Cranberry Cardamom Bread

Whenever Roo has school vacation I feel pressured into making sure there’s food in the house so that he doesn’t go back to his old ways of living on takeout.

While there isn’t anything wrong with treating yourself once in a while, Roo’s love for Foodler, and Foodler’s love for reminding him what he used to eat as a bachelor, makes me nervous.  Cheeseburgers, chicken parm subs, and pizza, lots of pizza; meals that contribute to high cholesterol levels and make Roo’s doctor say things like “statins.”

Even though I’ll be at work this week, I’m comforted by the fact that I left soup, potstickers and noodles for Roo to have for lunch.

As for breakfast, that’s a little trickier.  Roo is not one who likes to eat anything in the morning so it usually has to be something enticing like “breakfast cake.”

“Breakfast cake” is a term Roo coined months ago, after I started making healthier cakes that lacked frosting, were only slightly sweet, and great with a cup of coffee.  It was a phrase that sounded all too perfect.  And because of that, I couldn’t stop.  I’ve been making “breakfast cake” every weekend since.

This week’s “breakfast cake” was inspired a bag of cranberries I found in the back of my fridge.  With New Year’s approaching, I’ve had a sudden urge to clean and organize everything in the apartment.  The downside is that I find things like an old bag of cranberries that I was suckered into buying because the clever labeling read, “Use One, Freeze One.”

I forgot to freeze the second one.

But, cranberry cardamom bread was made, and like most spiced goods, this cake gets better the longer it sits.

If you’ve never had cardamom before, it’s a spice that I can only describe as citrusy (sure, that’s a word).  The orange zest and cranberries in this cake only enhance cardamom’s flavor; a potpourri of mid-winter awakening.

The outside of the cake is slightly caramelized, yielding a soft, pleasant crunch as you take your first bite.  The crumb is more delicate than for example, a squash based cake, but in no way does it shrink away from the bold, tart cranberries.  The slight sweetness pairs well with the berries that burst mid-baking.

I’m already looking forward to tomorrow morning so that I can have another slice of this for breakfast.

As long as Roo doesn’t beat me to the last slice first.

Adapted from Chez Us

Makes 1 Loaf

Ingredients

1 flax seed egg (1 tablespoon of ground flax seed and 3 tablespoons of warm water mixed and set aside for at least 5 minutes)

Half cup soy milk (or any other non-dairy milk of your choice) and half teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, set aside for at least 5 minutes

Quarter cup of butter (like Earth Balance)

1 cup of sugar

2 cups of white whole wheat flour

One and a half teaspoons of baking powder

Half teaspoon of baking soda

Half teaspoon of fine sea salt

Quarter cup of unsweetened applesauce

Zest from 1 orange

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Half teaspoon cardamom (Cardamom is an intense spice.  If you’ve never used it before try a quarter teaspoon.  And if you hate cardamom – gasp! – try cinnamon.)

12 ounces of cranberries (A bag of cranberries you can find at your supermarket)

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Equipment

A stand mixer (or electric beaters and large bowl)

A medium sized mixing bowl

A whisk

A zester

A spatula

A 9″ loaf pan

Parchment paper or grease your loaf pan with either baking spray or butter and flour

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Place the oven rack to the middle position in the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350F.

Line the loaf pan with parchment paper (or grease it).

In your standing mixer (or with a electric beaters) add the butter and sugar and cream together for about 3 minutes (until well combined).  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Whisk the ingredients till well combined (and there are no visible lumps).  Set aside.

To the standing mixer, add the applesauce, flax seed egg, soy milk with apple cider vinegar, orange zest, vanilla extract, and cardamom.  Mix till well combined.  Be sure to scrape down the bowl, going down the sides, and back up, with your spatula.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet.  Mix till just combined, then scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the cranberries and fold into the cake batter with your spatula.

The batter is going to be thick, don’t worry.

Scoop the batter into your prepared loaf pan.  Bake for 50 – 60 minutes.  At the 50 minute marker, check the cake with a cake tester (a toothpick, knife, fork etc).  If it comes out from the middle of the loaf with only a bit of crumb, it’s done.  If the cake tester yielded wet batter still on it, throw the cake back in the oven and bake for another five minutes.  Continue checking every five minutes until it’s done.

Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before serving.

Creamy Oven Roasted Cauliflower Soup

I’ve been holding on to this one for a while.

Pressures of what to write, how to write it and if it would be good enough, have been sitting on top of my chest as I’d lay down to bed at night.  Uncomfortable would be the best way to describe it; a feeling that I should be writing something funny, but I can’t, or won’t.

Yet with the New Year approaching, I decided I should let it go.  Sometimes the recipe needs to speak for itself.

And this soup definitely has a voice: creamy and lush, hints of thyme, bay and a little “something” from the chili powder makes this bowl of assumed homogeneity a contender.  It’s full of body from the blended potatoes and has an unexpected amount of depth from the caramelized bits of roasted cauliflower.

Grab a hunk of warm, crusty bread and enjoy this winter fare tonight.  But be sure to save some for tomorrow, as it’s even better as leftovers.

Adapted from Creamy Broccoli Soup

This Serves About 6

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Ingredients

For the oven roasted cauliflower

1 tablespoon of mild flavored olive oil

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets (try to keep everything, except for the leaves)

1 big pinch of fine sea salt

For the rest of the soup

1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pot)

1 large onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

Half teaspoon of chili powder

4 cups of low sodium broth (I used homemade vegetable)

4 potatoes (about the size that individually fit in the palm of your hand), cut into about half inch pieces

1 large carrot, diced

1 large parsnip, diced (if you don’t have any parsnips, use two carrots. I’ve done this before when caught in a pinch and it tasted fine.)

