So It’s Been A While….

Hi.  This should be anticipated by now but yet again I’ve disappeared off the face of the Earth for 6 months.  Sorry about that.  There were reasons (there always are).  Anyhoo, here I am.  In light of the New Year, I thought I would list a few general (and some specific) goals I have for 2014 (in no particular order).

  • Care less about things I can’t change or things that don’t really matter.  I am a genetic, pathological worrier and I need to cut that out.  Or at least cut back.
  • Simplify my freelance business.  Somehow, in my never-ending quest to be perfect I have dramatically overcomplicated the day to day operations of what is essentially a very simple business.  I need to simplify it so I can spend less time accounting and more time doing things I actually enjoy.  I hate accounting.
  • Make more things from scratch.  I am happiest when I am creating things.  That’s why I’m a digital librarian – I digitize and make accessible unique cultural heritage materials.  I like and believe in that.  But I need to make more things in my personal life too.
  • Give myself a break. I shouldn’t beat myself up if making something (a quilt, a painting, writing, this blog) becomes a chore and I don’t want to do it for a while.
  • Take another weekend photography class (preferably two).
  • PURGE!  Big purge of things we don’t need and then a bit of rearranging of the house.
  • Keep up the exercise – 4 gym days a week.

Let’s have a great year everyone!

steve-holt-2014

Apple Cinnamon Almond Protein Muffins

Breakfast has started to become a problem.  I’m working on making sure I have protein in my breakfasts, but I don’t want to make eggs in the morning.  I know, I know, but I don’t want to.  I like to save my eggs for a quick dinner (brinner) when I’m stuck for ideas. My trainer recommended Ezekiel breads, so for the last 6 weeks I’ve been eating Cinnamon-Raisin Ezekiel toast with almond butter and a piece of fruit. You might say I’m in a breakfast rut.  I’m STILL burned out from the great baked oatmeal craze of 2012 and I’ve eaten a lot of greek yogurt lately, I drink a protein shake after my workouts so I’m not adding it to the breakfast repertoire and cereal kinda sucks.  So what’s a girl to do? I’ll tell you what – make protein muffins!

I found a delicious looking recipe here on the Delighted Momma blog.  I tweaked it ever so slightly and came up with these:

protein-muffin
                Not too shabby, eh? The ones in the back aren’t burnt,                                                      they’re just upside down.

Apple Cinnamon Almond Protein Muffins

  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 6 oz unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 oz 0% fat greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp double strength vanilla

Mix it all together, bake in greased muffin tins at 350 for 25 minutes. Makes 12 muffins. Correction, makes 12 really, really tasty and moist muffins.

Each muffin is 154 cal, 12 carbs, 10 g. fat, 6g. protein and 7g. sugar.  I’ll be eating two at a time for breakfast (at 7am) for about 300 calories and 12 grams of protein and I’ll probably grab a greek yogurt (again) for another 12-14 grams of protein at 10am.  That’s pretty decent in my book.

Enjoy!

 

Book Review: Scandinavian Stitch Craft

I got a book in the mail to review:  Scandinavian Stitch Craft: Unique Projects and Patterns for Inspired Embroidery by Karin Holmberg.  And its a good one!

Here's the cover.  It comes out May 7th, 2013.
Here’s the cover. It comes out May 7th, 2013.

This book is all embroidery (which I am admittedly not great at) but there is such a wide breadth of difficulty range, I think even I could easily tackle some of the easy projects and work my way up to the hard ones.  Simple projects include tea towels and pot holders, while some intermediate projects include table cloths and tee-shirts.  Advanced projects include pillows, hoodies and even bed sheets! Some of the projects are just so gorgeous that you want to jump in head first, but the instructions are decent enough that I think maybe, just maybe, I could.  I mean look at these mittens:

How beautiful are these?
How beautiful are these?

I could do that, right?  Or let’s take a closer look at the pillows that are on the cover:

Right?  Right?
Right? Right?

I’m not gonna lie, I really want to take those pillow patterns and embroider a handbag with them.  SO PRETTY!  Overall the book has 38 projects and it comes with pattern templates, which for some one like me is ALWAYS appreciated.  Eat your heart out Anthropologie, with your expensive everything.  Now I can MAKE you stuff!  Ha!

Aloo (Gobi) Tikki or Indian Potato Cauliflower Cakes

Aloo Tikki are those little fried, spiced Indian potato cakes that are a bit crispy on the outside and very light and soft on the inside.  They are usually served with green or tamarind chutney and are very, very tasty.  One of my favorite Indian food blogger/author has been talking about them recently so I’ve had them on my mind. But I wanted to lighten them up (over the traditional) a bit.  So, I thought I could bake them rather than frying them.  But THEN I thought that if I can make cauliflower mashed potatoes, why can’t I make cauliflower potato cakes?  And Oh Boy are these AMAZING!  YUM!  I’m in love.

