31 December 2014

Top 10 posts of 2014

It's time for the top ten posts of the year! Huzzah!

Everyone was certainly into pickles this year, and I am no exception. Also on the menu: gigantic bowls of warming curry, plenty of chickpeas, a simple snack, a full-meal salad, a bright, herbal cocktail, and a whole lot of tomato sauce.

10. Lamb burgers with yogurt and dijon mustard sauce

Lamb remains my favorite meat. That said, you can pretty well tell the scant amount of meat in my diet by the fact that this, the only meat dish on the list, is at #10.

Lamb burgers with yogurt and dijon mustard sauce

9. Chickpea coconut curry with kale, carrots, and peas

This is much more like what we eat on a regular basis: big bowls of all the veg in a spicy curry sauce.

Chickpea coconut milk curry with kale, carrots, and peas

8. Toor dal and spicy sambal cabbage

And if we aren't eating a full-blown curry, we're probably eating a similarly spicy soup. Cabbage is pretty prominent too. All hail cabbage!

toor dal

7. Peanut butter, honey, and banana rice cakes with toasted sesame seeds and crushed almonds

This is the kind of thing I make when I want instant lunch. Super simple and super satisfying.

Peanut butter, honey, and banana rice cakes with toasted sesame seeds and crushed almonds

6. Fennel and orange pickle

The original fennel pickle -- sweet and crunchy and surprising.

Fennel and orange pickle

5. Fennel pickle with lemon and ginger

And of course I had to try out a version with ginger and lemon, because one fennel pickle just isn't enough. An excellent sandwich garnish.

4. Rosemary lemon gin sour

Speaking of lemon, guess what shows up in nearly every cocktail at our house? That's right.

Rosemary lemon gin sour

3. Tomato sauce showdown: Victorio strainer vs. immersion blender

It isn't summer if you don't get covered with random splashes of flying tomato.

Tomato sauce showdown: Victorio strainer vs. immersion blender

2. Couscous salad with chickpeas, golden beets, and zucchini

An ideal full-meal salad: all the grain, veg, and protein you could possibly want, tied together with a lovely lemon-dijon dressing.

couscous salad with chickpeas, golden beets, and zucchini

1. Refrigerator giardiniera

It's a straightforward pickle. It's made of every vegetable you can get your hands on. It waits patiently in the fridge to be tossed into quesadillas, onto salads, or next to a hearty sandwich. Giardiniera is so delicious and versatile -- it's the perfect tangy counterpoint to a rich dish.

Refrigerator giardiniera

Hope you and yours have a wonderful new year!

24 December 2014

Last-minute chocolate fudge with almonds

Last-minute chocolate fudge with almonds

The refrigerator repairman fixed our fridge! No waiting around for new fridge delivery! At least something has gone right with our house this month.

And now it is time for fudge!

This fudge is an excellent last-minute creation because it's super simple. All you really need to do is melt chocolate and stir things together. Even if you're as stressed out as we are, you can totally do it.

I based this off Faith's Easy Mocha Fudge with Cacao Nibs. The differences are really quite small: I used brewed coffee instead of instant espresso dissolved in hot water, and I switched up the topping from cacao nibs to roasted chopped almonds.

If you want a more almond-filled finished product, you can up the amount of chopped almonds to about 1/3 cup and stir that into the fudge before pouring it into the prepared pan. An excellent plan for almond-lovers.

Last-minute chocolate fudge with almonds

Last-minute chocolate fudge with almonds

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla
4 tsp coffee (or espresso for more intense mocha flavor)
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbsp finely chopped roasted almonds
(OR, for the almond-lovers' version: 1/3 cup chopped roasted almonds)

Start by lining an 8x8 pan with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate chips and condensed milk together in a double boiler. If you have a microwave, you can also use that.

When everything is melted, turn off the heat and stir in your vanilla, coffee, and salt. If you're making the almond-lovers' version, add your 1/3 cup of almonds, reserving a small amount to top if you so desire. Mix until well combined.

Pour your fudge mixture into your prepared pan. Top with chopped almonds, pressing lightly to make them adhere to the fudge. Be sure to lick all the extra fudge scrapings off the spatula at this point.

Chill until set. This should take 2-3 hours at minimum. Leaving the pan in the refrigerator overnight is a good idea if you have time.

When your fudge is set, remove it from the pan by lifting up the parchment paper. Cut into small squares, using a knife dipped in hot water between cuts.

Now pack your fudge into boxes for last-minute gifts, arrange pieces on a tray for holiday snacking, or just filch pieces out of the (working!) fridge in the dead of night. It's all good.

I hope you all have a merry holiday with plenty of delightful treats!

22 December 2014

Emergency pasta with broccoli

Emergency pasta with broccoli

And this weekend our fridge died.

We are having the best possible holiday season around here, let me tell you.

The repair guy is coming this afternoon. We'll see if we need a new fridge. In the meantime, our landlord brought us a couple of tiny dorm fridges.

Remember our freezer full of stuff? Yeah. Me too. It's not full of stuff anymore. At least we tend to keep a lot of nonperishables in there along with the serious frozen food. It means we didn't actually lose the entire contents, and we have plenty of rice and lentils and flour and yeast and what have you.

The other high point is that in a largely vegetarian household, the refrigerator isn't ever stuffed with a $400 standing rib roast or anything like that. Instead, we have lots of vegetables, tortillas, butter, cheese, and eggs, most of which are just fine in an ice-filled cooler overnight.

We'll also get to start over and build a new freezer & fridge in a more organized and less completely bonkers fashion. But that's about it for the good there.

So this weekend was just exhausting. Then we had to cook.

If you've ever thought you can't make dinner with a single pot of boiling water, think again, because we just did.