1 cup of unsweetened, unflavored soy milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

Quarter cup of nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon of butter, like Earth Balance (optional)

Salt to taste

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Equipment

A sharp knife

A medium sized mixing bowl

A cookie sheet (or two) lined with parchment paper (optional)

A very large pot with cover (or dutch oven)

A spatula

An immersion blender or a blender

Ladle

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Place the oven racks to the middle and lower position in your oven.  Preheat your oven to 425F.

In your mixing bowl, add the cauliflower florets, olive oil and big pinch of sea salt.  Toss the ingredients together till the cauliflower is well coated with the olive oil.  Place the cauliflower on one to two (optional, lined with parchment paper) cookie sheets, depending on how much cauliflower you have.  If using only one cookie sheet, place it on the bottom rack.  Otherwise, place both cookie sheets on individual racks in the oven, and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, switching position of the sheets halfway through.  Roast the cauliflower until it is tender and the outside is beautifully browned (it does not have to be browned all over, if leaving it in the oven for too long makes you nervous about burning).

Add one to two tablespoons of olive oil to your pot.  Place the pot over a burner on medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the diced onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent.  Add the minced garlic, rosemary, and chili powder and stir to incorporate the ingredients.  Cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the broth, potatoes, carrot and parsnip.  Stir till the ingredients are incorporated.  Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat so that the ingredients are at a simmer.  Cover the pot and simmer for about twenty minutes.

After twenty minutes have passed, add the almond milk, sherry and nutritional yeast.  Stir and heat the ingredients through.

By now the cauliflower should be caramelized from roasting in the oven.  In one fell swoop, dump the cauliflower into your pot.  Stir in the cauliflower so that it’s evenly distributed in the soup.

With an immersion blender, blend about half of the soup, or to the consistency that you wish (I like to have some bits left whole in my soup).  If you don’t have an immersion blender, ladle some soup into your blender, but be careful to not fill more than half way.  Lid, cover with a towel (to protect your hand), and immediately blend (do not let steam build up in the blender or else you may risk of eruption and burning your hand!).  Add it back to the soup, and continue this until the soup is down to the consistency you desire.

Add salt to taste.

*Does it need to be just a little bit creamier?  If desired, add a tablespoon of butter, like Earth Balance.  Otherwise, you’re done!  Serve immediately.

Breakfast Under Five Minutes: Quinoa with Dried Cranberries, Golden Raisins and Slivered Almonds

I am not Bethenny Frankel.

I don’t even watch The Real Housewives of Whatever.  (My mother on the other hand loves that series.)

Some may even say she’s a better example of a human being than me.

Like, she’s a hardcore yogi.

Her arms are way more jacked than mine.

She’s either one of the best business women of 2011 or her agent/manager is Yoda.

What I owe in interest every 10 days for my student loans is probably what she makes per hour.  Correction, minute.

She owns an obedient, little dog while I have two cats that love to overeat and have tried to ruin Christmas by knocking over the tree.

But.  But!

I recycle.

Ok, I don’t know if she recycles or not, and quite honestly, even I don’t recycle sometimes.

I’m a terrible person, I know.

However, I hope that this quick and easy breakfast will convince you to forgive me for my non-Bethenny arms, drowning in student loan interest and occasional recycling ways.

This warm bowl of quinoa is creamy from the soy milk, has a hint of sweetness from the maple syrup and chock full of different textures with bright, sweet-tart cranberries, slightly plumped golden raisins and crunchy slivered almonds.  Quinoa is also a complete protein, so put down your cold, chalky protein powder shake and treat yourself to a warm breakfast that almost tastes indulgent.

Seriously.  You deserve more than that shake (despite what Sue Sylvester tells you).

*Roo was extremely dubious when I placed this in front of him from breakfast, not knowing how to deal with a non-savory quinoa dish (he suddenly forgot that he’s eaten it in a cake before).  Just try it.  I promise you it won’t taste like a quinoa patty with maple syrup on top of it.  Pinky swear.

Adapted from Bethenny Frankel

Makes One Serving (recipe can be easily doubled, tripled, etc.)

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Ingredients

Half cup of cooked quinoa

3 tablespoons of soy milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

1 tablespoon of maple syrup

Half tablespoon of dried cranberries (or whatever you prefer as a yummy dried fruit)

Half tablespoon of golden raisins

1 tablespoon of slivered almonds (or whatever nut you prefer)

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Equipment

A bowl

A clean spoon (or whatever you plan on eating the quinoa with, to mix the ingredients)

Microwave (or if you don’t own one, a small pot)

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Add the cooked quinoa, soy milk (or other non-dairy milk), maple syrup, golden raisins, cranberries (or whatever you prefer for dried fruit) and slivered almonds to a bowl.  Mix together with a spoon (or whatever eating utensil you have on hand) and throw in the microwave to heat through for a minute or two (depending on how strong your microwave is).  If you don’t own a microwave, dump the ingredients after mixing into a small pot and place on you burner on medium low heat.  Cook till heated through, stirring occasionally.  Serve warm.

