Just Putting It Out There

November 29, 2012 Comments Off on Just Putting It Out There

Yes, I have some inspiring links for you:

Aftermath

Road trip, anyone?

-I miss Paris. And speaking of beautiful photography blogs, I rediscovered this old favorite.

-Picked up this book. Loving it so far.

I also want to let you know that I’m on Twitter now. Feel free to follow me.

Take My Word For It

November 29, 2012 Comments Off on Take My Word For It

Today, I’ll be brief.

I’m not the fastest cook in the kitchen. But I managed to makes these croquettes for lunch in record time. Just shy of an hour, including the cooking time. It would’ve taken me even less time if 1) I’d had some cooked quinoa and sweet potatoes on-hand in the fridge 2) I weren’t so terrible at flipping things in a skillet. (You should see my pancakes, crepes, and omelettes–they come out looking like little abstract expressionist masterpieces.)

This is the best picture I have of these croquettes. The rest fell apart.

Take my word for it. If I can do it, so can you.

Take the advice of the original recipe and add breadcrumbs to thicken the mixture. Other suggestions I have to offer: perhaps making the croquettes small, as opposed to large, palm-sized patties, like I did, would help them hold their shape better and cook faster.

I discovered through sheer improvisation that the original recipe is quite flexible. The original recipe calls for russet potatoes. Since we eat a lot of sweet potatoes in my house, I used those instead. I also added extra quinoa (for a protein boost) and used dry spices rather than fresh ones.

I wonder what else I might throw into the mix next time. I imagine some pumpkin or sunflower seeds would enhance the texture. I might even switch out the grains next time–millet or brown rice might be nice–or add some chopped wilted greens or caramelized shallots…

I could go on.

Sweet Potato and Quinoa Croquettes (adapted from Cook Republic)

-2 medium-large sweet potatoes

-1.5-2 cups cooked quinoa (I used tri-colored)

-1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas

-2 teaspoons cumin

-2 teaspoons coriander

-1 teaspoon muchi curry powder

-1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

-2 small cloves of garlic, finely chopped

-Extra-virgin coconut oil for the skillet

-Scrub, peel, and chop the sweet potatoes into small pieces. Steam them in a pot with a steamer basket inside of it until very tender. Once the sweet potatoes are through cooking, transfer them to a large mixing bowl and mash.

-Meanwhile, rinse and cook the quinoa. Drain any excess water and add to the mixing bowl with the mashed sweet potatoes.

-Add the spices, salt, and garlic to the bowl and mix to combine. If the mixture is too thin, add breadcrumbs, no more than a 1/4-cup at a time. Keep in mind that you want the mixture to retain some moisture. Adding too many breadcrumbs could dry it out.

-Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Shape the mixture into croquettes. Aim for about 1/4-inch thickness for each croquette.

-Cook the croquettes in small batches until their sides are golden brown and crispy. Figure 4-5 minutes per side. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Makes 8-9 large croquettes, though you can certainly make smaller croquettes.

For Laughs

November 28, 2012 § 1 Comment

I’ve been going through my travel photos. I’ve posted many of my images on this blog, but not all of them. I thought you might like to see some of the outtakes. The images I didn’t deem worthy enough for blog inclusion the first time around. I normally like to let images stand for themselves, but I couldn’t resist writing some captions.

I’ll have some more relevant content for you soon. For now, enjoy.

Swedish design. Stockholm.

Graffiti with a conscience. Copenhagen.

I’m not sure how to explain this one. Copenhagen.

Frightening. Lake Malaren.

Even more frightening. Lake Malaren.

Things you find in a Swedish supermarket. Stragnas.

Things you find in a Swedish supermarket, part II. Stragnas.

For my mom. Yes, this still exists. Paris.

“Money to blow.” Dublin.

The “V” Word

November 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

I took charge of desserts for my family’s Thanksgiving meal this year. I brought two vegan treats to the table. I was grateful to find a recipe for vegan pie crust on Food52. I used it to make a delicious, dairy-free pumpkin pie and a seasonal take on the galette I’ve made more than a few times this year.

Am I a vegan? No, and I don’t plan on becoming one anytime soon. I eat whatever I want, whenever I want. But lately I’ve been making efforts to reduce the amount of animal products in my life. It’s strictly a personal choice.

While I try not to impose my views on anyone, I love to prepare vegan dishes to share with others. I want to show people how animal products aren’t required to make creative and delicious foods. I’ve gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback so far.

However, I was nervous about how my relatives would receive my contributions.  The “V” word tends to scare people. My initial plan was to lie. I would tell my relatives that I used “straightforward” and “old-fashioned” recipes. I wouldn’t mention the fact that I substituted extra-virgin coconut oil for butter in the pastry crust I made, or that the pumpkin pie’s custard contained not even a smidgen of egg or cream.

Well, those who know me well enough know that I’m a horrible liar. The truth came out as I was serving the desserts, when my aunt grilled me about the recipes I used.

