Monday, March 28, 2011

pancakes ‘n paper boats

I went to Erin’s apartment on Sunday to make her pancakes. In exchange, she let me use her absurdly fantastic camera and its gorgey macro setting.

pancakes closeup


I had reasons for wanting to be out of the house… strange reasons. So I called Erin and suggested Sunday brunch, and said I’d bring provisions.

So I whipped up:


Whisked together:
1 c buttermilk
1 large egg
1 T canola oil
1 T ground flax

then added:
1 c. white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

A turn on the griddle, plus Erin’s delish blackberries (fresh), raspberries (frozen>thawed into saucy awesomeness) and honey (there being no syrup).

A beautiful, beautiful brunch!


Later in the day, Steve had returned from general debauchery from visiting his college buddy, and it was pleasant-ish, if not actually warm outside. The kite festival was canceled due to highly random snow (that’d melted by then.)

So we decided to make paper boats.

Steve taught me the basic design. Then I cut Lady Gaga out of Vogue and she climbed aboard.


To the park we went, our boats setting sail on the creek, sun glinting off the water.


Annnnd then Steve’s boat totally ATE IT under a log. Being the environmentalist that he is, he went to retrieve it, and was a good sport about posing in defeat.


Gaga came to a gentle stop…


And emerged triumphant, totally intact!


Steve does handstands in random places, and in an attempt to be the fun, lively, energetic person that I am not, I’ve taken to doing a war bow yoga pose, since flexibility is the one thing I can own Steve on.

Glad I didn’t get poison ivy on my belly. In retrospect, it could’ve happened pretty easily.


Annnnnnnnnd that’s how we keep ourselves entertained on Sundays.

Then I stuffed some white beans in some squash. It’d been too long.

Take some squash… any kind… today it was acorn. Bake it… for awhile. Til some of it is soft, but not all of it.

Then kinda scrape around the stuff that is soft.


Get some white beans (I used Goya- my fave!- small white beans, which I think have an almost sweeter flavor than canneloni?!), some dried sage, and salt and pepper. Put that in the squash’s cavity.


Then sorta mash it around until there is an outer squash later almost covering the beans so they don’t dry out.


Annnnnd bake til everything is soft, and you’ve got some nice tasty browning.



It’s also good with cheese :D

Apparently a lot of people have made this recipe (ish). Like my aunt. And my best friend, whose (vegan?!) boyfriend doesn’t really like vegetables (?!)

So. A vegetable dish for vegetable dislikers. And vegetable likers, like me!  

Saturday, March 26, 2011

lack of creativity

Thursday potluck.

The people: Small crowd, but Robin, a really awesome dance teacher who teaches our kiddos how to do Zumba came! We told lots and lots of terrible dating stories. Robin won- who could really compete with a story about a guy who stalked her and thought he could get into her good graces by sending her his bodybuilding DVD?

The scene: My place. I felt a sense of responsibility to make sure no one left hungry. And as it turns out, everyone left stuffed.

The eats: By seeing what I served at this week’s potluck, you dear blog readers, will basically see what I’ve been eating, due more or less to just lack of creativity, for several days. It has been a long week.

1. Brown Irish soda bread from Cooking Light.


I really just felt the need to redeem myself after it was dry when I made it last week. So I’ve made it again… twice actually. And oh did it redeem. BUTTAH. It’s like buttah.

I set out an area for delicious food dunkage, highlighting the two other major food groups in my life for the past week:


2. More of the tomato chutney

That recipe made four cups. Two people live at my house! Furthermore, while it’s good, I have decided it definitely didn’t need the two cups of brown sugar it contained. It’s a bit much. I’ll cut back and get a little more tang going next time.

and finally

3. Snow peas (!)

Our awesome awesome food bank (I attended a Community Forum for after school programs that receive food from our food bank and it was one of my favorite things I’ve gotten to do for my job! Hope to share some stuff later) sent our kids SNOW PEAS!

We did a fairly decent job of getting them all to at least try them. Kyle came up with the idea of telling them that the snow peas had real snow in them.

Kid: “How do they get snow in them? That’s stupid.
Kyle: “They’re from the mountains.”
Kid: “Ooooooooooooooh.”

They were decent sports about it, but we still had a lotta leftovers. And so, to my coworkers and I it went. I smuggled it home for the chutney and yet another purpose! Lest I be dull, my next dish featured a fun ingredient I rarely have on hand. Delightfully, my house currently contains:


Fresh mint! From that delightful cod the other day.

I thought about minty freshness… I had snow peas… that made me think some kind of Asian noodle thing. I perused recipes. I assembled ingredients.



(the carrots were basically just for color and actually ended up being, in my opinion, the most delicious item in the dish)



Erin, after tasting the noodles, asked what was in the sauce. I inhaled and said, “soy sauce, fish sauce, chili-garlic paste, lime juice, brown sugar, vegetable stock, fresh mint…”

She was highly impressed. I pointed out that the reason noodles are so delicious at Southeast Asian restaurants is that they have all those sweet-salty-spicy-sour flavors all packed in.

