Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lyla Bean Burrito

We are eating out of the freezer, pantry, and anything our family and friends bring us. I'm not cooking because we have this little one to take care of.


My daughter Lyla was born on Saturday, November 20th and she is now the most important thing in our world.


I'm up at all hours for feeding and diaper changes. I insist on giving her the very best I can, so Lyla ('Lie-la') is a 100% breastfed baby. It's the hardest thing ever, but also the most rewarding.


We already have several nicknames for her and funny enough, the best are food related~
bean, Lyla bean burrito, peanut, and pumpkin



Little burrito :-) Will she be interested in food and baking too? We certainly hope so!

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Apple Butter

I have a bit of a relationship with pancakes. Everybody has one brunch dish they gravitate to over and over. I don't eat pancakes on regular days; if I want to make a special breakfast, or am dining out, I always choose pancakes.

This love was born with the pancakes from Mom's kitchen when I was a kid. They were made plain with no sugar added because the toppings are so sweet. Real maple syrup was a favorite for all of us, and when we had it I liked to spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese before drizzling the syrup.

Recently I've been reminded of another favorite topping: store bought apple butter.

I emphasize the store bought because, while I've had some amazing homemade apple butter, this store bought version is important for this combination. It has a flavor that is unmistakeable. I spied this jar at Target by random chance and to my delight it's precisely what I remember.

It's dark, luscious, and very sweet. The sugar content is a little obscene for something that's should just be fruit, but this is what it should be.

After sticking my spoon directly in the jar a few times, I had to make some pancakes for a little trip down memory lane.



I made myself one colossal pancake and slathered it with the apple butter. The steaming pancake warms and melts the butter a little.

Try this.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cravings


I've been asked about the desire for certain foods a lot lately. Everybody gets cravings, but the cultural stereotype for them during this time in a woman's life is strong and well known. It is assumed one should be eating a chicken leg with raspberry jam, peanut butter and tuna, or the ever popular ice cream topped with pickles. There are looks of disappointment when I can't claim any of these weirdo combinations. My plate held peanut butter, oats, tomatoes, soup, pizza, and frozen yogurt as often then as it does now.
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The last few weeks, I have felt the need to make and consume more foods a la minute. This has led to impromptu trips to Whole Foods for pints of thick chicken noodle soup (must need to hydrate), salads from Trader Joe's embellished with sardines (must need calcium), and beef shanks from Lunardi's cooked up in the crockpot (must need iron).
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This weekend, while I'm sad to be missing out on this year's Foodbuzz Blogger Festival (by choice, but still), I did satisfy an impromptu craving for some chocolate pudding.
Not just any pudding. I wanted one that is rich and chocolatey, but wouldn't break the calorie bank. It's a rare recipe that provides this kind of pleasure as well as protein, calcium, and almost no effort. Definitely not calorie-free but compare this vegan recipe to a traditional one made with cream and you'd have double the trouble, with a sore tummy too.
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Pulled from the bottom of my recipe folder, my Mom first made this recipe when I was in high school. It's pretty versatile depending on how much soymilk you use to thin it- a pudding (thin), a mousse (thick), or even a really great cupcake icing (thickest). I flavored mine with almond extract and served with fresh raspberries. Leave it plain or try something else that pairs well with chocolate.

I'm not sure which gave me more pleasure- slowly making my way to the bottom of the bowl, or Ray's astonishment at how delicious a dessert made with tofu and soymilk can be.


Tofu Chocolate Pudding
makes 4-6 servings

1 10-ounce bag vegan chocolate chips (I used Tropical Source), or regular semisweet chocolate chips
1 12-ounce package of soft silken tofu (I used Mori-Nu Silken Soft Tofu), smooshed in the package
1/2- 2/3 cup chocolate soy milk (I used Silk Chocolate soymilk)
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional), or flavoring of your choice

In a large microwave safe glass bowl, heat chocolate chips on half power for several minutes, stirring occasionally as the chips melt. The length of time is different with every microwave, just babysit them and stop when the chips have melted.

In another microwave safe glass bowl, heat 1/2 cup soymilk until just steaming. Add the hot soymilk and smooshed tofu to the chocolate chips. Blend with a stick blender until completely smooth. If you don't have a stick blender, you could transfer everything to a food processor and blend there. Add the almond extract to the mixture and stir. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. The mixture will thicken considerably as it cools, and if you'd like a thinner consistency you can fold in additional soymilk with a spatula, to your taste.

Serve garnished with fresh berries, mint, shaved chocolate, or plain. Store in the fridge for several days.

With 6 servings, each portion contains about 256 calories and 4 grams of protein.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bacon Pizza

How about making some pizza next Friday?

Of course any day of the week is fair game. But something about Friday night screams "pizza!" to me. 95% of the time we make pizza, it's a Friday. It's a little special for the last day of the work week, but easy and comforting at the same time. How about this one- with bacon.

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I do not like meat on my pizzas, veggies are much better suited. Maybe it's the flavors that meld together with the cheese in the oven, or the infinite options and combinations. Besides preferring vegetables anyway, meats can produce an unpleasant amount of grease that I can't abide.
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But then, there's bacon.


