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Monday
Dec062010

HOLIDAY SANGRIA.



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
1 Pear
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.

Monday
Nov152010

AWAY.

We leave for Bali, Indonesia this evening for our honeymoon. I am so anxious to share pics and details of our wedding with you, but will wait until I can find words for the utter fabulousness that was this past weekend. Hugh and I can't stop talking about it, but I'm stumped as to how to sum up it in a few descriptive paragraphs. Until then, I leave you with these two frames from our AMAZING photographer, James. I am ready for a little break; some time to digest this big event and feel grateful for the abundance of love we have from family, friends and each other. It's a big deal.

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.
Wednesday
Oct272010

APPLE & SMOKED MOZARELLA MINI CALZONES



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.

Friday
Oct152010

SAUTEED BELUGA LENTILS + BUTTERNUT SQUASH


I cooked for a dinner party earlier this week in celebration of a special birthday. When I say "I" cooked, I really mean "we." Hugh came along and was a giant help. I can be quick, but four hands are more efficient than two. It was a group of twenty new friends, all strewn down the sides of a long table, drinking wine and sharing cheese plates. Nellie came up with all sorts of amazing little of details, from the paper bag menu cards to wrapping the homemade ice cream sandwiches in individual packages of parchment and baker's twine. Remember when I told you things like this were my dream? I love feeding people, and long tables, and laughing, and stringing lights, and grateful hearts. That's got to be my favorite part, making other people happy.

At the party, hosts being vegetarian, I served a version of this alongside some creamy polenta and a crisp butter lettuce, apple and arugula salad. Since I started cooking with beluga lentils, I haven't been able to use any other variety. They are just so stunning in color, and have more tooth to them than your average brown or red lentil. It worked, and I'm pretty sure the meat eaters didn't leave hungry either. Except for the one guy who took full advantage of the "one night off" his diet by finishing his meal with an entire stick of butter. I won't take that personally.

SAUTEED BELUGA LENTILS + BUTTERNUT SQUASH // Serves 4
This is one of those recipes that is to taste on a lot of things. You could adjust the garlic if you prefer, more herbs if you want the greenery, more curry if you like it spicy. However, note that the curry should not be an overpowering flavor here, it's intended to be a compliment. Any squash would work, maybe even a pumpkin. You follow me?

4 Cups Cubed Butternut Squash
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 Tbsp. Curry Powder
1/2 Tbsp. Oregano
1 Tbsp. Muscavado/Natural Brown Sugar
Salt/Pepper

2 Cups Cooked Beluga Lentils, drained
2 Tbsp. Minced Garlic
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Chopped Basil
1/3 Cup Chopped Parsley
2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 Small Red Onion, Diced
Grated Manchego Cheese

Oven to 450'

1. On a baking tray, spread out the squash, add the olive oil, oregano, curry powder and salt and pepper. Use your hands and toss everything around until the spices are coating the squash evenly. Spread them out in a single layer, with as much space between possible. Roast in the upper third of the oven for 20-35 minutes. (The time differs based on water content of squash, size of cubes etc. Just watch them until the edges are brown and crispy).
2. While the squash are cooking, put the 2 Tbsp. olive oil and minced garlic in a pan over medium heat. Shake it around a few times, and allow the garlic pieces to crisp up a bit in the oil. Add the lentils and saute to cover them in oil. Continue to stir intermittently for about 10 minutes to warm through. Turn off the flame, but leave them in the warm pan until the squash is done.
3. Remove squash from oven and set aside, put the lentils in a bowl and add the red onion, apple cider vinegar, dijon and half of the herbs, stir. Add the squash chunks on top, the rest of the herbs, desired amount of grated manchego cheese and a grate of fresh ground pepper.

Wednesday
Sep292010

PEACH + BLACKBERRY CRUMBLE



Our pastor is requiring us to write promises to each other for the wedding, and read them aloud. It's just part of his program, it's not an option, and I do agree with the reason that it personalizes the ceremony. I enjoy writing personal things, but the thought of speaking in front of 138 people, a paragraph that will relay my commitment, gratitude and humbleness towards marrying a man I am wholeheartedly crazy about, is a bit daunting. I've been brainstorming, and am taking note of every emotion that passes in these next few weeks. We just found a place to live recently, Hugh is moving in next Tuesday, and there is a warmness I feel in anticipation of having a home with him. It will be our place - a place we get to wake up, drink coffee, read books, work together, tell secrets, enjoy friends, stay up late watching movies and all else that fills our days. Sure, we don't exactly own any furniture at this moment, but I'm actually excited to eat canned soup on the floor while we don't have a table, a stocked kitchen, or unwrapped pots and pans. Isn't that all part of the endearing cliche of being a newlywed? My point is that just as a school is a place you learn or a hospital is a place you get well, a home is a place you love and I CAN'T wait. We won't be in this place forever, but the intangible parts of building a 'home' begin now.

So cheers to home; the occasion calls for a treat like this. The perfect combination of ingredients as we transition from the end of summer towards the beginning of fall. It's something perfect to share, and regardless of where you live, a crumble tastes just as wonderful on the floor of a new apartment as it would on a pretty kitchen table.

PEACH + BLACKBERRY CRUMBLE // Makes 6 Small Ramekins, 4 Large, or 8x8 pan
You could use more or less honey depending on the sweetness of your fruit. I got the tail end of these summer fruits, so I found this measurement to be a perfect compliment to their sweetness. There is flexibility in this recipe - you can use any citrus juice for the orange, your nut of choice, or another flour you have on hand. This could easily be a vegan crumble by substituting the one egg white for a bit of flaxseed meal, and topping it with a non-dairy frozen treat.

3 Peaches (about 1 lb.)
2 Cups Blackberries
1 Tbsp. Fresh Orange Juice
2 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves
2 Tbsp. Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 Cup Honey

3/4 Cup Oats
1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 Cup Chopped Pecans
1 tsp. Sea Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Muscavado or Natural Cane Sugar
3.6 oz./ 1/3 Cup Unrefined Coconut Oil, warmed to a liquid
1 tsp. Real Vanilla Extract
1 Egg White

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream/Gelato for serving

Oven to 375'

1. Wash and dry fruit. Cut peaches into 1'' chunks and place in a bowl, add the blackberries as they are. Toss the fruit with the fresh orange juice and thyme leaves. Sprinkle the whole wheat flour and honey over the fruit, and toss gently. If the mixture looks fairly wet, depending on the ripeness of your fruit, add a bit more flour.
2. Fill the ramekins or pan about 80% full of the fruit mixture. Set aside.
3. In another bowl, combine the oats, whole wheat flour, muscavado/natural cane sugar, pecans, salt, cinnamon and mix. Add the coconut oil, vanilla, and egg white and combine into the dry ingredients. It should resemble a loose, crumbly dough. Distribute evenly between the ramekins, or on top of the 8x8 pan.
4. Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet, and set on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes until the top is golden and a bit of fruit juice is bubbling up the side. I like the fruit to stay a bit firm, if you like it soft, give it another 5-10.