I’ll be the first to say it: Happy Blogiversary to me! It’s been four years since I popped up on the world wide web, and things have certainly changed a lot around here. Looking back on my posts from the first couple of years makes me chuckle a bit. There’s hardly a recipe in site, but a lot of run-on paragraphs proclaiming, “I’m so lucky that my fiancé is not picky and will eat anything I make, here’s a recipe from Cooking Light that I made but I changed thisthisandthis and my fiancé loved it.” There’s a lot of pictures which make beg me to question, “What the heck where we eating?” And notably, there’s a lot less of you.
So what’s changed? First of all, he’s now my husband (despite my meals being far from pretty or precise back then, he really did love them.) Secondly, my blog has become recipe-centric. Not that there’s anything wrong or shameful about simply throwing something together, but it’s not strong enough content to keep readers coming back for more. Adding on to that, I strive to post mostly original recipes. Again, nothing wrong with blogging someone else’s creations, but I’d like my blog to be a source for things you won’t find anywhere else. Third, let’s talk about photos. I’m on my third, maybe fourth camera since I started this blog. And I’ve gone through exponentially many more setups with lamps, light boxes, backdrops, props, etc. I once naively thought that photos didn’t really matter as long as my food and writing were good, which I was pretty sure they were (in retrospect, I feel a bit differently.) But I’ve changed my tune. We are at first a visual society, and if I can’t create a photo beautiful enough to convey the time and effort I’ve spent developing and preparing a meal, there’s a good chance you’ll skim right over it. Still, perusing Tastespotting makes me jealous that I don’t have more access to natural light, a better eye for food styling, and greater knowledge of photography; but at least I’m trying. Finally, there are more people than ever reading Cara’s Cravings. This assures me that my achievements are not all in my head; rather, through this blog, I really have become a more talented cook, artful photographer, and creative writer. Overall, I’m truly a better person.
In honor of my Blogiversary, I decided to go back to the beginning. To take the very first recipe I shared with you and turn it into something much more like what you’d expect to see on Cara’s Cravings, circa 2011. At first I thought I’d simply take that description of a meal and transform it into a recipe with actual ingredient amounts, instructions, and of course, a pretty picture.
But then I got bored. And decided that Moroccan Butternut Squash and Chickpeas just wasn’t enough. If one thing hasn’t changed, it’s that I can’t leave well enough alone. I craved kale. And tahini. And cardamom. All together in the same place. This time, I spent a good chunk of time envisioning the meal. I drafted what I thought the recipe should be, and revised it as I went along making it. And of course, I took pictures.
What I ended up with had notes of African, Middle Eastern, and Indian flavors. With all of that going on, it would probably be a food critics nightmare. Food critics love to label things, and fusion doesn’t always go over so well. But it’s not like I sat down and said, “Hey, Self, how can I purposely throw all these ethnic foods into one pot and have it turn out good?” No. I was simply craving all these things at once and rather than getting bogged down about the fact that they might not “go together” in any traditional or cultural sense, I simply followed my gut (pun intended.) So rather than trying to label this dish as what it isn’t (any of the ethnic foods mentioned above), let’s talk about what it is: a deliciously addicting marriage of some of my favorite flavors. I kid you not, this is one of the tastiest things I have ever made. It’s also a perfect example of my cooking style, because it’s a recipe that shows I never hesitate to think outside the lines and go against the norm. (In fact, as I was planning out the recipe, I even took a poll among some cooks I really trust about whether to use coconut milk or vanilla almond milk, and I went against their unanimous decision. I couldn’t have been more pleased.) And naturally, it’s healthy, wholesome, and well-balanced. In short, it’s the most perfect meal I could have made to celebrate my 4th Blogiversary.
Keep reading for the recipe and the GIVEAWAY!
Vanilla-Scented Buttercup and Kale Stew with Tahini
1/2 cup chopped red onion
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 cinnamon sticks
8 cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds diced buttercup squash, about half of a large squash (Hint: roast the other half, mash, and use like you would canned pumpkin.)
6 ounces chopped kale (from 1 medium bunch)
1 15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 cups vanilla unsweetened almond milk
2 cups water
1/4 cup tahini
2 tablespoons (15gm) shredded coconut, toasted*
chopped fresh cilantro
Place a dutch oven or large pot over medium-low heat, and spray with cooking spray. Cook the onion until softened and beginning to brown; about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, cinnamon sticks, and cardamom. Stir and cook for one minute more.
Add the salt, squash, kale, chickpeas, raisins, almond milk, and water. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium high. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until squash and kale are very tender.
Stir in the tahini and cook, uncovered, over moderately high heat for about 3-4 minutes, until thickened.
Ladle into bowls, and garnish with the toasted coconut and chopped cilantro.
Servings Per Recipe: 4
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat: 13.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 430.6 mg
Total Carbs: 58.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 13.8 g
Protein: 13.3 g
All of you – whether you read and comment every day or silently check in once in a while – are truly special to me. You are not only my motivation to keep blogging, you are my source of drive to challenge myself and keep getting better. I am personally sponsoring this giveaway as my thanks to you. So thank you, and you, and YOU, for being your fabulous self and for caring about what I do.
In honor of my Fourth Blogiversary, I’m giving away FOUR gifts that can only be described as Cara’s Cravings essentials. Here they are:
1) A KitchenAid Immersion Blender
This has to be one of my most-used appliances. Spicy Squash and Peanut Soup, Fave, Rape, e Cicoria, Protein Waffles, or Pumpkin Protein Cake are just a few much-loved recipes that give this tool its daily workout.
2) Moosewood Restaurant Lowfat Favorites AND a 1-Year Subscription to Bon Appetit Magazine
This Moosewood cookbook was the first vegetarian cookbook I owned, and has greatly influenced my love for eating like a vegetarian even though I’m not one. Bon Appetit is another much-loved recipe source, for both everyday and entertaining recipes. Recipes or adaptations from both have made many appearances on Cara’s Cravings.
I like to think there’s something for everyone here, and I hope you agree! To enter, simply leave a comment on this post. That’s it. You can tell me about your favorite Cara’s Cravings recipes, why you like to read my blog, what you’d like to see more of, or you can simply say hello. I’d love for you to Tweet about it, share it with your Facebook friends, or blog about it yourself, but only because you truly want to spread the word about my blog (and give me a little blogiversary gift!) This time, I’m limiting entries to one per person. You have until next Tuesday, March 29th at 11:59 pm. I’ll choose four winners on Wednesday, and contact you each in order to ask you which gift you’d like (so the first winner will get their choice of all four, the second winner has a choice of the three remaining, and so on.) Good luck!