It was different this year. Different, in an oh-so-wonderful kind of way.
Christmas took its same course of stress and scrambling to make sure I got everyone something thoughtful and nice, sticky notes of who is cooking what, messages of what time we need to be where and remember to tell grandma an hour earlier because you know she'll be late. A joyful frenzy builds through December, to a day that is, well, joyful and frenzied? Hugh and I were able to spend time with everyone, chased around our adorable niece, bundled up for church outside, stayed up super late laughing and chatting with each other; I made undercooked french toast for my family, got a vacuum from Santa, and soaked it in. The holidays are some of the sweetest and funniest times with my family, and having a sparkly new husband to enjoy everything with, made it even better. We got home late Christmas night after talking all day, and I told Hugh the presents were nice, but my favorite part is just the time. We don't often have days with no where else to be than where you are, doing just what you're doing. You've got to savor days like that.
So here we are again, a bit overloaded on sweets and craving foods on the lighter side. This salad is so tasty and gorgeous with all the contrasts of color. Little bit of crunch from the pomegranates and pistachios, and just a subtle touch of coconut in the quinoa. I've been eating leftovers with an egg on top, and I think it'd work well with just about any protein.
May the rest of your holiday season be full of the giving and taking of time.
COCONUT QUINOA + SPINACH SALAD // Serves 6 as a side
I know some are still wary of using raw spinach, and I think arugula would be great as well, maybe just use a bit less as it's a bit stronger in flavor.
1 Cup Quinoa
1 Cup Light Coconut Milk
1/3 Cup Vegetable Broth or Water
2 Large Shallots
2 Tbsp. Coconut Oil*
1 Cup Fresh Pomegranate Seeds
4 Cups-ish Organic Baby Spinach
1/2 Cup Toasted Pistachio Nuts
2 Tbsp. Orange Juice**
2 tsp. Fresh Thyme or 1 tsp. Dried Thyme
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil (I used a lemon infused olive oil - SO good)
1. In a small pot, combine the quinoa, coconut milk, water and a pinch of salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, this will take about 10-12 minutes. Empty quinoa into a bowl and allow to cool.
2. Slice the shallots width wise into thin coins. Heat up the oil in a 8-10'' saute pan (you don't have many to crisp up). * If you don't have coconut oil on hand, canola oil will work as an alternative, it's just not that great for you. Once it's just shimmering, add in the slice shallots. Stand by them, as they'll burn quickly. They will dance around a bit, and once you see the edges turn golden flip them over or move them around. Set up a double layer of paper towels, remove the shallots just as they turn brown and drain on the paper towels.
3. In a small bowl, mix the orange juice, thyme, olive oil and generous pinches of salt and pepper. **Any citrus would work - lemon, lime...whatever is on hand.
4. You want to make sure the quinoa is room temperature before you toss, or it will wilt the spinach, and we don't want that. Maybe you do, but I don't. In a salad bowl, toss the spinach, half of the cooked quinoa, half of the pom seeds and half of the pistachios with desired amount of dressing. Your choice as to what ratio you want, you can save the rest of the quinoa for later, or toss it in, again, the ratios are up to you. Garnish the top with the rest of the pom seeds, pistachios and all of your crispy shallots. Little grind of fresh pepper and enjoy.
I would say the average person thinks lemons/citrus are summer fruits. They are crisp and tangy, add a lot of flavor without a lot of heaviness, which is typically a warmer weather preference. Lemonade, lemon bars, seems fourth or july-ish no? But now, when meyer lemons are in season, they are what take over my fruit basket. I may have been a bit greedy and bought 12 at the market last visit. Apparently I don't use lemon as much as I thought I did, because I still have too many. There is this fine line of having too much of a good thing, and in this case, it has caused me to experiment a bit. Alas, a simple lemon curd to use up some of that sweet citrus.
Of course, this time of year, it would make a wonderful and different gift. It keeps in the fridge about one week. You can re-use mustard jars or buy small mason jars at your local craft store. I used David's recipe, because the man knows sweet things. He mentioned that it would be good folded into fresh whipped cream. I plan on putting it on toast myself, and giving a small jar as a hostess gift.
MEYER LEMON CURD // Makes 1ish Cups
Recipe from David Lebovitz
The sweet to tang ratio is perfect, I wouldn't change it. He notes that if you can't find meyer lemons, you can use normal lemons, and use a bit more sugar.
1/2 Cup Fresh Meyer Lemon Juice
1/3 Cup Natural Cane Sugar
2 Egg Yolks
6 Tbsp. Organic Butter
pinch of Salt
1. Place a mesh strainer over a bowl, and set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, egg yolks, eggs, and salt.
3. Add the butter cubes and set the pan over low heat, whisking constantly until the butter is melted.
4. Increase the heat a VERY LITTLE bit and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and just begins to become jelly-like. It’s done when you lift the whisk and the mixture holds its shape when it falls back into the saucepan from the whisk. For me, this took about ten minutes in a 12'' pan.
5. Immediately press the curd through the strainer. Once strained, store the lemon curd in the refrigerator.
We came home from 90' sunshine and 95% humidity, to some of the colder southern California temperatures I have ever felt. It doesn't bother me, I crave seasons, and it gets me in the holiday mood. The music, decorations, friends getting together for ugly sweaters or wine and cheese - it's all just so cozy and festive. It's not the gifts and shopping that excite me in December, it's the good company.