Emergency pasta with broccoli

1/2 lb chunky pasta
1 small or 1/2 large head broccoli
salt, pepper, red pepper flake
olive oil
fresh parsley
parmesan or another hard grating cheese

Salt a pot of water and put it on to boil. When your water boils, drop in your pasta.

While you're waiting, chop your broccoli into medium florets. Peel the stem and cut that up too.

When your pasta is about 2/3 of the way done, add your broccoli to the pot. Stir to mix and continue to cook for the remaining 1/3 time. Taste a piece of pasta and one of broccoli for doneness. Drain well.

In a mixing bowl, combine your drained pasta and broccoli with salt, pepper, red pepper flake, olive oil, chopped fresh parsley, and grated parmesan to taste. Toss well.

Serve immediately. If you have some extra parmesan or parsley, throw that on top. We had a few chopped almonds lying around, so I added those too.

Don't take any pictures because you are too tired. Go to bed and sleep the sleep of the person who still needs to work tomorrow even though it is officially holiday week.

15 December 2014

Fun times for children

Ok, you guys. I have to tell you something, and that something is that our furnace has been out since December 6th.

Don't panic! We do live in California, so no one is freezing. Our pipes are not freezing. Our landlord is being very good about everything too. But the furnace is not fixed yet. Do you know why it's not fixed yet? Because we have a 70-year-old furnace, and when you have a furnace that old, it's not just an issue to find parts. No. Furnace companies actually won't repair your out-of-date equipment because it doesn't meet modern safety requirements and is thus a liability for them to touch.

So we are getting an entirely new furnace system. In January.

In the meantime, we've been burning a lot of candles, wearing wooly sweaters, and generally reacclimatizing to a vaguely midwestern level of low-grade chilliness.

I've been doing a lot of baking. I made Love and Olive Oil's Molasses Snickerdoodles, which were excellent and vanished in short order. I made Cookie and Kate's Orange Poppyseed Pound Cake for the fourth? fifth? time and it was as delicious as always. I made a vat of kale and olive minestrone, which is always delightful and warming, and I'm pretty sure I should make some sort of huge stew in the next week or so.

On the bright side, if this furnace lasted 70 years, you know it has done its time and is well deserving of a commemorative plaque. That would be hilarious. Maybe I'll do that.

09 December 2014

Chai nog and coffee nog

Chai nog and coffee nog

It's December! Time to break out the nog!

I tend to veer away from the traditional "nog + brandy + rum" concoctions as long as it's not actually Christmas Eve. Instead, nog has become a tasty treat with which to spike my usual dose of hot caffeine action.

Now, I am not one for making very fussy coffee drinks at home. There is no espresso machine in our house, and no milk foamer, and we don't really want to acquire them. So that means these drinks are super simple: just a cup of strong, spicy chai or serious coffee, with a creamy nog addition. They're really easy and really delicious.

Any nog of your choice should work well here. Dairy eggnog, soy nog, homemade almond and date nog -- any and all are good.

Even without any alcohol, the sweetness and thickness of nog makes these drinks perfect for a dessert nightcap. Just use a decaf spiced chai or coffee and you should be all ready for a fragrant, spiced trip to sleeptown.

And if you do want to add a slug of brandy, go for it!

Chai nog

Brew 1 cup strong chai of your choosing. I use a standard tea bag and let it infuse for at least 5 minutes for serious flavor. Top up your cup with eggnog. If you like nutmeg, a little sprinkle is a good garnish.

Coffee nog

Brew yourself a cup of strong coffee. Top up your cup with eggnog.

Drink and be happy!

What festive holiday drinks are you drinking this season?

02 December 2014

Fennel frond, lemon zest, and black pepper cream cheese schmear

Fennel frond, lemon zest, and black pepper cream cheese schmear

Contrary to a variety of expectations, I did NOT pickle the last two heads of fennel that came our way in the CSA box. Instead, I chopped one up and mixed it with a whole lot of other vegetables to roast for Thanksgiving dinner. So good!

However, that left me with a big handful of fennel fronds. What can you do with fennel fronds?

Fennel frond, lemon zest, and black pepper cream cheese schmear

I refrained from simply cramming them all into the half-empty fennel, ginger, and lemon pickle jar, although that was kind of tempting.

Instead, I thought I'd chop them up and see how well they worked in a cream cheese schmear, along with some lemon zest and black pepper. And lo, they worked SUPER WELL.

If you are into the delicate anisey tang of fennel, you should absolutely give this one a try. The fennel and lemon make a refreshing and zingy combination -- an excellent contrast to the creamy creamy cheesy cheese (*cough* *That's a NSFW Foamy the squirrel reference*).

This makes approximately one laden bagel's worth of schmear. Of course, you can always increase any and all of the ingredients at your leisure.

Fennel frond, lemon zest, and black pepper cream cheese schmear

Fennel frond, lemon zest, and black pepper cream cheese schmear

3-4 tbsp cream cheese/tofu cream cheese
2-3 tbsp fennel fronds
zest of 1 lemon
black pepper to taste
optional milk/yogurt to thin

Finely chop your fennel fronds and lemon zest. Mix all ingredients together well, using a fork to blend thoroughly.

To serve, spread on the bagel, cracker, or other toasty bread product of your choice. I had mine on a couple of leftover whole wheat rolls from Thanksgiving. That worked exceptionally well.

Such a great addition to the schmear library. I am definitely going to make this one again, and not just because there is still yet another head of fennel hiding in the crisper.

More schmears for your bagel-topping delight:
- Spicy salsa and bloody mary schmears
- Red onion and dill schmear
- Fresh corn and basil schmear

What are you eating on your bagels lately?