These are delicious!
These are delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, chopped and steamed
  • 1 cup of mashed potato
  • 1.5 tsp chaat masala
  • .5 tsp garam masala
  • 1 clove garlic, grated (I use something like this)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger root
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (I had panko on hard, you could use plain or make your own)
  • salt to taste
  • Extra breadcrumbs

I chopped the cauliflower until fine grain consistency with my tiny food processor and mixed it with all the other ingredients (except the extra breadcrumbs).  Taste for seasoning.  Chaat masala has salt in it so go easy on the salt initially.  Make golf ball sized balls and flatten into patties. Press patties with breadcrumbs and put on a pan-sprayed, foil lined cookie sheet.  Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes, flip each patty and cook on the other side another 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.

Eat and enjoy!  You will notice there is no fat or dairy in this so this snack or side dish is completely guilt-free.  Enjoy!

Losar – Tibetan New Year

Hi everyone!  I know it’s been a while.  Work kind of exploded and left me very little time to have a life.  No life = boring blogging, so I spared you all.  You’re welcome!  :)

But, I’ve been cooking again and had some recent success.  Losar, Tibetan new year, was this past week and we decided to make some traditional treats to celebrate.  We found the excellent website YoWangdu and have been making a few things from it.  The recipes are very easy to follow and very delicious.  I highly recommend you check them out for traditional Tibetan cuisine and for interesting and educational articles on Tibetan culture and travel.

First off, we went to a local Losar celebration and we decided to make and bring Khapse, a traditional fried Losar pastry/cookie. YoWangdu has a very simple to follow recipe.  The only changes we made was to add a little extra water while making the dough – to get the right consistency.  We fried them up and they were AMAZING!  Not too sweet and perfect with tea.  This is what the finished Khapse looked like:

Not too bad for a first attempt!
Not too bad for a first attempt!

We also decided to make two more recipes from YoWangdu, though they aren’t specific to Losar.  We made beef momos (steamed dumplings) and sepen (Tibetan hot sauce). The momos were really delicious, though as you can see, we aren’t very good at shaping them yet.  And the sepen was HOT, but had great, fresh flavor!

The color is a bit off on these.  They look like simple, steamed dumplings.
The color is a bit off on these. They look like simple, steamed dumplings.
Super spicy but full of flavor!  It has ginger, garlic and cilantro in it.
Super spicy but full of flavor! It has ginger, garlic and cilantro in it.

So go check out YoWangdu, learn about Tibet and make something delicious!

‘Tis the Season for Spiced Rum Balls!

Dear god I love rum balls.  They are one of the few foods that I have next to no self control over.  I love them so much.  I’m like a dog.  I can’t help myself.  Therefore I never make them, except when I can give them away.  As it happens, every year I make a gift for my co-workers at the library and I usually give out about 15-20 little gifts. Last year was sea salt fudge and candy cane fudge.  This year, I’m going full on rum ball.  And they turned out so good that I thought I’d share.

I mean, seriously, how god do these look?  All packaged up in mason jars?  Super cute!
I mean, seriously, how good do these look? All packaged up in mason jars? Super cute!

For the record, I do recommend using a rum that you would drink.  Also, only use dark, black or spiced rum because let’s be honest, clear rum is meant for disinfecting counter tops and removing sharpie from dry erase boards (it really works), not for drinking.  This year, I went with black, spiced rum and I’m very glad I did.

I've released the Kracken this year and I'm very glad I did!  It makes great rum balls and an excellent dark & stormy.
I’ve released the Kracken this year and I’m very glad I did! It makes great rum balls and an excellent dark & stormy.

The recipe is dead easy and yields brilliant results time and time again.  I have even successfully quintupled it with no negative ramifications.  I would caution that this makes a VERY boozey rum ball.  I dig that.  I like rum.  If you want a milder rum ball I would reduce the rum to 1/2 cup.  I’ve done that without needing to alter any other part of the recipe and its fine.  Still a good rum flavor, but not quite so NSFW.

Tipsies aka Rum Balls

  • 6 oz dark chocolate (Ghirardelli 60% chips is what I use)
  • 3 TBSP corn syrup
  • 2/3 cup rum
  • 2.5 cups crushed vanilla wafers
  • 2/3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1.25 finely chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, add corn syrup and booze and whisk gently to combine.  Add all dry ingredients and mix until well combined.  Let sit for about 30-60 minutes until it can be handled.  Roll into balls.  Roll the balls in granulated sugar.  After you do you get something that looks like this:

Rum Balls, an interior shot.
Rum Balls, an interior shot.

Keeps at room temperature for weeks in an airtight container.  Makes 4 dozen (at least).  Do yourself a favor and run the vanilla wafers and the nuts through your food processor.  You won’t be sorry.  If you make them, let me know how they turn out.

This recipe was handed down to me through my MiL.  Apparently she got it from a lady named Judy.  Here’s the original recipe card!  Enjoy!