My relatives ate my desserts anyway. I think they even liked them.

I was satisfied with how both desserts turned out, but I want to spotlight the apple galette. I followed the pumpkin pie recipe to the letter. Much more creativity went into the apple galette. I exchanged plums for sour apples and used ground ginger and nutmeg, in addition to cinnamon, to add warm autumnal notes. This is the most intensely flavorful galette I’ve baked all year.

A few notes on ingredients. I used Granny Smith apples because that’s what I had on-hand at the time. I’d be interested to see which other varieties of apples would work well in this preparation. I normally don’t use all-purpose flour. When I do, I mix it with more substantial, whole-grain flours. I made an exception for this galette. I wanted to keep things simple. Perhaps next time around, I’ll experiment with different grains.

Apple Galette

Crust

-2 cups all-purpose flour

-1/2 cup solid extra-virgin coconut oil

-Ice water (no more than 1/2 cup)

Filling

-2-3 Granny Smith apples, cored and thinly sliced (leave the skins on)

-Zest and juice of 1 lemon

-2 tablespoons grade b maple syrup

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-2 pinches white flour

-2 teaspoons cinnamon

-2 teaspoons ground ginger

-1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

-1.5 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus a larger, flakier variety to garnish at the end

-Make the crust by pulsing the flour and coconut oil in a food processor, until small, soft crumbs begin to form. Continue pulsing, adding ice water gradually, stopping once you have a cohesive ball of dough. Press the dough into a flat round and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use. If you don’t plan to make the tart right away, store in the freezer.

-Preheat the oven to 420 degrees.

-Make the filling by whisking together the lemon zest and juice, maple syrup, vanilla extract, flour, spices and salt. Add the sliced apples and toss, making sure each slice is coated.

-Roll out the round of tart dough to a circle of ~1/4 in. thickness. Arrange the apple slices in a semi-spiral pattern. Don’t worry about over-packing the galette. The apple slices will shrink down as the galette bakes. Leave at least a 1.5-2 inch border between the filling and the edge of the dough.

–Use a pastry brush to coat the fruit and dough with any remaining liquid from the filling.

-Fold the dough over the fruit, leaving most of the filling exposed.

-Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the crust begins and filling are golden brown. Allow the galette to cool completely before serving. Garnish with large, flaky sea salt.

Yields enough for four large servings, or eight-ten small servings.

Something Light

November 21, 2012 Comments Off on Something Light

I’m in no position to tell you what or how to eat on Thanksgiving. But please don’t make the same mistake that I’ve made previously on Thanksgiving and fast until it’s time for the big feast to begin. I can’t help but think that the obscene caloric intake of the average American on Thanksgiving can be partially attributed to this behavior.

Just because Americans (allegedly) consume anywhere from 4,000-5,000 calories on Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Eat throughout the day to avoid overeating later on. Your body needs the energy. Take care of yourself.

OK. I will get off my soapbox now.

If you’re looking for something light and nourishing to eat before it’s time to gorge on turducken–or, um, veggieducken–give this soba noodle salad a try. The noodles and vegetables provide a welcome energry boost and fiber, and the almond butter dressing adds protein and a bit of spice.

Now that you’ve added sesame butter to your repertoire, it’s time to start making your own almond butter. A jar of almond butter costs almost as much as a jar of tahini. A bag of almonds, on the other hand, costs half as much.

Here’s how you do it. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread 1-2 cups (depending on how much almond butter you need) on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until the almonds are a couple of shades darker, inside and out, and smell toasty. Allow the almonds to cool for a bit, then transfer to a food processor. Pulse until you’ve achieved a consistency akin to sand. Scrape the sides of the food processor and continue pulsing. Alternate between pulsing and scraping until the almonds secrete their oils and you have a nice, spreadable butter. Keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

That’s it. Really.

You can use your delicious homemade almond butter for making this spicy dressing. The trick here is to get the sauce thin enough for tossing without compromising its texture and taste. This will require anywhere from 8-10 tablespoons or warm water. Perhaps even more. Try to achieve a consistency like creamy bottled salad dressing or gravy. You can always make adjustments to the seasonings, depending on how spicy you like your food.

When it comes to vegetables in this dish, I used black kale, celery root, and sunchoke, but feel free to experiment with other crisp, seasonal vegetables.

No matter how you choose to celebrate, eat well, surround yourself with wonderful people, and give thanks.

Fall-Winter Soba Noodle Salad

-1 13 oz. package soba noodles

-1 medium bunch of black kale, washed, stemmed and chopped into ribbons

-1 small head celery root, peeled and shredded or diced

-1 large sunchoke, peeled and diced or thinly sliced

-2/3 cup homemade almond butter

-2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

-1 tablespoon shoyu or soy sauce

-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more to taste

-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more to taste

-~8-10 tablespoons of warm water

-Cook the soba noodles according to the package directions. Salt the water generously and don’t overcook. Leave the noodles slightly aldente. Drain and run under cold water for a minute or so to stop the cooking process. Shake off any excess water and place in a large mixing bowl.

