One day life can seem so routine, and then you look back on particular moments and specific days, and see that a decision you made changed the course of your life. Was it wise to quit my job? I'm not sure yet. But I do know I wasn't fufilled in how I was spending most of my days, and making a decision to change that, be it risky, can't possibly be a bad one. I don't always follow rules, but I am cautious, and attempting a more entrepenurial career is not something I imagined I would do. I admire people who takes chances, and I can dream about what I'd 'rather be doing', but some personalities are comfortable in safe places. Most of us, I would guess. Which is why I am so grateful to have Hugh, whose encouragement in sincerely wanting me to do work that makes me happy, is what pushed me to give my notice. Some days I feel SO GOOD about this, but there are moments I panic and cry. I'm relieved but scared all at the same time. My emotions are incredibly confused and excited, motivated and stone cold frightened within the course of a day.
My plan is to be a renaissance woman; pursuing a number of small projects until I find a rhythm that works. I intend to expand my dinner delivery business, cook for small dinner parties, teach cooking classes, maybe get certified to teach pilates, start a cookbook, work at the local farm a few days a week and sell advertising on this lovely site, so I can spend more time here. I didn't want to keep waiting to be doing things I wanted to do. I wasn't sure what exactly I was waiting for, as there is resounding advice I get from older folk, "there will never be enough money for a house, for kids, for vacations... but you just do it". So thank you to Hugh, for pushing me and believing I have more potential than I think I do, and to my family and close friends who affirm that this is a promising decision. So until I panic and cry again, let's eat squash boats.
SQUASH BOATS WITH QUINOA // Serves 2
You could use any squash, they would just hold different amounts of quinoa filling. I think it would be a great side in acorn squash. You could serve this with a protein, or make it a meal of it's own by mixing your protein of choice into the quinoa. I think it would be nice with a little parmesan cheese to top it off as well.
1 Kabocha Squash
2 tbsp. Maple
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
Pinch of Salt and Pepper
3/4 Cup Quinoa
1 tsp. Ground Cardamom
1 Shallot, Minced
1 Pear, diced (any type you prefer, but a firm one)
1/3 Cup Basil, Chopped
3 Tbsp. Meyer Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Agave Nectar/Honey
2 Cup Baby Spinach and or Mache Lettuce
Salt and Fresh Pepper to taste
Oven to 425'
1. Cut squash in half and seed it. Mix the maple and olive oil and rub generously onto the flesh of the squash. Roast cut side down, for about 20 minutes. Turn the squash cut side up and cook about another 15 - 20 minutes 'til finishes cooking and caramelizes on top. The cooking time will depend on the size and type of squash you use, continue to test it with a fork. It should be the firmness of a baked potato.
2. While squash is cooking, prepare the quinoa. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil and add the quinoa, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Remove and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the shallot, lemon juice, cardamom, olive oil, and stir. Allow to cool down about 8 minutes, add the basil, pear and greens to combine **Don't add them when the quinoa is pipping hot, otherwise it will wilt them into a brown mess.
3. Remove the squash boats and let them sit about 5 minutes to cool down. Fill each cavern with desired amount of quinoa mix. Sprinkle the top with fresh ground pepper and serve.
This has been a good week, some parts of which I will elaborate on later, but the last few days have been... well, important. Since last week, we've gone to Mammoth with some friends to snowboard in gorgeous conditions, I decided to resign from my job to take a risk and pursue what I love doing, AND we were nominated for Saveur's Best Food Blog Awards in the Photography Category. I am simply exstatic for Hugh, as this further legitimizes my compliments of how talented he is. Let's be honest, you would not be here if it were just me and my prehistoric point and shoot. The fact that our name is up there with the popular kids of the blogsphere, is quite the compliment. There are so many talented people mentioned. I know it is annoying to sign up with your email address, but we would really appreciate it if you'd vote. Pretty please? I'll share cornbread?
And yes, I know I said I quit my job and that begs a few questions, but we'll talk about that another time. This is Hugh's day, and the man loves cornbread. I would diagnose him with a minor case of obsessive compulsive disorder. Turkey chili and cornbread find their way into his week more often than most of us would consider normal. We have been trying to create a healthier cornbread, and after many attempts, this is one of those foods you can't cut too many corners on. The recipe here is about as light as we'll go without sacrificing the greatness that is cornbread. It has bursts of texture with the studs of corn, green chiles and background sharpness of the cheddar. Go partake before it's too warm outside for foods like this.