My Favorite White Bean Soup

Believe it or not, I am not a huge fan of beans.  I want to be because I know that they are quite good for me and for my tum-tum but….eh?  I tend to be very meh about most bean things.  The exceptions are my White Bean & Asiago Puree, Daal (recipes forthcoming) and Deborah Madison’s Rosemary White Bean Soup from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

I love this soup. A lot. 

Deborah Madison’s recipe is excellent.  The first couple of times I made this, I made sure to follow it precisely.  But soups are so forgiving, its OK if things shift along the way.  I’ve skipped the rosemary infused olive oil on this lazy Saturday and taken a few other shortcuts/liberties but I think the results are still just lovely.

All the following amounts range from accurate to guesstimations, but I try. Here’s what I do:

Ingredients

  • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 3 small carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp celery flakes (J despises celery so we never, ever have it in the house)
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic (from a jar, b/c today was a lazy Saturday)
  • 1 medium yellow summer squash, chopped (this is totally optional, I just threw it in because it was burning a hole in my veg bin)
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1 14oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken or no chicken broth made from Better Than Bouillon.
  • 4 cans white beans (I used 1/2 cannellini and 1/2 navy b/c it was what I had)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan

Sweat the carrots, onions, squash and garlic in the olive oil until the carrots start to soften.  Add all the spices and let the heat release all the spice and herb oils.  Add tomatoes, broth and beans and leave to simmer for 30-45 minutes, with the lid ajar.  I was hungry so I went with 30 minutes.  Puree with a stick blender, stir in parmesan and grind some fresh pepper in.  Its delicious.  Too thick?  Add more broth.

Serve with more cheese, maybe a bit of pasta or some crusty, toasted and buttered bread.  It’s excellent topped with some homemade pesto!

Work is Hard.

It keeps me from doing fun things, like knitting and sewing and updating this blog.  And that is not very good indeed.  And for that, I am sorry.  But I’ve returned and I’ve brought pictures! J and I finally got a break and took a long weekend and buggered off to Asheville, NC.  We drank amazing tea, we ate lots and lots of tasty food and we walked in the woods.

NC Arboretum
The NC Arboretum in the fall

And did you know that the NC Arboretum has a bonsai garden?  So many amazing and tiny little beautiful works of art!  My new header is from a snap I took there.  Here are a couple of others.

Weathered
Such pretty little leaves!

That’s all for now, but I’ll be back with a recipe soon!

White Bean and Asiago Puree

This stuff is fantastic.  I know I might say that a lot, but I mean it.  We first had this at an amazing restaurant called Trattoria Lucca.  It was served as an accompaniment to fresh, warm, crusty bread.  They served it as a scoop on a plate with olive oil and cracked pepper on top.  One taste and I knew I had to try to replicate it.

                                                    White Bean and Asiago Puree
              Spread me on crusty bread, use me as a dip for veggies, whatever!

White Bean & Asiago Puree

  • 20 or so oz Cannellini beans
  • 3-5 oz grated Asiago cheese (I used an olive oil and rosemary asiago which I highly recommend)
  • A good drizzle of olive oil (1 tbsp maybe?)
  • 1 clove finely minced garlic
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper

Toss it all (except the cheese, salt and pepper) in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Fold in the cheese and season to taste. Or, if like me you don’t have a food processor, Toss it all (except the cheese, salt and pepper) in a big bowl and use an immersion blender to process it until smooth (or as smooth as you can get it with an immersion blender, which isn’t half bad). Fold in the cheese and season to taste.

You can serve it with no knead bread or I’m thinking of putting it in a wrap with some oven baked eggplant and roasted red peppers.  FYI, despite all the cheesey goodness, its only about 4 weight watchers PP+ for 1/6 of the bowl (which is a very, very decent sized helping).  Y’know, if you’re into that sort of thing.  Enjoy!

Easy Baked Peaches and Cream

This is one of my favorite summer time desserts.  Its simple, its seasonal and its fantastically delicious.  Think warm peach pie and ice cream delicious (but without the added calories and extra work that pie crust adds).

                                            You know you want some!

Ready?  If this isn’t already in your summer repertoire, you’ll be kicking yourself when you see how easy it is.

You’ll need:

  • A whole mess of peaches depending on how many you want to feed.  A peach per person is usually good, but not less.
  • Brown sugar (1-2 tsp/peach)
  • Cinnamon
  • Heavy cream (8oz)
  • Sugar (1 heaping tsp)
  • Vanilla (1/2 – 1 tsp)

Line a cookie sheet with tin foil and give it a light spritz of pan spray. Slice up your peaches (remove the stones) into nice size hunks and put the on the cookie sheet, very tightly packed together.  Sprinkle with the brown sugar and a bit of cinnamon.  Broil on high, right under the broiler, until the sugar is melted and the peaches are a bit charred. Remove from the oven.

Whip up your cream in a bowl with the vanilla and the white sugar.  Serve the peaches in a bowl with a nice heapin’ helping of whip cream on top.  Devour!

You’re Welcome!

Pro-Tip:  Make extra.  Lots of extras.