Archive for February, 2012

A Slice of My Life – Week 8

February 25, 2012

The boys are fond of one of those conveyor belt sushi places.  These are always my rolls of choice.

Spencer’s ingenious rain catcher invention.  “Now we don’t have to go outside to see if it is raining, we can just check to see if there is rain in the tube!”  Taped to the window by himself.

Remember back in September when boots and tights seemed so exciting?  Now I’m ready to throw them all away.  Actually soon after this photo was taken I had to throw the tights away because they developed a huge hole.  Bummer.

Post Fat Tuesday bling.

This week was mid-winter break at school.  Not to be confused with winter break or spring break.  Or any of the many other days that there is no school.  Ahem.  Anyway, both boys stayed home with me on Wednesday and it was a beautiful sunny day.  Sunny days mean parks.

My Valentine’s Day gift came a little late, due to AT&T and something about our cell phone plan.  My old phone was 3½ years old, cracked, unable to receive pictures via text – I’m telling you, I was living in the dark ages.  I love my new one.  Thank you honey!

My very first Instagram photo!  Yes, new phone means much better camera and access to Instagram, a phenomenon that I could not and did not understand up until a couple of days ago.  Now I am hooked.  And I have no idea what I am doing with it but who cares.  So yes, those are large candy covered malted milk balls.  They come out every year in our favorite candy shop about as soon as Valentine’s Day is over and I buy them until the day after Easter when they go away for another year.  I can usually say no to sweets, but not these.

Eating lunch out is tricky for vegetarians, or at least I think so, but not at Revel.  It is my favorite place these days.  I met a friend and we shared the hearts of palm salad (shockingly good), the kale pancake (ditto), and the tofu rice bowl (ditto).

Just as I was about to take this left turn, I realized that those things swinging from that giant crane are two port-a-potties.

Graham was so smitten with this pain au chocolat, that he wouldn’t even let go of the plate so I could take a picture of it.  Then he and Spencer proceeded to eat out the chocolat part and leave all the pain part.  Poor me.

Graham is more and more interested in art and he has been taking art classes.  This is a recent self portrait.  I was just kind of stunned by the modern art quality, how he colored in his face to reflect his dark skin, the fact that he included the monster on his shirt that day, and the little hands sticking straight out from his shoulders.

College Majors and Eggs for Dinner

February 23, 2012

I graduated from college with a degree in theatre.  I got plenty of “What are you going to do with a degree in theatre?”, though thankfully, not from my parents who were supportive of a less conventional major.  I attended a liberal arts college so there were plenty of English and Art History majors, but there were also lots of Economics and Government majors who all thought their degrees would be more “useful”.  My college roommate’s father allowed her to major in theatre but only if she double majored in Economics.  Not a lot of crossover in those two fields.

While I did not go on to become an actress, nor did I ever attempt to become an actress, I feel like my degree has been extremely useful in my life.  At the most basic level, I learned a lot about theatre and plays and I had a chance to read some of our greatest examples of literature.  Randy and I make it a priority to go the theatre and I am always amazed by how much knowledge I have retained.  (I can’t say the same about my math class.)  I got to experience putting on the makeup and costume of another person and becoming that person for a few hours every night.  I learned the art of working ahead – getting school work done a week before it was actually due so that I would have production week free from those pressures.  I also learned how to do work behind the scenes as a stage manager, makeup artist, costume assistant.  I learned that, no matter how intense the butterflies in my stomach, I would never actually throw up, and how to channel that adrenaline into a better performance.

Beyond those four years of acting, directing, reading, I also learned how to speak clearly, make eye contact, appear calm even when I am not, and use my voice effectively.  I’ve used those skills while performing in plays or singing in coffeehouses but also in every job interview I have sat through, every date I have been on, every presentation I have ever made, and every class I have ever taught.  Like many of my classmates, I would never have imagined myself doing what I do now when I was throwing my cap up in the air in May of 1992.  But I can’t believe how much I love it.

I know I mention my cooking classes here often but I don’t think I’ve mentioned how I feel about them.  I love teaching.  I really do.  I taught yoga from 2001-2003 and I loved that as well.  Sometimes a special thing happens between teacher and student, especially when the teacher is really passionate about what they teach, and I feel lucky to have experienced that feeling in two different spheres.  I am in planning mode for my spring quarter of classes and am really excited about what the next few months will hold.

Alas, teaching means testing.  And I don’t mean making my students take a test.  I mean searching out recipes, or developing my own, and making sure, time and time again if necessary, that they work.  I mean sometimes eating the same thing several nights in a row while trying to get it right.  It’s all worth it of course.  But sometimes, when I am gearing up for a busy couple of weeks, I miss just being able to, you know, make dinner.

I had a little window before my cooking life became not my own and I knew I had to take advantage of that freedom to just make something I wanted to eat.  Not test.  As is often the case, I got a little overwhelmed with choices.  I have so much bounty in terms of recipes between books, magazines, blogs, restaurant experiences – how to choose what to make.  Perhaps you are familiar with this feeling.  As I started to get overwhelmed and ordering pizza started to seem like a good idea, I opted to just stick with a cookbook that is relatively new to me and exciting.  It was the jumping off point for this salad and also has the least imaginative name ever.  But boy, did we love this dish.