Here’s how I did it:

Garlic and chili garlic paste went into hot peanut oil. (Yes, garlic with my chili-garlic paste. Because you know what makes garlic better? More garlic). This smelled delightful.


Veggies went in to get nice and blistery.


Vegetable stock, brown sugar, and lime juice were whisked together.


And into the pot went that sauce, cooked soba noodles, soy sauce, fish sauce, and mint.


Also making an appearance at potluck: Steve followed another recipe! Madness!

This was polenta with mushroom gravy on top.


Poor Steve. I think I am influencing him rather more than I should, because he was as negative about his perceived recipe fail as I am when I have perceived recipe fail!


I thought it was okay. Yeah, it would’ve been better with butter, but what isn’t?

These next things, though, which Erin brought, needed no improvement.


Oh my GOD they are good. If white cheddar Cheez its got a pedigree and a lesson in subtlety. And they are tiny. So a serving is 31 of them. That is BEAUTIFUL!


A leave-no-carb-behind sort of dinner. From your three o’clock going counterclockwise, it’s the heavenly crackers, minty soba noodles, bread ‘n chutney, polenta ‘n shrooms, and finally pasta from Patricia (super yummy! She says her mom raised her on buying sauce packets, apparently found in the aisle with all the pastas, and it was totally delicous! Plus peas and itty bitty super yummy bay scallops)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

this week in oats

Sunday night I felt dreaaaaaaaaadful. I felt totally overwhelmed about work and incapable of bringing any energy or kindness to it on Monday. I felt sleep deprived and achy. So I stayed up and stressed, then had horrible horrible dreams, then woke up to darkness and a thunderstorm and thought “F*** it, I’m staying home today.”

When I went down for brunch at noon, having blessedly finally gotten a good night’s sleep for the first time in a loooooooooong time, I wanted oats.

But not just any oats. Can we just stop for a moment and admire this picture? I am so pleased with this picture.


Savory oats!

We begin with a simple base of oats, water, and frozen spinach that I just let thaw in that pot.


For toppage, I fried up an egg. But not any egg. A delicious nutritious local fun-lovin farmer’s market egg. And a GREEN egg, no less! So cute.


The real kicker? Za’atar for seasoning! I can tell I am going to be putting a whole lotta za’atar in a whole lotta recipes. Be prepared!

Highly, highly nourishing.


Plus tea and…


… Tylenol and vitamin.


Broken yolk, of course.


Brunch concluded with homemade coffee yogurt (1/2 cup local, grass-fed-cow-produced, makes-me-happy plain nonfat yogurt mixed with 1/4 tsp. or so instant coffee and 3 drops liquid stevia) and strawbs.


I know I never post breakfast anymore because it’s just… always… oats. Nothing else makes me feel full and satisfied (TWSS?) like them.

Figgy oats (1/2 cup oats, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup water, chopped dried figs, 1 tsp. flax, cinnamon) topped with yummy salty peanuts. Sweet and savory, how I love thee.


Springtimey weather means it’s

1. Beautiful and sunny in the evening, and slightly more atmospherically lit in the morning thus enabling me to take this rawther striking photograph



2. Warm enough for overnight oats!

Night before: 1/2 cup oats, 1/4 cup milk, 2 T plain yogurt, 2 T water 1/2 T chia seeds, 1/2 banana finely sliced

Next day: 2 T milk to reconstitute, walnuts sprinkled on top.

Hot tasty mess!


And finally, the be-all and end-all,

the thing that enables me to get up in the morning, typically unsatisfied with insufficient sleep and entirely unenthused at the prospect of work,

peanut butter-banana oats.


1 banana. 1/2 cup oats. 1/2 cup milk. 1/2 cup water. 1 tsp. flax. PB. Thank goodness for you!

Well okay if we want to get super specific…

Take a banana. A very small banana. If it’s too big, just use 2/3 to 3/4 of it. I have a banana size that just… feels right to me. I know it when I see it.

Cut it up. First cut it in half lengthwise. Then rotate it in half and do it in half lengthwise halfway through that. Like you’re cutting a cucumber into pickle spears. Then cut it into thin slices like so, so each thin slice is in four pieces.

Put it in a small pan on medium heat (on my stove, between 4 and 5). Let the banana get browned and bubbly and caramely. Then add your oats, milk, and water.

Those guys are going to cook and get all bubbly and nice. The oats are going to fatten up. You should stir them often. At a certain point, the oats will start sticking to the bottom. You may at this point use your spoon (I use a classic small wooden spoon for oat making) to scrape off the bottom, a satisfying task (unless you haven’t paid proper attention and it is too stuck, at which point you should pour in some boiling water. This happens to me and is fine because I always make tea with my morning oats and have boiling water on hand in my kettle). At any rate, the sticking-point is when you want to lower the heat to low, the temperature at which you should finish cooking the oats until they have reached your desired consistency.

Then add your flax. I add it last because heat is bad for ground flax. Is the oatmeal still hot? Duh. But at least I’m not boiling it for several minutes?

When removing the oats from the pan, I first prep my peanut butter spoon. It is pictured above. How much peanut butter is on it? You tell me. The right amount, that is how much. I put the peanut butter in the spoon, then take my spoon and put just enough hot oatmeal to fill half of my bowl. Then I IMMEDIATELY put my spoon atop the hot oats, so the peanut butter melts from the bottom up. Ohhh yes. The rest of the oats can then be added to your bowl at your leisure.