Boys love bacon, and mine is no exception. The key is to fry up the bacon before adding to the pizza. Add it raw and it'll still be raw, just swimming in a pool of fat. GROSS. Just add to a pan on medium-low and cook the bacon slowly so it doesn't burn, stirring occasionally until most of the fat has rendered. Drain on several paper towels.
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I usually pour out the fat into the trash but this time I saved it. I'm not sure what I'll do with it, but it seems like a special thing worth using if I can come up with something. It looks like this the next day.

Add some sliced tomatoes, mushrooms, fresh basil, and lots of cheese (I used part-skim mozzarella, parmesan, and gouda), and you have quite the lovely Friday night pizza. I couldn't help leaving two pieces meat-free so I could have some vegetarian pieces. It's good, but a little bacon goes a long way.


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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Enough with the Drama

I've been watching Top Chef since the very first season (yay San Francisco!), so when they announced a Top Chef with all sweets, I was first in line. But it's making me sick to my stomach fast.


My interest in this food show is dwindling real fast because of the ridiculous excess of drama. All reality shows thrive on a little drama and I'm certainly not averse to that; it makes the watching interesting and I do love my reality show TV. But this first season of Just Desserts takes the drama out of the corner where it belongs and into the forefront of the show, so much so that I'm inclined to watch my recorded show on fast-forward, save the actual food parts. Which is sad, because the action leading up to the finished product is part of what makes these food competition shows good.
The group of pastry chefs on the show seem to have a lot more emotional problems than the chefs on regular TC. Are pastry chefs like this or does this particular group have unusual mental problems? The cliqueness of "team diva" is nauseating and childish. Any talent Heather H. has is overshadowed by her vindictive comments and need to have a scapegoat to direct animosity towards. First it was Seth, then Heather C., and now Morgan. She's such an unpleasant character; why don't you expend more energy on your actual work and less on finding a reason someone else screwed you up?? Per usual the most talented people in my opinion (Morgan, Erica) are the quieter ones without all the drama.
Maybe I'm too harsh; maybe the editing of footage has something to do with it. If so, shame on you Bravo. You've made it likely that I will not be tuning in for next season. Which is sad.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Little Green in Your Muffin

I have a list of foods to make right now and I need to hop to it. There's some stuff in my freezer that needs to get eaten to make room for new things. Lists are good, I've made a whole bunch of those. I started acting on this list yesterday when this guy showed up:


One enormous zucchini from my mother-in-law's garden. Seriously, he's huge!
Lord have mercy what shall I do with him?

I don't want to freeze too many things because, (1) I only have so much space in the freezer, (2) I don't regularly eat many freezer friendly foods (a la lasagna), and (3) we have access to many easy and delicious food options that don't need advance creation.
On my short list to make is Peas and Thank You's Zucchini Quinoa Lasagna (made it a few weeks ago, loved it- ate it all without photographing a thing. le sigh) I'll do that later this week and won't need to buy the squash. But here today I wanted to use part of this giant. Presto chango- the pumpkin muffins I planned to bake for the nurses in the hospital have become zucchini muffins. With some mini chocolate chips added for fun.

Per usual I looked at a dozen recipes before settling on an amalgamation of several. I made 20 muffins, two of them baked in ramekins for Ray to enjoy for breakfast.
I popped the rest in the ice box, ready to pull out before we head to labor & delivery. Hurray for crossing things off the to-do list!

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins
makes 20 muffins (or thereabouts)

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups freshly grated zucchini
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs well with a wire whisk. Add the oil, sugar, zucchini, and vanilla and mix well to incorporate.

In a separate small bowl, sift the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Add the mini chocolate chips and toss to coat.

Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined. Try not to overmix!
Bake for 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Cool in muffins pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in airtight container for 3-4 days, or transfer to freezer bags for several weeks to a few months. I'm not planning on more than a month here!
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Beans and Rice

Bah! It's the end of September already!! Geesh.

There've been plenty of good eats around here, but I didn't share. I'm six weeks away from D Day and I'm so hungry at every meal that I'm more concerned with eating than photographing and documenting. I am not apologizing. Let's move on.
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We've had an unseasonally cool summer. Just about everyone complained about the lack of summer heat- except me. Since my temp is running extra high, I loved it and thanked my lucky stars. I thought I made it through virtually unscathed. Then, this week happened.

A heat wave of grotesque proportions and tardiness hit the Bay Area, and many areas have had record temperatures. Why now, oh why now? Sniffle and whine. I've emerged alive, and so is my little one who reminds me every few minutes with a swift punch in the side.
If it was possible for me to be even more hermit-like and useless during this time, I certainly was. I got a few little things done in the morning before the house reached frying temps and I'd transfer my hippo-ness from the fan in the living room, to the bathroom (over and over and over), to the bedroom at night in front of the portable air conditioner cranked HIGH.