-In a small bowl, combine the almond butter, sesame oil, shoyu, cayenne, and red pepper flakes, along with 3 tablespoons of water and whisk. Continue adding more warm water and whisk until the dressing is thin enough to toss. Adjust seasonings if you wish, adding more spices, sesame oil or shoyu.

-Add the chopped vegetables to the large mixing bowl with the noodles. Pour in half of the dressing and toss to coat. Add the remaining half and toss once again. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Yields enough for 3-4 hungry people or for enough lunches for one person to eat throughout the week.

Meaningful Distraction

November 20, 2012 Comments Off on Meaningful Distraction

It’s been a while. I have new content coming your way soon. But for now, enjoy some meaningful distraction.

Many of my favorite blogs offer posts with inspiring links. I love these kinds of posts, so I thought I’d try my hand at it. Below are a few things that have made me smile, food-related and otherwise.

–Do yourself a favor and read this before Thanksgiving.

–And now for a bit of comic relief.

Lottie and Doof’s Holiday Gift Guide

Handwritten Recipes

–I might have to enter this contest.

Sweet Potato Vichyssoise. (And don’t skip the Ginger-Kissed Pepitas!)

–One of my contributions to my family’s Thanksgiving feast. I have several favorites from this site. This is one of them.

“Chocolate” Persimmons

Drawing a Line

November 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

I think I might be ruined. Because I walk through the aisles of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, eyeing various products while thinking to myself, I can make that at home.

American food culture insists upon convenience. I see this when I go grocery shopping. Ready-made items constitute the bulk of most shops’  inventories. I watch people pay a lot for foods that are simple and inexpensive to recreate.

I suppose I’ve become a little more sensitive to all of this since I wrapped up my stint at a self-sufficient farmstead in Denmark in mid-August. My hosts milled their own flour with grains they harvested themselves. They raised chickens for their eggs and pigs for slaughter. They kept a cow so they make their own dairy products. They grew most of their own fruits and vegetables. They foraged. They dried their own spices. They made gallons of jam and syrup.

Unsurprisingly, everything my hosts did or discussed concerned their farm.

I’m grateful to have experienced a lifestyle so different from my own. However, it didn’t take long for me to decide that total self-sufficiency wasn’t what I was after. I’ve chosen to make good, wholesome foods a priority in my life. But I don’t want my entire life to revolve around food. Occasionally, I’m happy to hand off food preparation responsibilities to someone else.

I find it empowering to have at least some control over what goes into my food and to know that I can make things one normally buys for a fraction of the cost. Like nut butters.

A jar of tahini at my nearest Whole Foods costs eight dollars. A pound of unhulled sesame seeds, bought in bulk, costs around two or three dollars.

I immediately set out to make my own tahini. I originally followed this recipe, which calls for ample amounts of oil and water. The taste was just OK. I couldn’t get over the texture–a greasy, gritty, clumpy mess.

I stripped it down for the second attempt.  I simply toasted the sesame seeds in the oven, and blended them in the food processor. I allowed the sesame seeds’ natural oils to reveal themselves rather than drown them in water and fat like I did for my first attempt.

I ended up with smooth, creamy sesame butter. The foundation for tahini. I’ve found many uses for it throughout the week.  Tahini dressings, obviously. For a basic, all-purpose savory dressing, thin with a couple tablespoons each of warm water, olive oil, lemon juice (throw in some zest for an extra punch). Add crushed garlic and a pinch of sea salt. Mix. Add water and olive oil until you’ve achieved a runny, soupy consistency. For a sweeter version, omit the garlic and stir in a teaspoon or two of honey, agave, or maple syrup.

Or just eat the sesame butter spread on toast or rice cakes. My new favorite tea time treat consists of a slice of bread, homemade, of course, a smear of sesame butter and a drizzle of honey.

A quick word on sesame seeds. Hulled or unhulled works here. I prefer the unhulled variety for its more robust flavor and higher nutritive properties.

Sesame Butter

Yields anywhere from .75-1.5 cups, though you can certainly adjust the amount to meet your needs

-2-3 cups unhulled or hulled sesame seeds

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread the sesame seeds into a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

-Toast seeds in the oven until they appear a couple of shades darker and are highly fragrant. This will take anywhere from 7-12 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool for a few minutes.

-Grind the toasted sesame seeds in a food processor. First, they’ll look quite course. Scrape the sides of the food processor and continue until the sesame seeds are completely blended. Scrape the sides again and continue until you have a nice, spreadable paste. It takes a while for this to happen. Be patient!

-Store in an air-tight container in the fridge. (Better yet, find a cute glass jar to use for storage.) It should keep for at least two weeks.

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