Thursday, December 11, 2014

Asian Salad

If I hosted an annual food award ceremony, The Michelles, the dark horse of 2014 would have to be cabbage, walking away with awards in the categories of Best Cruciferous in a Leading Role, Best Green in a Salad, and Best Supporting Vegetable in a Soup. It has been my consistent go-to vegetable in meals throughout the year being reliable, versatile, and healthy. I am head-over-heels in love with this vegetable. Cabbage! Who'd have thought?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Poached Pear Breakfast Tart

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. This has never become more apparent to me then in my ongoing efforts to use up my post-Thanksgiving pear surplus. (I mentioned in my last post that I had planned to make stuffed pears for Thanksgiving and changed my mind after I'd already bought, like, 20 pears.) Luckily, I am not faint of heart, at least not when it comes to food, and so I have embraced this challenge. And this is fortunate because otherwise this poached pear tart might have never entered my life.

I made a similar tart for breakfast a few weeks ago. I wanted something healthy, hearty, and easy, so I made a tart of apple slices baked inside a crust with yogurt dolloped on the top. It was, um...not great. The apple slices were dry yet the crust beneath them soggy, the yogurt a runny afterthought. The recipe needed a major overhaul. And so a tiny seed of an idea began to germinate in my head, which blossomed into the poached pear breakfast tart I present before you.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Post Thanksgiving Breakfast: Baked Pear French Toast

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. We had a great day. We had some family in from out of town that we don't get to see very often. We valued the time we were able to spend with them. We also had some family out from in town that we missed not having at our table.

Thanksgiving is a nice holiday: it's one of the less consumer-driven holidays. Not that the grocery bill doesn't get a little steep (especially if you throw in an ethically raised and slaughtered, organic, free-range, heritage turkey). But I don't mind spending money on food. Food is life-giving,  nourishing, something we need regardless of the holiday.  I am happy to pay the grocer and spend the hours in the kitchen to give my family a nice dinner made with love. Even if people don't always agree on the details--Tofurky vs Butterball; hand beaten organic whipped cream vs. imitation whipped topping--food is a center around which we can gather. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Place to Rest Our Bones: Chocolate Gingerbread Skeletons

Halloween is just around the corner and I can't wait! I love dressing up the house with homemade decorations (I hate the idea of spending money on cheap--cheaply made that is; expensive to purchase--mass-produced decorations). However, most years, despite my good intentions, Halloween comes and goes before we actually get around to it. Not this year!

Over fall break Nick and Mina announced that they wanted to make "rip boards" for Halloween. Rip boards??? It took us a little while to get on the same page: they meant headstones (as in R.I.P.).

So we found some old particle board and paint in the shed and launched into a two-day project making some ancient headstones to turn our front yard into a proper Halloween cemetery.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I am Thankful for...Nanaimo Bars

It's the second Monday of October and banks and government offices are closed. That can only mean one's Canadian Thanksgiving!!! Or, as they call it in Canada: Thanksgiving!!! As 3/4 of my family have a claim to citizenship in the Great White North we celebrate this holiday every year instead of celebrating a lost Italian. It's a nice preamble to what we jokingly refer to around here as "regular" (a.k.a. American) Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Fiesta of Color: Chickpea Quinoa Salad and Hot Air Ballons

The first full week of every October our city hosts the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Each clear morning of the fiesta the sky fills with colorful balloons that drift lazily over the city and eventually drop in the most exciting places--neighborhood streets, school playgrounds, parks, Kirkland Air Force Base. Descending balloons draw excited camera-toting residents (except on the Base where they probably draw armed guards). We enjoying standing outside in our front yard watching the balloons float by.

