08 December 2017

What is the Cocktail Hour equivalent of fika?

I've been really getting into the Swedish fika tradition now that it's cold and I am getting tired of grading online Intro to Music assignments...basically, I flaunt my Swedish heritage as an excuse to procrastinate and drink more coffee and eat snacks.  It's great, thank you Sweden!

I have also enjoyed replacing a big heavy dinner with light snacks to go with my cocktail around 5pm.  Here's a little plate I made up to go with my gin and tonic a couple of weeks ago (above).  What do you call that?  Just being a pig?  I'm OK with that.

These little snacks were totally delish with that G&T and super easy to make, though, so here's how you do it:

Deviled eggs: I've written about those here before. It's a kind of old-timey snack that's quick to make if you keep some boiled eggs available in the fridge and it's very filling, which I love. The one on my plate, above, is just a plain old deviled egg with some fresh chopped tarragon added to the filling. Obviously it was very artlessly stuffed after the filling was made.

Almonds: I love all varieties.  These are salt and vinegar almonds I got in the bulk section of my grocery store, but smoked, tamari, or wasabi all would have been great, too.

Smoked salmon: another quick, protein-rich snack that is much more luxurious tasting than it costs.  I put thin slices from a cheap, small package I bought at Safeway down on some Wasa crispbread, then topped with finely chopped pickled beets, thinly sliced red onion, a few capers, and a generous crank of black pepper.

Asparagus: who knows why it was on sale at the store yet completely out of season, but there it sat in the fridge with no plan.  So I steamed it, then tossed with a little soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and toasted sesame seeds. 

All of this took less than 30 minutes to prepare (I already had boiled eggs, though). And dinner somehow managed to feel like a festive holiday party without leaving me overstuffed and regretful the next morning. Now, we just need a better name than "evening fika"...

28 November 2017

Chick pea and cauliflower bowl with tahini sauce

I have been eating horribly, and the Christmas parties haven't even started yet. So I put this pile of things together for lunch today and already feel far superior to the rest of you. But now you, too, can know the secret of true righteousness.  You're welcome. 

Chick pea and cauliflower bowl with tahini sauce

Makes 4 servings

For the sauce:
1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice 
1 heaping tablespoon plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt 

For the spiced chick peas:
2 cups (or a 15 oz. can) cooked chick peas
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon curry powder

For the cauliflower and kale:
1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped (about 3 cups packed)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

About one cup cooked grain (rice, barley, quinoa, etc.) per bowl
1 tablespoon chopped tomato per bowl

To assemble:

Heat the oven to 425F. Toss the cauliflower and kale with all ingredients on a large baking sheet and spread out in one layer.  Roast until browned, stirring once during baking time (so, I pop it in the oven for 20 minutes, take it out and stir it around, then cook another 10 or so).

Meanwhile, combine all chick pea ingredients in a reusable container (you'll probably have leftovers to refrigerate).  Combine all sauce ingredients in a food processor or blender. 

In a large bowl, put in your cooked grain, then top with chick peas and roasted vegetables to your heart's desire.  Top with chopped tomato (that's optional, really) and drizzle sauce over the whole thing.  Can be eaten hot or at room temperature. 

Everything can be kept in separate containers in the refrigerator for a week, so you can keep making these until you run out.  Extra sauce makes a great salad dressing, too. 

17 November 2017

The obligatory Thanksgiving post

...actually, I haven't done one of these in a couple of years!  It's not that I get sick of talking about Thanksgiving or food--the two are one in my opinion, and it is among my favorite subjects.  But I tend to like the same things every year, and I don't know if it's that interesting to read about my variations on cranberries and sage.  Thanksgiving is my Pumpkin Spice; I know it's derivative and terribly predictable, but I get sappy every fall when I think about cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts...if you want to snag some of my old faves, links to previous blog posts are below.

I'm also thinking about the other aspects of Thanksgiving I have come to love: alternatives to Black Friday and giving thanks. So, if you don't have any thoughts about those two categories just yet, might I?:

I love being thankful for the things I had nothing to do with: a supportive, loving family; my physical and mental health; great neighbors who put up with our stinky compost pile and help us fix the annually busted sprinklers in the yard,...I am not lucky in all aspects of my life, but I can think about those things some other day (though I try not to).

Favorite things to do on Black Friday:

  • Go on a hike / bike ride / long walk around the neighborhood to admire the fresh Christmas decorations
  • Do kooky things with leftovers (creatively combined ingredients in a soup, curried anything, kitchen sink quiche...)
  • Mull some cider (OK, I dump spiced rum in it too) and read a book under a blanket
  • Rake the yard
  • Stumble in to the neighborhood brewery in the afternoon
  • Make a list of donations for the year

Favorite household recipes:

Thanksgiving-worthy chicken or pork, as well as a mushroom-potato pie and Indian-inspired spaghetti squash: "Turkey shmurkey"

The other stuff--wild rice and vegetable gratin, curried squash galette, and cranberry ginger bread: "Holiday Flavors Remix"

More sides: carrots, green beans, and Brussels sprouts: "Showstopping sides!"

A coconut-pumpkin pie

Cranberry-Cornmeal Shortbread

Spiced apple cake with warm rum sauce

Holiday-inspired cocktails: "Forget the food, let's drink!"

10 November 2017

Fake a fancy ramen for lunch

I got really excited about all the over priced, hipster noodle shops that opened up in Denver and NoCo a few years ago, and I was always disappointed. Even in L.A.'s Little Tokyo, the homemade ramen is hardly any different from a decent package at the store (whatever, I'm cool with Maruchan too). Now I just make it at home and eat it in my pajamas without having a 20-something get in my face and loudly explain the "concept" of their restaurant. Here we go...

Fancy-assed Ramen at Home

Serves 2 in giant bowls

1 teaspoon peanut oil
5-6 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 packages instant ramen (get a shrimp or chili flavor)
2 cups broccoli florets
1 teaspoon white vinegar
4 oz. (leftover) cooked meat of your choice (I like pulled pork or seared steak, but shrimp's nice too)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 scant tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili sauce like Sambal olek (optional)
handful fresh cilantro, chopped

In a large saucepan, heat the peanut oil on "high" and quickly stir-fry the scallions until you have some blackened bits on them.  Remove them from the pot and set on a plate or something. 

Add 5 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil.  Cook the ramen with the seasoning packet until almost done (stir in some cayenne if you want), then add the broccoli for the last two minutes of cooking. When broccoli is crisp-tender, remove from heat and stir in the vinegar. 

Meanwhile, combine the sot sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and chili sauce in a small bowl. Add the cooked meat and stir to saturate.  Divide the meat / sauce mixture evenly between two large soup bowls.  Ladle the ramen soup into each bowl over the meat, then garnish with cilantro and the seared scallions. Eat immediately with loud slurping noises.