The Stone Fence: Bourbon With An Apple Cider Reduction

I’m a bit nervous about making the trek down to Scituate this weekend as it’s the first Christmas I’ll be spending with Roo’s family.  And, like all events I go to, my skin in typical fashion has a boulder-like spot; right on my chin.

I love how my face is always happy make a great impression whenever I try to leave my apartment.

Hoping to make up for it with heavy eye makeup (black eyeliner and I are besties), I know that at least I’ll have The Stone Fence to “wall me off” from any awkward situation.

Why did we miss Christmas mass? Sip from The Stone Fence.

Have I applied to grad school yet? My drink needs more ice.

Who gave lavender hand soap as a stocking stuffer? I think this drink would look pretty with some zest in it. Where’s the microplane?

Did I just greet Roo by slapping his butt because we only communicate by sexual harassment? I need another refill.

All kidding aside, while this isn’t your standard “Stone Fence,” I love that the apple cider reduction pairs well with bright citrus notes from the lemon and the sweet, almost earthy maple syrup.  And bourbon being a naturally sweeter liquor (more so than an Irish whiskey, in my opinion) it just sings (sings!) in this cocktail.

I honestly hope that I don’t offend anyone on Christmas, but if anything, I’ll at least have a tasty drink to sip from if it gets awkward.

Wish me luck!

Adapted from Sassy Radish

Makes Two Drinks (this recipe can be easily doubled, tripled, etc.)

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Ingredients

1 cup apple cider

Quarter cup to one third cup of bourbon, depending on how strong you want it (I used Crown Royal)

Two and a half tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 teaspoons of maple syrup

Half cup of seltzer

6 ice cubes

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Equipment

A small pot

A small bowl (that can hold near boiling liquid)/pyrex measuring cup (something to hold your reduced apple cider in as it cools in an ice bath)

An ice bath (a medium sized mixing bowl with cold water and a few ice cubes)

A small sized mixing bowl (can hold at least two cups)

A whisk

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Pour your apple cider into a small pot and place over a burner on medium high heat.  Bring the cider to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and allow it to simmer/low boil until it’s reduced in half (to a half cup).

When it’s reduced, pour into a pyrex measuring cup/small bowl and place that into your ice bath.  Allow it to cool until at room temperature (or colder).

Once the apple cider reduction is cool, add the cider, bourbon, lemon juice and maple syrup all into a small sized mixing bowl.  Whisk all the ingredients together, then divide it between two 8 ounce glasses.  Add three ice cubes to each glass.  Give each glass a splash of seltzer and serve immediately.

Chewy Peanut Butter (Banana) and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes you just need to bake yourself a batch of cookies.

Come back from grocery shopping to discover that what you thought were “full” boxes in the pantry are actually empty because your boyfriend thought it was a good idea to leave you a tablespoon of whatever in each box?  So time for baking cookies.

Last K-cup was used yesterday but you had no idea till 5:30 this morning?  Drag out your mixing bowls.

Cats claw open the ziploc bag of rosemary syrup on the counter? Handful of chocolate chips for you, and then your batter.

Eat half a jar of Speculoos Cookie Butter last night?  Throw the cookie batter into the fridge to chill and get back to that jar.  There’s still half left!

I love that these cookies are absolutely peanut buttery and loaded with chocolate chips.  But what puts my mind at ease is that they actually have less fat and sugar than your average peanut butter chocolate chip cookie; all without compromising on taste.

Half of the butter is swapped out with banana, maintaining that chewy cookie texture but with a subtle boost in flavor.  The banana is very mild, but when great men like Elvis loved the peanut butter and banana combination, how could one go wrong with it in a cookie?

These cookies are both delicious raw (you may make more than 40 cookies if you have more self control than I did when scooping out the dough) and baked.  And for someone thinking about embracing a plant based diet for their New Year, this is probably the easiest way to start!

Make these cookies for your co-workers, your loved ones, or for the most important person of all, yourself.

Makes About 40 Cookies

Note: The batter needs to be chilled for at least a half an hour so please plan ahead when making them!

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Ingredients

Three quarters of a cup of creamy peanut butter (I used natural, well stirred, and it turned out fine)

Quarter cup of mashed banana (one small banana was enough for me)

Quarter cup of butter (like Earth Balance)

One cup of sugar (this yields a not too sweet cookie)

Half teaspoon of vanilla extract

Three quarters of a cup of white whole wheat flour (if you only have all purpose, that will work)

Three quarters of a cup of all purpose flour

Half teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of baking powder

Three quarters of a teaspoon of fine sea salt

Half a cup of bittersweet chocolate chips (you can use semi-sweet chips, just note that it’ll be a sweeter cookie because of this)

2 – 4 tablespoons of soy milk (or your choice of non-dairy milk, sweetened is fine) as needed if the batter is too dry

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Equipment

A stand mixer (or at least electric beaters, I don’t think this will work if mixed by hand.  Peanut butter is a fickle thing.)

A medium sized mixing bowl

A whisk

A spatula

A clean tablespoon (your fingers will suffice in making dough balls as well)

A cookie sheet (two to make baking go faster)

Parchment paper (optional), just makes clean up faster

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Add the peanut butter, banana, butter, sugar and vanilla extract to your stand mixer bowl.  Beat the ingredients together till well combined.  Scrape down the bowl to ensure it’s fully incorporated before adding your dry ingredients (down the sides, to the bottom then back up top).