My point here being that I threatened World War Trois before I'd turn on the stove or oven for dinner. Flat refused. Tough luck for Ray for whom dinner means something baked, boiled, pan-fried, stewed, or grilled. But I'm the food maker, so raw foods and the microwave were in fine form.
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Today is warm, but I no longer feel like I'm being tortured. In between some housework that I put off during the heat wave and phantasizing about the 71 degree forecast on Saturday (that's more like it!), I had to make a proper dinner, worthy of us and the chickpea parasite with whom I share my food.
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Beans and rice have been on the brain, so beans and rice it is! In the crockpot. . . which I probably could have used during the heat wave if my brain hadn't melted. Oh well.

We used to have beans and rice regularly for dinner when I was little. Mom made fluffy white rice with a bit of onion and black beans, and topped each portion with a generous amount of cheddar cheese. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. She made both components on the stove, but here I decided to utilize my crock pot and mix everything together.
I love black beans, but light red kidneys are another favorite and what I found in the pantry (beans are delicious and pretty interchangeable). Plus brown rice for a nuttier texture and more fiber, and some tomatoes- love tomatoes always. I did break out a skillet to saute a small onion and some garlic for a flavor punch. I threw in a little red pepper flakes and dried thyme for good measure.
Now for the cheese- cheddar is really the best, I can't imagine using another variety.


Don't skimp on the cheese- when it melts into the rice and beans it's heaven.

Now don't bother me. I'm eating.


Beans and Rice
serves 3-4

2 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 cup brown rice
1 can beans (light red kidney or black beans), rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes, juice reserved
water
1/2 tsp dried thyme
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
salt to taste

Put 1 Tbs olive oil in the bottom of your crock pot and add the brown rice. Toss the rice to coat. Heat a skillet over medium low heat and add the second 1 Tbs olive oil and the onion. Saute for several minutes until softened, then add the garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes more. Add the onion, garlic, and rinsed beans to the crock pot.

Pour the diced tomatoes through a colander with a measuring cup underneath to catch the liquid. Add the tomatoes, then enough water to the measuring cup to equal 2 cups total (I needed to add about 1 1/2 cups water). Add the liquid to the pot, along with the dried thyme and red pepper flakes.

Cook on low for 4 hours, until the rice is done and tender. Salt to taste and serve hot or at room temperature with plenty of grated cheddar on top.
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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Baby Shower Food

Beautiful food at a surprise Saturday morning baby shower

Pellegrino, sparkling cranberry and apple ciders
vegetable torte, grapes, brie and goat cheese


gazpacho, baguette, walnut bread

deviled eggs, smoked salmon and capers
figs, blueberries, and grapes
petit fours purchased from Lunardi's, homemade bite-sized nut brownies (and Mom's arm)

mini cupcakes with milk chocolate frosting

chocolate favors from Fleur de Cocoa

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Dresser Has Arrived!

Any new furniture is exciting. Today the dresser finally arrived!

It was delivered this morning at 8:30am while I was eating breakfast. As you can see it's also our changing table; the topper came separately and the men were nice enough to install it for me.

I can't wait to fill the lower drawers with her little clothes and stock the top ones with diapers, wipes, and lotion. First I want to put in some nice liners, and I'm thinking about switching out the knobs for some pretty lavender or yellow ones from Anthropologie. These are fine but they're huge and plain.


Originally I wanted the dresser on the other side of the room, but after much haggling this weekend Ray convinced me that it has to go here due to space issues with the other elements- the glider and ottoman will take up more room than I had thought, and we'll have a bookshelf too. I didn't love the idea of it just inside the door because of the view in the room- also potential stinkiness from the changing table right there :P. That's probably a fruitless concern, and the pale yellow glider will look pretty in the far corner. Really cannot wait until those items are here too!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Spaghetti Carbonara


Here's a repeat because I didn't write out the recipe the first time.
Carbonara tastes like a special meal but it couldn't be easier. I can't think why it's not already in the rotation for entertaining. How many people do you know who don't like pasta, eggs, and bacon? I don't think I know any.

Spaghetti Carbonara
serves 4

6 ounces thick cut bacon, cubed
3 eggs
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1/3 cup grated romano cheese
handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 Tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 lb dry spaghetti
1/2 cup white wine

Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.
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In a large saucier or skillet, cook the bacon over medium-low heat until the fat is rended and the bacon is crisp, 12-15 minutes. Remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels, and pour off all the fat but one tablespoon. Add up to a tablespoon of olive oil and add the garlic. Cook until golden brown, then discard the garlic and turn off the heat temporarily.
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Meanwhile, beat the eggs, cheese, and parsley until frothy in a large serving bowl. Set aside.
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When the water boils, add the pasta and stir occasionally. When it has just a few minutes left, turn the skillet back on over medium heat, add the white wine, deglaze and reduce. Add the bacon back to the pan and stir well. When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the serving bowl. Immediately toss the pasta and egg mixture with tongs to incorporate the sauce and coat the spaghetti well. Add the bacon and white wine mixture and continue to toss until well combined.
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Adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
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This dish is best served immediately on the first day, but leftovers are still great microwaved with a tiny bit of added moisture.


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