But this year, instead of waiting to see if a balloon would come to us, we went to the balloons. We woke the kids up at 5:30 am, loaded into the car with thermoses of coffee and hot chocolate, and headed down to Balloon Fiesta Park to watch the Special Shapes Rodeo. The weather was perfect, the air dewy and refreshing from the rain the came the night before, but calm. I could go on and on about how great a time we had but I'd rather just show you:

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Mushroom Tart in a Hazelnut Crust

This July/August was a time of big transitions in our house. All four of us went through some pretty substantial changes in our situations: the kids started a new school and Colin and I both started new jobs. While we are all in a happier place now then we were this past year, we are more physically spread out from our home and from each other then we have ever been. That makes the time we're  together even more special.

It's definitely been an upheaval, a time of adjustment. But the biggest surprise for me has been finding that, instead of coming home exhausted, aching for the couch, I find myself craving my kitchen. Recently, I wanted to pull out all the stops and make an elegant meal: mushroom tart with a hazelnut crust, strawberry spinach salad with balsamic onions and candied pecan, sesame green beans and Linzer cookies for dessert.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fudge Pops

Pops in the sun melt
away the heat, while the heat
melts my popsicle.

Fudge Pops (from Martha Stewart)
makes about 10 3-ounce pops

2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whole milk, divided
1 1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the milk in a medium saucepan until smooth. Whisk in the remainder of the milk, as well as the cream, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.

Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil stirring constantly. Allow it to boil gently for 1 minute being extremely vigilant to make sure the mixture does not scorch on the bottom of the pan (burnt-chocolate flavor is the worst and it will permeate the entire custard). Remove from the heat.

Put the custard in a large liquid-measuring cup and let cool for a few minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Pour the custard into popsicle molds and insert the sticks.

Freeze until complete solid before serving. Don't even check them--and I can't stress this enough--for at least 6 hours. I always get too eager and check them too soon. Inevitably, I pull the popsicle sticks out of the semi-frozen custard and the custard doesn't freeze to the stick. I end up having to coax them out of their molds with a knife and we have to eat them in bowls with forks. I imagine the best time of day to make these would be right before bed, then the temptation to poke at them is removed and, if you felt so inclined, you could have fudge pops for breakfast.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Toasted Hazenut Whole-Wheat Scones with Maple Glaze

I haven't had much to say lately and I'm the type of person (read: introvert) who would rather sit in silence then fill the world with unnecessary words. But I have been making and eating some good food lately that I want to share with you all. So this has been my latest conundrum: How do I share my life with you when I don't feel like talking? (Of course, I might argue that this is the conundrum every introvert faces when trying to communicate.)

But that is one of the challenges of writing: to sit down and write, even (or maybe especially) when you have nothing to write about.

So let me apologize to you all for my long absence. I could say that I've been busy, which I have, but who isn't? I have to chalk my hiatus up to a lack of literary creativity. So to make it up to you, I wrote a poem.

Sticky sweet maple
Toasty, nutty, buttered scones
Taste better when shared

Toasted Hazelnut Whole Wheat Scones with Maple Glaze from the Dahlia Bakery Cookbook.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Strawberry Balsamic Semifreddo

My birthday is in December but sometimes I think I would have been better off if I'd been born in the summer. Our household tradition when I was growing up was that the birthday person got to pick what they wanted for dinner and dessert on their big day. My request: shish kabobs cooked outside on the grill (Is there an other way to cook shish kabobs?) and frozen strawberry pie, some wonderful frozen combination of (I'm guessing) strawberries, cool whip, and yogurt in a graham cracker pie shell. My menu never varied from year to year. Never. 

So the other night while scouring through my old cooking magazines looking for a dessert to make for a dinner party we were throwing, I found in the back of the July 2013 issue of Bon Appetit a recipe for plum semifreddo. Something about that dessert struck a chord. The base of the semifreddo was a combination of meringue and whipped cream with a red plum puree folded throughout and frozen in a loaf pan. I saw potential but, as good as I'm sure the original recipe is, I felt the need to tweak it (and when I say "tweak" I mean make something else entirely). 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Honeydew Mint Cucumber Granita

Welcome to summer! The temperature here has been very hot the last few days. And when I say "very hot" I am not just stating my opinion. It's a fact. See:

Monday, April 7, 2014

Apple Rose Pie

I've been thinking all about value lately, more specifically, the value of my actions. I find myself questioning, well, maybe not questioning, but examining the underlying beliefs I hold. I've been checking for any structural weakness in the ideological foundation over which I have built my life. 