In your medium sized mixing bowl add the flour(s), baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Mix the ingredients with a whisk till well combined and there are no visible lumps.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet in increments.  Be sure to scrape down the side of the bowl, down to the bottom and back up with your spatula, to ensure that all the ingredients are combined.

The dough may be a bit dry (it was in my case).  Add a tablespoon of non-dairy milk at a time, as much as needed.

Add the chocolate chips and mix till just combined.

Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes (if you live in New England, you can take full advantage of your porch/garage during this cold weather and store it there without losing crucial fridge space).

Place your oven racks to the upper middle and lower middle positions in your oven.  Preheat your oven to 350F.

With a clean tablespoon (or your fingers, whatever), scoop out the dough and place onto your (lined) cookie sheet, about one cookie’s width apart.  (On my cookie sheet, I was able to place 20 cookie dough balls on it.)

Bake your cookies for about 12 – 15 minutes.  They will look soft when they come out, but if you check their bottoms, you’ll notice that they will be browned.  Don’t over bake them.  They will not spread out like crispy cookies and look a lot like the dough balls that you placed in the oven.

Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet for at least a minute before moving (so you can rinse the sheet off with cold water for reuse)/devouring them.

25 Holiday Gifts/Stocking Stuffers for the Home Cook for Under $25

Have you finished your holiday shopping yet?

Are you like me and haven’t even started?

Are we totally battling each other at Target this weekend?

Don’t worry, at least you’ll be armed with an extensive list for the home cook that you need to shop for.  And because little to no one has the equivalent of Ina Garten’s expense account (love her), everything on it is super affordable.  Like under $25 affordable, with the majority being around $10.

See, I have your back.  Now can I have that last stoneware set from your cart?

1) Vanilla beans

These are always a little luxury I never treat myself to but am always happy to receive as a gift.  There isn’t anything like a real scraped vanilla bean in homemade ice cream.  These beans are practically magic.

2) Microplane zester

Once you’ve gone Microplane, you never go back.  I use this on a weekly basis, and have owned it for two years.  It’s still sharp as the first day I used it.  I also love that I rarely get the bitter pith into whatever I’m using the zest for. Microplane = genius.

3) Oven mitts

Every home cook needs a good pair of oven mitts.  There is nothing worse than burning your hands because your oven mitts are pieces of flimsy garbage (yes, that’s how I really feel).  Mine are due to be replaced so I can only hope that Santa puts these in my stocking this year.

4) Spices

Spices are great in that they can take you places that you may not normally be able to afford.  India?  Garam masala.  Vietnam?  Saigon cinnamon.  I personally love to buy from Penzeys, as they’re of great quality and ship practically everywhere.

5) Pyrex small bowls

These bowls are fantastic.  They’re great for putting seasonings into so that you can quickly add them to your dish as you cook.  I own two right now (the other two didn’t survive my shoving them in a trash bag ill-packing when moving) but would love to add to the collection.  I hope to see them in my stocking this year!

6) Pastry brush

You’d think you’d be able to make due without a pastry brush in the kitchen, and just use your fingers instead.  Don’t let your friends use their fingers instead of a pastry brush.  They’re better than that.

7) Bench scraper

Now that I own one, I cannot imagine life without it.  I use this little tool for scooping up cut veg (scooping up veg with my hands into a knife just creeps me out) and smashing open garlic cloves with.  A serious must have.

8 ) Tongs

I’m obsessed with tongs.  I use them for everything: grabbing slices of bread I’m toasting in the oven (um, yes, I don’t own a toaster), flipping over kale that’s braising, to moving around potstickers in my pan.  Essential.

9) Spatula

Like my tongs, a good spatula is worth it’s weight in gold!  And like tongs, you want a pair that won’t melt under high heat. Bits of plastic in your food? Gross.  I also appreciate a spatula that won’t hang onto the smell of what you were cooking last night, despite how many times you clean it.  Unfortunately Giada’s spatula does exactly that.  Wamp wamp.

10) Parchment paper

This stuff is great for lining cake pans.  I use this every Sunday when I bake a cake for Roo’s school’s “snack time” during the week.

11) Silpat

Oh, how I covet the silpat.  I’ve used it a few times at friends’ houses but have never bit the bullet on buying myself this.  It’s great for throwing veg that you want to roast on to baking cookies.  Super easy to clean and affordable!  Hey Santa, you listening?

12) Oven thermometer

Another absolute essential.  Ovens lie.  It’s true, they are the biggest liars.  And the best way to find that out is by using an oven thermometer.  I found out that my oven loves to run much, much hotter than she tells me.  Jerk.

13) Digital thermometer

For the omnivore in your life, or the bread maker, a digital thermometer is so much better than those pesky “old fashioned” ones.  I cannot tell you how long I’ve had to wait for a non-digital thermometer tell me what temperature a loaf of bread was, only to be incorrect!  This thermometer is instant gratification and has an on/off switch for longer battery life.

14) Candy Thermometer

If you have a friend that’s fantasized about making homemade salted caramels (wait, is that just me?) this is a necessity.  You can’t make candy without a thermometer.  Without it results in something granulated and scary.  It’s not fun friends, not fun.

15) Measuring spoons

I own the saddest set of measuring spoons.  They’re plastic and super wide so that I can only fit a half teaspoon or smaller into my spice bottles.  These, I think would make any home cook happy.  Ohhh stainless steel, novelty!

16) Measuring cups

That goes for the same with measuring cups.