Does it have to be peanut butter? No. I’ve embarked on a love affair with sunflower seed butter this week. It’s grand.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

side by side

Did you ever sing that song in chorus?”Oh we ain’t got a barrel of money, maybe we’re ragged and funny, but we’ll travel along, singin’ a song, side by side”? We did in eighth grade, and my friend Alexis unexpectedly sang “When they’ve all had their quarrels and farted”, instead of “parted”, and I almost died laughing… in the front row… in the middle of a concert. Bad news!

Anyway, it it is fun to belong to a family of cooks and Sunday was very amusing because my mother and I worked side by side: I made a recipe my mother had bookmarked, my mother made a recipe I had bookmarked. We swapped!

A Costco cod purchase. My mother: “Did you have something in mind for this, or shall I research a recipe?” Me: “I have eight bookmarked on the computer.” Some gorgey farmer’s market napa cabbage led her to Poached Fish with Napa Cabbage.        

My mother is impressive when she cooks. She uses proper tools and cutting boards. She chops with precision. She measures things. When she doesn’t have an ingredient she needs for a recipe, she goes and gets it, instead of improvising with what she has on hand (which is why I used four cheese pasta sauce to make curry at Steve’s place on Saturday night). Crazy!


I’m glad she hunts down proper ingredients, because this recipe was hugely deliciousified by the addition of bean sprouts, an ingredient I do not use enough.


The crazy thing? The exotic Asian flavor is LOCAL! Awesome!


Watching my mother industriously at work in the kitchen, I decided to make a recipe she just “hadn’t felt like” making the day before, which she’d bookmarked in this gem of a cookbook:


Tomato chutney! I love chutney. Do other people love chutney? The ADHD person in me loves its ability to be simultaneously sweet, sour, spicy, and savory.

The artist in me (no. My only artistry is culinary.) set out my palate of ingredients in an attractive way on the cutting board.


Brown sug, a whole onion, golden raisins, dried apricot, lotsa ginger, cinnastick.

Everything else came from a can. You were supposed to use four pounds of fresh tomatoes but let’s be serious. It’s March. Plus I totally live for fire roasted tomatoes. Using canned tomatoes worked pretty well except they may have slightly less jell-ifying pectin in them, because the chutney looked a bit more like tomato sauce until I made a slurry with the tomato liquid and some cornstarch. Once I mixed that in, it thickened up nicely.


Quite honestly, in the raw form it looked entirely unimpressive and unappetizing. But you cook it for a good long time (the recipe calls for an hour and fifteen minutes, and I ended up doing it even longer!)


Whilst doing so, I supervised the toasting of the sesame seeds while my mother watched the news. Toasting sesame seeds is seriously nerve wracking. They are so tiny! They must be so easy to burn! Which is why I opened the toaster oven roughly every ten seconds during the process, and removed them the instant they started to brown. Any tips on how to make this process less anxious?


Anyway, chutney: DONE! And utterly succulent. Slow cooking improved its ugliness. Dried fruit got fat and hydrated and awesome. Onions got shrunken and soft. Broken down tomatoes and dried fruit gave it sweetness. Ginger, spices, and the cayenne that I somehow slipped in gave it pep!


Aaaaaaaand fish. Perfect meal for someone feeling depressed for the work week ahead and also not entirely healthy. It had wonderful nourishing brothyness, and was simultaneously comforting yet fresh (anyone who eats pho understands that those two things really can coexist.)


The fresh mint and the bean sprouts were essential flavor components, which goes to show ya that it is worth going out to get the ingredients. Well done, Ma!

And, yknow, my toasted sesame seeds were nice too :D


Rice also accompanied dinner. Ended up eating all the soup first, because the flavors and textures were so delicate that it seemed like it’d mess that up if I added rice.

Plus, plain rice is just so tummy soothing.

Though then I decided it would benefit with the addition of some chutney.


Earlier in the day, I made for the first time a dish adored by both my mother and I: za’atar bread!


Za’atar bread is something I learned about when I started to go to a church filled with Lebanese immigrants. I fell in love with their wonderfully smoky baba ghanouj and hummus; their transcendent donuts; and the wonderful woodsiness of the blend of thyme, sesame, and sumac known as za’atar. Za’atar bread at its most traditional is pita bread, scads of olive oil, and the za’atar spice blend.

I made it using simple ingredients that I already had on hand that were maybe marginally more nutritious (whole grains, holla). My current favorite (due to the fact that it’s 100% whole wheat, available to buy at Costco, and MASSIVE despite being suspiciously low in calories) flatbread:


And za’atar!


I got this at Aphrodite Greek Imports, my local fave. Any Arabic or Greek place will likely have it. Check out the simple and delicious ingredient list:


Stuck my flatbreads on a tray. Brushed ‘em with olive oil. Sprinkled ‘em with za’atar. Baked til warm.

Sumac, you rock my world. The taste of this is so special I really can’t describe it. I can just recommend finding yourself some!