CAST IRON CORNBREAD // Serves 8-10
1 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
3/4 Cup Cornmeal/Polenta
1/3 Cup Honey
3 Tbsp. Butter, melted
1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
1 Tsp. Sea Salt
1 Cup Buttermilk
1/2 Cup Grated Cheddar Cheese (plus a bit for the top)
1/2 Cup Green Chiles (canned)
3 Tbsp. Fresh Chives, Chopped
1 Large Egg
1 3/4 Cups Corn, fresh or thawed frozen
Oven to 350'
1.Put a 10-12'' cast iron pan in the oven to warm up. If you are using another type of dish (I suggest ceramic or glass), don't worry about warming, but wipe the inside with a little butter.
2. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, honey, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl whisk the egg until fluffy, then add the buttermilk, green chiles, chives, cheddar, melted butter and corn to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined.
3. Remove the skillet from the oven and swirl a pat of butter to cover the bottom. Fill the pan with the cornbread batter into an even layer and sprinkle a lil cheese for good measure. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes on the middle rack, or until the edges are golden and the center is just set.
I am convinced that having something to look forward to is one of the keys to happiness. Travel especially. You can love where you live, maybe even be content with your job, but who doesn't need an adventure? I am in need of one, and sooner than later. Hugh and I recently booked a trip to Scotland which will be half adventure and half for a job of his, and I feel like I got a boost of life. The anticipation of the plane flight, getting lost, new coffee places, the quirks of a different culture, no cell phone... it seriously warms my heart. There is a quote I love from author Donald Miller, "Everyone has to leave. Everyone needs to leave their home so they can love it again for all new reasons." By home, I don't think he literally means the shelter you live in, I interpret it to encompass all of the routine, the pressure, the responsibilities combined to define something as home. Maybe I'm getting a tad philosophical for a two week trip, but let's just say I need to leave.
Believe it or not, having 'things to look forward to' flows quite nicely into the miso slaw we have here. When I have leftovers for lunch already made for me the next day, THAT is something to look forward to. This dressing is not heavy at all, and is a nice change from your daily vinaigrette. It's my new favorite. I know there is a repulsion to soggy greens, but let it sit about 10 minutes before eating and the salt will soften up the cruciferous broccoli. I can't wait for lunch.
MISO SLAW // Serves 4
Inspired by The Kitchn: Apartment Therapy
Read through the directions first. It seems like a lot going on, but once you have all of the stuff, these are very straight forward steps. You could use spinach or any greens you prefer in place of arugula. I suggest doubling the dressing recipe so you have extra for another salad.
1 Package/3 1/2 Cups Broccoli Slaw
4 Cups Arugula, chopped
1/2 Cup Scallions, thinly chopped
1 English Cucumber, cut into sticks
1 Cup Unsalted Peanuts, roughly chop
1 pkg. 14 oz. Firm Tofu, well drained
Cilantro for Garnish (optional)
// Tofu Marinade //
1 1/2 Tbsp. Low Sodium Tamari/Soy Sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp. Agave Nectar
1 Tbsp. Sesame Oil
Toasted Sesame Seeds
// Miso Dressing //
1/2 Cup Whole/Lowfat, Plain Greek Yogurt
1/3 Cup Rice Vinegar
3 Tbsp. Yellow Miso
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. Agave Nectar
1 Tbsp. Grated Ginger
1 Tbsp. Sesame Oil
1 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
2 teaspoons Low Sodium Tamari/Soy Sauce
Oven to 500'
1. For the dressing, put all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined.
2. For the tofu, be sure to let some of the water drain out by putting it on a plate with paper towels with something heavy resting on top. Cut the tofu into half inch sticks, see picture.
3. In a wide bottomed bowl, mix the tofu marinade of tamari, agave and sesame oil. Working very gently with about 2 tofu sticks at a time, roll them through the marinade to coat each piece. Space them apart on a baking tray covered with a piece of foil. Sprinkle generously with fresh pepper and sesame seeds, and bake in the upper third of the oven for about 20 minutes, flip them over halfway through baking. Remove and cool.
4. While cooling, mix your greens, scallions and peanuts in a bowl and toss with desired amount of dressing. Divide amongst plates and place a few cucumbers and tofu sticks on the side. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and a few extra peanuts, and if you like it spicy, more red pepper flakes.
This warm snack makes me dream of a situation that seems to be far from what is possible for my pace of life right now. I would love to be sitting on a sunny porch, neighbors in the street, warm afternoon weather in the mid 70's (which it actually is right now- thank you, California), chatting on big chairs and eating this as a snack with a cappucino that someone else made for me. Probably Hugh, because he is pretty great at all that coffee business. The kind with a heart drawn in the foam, please. You are totally invited, there are so many of you that I would love to get to know better in person. We'd talk food and life... because all of my conversations whittle down to those two subjects. I adore talking food with people who, well, love food. Since you're here and reading, I suppose you qualify. Just to sit with no plan, no responsibilty of needing to be anywhere but on that big chair on the sprawling porch with my warm snack. Our warm snack.