I looked into some sangria recipes, as I wanted something different to bring to a get together this past weekend. The rules here are like that of vegetable soup, you can kind of get away with tossing in anything that's around. It doesn't seem like you can really mess it up. This combination felt 'holiday-ish' to me with all sorts of winter fruits, and the hint of warm spices. I don't like drinks super sweet, so after the fruit sits for a bit, the bit of honey and ginger ale add plenty of sweetness to this sangria. It travels well, and is a nice change from the typical bottle of wine. Put it in mason jars (without the ginger ale), tie a pretty ribbon, and you've got yourself a unique gift. 'Tis the season.
HOLIDAY SANGRIA // Makes one large pitcher
If you are serving this individually, use the ginger ale as a float. If you are leaving the pitcher out for people to help themselves, stir in about half the can of ginger ale.
1 bottle Zinfandel
1/3 Cup Cointreau
1/3 Cup Gran Marnier
1 Can Natural Ginger Ale
1/4 Cup Honey
1 Honeycrisp Apple
1 Large Orange
1 Fuyu Persimmon
2 inches of Peeled Ginger, in rough pieces
2 Sticks Cinnamon
Pinch of Ground Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Dried Cloves
Fresh Mint for Garnish
1. Cut the fresh fruit into thin slices, width wise (so it looks pretty). Toss the fruit, ginger, cinnamon, cinnamon sticks and cloves into the pitcher.
2. Warm the honey just a tad, add to the fruit.
3. Pour the wine, cointreau, and gran marnier to the pitcher. Mix everything around. I left mine at room temperature for an hour to marinate, and then I put it in the fridge for another few hours to cool.
4. To serve, fill the pitcher with ice. Put a few mint leaves in each glass, fill it 3/4 way full with sangria, and top it with ginger ale.
We're just eating wedding cake today...all day, but I promise we will be back soon with passion and excitement for this little cubby of the internet.
My dad, sister and I have had years of battling with my mom over the stuff she hoards in the garage. If you need a treadmill, non-functioning keyboard, halloween costumes for any age group, old silverware, paint in ANY shade of the color spectrum, it is in my mom's garage. It's a treasure trove of memories, junk, and admittedly useful items that I've taken to fill up our empty apartment.
Yesterday, I came across a box of frames I had on the wall of my room in college. They were all black, in attempt to keep some aesthetic to an entire wall full of pictures. After sitting in my mom's garage for a few years, they'd gathered a thick coat of dust; I cleaned them all off, and I can recall the specific circumstances of each of those captured moments.
We are just about two weeks from getting married now, and in this crunch time, I will confess that I'm at the height of emotion, most things bring me to tears, but the pictures reminded me how full my life has been/is. Not of things, wealth, or huge success', but full of people who have loved me for the majority of my years. Pictures of me laughing with my sister back when she dyed her hair different colors every week; my best friends Terri, Shan and Brit, from a trip to Italy, noses bright pink whilst experiencing coldest day of our lives; different images with my college roomates, who have undoubtedly been the most sincere friends I've ever known; Hugh and I five plus years ago... we were a little sad to see that yes, we are aging, but the carefree expressions are the same in our most recent pictures too. He has consistently made me so happy. These pictures reminded me how wonderful it is to be surrounded by people that are easy to be around. I just love these people SO much, and the greatest part is that each of them are an active part of my life to this day.
Speaking of being filled with goodness, I bring you mini calzones. Something that may look a little standard from the outside, but has warm fall flavors inside. Just little pockets of simple loveliness, like a box of old, dusty pictures.
APPLE + SMOKED MOZARELLA MINI CALZONES // Makes 12
I have included a link to the whole wheat dough I like, but you can buy one from a local pizza place or at some grocery stores to save yourself time.
1 Whole Wheat Pizza Crust (see recipe here)
1 Yellow Onion, sliced thin
1/2 tbsp. Butter
1 Medium Apple (Honeycrisp, Fuji or anything crispy)
1 Cup Diced Smoked Mozarella Cheese
1 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Handful of Fresh Thyme
Handful of Fresh Chives
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for brushing
Dijon Mustard to Serve
Heat oven to 500'
1. Make the pizza dough according to recipe link, or if using a premade crust, let it come to room temperature.
2. In the meantime, warm the butter over medium heat in a saucepan and add the thinly sliced onion. Continue to move them every so often until they begin to caramelize, this whole process takes about 20 minutes give or take.
3. Seed and cut the apple into a rough dice. Pull of the thyme leaves, and give the thyme and chives and nice chop. Get all your fillings in order for easy stuffing.
4. Roll out the dough into a shape resembling a rectangle. You want the dough thin, but not too gentle that it will rip when you stuff and fold. Use a sharp knife to cut across, making about 3x3 inch squares. Lay them on a floured baking sheet in lines, see picture.
5. Pile your toppings in the middle of the square. I did the order of onions, apples, both cheeses, herbs and a twist of black pepper... but I don't believe it makes any difference. Gently fold one corner across to the corner opposite, and gently press and fold the open edges. Repeat with all 12 or however many you end up with.
6. Brush the top of each mini calzone with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 14 minutes until tops are crispy brown. Let them rest just a minute before eating, serve with a little dipping dish of dijon mustard.