Maybe I'm going through an existential crisis. Maybe it's a sign that I've hit a new level of emotional maturity and I'm trying to better understand myself, which would be ironic because a lot of times I feel like I'm having a conversation with a 3-year-old: 

"Why do I bother to cook?"
"Because I like it. It makes me happy."
"Because it's nice to make good food."
"Why? I can just buy food from the store."
"Because a home cooked meal is different."
"Because it's an expression of love, damn it!"*

Friday, February 21, 2014

Crispy Rice Treats Cake with Chocolate Covered Strawberries

February is a sweet month filled with love, birthdays, and, of course, chocolate. I haven't always felt such warmth toward this month but it has gained my sympathy over the years. Through no fault of its own, the poor thing has to come after the fun of the December holidays and the excitement of New Year's Day (the only things that make winter tolerable). But it's still so cold and dark that it is hard to muster any enthusiasm, especially when I know that spring is just around the corner. 

Oh, who am I kidding? I can't stand the month. It may be the shortest of the twelve but it drags on forever. About mid-January I go into survival mode. I wrap myself in a thick sweater, pull a toque down low over my head, and white-knuckle it until March. During February I want easy comfort food.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Nuts to it all! (Tamari Roasted Almonds)

Well I don't know about you but my 2014 is off to quite the start. My mom had her 60th birthday on Saturday and my aunt Liz, my brother and his family, and me and my family threw her an awesome surprise party at our house. We had an amazing turn out: over thirty of her family and friends came to celebrate.

And then wouldn't you know, halfway through the festivities, Nick hurt his foot. He was jumping on the trampoline (trampolines: backyard fun or silent killers?) and landed on his foot funny. He spend the rest of the evening with tear stains on his cheeks and his foot propped up on a pillow. 

The next morning brought no relief so Colin took him to the hospital. Three hours later they came home with some x-rays, Nick's leg in a splint and crutches under his arms, and a referral to see an orthopedic specialist about a fractured ankle.

(The doctor told Nick, "It's probably broken so you'll have to have a cast on for 4 to 8 weeks."

Nick's eyes bugged out of his head. "Forty-eight weeks!")

Monday, January 6, 2014

Overnight Chicken Stock

I don't really make New Year's resolutions but there is something about the beginning of a new year that feels like a chance at a fresh start. And this year it felt even more appropriate to try to put life on a new course as January 1st corresponded with the new moon (an auspicious time in certain circles for new beginnings).

So I've thought about what changes I'd like to make in my life. Of course I would like to eat healthier and exercise more but those are changes I'm always striving for. One idea that stuck out is to make sure we use all of our food and leave nothing to waste. We do a pretty good job of using things up in our house but sometimes the leftovers don't get finished or a bunch of spinach goes slimy in bottom of the crisper.

I think there are three parts to reducing our food waste. The first is to not bring food into the house unless we are going to use it. Seems straight forward enough but I think that step involves a lot of honesty. Just because we should eat a salad everyday doesn't mean we necessarily will. As good as my intentions are, I shouldn't buy three pounds of mixed greens because they will most likely go bad before we can get through them.

The second part is to use what we have in the house. This seems really obvious, I know, but being a member of a CSA means that I sometimes come home with items, or quantities of items, I normally wouldn't buy (for example, the five limes a week that have been rolling in for the last few weeks). I have to be inventive and try recipes outside my family's comfort zone. But I love that; it's all part of the CSA adventure.

The third part is to use any and all leftovers. And I don't just mean heating up last night's spaghetti for today's lunch. I mean finding a use for everything that can be used: no waste. In my mind, stock is the epitome of turning leftover odd and ends into something of value.