17) Melon baller

You know, you never think you need a melon baller in your kitchen, until you need a melon baller in your kitchen.  They’re great for portioning out perfect little mounds of cookie dough before going into the oven as well.

18) Cheese cloth

I used to be that girl that said, “coffee filters do the same job as cheese cloth, why spend the money?”  Because I’ll tell you, coffee filters don’t really do the same job.  They fall apart on you and you’ll swear.  A lot.  Do you friend a favor and buy some cheese cloth.

19) Gnocchi board

I’ll admit it, I love the sheer novelty of a gnocchi board.  I love how it would look hanging from my walls in my kitchen.  Oh so tiny and cute, made of good ol’ wood.  But in reality, I’ve made gnocchi once without it and no, a fork does not do the same job (I’m clumsy. If you can do it with a fork, respect.)  It was terrible.  Get a gnocchi board.

20) Hand juicer

It bums me out to think how much juice I’ve lost out on before I had this hand juicer.  It’s super hardy (yes, I’ve leaned practically all my weight on it to get every single drop from the lemon) and easy to clean.  Love.

21) Spider strainer

I laughed when my mom told me that I needed a spider strainer when I was building Roo’s kitchen from the ground up.  I mean, who needs this ridiculous looking thing?  You, your friend, and I do.  They’re perfect for scooping up anything you’re boiling in water.  Not tongs, not a big spoon where you could accidentally spill hot water on yourself while trying to remove said item from it, but a spider strainer.  Mothers are always right.

22) Sushi mat

I’m half Asian.  It just so happens that I also own a sushi mat.  So should your friend because who doesn’t love going to parties where there’s free sushi?

23) Good set of chopsticks

Like the sushi mat, I also own a nice set of chopsticks (thanks Mom!).  The ones you get with restaurant takeout are so not the same.  Splinters going everywhere as you try to break them apart, most of the time leaving you one big chopstick and a mutilated little one.  No.  Invest in a nice set where you can eat your food like a real human being. (Note: Japanese chopsticks have a pointier end, versus Chinese.  If you like blunt end chopsticks, then go for Chinese.)

24) Wooden spoon/stirrer

There’s just something classic about stirring risotto with a wooden spoon/stirrer.  Plus, you get to threaten your kids with it if they misbehave. I kid, I kid.

25) Donation to your local food bank in their name

*I want to thank Kelly for helping me with this list! I hit a total mental roadblock and she came to my aid. Thank you!

**All these photos are from Amazon.com

Potstickers with Quinoa and Shitake Mushroom Filling

I love our cats, I really do.

But like any relationship, we’ve had our ups and mostly downs.

When I first moved in with Roo two summers ago, what I can only describe as “hazing” by Evil Monkey happened for months.

Roo tried to explain Monkey’s bad behavior for “not being used to girl things,” as I sat in that apartment, terrified to move.

It was probably one of the hottest summers in a few years, which forced Roo and I to have the fans on high throughout the apartment.  Some hot afternoons I would try to lie down on the couch to nap; hair carelessly dangling over the side and blowing in the fan, only to have Monkey jump up and attempt to scalp me.  There were also times where I would wake up, from the false comforts of sweet dreams, to find her chewing on my hair.  Wide eyed, mewing and chewing, a few inches from my face.

Horrifying.

Summer dresses ruffling in the crosswind from the fans were also open to kitty attacks.  To be immersed in a book, left one open for a Monkey run-by, as she would grab at my dress, trying to claw her way up my legs, only to bound off by my incessant screeching and squirming.

There were times where I told Roo I was going to sit naked in our apartment for safety sake.  To which he replied, “do you really think you’re going to be safer, naked?”

I never sat there naked.

And while Monkey no longer outright terrorizes me in our apartment, she has developed some other quirks.

Her love for toilet paper has forced us to store it in a resealable plastic bag.  She loves to climb up the Christmas tree and knock down ornaments; shredding them up and leaving them in her wake.  Her obsession with bottle caps and aluminum foil make us fear for her own safety and can never be left out, like toilet paper.

Yet we recently discovered she has an even more dangerous habit.

Water glasses.  She loves to push water glasses off of tables.

And when I came home from work today, to find that she knocked over a water glass from the coffee table, shards of broken glass embedded in our crappy carpet, I lost it.

I vacuumed the mess in silence.  Cleaning up all the pine needles, glass and other “bits of Monkey” (clumps of hair, string, and God-knows-what else lives underneath our couches).  And then I locked myself in the living room, a convenience of having french doors with a hook-and-eye at my eye level; something Monkey could never unlatch with her sneaky paws.

I still sit here now, writing up this post about potstickers (or supposed to be about potstickers), eating my dinner and watching Monkey as she watches me from outside the french doors.  Pacing, sitting and watching, pacing again.  Sometimes sticking her paw in the gap, where the doors don’t quite reach the hardwood floors, attempting to pull it open, only to be foiled by the hook-and-eye.

And you know what?  These potstickers are delicious.  Probably more delicious than anything I’ve eaten this week, as we know a victory (albeit a small victory as my nemesis right now is a cat…I know) makes everything taste like happiness.

I had initially made these potstickers for Roo as he was missing the pork-filled gyoza I used to make him before our lifestyle change.  The texture is virtually the same, and I honestly think they even taste better (victory aside).

