butternut Squash Bisque with Lavender Cider Cream
from The Lavender Cookbook by Sharon Shipley
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups finely diced leek
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
1/2 cup finely diced celery
2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 small tart apples, peeled, cored, and diced
2 tablespoons dried culinary ‘provence’ lavender buds, finely ground in a spice grinder
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon thyme or thyme leaves
1/2 tsp chopped fresh marjoram leaves
6 cups broth
1/2 cup apple cider
1 bunch fresh chives, finely chopped

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the leek, carrot, and celery.  Saute for 10 minutes, or until the leeks are translucent.  Add the squash and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the apples, lavender, thyme and marjoram.  Stir in the broth and juice concentrate. Bring to a simmer.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the squash and apples are very tender.  Using a handheld blender or food processor (work in batches), blend the soup until smooth.  Return to a simmer.

Ladle into individual bowls. Swirl 1-2 tablespoons of the cider cream into each bowl. Sprinkle with the chives.

Lavender Cider Cream
1/4 cup apple cider jelly (if not avail – bring 1/2 c apple cider to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until reduced to 1/4 c. Let cool.)
2/3 sour cream or creme fraiche (we used plain yogurt)
1 tsp dried culinary ‘provence’ lavender buds, lightly ground with a mortar and pestle
Place the jelly in a small saucepan and stir over low heat just until melted.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the sour cream or creme fraiche and lavender. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate until needed.soup group phillyLentil Soup
from Williams & Sonoma’s SOUP

2 TBLS Olive Oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled & thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 tsp curry powder
1 can (6 oz) canned diced tomatoes w/juice
1 1/2 cups dried brown or pink lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained – i usually use brown or green; pink and orange fall apart too easily and change the texture.
6 cups (48 oz) broth
1 lemon, sliced
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh spinach

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and bay leaf, and saute until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes and their juice, lentils, stock and lemon slices. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially, and cook stirring occasionally, unitl the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Discard the lemon slices and bay leaf.

Just before serving, stir in the spinach, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the spinach is wilted but still bright green. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with cheese if you wish, which I do wish, thank you very much.

Soup Group, I <3 you.

There’s nothing like a visit from your soul sister.
So grateful to have this incredible woman in my life. xoxo.
k.costin_magicgardens