In my mind, these parsnips were going to be like a grown up french fry. I don't know if the end result could fool you as such, but they're still good. Dietetically, I'm not typically one to say 'be generous with the cheese', but the parm is what gives these flavor and is the only fat involved, so adorn them with the crust they deserve. As far as cheeses go, it's not too bad for you anyway. Practically health food, just do it.
ROASTED PARMESAN PARSNIPS // Serves 4 as a side
When you buy parsnips, make sure they are firm and heavy, like a good carrot. If they have any spongy give, they will taste sour and medicinal when cooked. Next time, I will drizzle a little olive oil before baking to get an even better crispness.
8 Parsnips, Cleaned and Peeled
2 Large Egg Whites
1 Tbsp. Dried Oregano
2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
1 1/3 Cup Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese
Fresh Ground Pepper
// Dipping Sauce // or you can use your favorite Marinara to save time
1 Cup Organic Tomato Pulp/Diced Tomatoes
3 Cloves Roasted Garlic
2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pinch of Salt/Pepper and Roasted Red Pepper Flakes
Oven to 425.
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and either spray or give it a rub of butter.
2. Cut the parsnips into wedges or halves depending on the thickness. Since they taper so much, I used the ends whole then cut the fat top into fourths. Try to get them as evenly sized as possible.
3. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites til frothy with 2 tsp dried oregano.
4. Working with about half of the parsnips at a time, toss in the egg white and then gently roll in the parmesan cheese. Place each parsnip on the baking sheet, with space in between. Sprinkle the fresh rosemary and generous amounts of fresh pepper and salt. You may even want to give one more sprinkling of parmesan, you want them pretty well doused.
5. Bake the wedges about 20-25 minutes until crispy and cooked through. Rotate and test them after 15 minutes baking as the size of parsnips will vary.
6. While baking, either prepare your own dipping sauce by simmering ingredients listed above, or use your own favorite marinara.
I appreciate that there is a day to honor your love, but I am cynical as to what Valentines is as an adult. It seemed so fun to exchange candies in grade school and overdose on conversation hearts. In my younger years, my Dad would come home from work with those GIANT greeting cards (do you know what I'm talking about? They are seriously gigantic and sometimes I still see them at gas stations) and mylar balloons for my sister and I, or maybe a new set of cotton pajamas with hearts on them. My mom, the art teacher, made, and still makes, beautiful hand crafted cards with thoughtful messages of how we, as daughters, have changed her life. It feels pretty great to be loved. What I gathered from those gestures, was that this holiday isn't about the bloated flower prices, waxy chocolates and pre-set dining menus that make me cringe, it is best celebrated not for one person, but valuing love for the sum of it's parts.
This chocolate morsel experiment was kind of a shot in the dark, but I think they are just precious in their crafty glass jars. I cleaned old jars I have held on to from sauces, jams, fancy yogurts and what not. These morsels travel better and last longer than a baked good, which would also make them an excellent wedding favor or thank you gift. I am giving my measurements, but this recipe is extremely adaptable. You could use any kind of puffed cereal (they are inexpensive at a health food store) and the nuts and fruit are yours to choose. Next time I'll try toasted pistachios and dried cherries, or maybe chewy candied ginger and sliced almonds. Whatever your way, show love.
CHOCOLATE AND PUFFED GRAIN MORSELS // Makes 24
When melting the chocolate, I suggest using a larger glass bowl than you think you'll need. This way you can put all the goodies in that one bowl to make less of a mess.
12 oz. Dark Chocolate Chips (milk if you prefer)
1 1/3 Cup Puffed Millet, Rice, Kamut (found in the cereal isle)
1 Cup Dried Cranberries, Chopped
1/2 Cup Toasted Pecan Pieces
1. Place chocolate it in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Allow it to melt slowly, giving it a stir to distribute the heat. In the meantime, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
2. Remove the chocolate from the heat and gently add in the puffed grain of choice, dried fruit and nut and fold everything to combine. Allow everything to sit for about five minutes to cool.
3. Using a spoon and your fingers, dollop hefty tablespoons of the chocolate mix onto the baking sheet. Repeat, washing your fingers every now and then because it will be easier to work with the chocolate. This step gets messy, but as they cool you can form their shape better. Sprinkle them liberally with sea salt.
4. Put the tray in the fridge for about 15 minutes for the morsels to set completely. Put them in cute packaging for a charming presentation!