Thin, crispy dumpling wrappers, envelope a quinoa and shitake mushroom filling, packed with umami.  Avocado is used as the binding ingredient, something I experimented with great success, as I didn’t feel comfortable using a flaxseed-egg in a non-baked good.  It can’t be tasted in the filling, as its outshone by the bright ginger, super savory shitake mushrooms, with just a little bit of bite from the scallions.  The chili dipping sauce is the same I used for my potstickers with lentil and caramelized onion filling, and pairs just as fabulously with these.

I also love that this is a dump-and-mix dish; all the ingredients for the filling are thrown in a bowl, combined, then scooped into empty dumpling wrappers.  The most labor intensive part of this dish is folding the wrappers, which is not hard at all.  All it takes are wet fingers to run along the edge of the wrapper, then folded, and then tossed in the pan to cook.

If anything, don’t wait till you’ve locked yourself in the living room to try these.  They’re just too good.

Adapted from No Recipes

Ingredients

For the potstickers

One and a half cups of cooked quinoa

A heaping half cup of dried shitake mushrooms added to a cup of hot water and set aside to rehydrate, then minced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

3 scallions, dark and light green parts minced (a scallion with three branches basically)

1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger (be sure not to do more than this as it’ll make the filling bitter)

4 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce

4 teaspoons mirin

2 teaspoons sesame seed oil

1 avocado, mashed with a fork until smooth

Salt to taste (I use a quarter teaspoon of fine sea salt)

1 package of gyoza wrappers

1 to 2 tablespoons of mild tasting olive oil (or any other mild tasting oil) to pan fry the gyoza with

A cup of warm water

For the chili dipping sauce

1 red chili pepper (I used a Mirasol, but whatever you have on hand that’s spicy)

One tablespoon of sugar

Quarter cup of soy sauce

Quarter cup of water

3 scallions, dark and light green parts minced (a scallion with three branches basically)

Sesame oil to taste (it’s pretty potent so my “yum” may be your “blech”)

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Equipment

One medium sized mixing bowl

One very large saute pan

One water glass (to hold warm water in)

Tongs/Chopsticks (whatever you can use to pick up the potstickers with from the pan)

A small bowl (for your chili dipping sauce)

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Add a quarter cup of water and a quarter cup of soy sauce to a small bowl.  Cut open the chili pepper with a knife, sprinkle with sugar, and then start chopping.  Smash the sugar into the chili pepper with the knife while cutting it up.  Stop when chili pepper is diced.  Scoop up the chili pepper and sugar and add to the small bowl.  Add the diced scallions.  Stir to combine.  Taste, and add the sesame oil to your liking (start off with a couple drops!).

In a medium sized mixing bowl add all your ingredients and stir till combined.  The mixture should be very wet (like the consistency of ground pork filling for non-vegetarian gyoza/potstickers).  Taste and season with salt if desired.  It should be seasoned well so that it can be eaten on its own.

Place your wrappers on a flat surface.  Add about a teaspoon of filling to the center of each dumpling.  Wet your fingers in the cup of water, and run your fingers along the edge of each wrapper.  Fold the wrapper in half, and press the edges tightly closed.  Keep going with this process until you run out of filling.

Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to a large saute pan.  Place the pan onto a burner over medium high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, start laying down your potstickers into the oil, making sure that they don’t touch.  This prevents them from sticking together.  Cook the potstickers until they are golden brown (the side face down in the oil).  Add the one third cup of water, and then cover the pan immediately with a lid.  Cook the dumplings for a couple of minutes, until the water is almost evaporated.  Remove the lid and cook the potsickers until the water is evaporated.  For me, this took about a minute.  Remove the potstickers from the pan. If necessary, repeat with any remaining potstickers.

Serve the potstickers with the dipping sauce.

Marbled Banana Bread

10 Reasons Why You Should Make Your Boyfriend Marbled Banana Bread

1. The trash is always taken out

2. Even though your apartment doesn’t have a dishwasher it doesn’t matter because they miraculously get done every night

3. Feet are never left alone in a cold corner under the duvet as they are always sought out to be intertwined

4. Cold hands always have a home in another’s warm ones without complaint (except that one time when you placed your ice cold hands on his bare rib cage and he screamed like you were skinning him alive…note to self, laughing so hard that you can’t breathe wasn’t the best response)

5. Heavy grocery items are whisked away from your overburdened shoulders with ease

6. No matter what kind of <insert hysterical moment of bad body image> day you’re having, you’re always looked at like you’re the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen when you’re getting dressed

7. He always moves to stand over the bathtub and gives you the sink, even though he started brushing his teeth way before you walked by and decided it was a good idea too

8. He ignores your obvious cookbook buying/Amazon addiction

9. He said he hated brussels sprouts and tofu but now serves himself seconds

10. He will often visit you in the kitchen as you make dinner to say it “smells really good,” pop a few items into his mouth, thinking you won’t see it but you always do

(This list of course will be followed by “10 reasons why you should make yourself something great because you live with your boyfriend,” because of course no relationship is perfect.)

Bananas and chocolate!  In a loaf!  Make this for someone you love right now.  Or tonight for yourself.  I won’t tell.