We don’t often eat eggs for dinner.  You should know that as I’m typing that sentence, I am simultaneously promising myself that we will eat eggs more often for dinner.  I love a good poached/fried/soft-boiled egg but none of those options sound good to me at breakfast time.  It would make sense, seeing as I love them and that I am a vegetarian, that eggs would be a regular part of our dinner routine.  I’ve just never made them a priority.  But when I see a recipe like this one, really just an egg curry, and it speaks loudly to me, it is clear I need to rethink the egg and dinner relationship.  As I was getting ready to serve this lovely, filling, and nutritious dish, I decided it seemed a little thin, so I added chickpeas.  Not necessary, especially if you add more eggs, but I thought the combination was great.

Two Years Ago:  Red Lentil Dhal
Three Years Ago:  Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Sambal Telur
Loosely adapted from Vegetarian
Serves 4

4 eggs
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 shallots, 1 chopped for garnish, 3 thinly sliced
Kosher or sea salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2-inch piece of ginger, finely minced or grated
1 tsp. coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp. cumin seeds, crushed
½ tsp. ground tumeric
1 tbsp. sambal oelek, or other chile sauce
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 14-ounce can coconut milk (can be “lite”)
1 tbsp. tamarind concentrate
1 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Place the eggs in a medium saucepan and fill to cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and set the timer for 6 minutes.  Immediately scoop out the eggs and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  Drain and set aside.  (This amount of cooking time will give you an egg with a very soft yolk.  Let them sit for another minute, 7 total, if you like your yolk a little firmer.)

Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Drizzle in about 1 tablespoon of the oil.  Add the chopped shallots along with a healthy pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until cooked through and brown, about 5 minutes.  Shallots burn very easily so keep a close eye on them.  Scrape the shallots out onto a paper towel lined plate.  Set aside for the garnish.

Return the pan to the heat.  Pour in the other tablespoon of oil, then add the sliced shallots, garlic, and ginger, and cook for a minute.  Add the coriander, cumin, tumeric, sambal oelek, the canned tomatoes, and the tomato paste.  Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in the coconut milk, tamarind, and brown sugar along with a large pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes until the mixture thickens.  Add the eggs and the chickpeas and simmer for a few minutes more to heat it all through.  Serve over rice and garnish with the fried shallots.

Sometimes Tastes Change

February 21, 2012

I have heard, and maybe you have too, that your tastes can change every few years.  Something that you once hated can, miraculously, become something that you love.  I witnessed this phenomenon happen with my middle brother.  Alex was a very picky eater as a child.  My mom tells of him eating only applesauce, yogurt, and toast.  Slowly but surely he grew into an amazing eater who not only loved food but loved huge quantities of it.  Except for three things.  Mushrooms, olives, and artichoke hearts.  Three things, it just so happens, that I love dearly and cannot imagine my life without.  His mother, sister, and wife are all vegetarian so he will taste the things on his NO! list periodically to make sure his tastes haven’t changed.  One day he tasted an olive, after not having tried one in a long time, and fell in love.  So now, his NO! list only consists of mushrooms and artichoke hearts.  Progress.  It is for this reason that I force Randy to try beets at least once a year.  I am every hopeful that he will see the light and fall in love with beets.  So far, not so much.

All of this was on my mind when I found this salad recipe.  I don’t consider myself a picky eater.  There are very few things, besides meat, that I won’t eat.  But figs are on my NO! list.  I don’t mind the flavor but the texture is tricky for me.  Perhaps it is the fourth grade mean girl who told me that the crunchy bits in my Fig Newton were actually bug bodies.  Or perhaps it is the way that figs grow, but I just can’t eat them. I can do fig jam but can’t do figs themselves, especially if they are fresh.  But I found the idea of this salad intriguing.  The figs are marinated in a balsamic/sugar/thyme/garlic mixture and then a dressing is made from that mixture along with a healthy dose of walnut oil.  The figs are seared in a hot pan and the bitter greens (watercress and arugula) are tossed with toasted walnuts and the whole thing is garnished with, if you are lucky enough to get your hands on it, a Brie like cheese from Vashon Island called Dinah’s which is named after a cow.

I taught this salad at my February Seasonal Feast classes.  People raved.  I always test a recipe multiple times before I teach it and the first time I tried the figs.  Nope.  Still can’t go there.  I loved the dressing and the greens and the walnuts and the cheese.  And everyone else loved the figs.  They particularly loved the contrast of the warm fig with the cool salad, so if you make this lovely salad, sear off the figs right before you serve it.