Inspired by Post Punk Kitchen

Makes 1 Loaf

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Ingredients

3 large very ripe bananas, mashed

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Quarter cup of soy milk (or your preferred non-dairy milk) with a quarter teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, mixed and set aside for about 5 minutes

Three quarters of a cup of sugar (this yields a not too sweet cake, if you’d like a sweet banana bread, go for 1 cup)

2 flax seed eggs (2 tablespoons of ground flax seed mixed with 6 tablespoons of warm water and set aside for at least 5 minutes)

2 cups of white whole wheat flour (If you would like the crumb that you would normally find in banana bread, all purpose is the way to go; for something a bit more luxurious and velvety, I would suggest using 2 cups of cake flour. I personally love the nutty, heartiness of white whole wheat. It makes me feel like I’m eating something wholesome.)

1 teaspoon of baking soda

Three quarters of a teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Quarter teaspoon of fine sea salt

Quarter cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

3 – 5 tablespoons of boiling water

Quarter cup of unsweetened applesauce

Quarter cup of mild tasting olive oil

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Equipment

One large mixing bowl

One medium mixing bowl

One small mixing bowl (to hold the cocoa powder and water in to be mixed)

A whisk

A spatula

A 9″ loaf pan

Parchment paper to line the loaf pan or baking spray/butter and flour the pan

A clean knife (like a dull butter knife)

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Place your oven rack to the middle position and preheat your oven to 350F.

If using parchment paper, line the loaf pan, otherwise be sure to use plenty of baking spray/butter and flour the pan.

In a large mixing bowl add the mashed bananas, soy milk with apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, applesauce, olive oil and flax seed egg.  Mix till combined.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Whisk the ingredients together to well combined (making sure there aren’t any lumps) and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl add the cocoa powder and 3 tablespoons of boiling water.  Whisk till it becomes a smooth paste.  If it’s still lumpy, add another tablespoon of water.  Keep adding water and mixing until it’s smooth.  Set aside.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing till just combined (be sure to scrape with a spatula the sides of the bowl, going down to the bottom and back up to ensure all the ingredients are mixed).

Remove half of the batter and place in your medium mixing bowl (where your dry ingredients used to be).  Add the cocoa paste from the small mixing bowl and mix together till combined.

Start adding your cocoa and plain banana batter to the loaf pan.  I just scooped out some plain and cocoa and threw it into the pan in bit dollops.  If the batter starts to run away from you in the pan (because you greased it) it’s ok! It’s a marbled loaf, the sloppy batters aren’t going to hurt it.

When all of your batter is in the pan, take a clean knife and run it through the batter, making a couple swirling patterns.  There is no “perfect” way to do this.  Just swirl about and it’ll turn out great!  Trust yourself.

Bake the loaf for 60 – 75 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean (or with a bit of dry crumb, not wet) when inserted into the center of the loaf/the cake springs back at touch.  Check the cake at the 55 minute marker as all ovens run at different levels of hot.  My normally super hot/I love to dry out cakes asap oven took 70 minutes to fully bake this cake.  Very unusual for my sometimes nemesis, but it was probably just having an off day.

Vegetable and Pearl Barley Soup

I’ve been living with Roo for over a year now, and I feel like I have enough data to say that he’s probably a serial killer.  Or an alien…but better looking than Powder of course.

*The fact that I mentioned Powder and “data,” should be far enough evidence to prove something’s wrong with him for staying with me.

Anyways…

1) When I discovered a few grey hairs and told him about it, he said, “I bet you’d look hot with salt and pepper hair.”

Who says that?  No one wants a 30 year old female to go gray.

Except for serial killers.

2) He always tells me I’m beautiful when I wake up in the morning, despite my insisting that I more resemble a Kraken.

Let me state, I am not “beautiful” when I wake up.  My face is oily, my hair that I put in a bun to keep myself from choking on it in my sleep is all mussed up and sitting on the top of my head, and I have the. worst. breath.  Hence, Kraken.

3) When I come home from the yoga studio, always after a practice where I sweat with such ferocity that it goes into my eyeballs (probably the worst thing to experience since you go both blind and your eyes itch), he’ll hug me even tighter saying that I “just smell like Lys.”

What does that even mean?!

I’ll tell you, it means he’s trying to memorize my scent so when he’s hunting me in the woods he can track me better.

4) Whether we’re sitting on the couch in private or at a bar amongst friends, he always has to have some part of his body touching mine.  At first I thought it was sweet when we were first dating, but now I know it’s just to make sure that when his head is turned he knows I haven’t fled the scene as he can feel me beside him.

Oh, I’m onto you Roo.  But for now, I’ll make you a pot of vegetable and pearl barley soup on this windy December day, insisting that it was made with love, despite my hand rattling the ladle against the bowl.

Chunks of potatoes and carrots, amongst the tender chew of pearled barley, net in by sweet kale makes this soup fit for winter.  This dish has hints of earthiness from the addition of rosemary, only to be paired with two other favorite herbs of mine: thyme and bay.  Adding a big hunk of bread to your plate will practically leave little else to be desired for supper.

Except for my freedom from a serial killer.

Roo is not really a serial killer or alien but a really good boyfriend despite my being a giant pain in the ass.

Adapted from Orangette

Serves 4 – 6

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Ingredients

2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 large onion, diced

Half cup of pearl barley

4 stalks of celery, diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

4 potatoes (about the size that can fit in the palm of your hand), peeled and cut into one inch cubes

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

Quarter teaspoon of chili powder

6 cups of low sodium stock (I used homemade)

2 – 3 bay leaves

1 bunch of kale (about a pound), leaves removed from stems and torn into easily edible pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

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Equipment

A sharp knife

A vegetable peeler

A very large pot (or a dutch oven)

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Add the olive oil to your large pot or dutch oven and place on a burner over medium high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion and pearl barley.  Stir the ingredients together, coating them with oil.  When the onions start to soften, and the pearl barley starts to brown, add the celery, carrots and potatoes.  Stir the ingredients together so that they’re well combined.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until they are softened.  Add the garlic, thyme, rosemary, and chili powder, stirring them into the other ingredients till well combined.  Cook them for about about a minute, till well fragrant.  Add the stock slowly, just a little at first, to allow the brown bits to come off the bottom of the pot with a spatula.  Scrape them off the pot’s surface, then continue adding all the stock.  Add the bay leaves and bring the liquid to a boil.

Once at a boil, reduce the heat so that the liquid is at a simmer.  Cover the pot and cook for about fifteen minutes, then add the kale, stirring it into the liquid.  Continue to simmer the ingredients for five more minutes, then check to see if your barley and potatoes are cooked through.  The potatoes should be soft to the touch (be able to poke a fork through easily) and the barley should have a little bit of chew to it.  Season with salt and pepper if desired, then serve.

Quinoa with Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Parsnips, Carrots and Butternut Squash

Did you…

come home to see that the cats had knocked down your Christmas tree?

get your hands covered in wretched, sticky sap after putting the tree back up?

curse under your breath as you were washing off your hands, because you forgot that this also happened last year?

hysterically accuse your cats of hating Christmas while they just stared at you?

then find two green beans in your sneaker the next morning?

Coming home to a disaster in the living room isn’t exactly what I want to deal with before making dinner.

Instead, it makes me want to pour myself a glass of wine; throwing some items onto a baking sheet and into a pot, being just an after thought.

Thankfully this recipe is just that (sans wine).

Most of the work comes from prepping the veg: peeling, cutting, tossing with a bit of olive oil.  Then throwing them onto two baking sheets and roasting them while the quinoa cooks in a pot.  (Or rice cooker. And if you’re lucky, it’ll sing to you when it’s done.)

It’s also very easy for it to look lovely in presentation: quinoa placed on a platter with assorted roasted veg on top; all their caramelized edges facing outward, just asking to be snatched up and popped into hungry mouths.  It’s quite possibly the easiest way to impress guests for a meal that took less than an hour to make.

I love the sweetness from the roasted veg and golden raisins, crunch of the toasted almond slivers, and basically any excuse to eat quinoa.

It’s so good that it almost makes me forget that the cats tried to ruin Christmas.

Serves 4

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*This recipe is so simple to add flavors to that you’re craving during the winter months. Feel free to add, for example, a sprig of rosemary to your quinoa as it cooks. Or for example, for added richness, a tablespoon of butter.*

Ingredients

One cup of quinoa, rinsed

Two cups of low sodium stock (I used homemade vegetable) (*if using a rice cooker, fill the bowl to the “1” with stock after adding the quinoa)

2 – 3 tablespoons of mild tasting olive oil (basically enough olive oil to lightly coat the veg before going into the oven)

1 teaspoon of fine sea salt salt

Half a small butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into half inch pieces (the smaller the chop, the faster it’ll cook!)

1 pound of brussels sprouts, halved

1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped into one inch chunks

Two large carrots, peeled and chopped into one inch chunks

One third cup of golden raisins

One third cup of almond slivers, toasted

Salt and pepper to taste

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Equipment

A small pot to cook the quinoa with a lid, or a rice cooker (this is what I used)

A sharp knife

A vegetable peeler

(At least) Two cookie sheets

Two large bowls (or one, and after tossing the veg with olive oil clean it out and use it to serve the meal with)

A small pan (to toast the almonds with)

A spatula

A platter/very large plate to serve the dish on

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Place your oven racks to the middle upper and middle lower positions in your oven.  Preheat your oven to 400F.

In a small pot add the quinoa and stock.  Place over a burner on medium high heat and bring the liquid to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer the ingredients for about ten to fifteen minutes, covered, or until the curly-q tail (you’ll know it when you see it) is visible.  Remove the pot from heat, fluff the quinoa with a fork and set aside.

If using a rice cooker, add the quinoa and then stock, filling the bowl to the “1 cup” marker.  Cook on “quick cook,” or whatever similar setting you have on your rice cooker.  When the quinoa is cooked, fluff it with a fork and set aside.

In a large bowl add the brussels sprouts, parsnips, carrots and butternut squash.  Add the olive oil and salt.  Toss all the ingredients together (I used my hands) till well coated with the oil and salt.

Throw all the veg onto your cookie sheets and place in the oven on the upper middle and lower middle racks.  Roast for about thirty minutes.  Halfway through roasting turn all the veg over so that they can be browned on both sides, and rotate the cookie sheets, placing them on different racks.  The veg will be done when they’re browned and soft when pierced with a fork/knife.  Remove the veg from the oven and set aside.

In a small pan add the almond slivers and place over a burner on medium heat.  Watching the nuts closely, swirl them around over the heat until they are browned.  Remove from heat.

In another large bowl (or the one you tossed the veg with, cleaned), add the quinoa, roasted veg, raisins and almond slivers.  Toss the ingredients together till combined.  Taste and add salt and pepper if desired.

Scoop out the quinoa onto a platter then place the roasted veg on top.  Serve immediately, being sure to scoop up all sorts of veg and quinoa onto your plate.