One Year Ago:  Asparagus Risotto with Orange Pepper and Orange
Two Years Ago:  Paparadelle with Herbs, Lemon, and Ricotta Salata
Three Years Ago:  Palmiers

Watercress Salad with Marinated Figs and Walnut Dressing

Adapted from Vegetarian
Serves 4

½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup sugar
2 garlic cloves, bruised
6 thyme sprigs
6 plump figs, halved
4 tbsp. walnut oil
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch watercress, leaves trimmed, stems discarded
2-3 ounces baby arugula
8 slices Brie or Camembert
Small handful of walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Place the vinegar, sugar, garlic and 4 of the thyme sprigs in a saucepan and add ½ cup of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for a minute to dissolve the sugar.  Cook for another 3 minutes then set aside to cool for 5 minutes.  Pour over the halved figs and leave to marinate for an hour or two.

Discard the thyme sprigs and garlic from the marinade and spoon about 5 tablespoons into a small lidded jar.  Strip the leaves from the remaining thyme sprigs and add to the jar with the walnut oil, olive oil, mustard, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper.  Screw on the lid and shake well to make the dressing.  Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and sear the drained figs, cut sides down, for a minute or so until they caramelize.  Remove the pan from the heat, turn the figs over and set aside.

In a large bowl, place the watercress, arugula, and walnuts.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Drizzle the dressing over top, you will not need all of it, and toss well.  Serve onto salad plates and tuck the figs and cheese among the leaves.



A Slice of My Life – Week 7

February 18, 2012

This week started out with Valentines.  We bought paper airplane ones and Graham wrote out all the names on the envelopes himself.

Then he got to wear his pj’s to school for the class party.

Trying to get organized.  Lists help.

Yes, Valentine’s Day has passed and yet we still have our Christmas wreath up.  Anyone else?

Spencer is very hard on his shoes and boots.  Fortunately, we usually shop at Nordstrom for those things so we were able to get a new pair of Batman boots for free when the old ones got a hole in the side.

Spencer stays home with me on Wednesdays.  We sometimes get to have a daddy lunch date.

Graham took a (not so) sick day this week.  I think he just needed a little mommy time.

He was staring up at the light, starved for it just like the rest of us.  I love these photos of him – his sweetness comes through.

I had two rice bowls last week.  One was shockingly good and the other was this one.  I had high hopes – look at that yolk! – but the rice was stale and overcooked.  Crunchy.  The tofu was super salty.  And how do you attack a whole bok choy gracefully.  I resorted to tearing it with my hands.  Bummer.

I taught two Winter Seasonal Feast classes this week.  People went crazy for this salad.  Marinated figs, walnuts, amazing vinaigrette, and a fabulous local cheese.  I’ll share the recipe next week.


Corn Muffins with Raspberry Jam

February 17, 2012

I’ve been debating about how to start this post.  I taught two classes back to back this week and the prep was pretty awesome.  Whenever I had a moment to think about something other than what vegetable I needed to chop next, I started to think about all the events I have on my calendar for next week and the week after.  So what is a food blogger to do?  Just not post and then write a “sorry I haven’t been here” post in a couple days?  Take valuable prep time away to write a clear cohesive emotional post about a muffin?  I don’t know.  I seem to have temporarily lost my mojo.

So I will just say this.  I love a good muffin and, in my opinion, if you want a good muffin these days, you have to make it yourself.  Muffins have suffered the same fate as scones in recent years.  That is, they have been plumped up, sweetened up, super-sized, and flavor downgraded.  Go into any coffee shop and you will find huge muffins with the same uniform look and flavor.  To me, they taste of flour and sugar and not much else.

This muffin, which comes from the Flour cookbook, is not too sweet, has an interesting crunch texture (thanks to some cornmeal), and is the perfect size to share or not, as you see fit.  The little bit of jam inside each muffin is such a sweet surprise and this the first muffin I have ever made that puffed up perfectly without running all over the pan.

Two Years Ago:  Chocolate Spice Bread
Three Years Ago:  Double Baked Chocolate Cake

Corn Muffins with Raspberry Jam
Makes 12 muffins

2¾ cups all purpose flour
1 cup medium-coarse yellow cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1/3 cup canola oil
¾ cup crème fraîche, at room temperature
¾ cup raspberry jam

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat oven to 350ºF.  Butter a standard 12-cup muffin tin, coat with nonstick cooking spray, or line with paper liners.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well mixed.  In a small bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar until it forms a thick slurry.  In a second large bowl, whisk the eggs until well blended.  One at a time, whisk the milk, then the oil, then the crème fraîche, and finally the butter-sugar slurry into the eggs.  Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and fold carefully just until the dry and we ingredients are well combined.  The batter will be thick and pasty.

Spoon about ¼ cup batter into each prepared muffin cup.  Spoon 1 tablespoon jam on top of the batter in each up, then top off each cup with another ¼ cup batter, making sure the cups are evenly filled.  They should be filled to the rim.

Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until the edges of each muffin are golden brown and the center springs back when pressed with a fingertip.  Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan.

The muffins taste best the day they are baked, but they may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.  If you keep them longer than 1 day, refresh them in a 300ºF oven for 4 to 5 minutes.  Or, you can freeze them, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 1 week.  Reheat, directly from the freezer, in a 300ºF oven for 8 to 10 minutes.


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