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GIFTS + THINGS OF 2017

I know they get overdone but I love a good gift guide. I think I end up buying more things for myself than I do for other people, but they serve their purpose for sure. You get new ideas from sites and brands you otherwise may not have heard of and I just like them. So in no particular order, are a few things we've either really enjoyed this year, or wish we can enjoy in the future or will be gifting to someone else. Hugh's recommendations are marked with an (H). Thanks!


Donations

We hosted a few dinners this year to benefit the International Rescue Committee. You can read more about them on their site. If you are looking to make some year end donations yourself, or give on behalf of someone else as a gift. We have done some research (Charity Watch helps you look further into the details of specific charities) and are also giving to International Justice Mission and A21.


Business&Pleasure Umbrellas

We spend a lot of time at the beach. After finally wearing through a fairly useless umbrella we had for years, we replaced her with the most well made umbrella I've ever seen. They have all metal hardware, a solid wood stand, the fabric is sturdy and not to mention absolutely beautiful. We have one of the beach tents that the kids settle into as their special fort, but the umbrellas are a little easier set up and I'm certain it will outlive me. They are even offering you lovely people a 20% code! Use SPROUTED20 at checkout. 


Bushwick Kitchen Condiments

First off, the packaging is simple and smart. Second, this stuff is delicious. The spicy honey with cheese is perfect and I've roasted Brussels with the spicy maple and oil. Hugh lacquered some of his bacon in the coffee maple before baking and still talks about it. You get free shipping when you order three things and I see no reason why you would not. 

(Speaking of other food gifts, loving this Central Coast Family Farm pretty olive oil for special cocasions)


Imperfect Produce

I know this is limited to the West Coast and Chicago at this time, but they're expanding! So hear me out. If you've been following along here for awhile, I've been a long time proponent of a local CSA box program. I took a break from them for a couple seasons because I was getting burnt out of the same things and lack of flexibility, but have recently been into Imperfect Produce. It's a weekly produce box, with the option of customization (brilliant!) so I can opt out of the potatoes if we still have some from last week, and add more squash, for example. They offer gift certificates, and while this may only be a gift for the right kind of person (read:me), our pediatrician once wisely suggested that it is better to gift a family healthy food above more plastic. Merrrrrry Christmas, kids ;)


Penn and Olive

I am actually not a big essential oils gal (though I do have this diffuser on my list because I want my house to smell nice), HOWEVER, I rub the sleep and immunity rollers on my kids every night because... why not? Does my son still wake up at 5am before the sun? Yes, yes he does, but at least he smells dreamy. 


Print Shop . Hugh Forte

As his biggest fan, I understand my bias here, but I think these photos are beautiful. The thing about Hugh's talent, is that as his work lies largely in weddings and food, we miss where his heart and eyes are most drawn to: the ocean, waves, a quiet desert landscape, the beauty of the world around us. He takes in so much visually, things I wouldn't have noticed; to experience his photos is to see a piece of him. He just started a print shop and will be adding to it slowly. A super generous Santa brought him a drone this year, so stay tuned for more aerial images as well. For the rest of this month, you can use the code SK20 for 20% off your order. It is too late for framing, but if you order by December 12th, they will arrive by Christmas. 


Bonavita Electric Kettle (H)

I can't believe this item hadn't made it into previous years gift guides at any point... we use this every day, multiple times a day. Coffee. Tea. Give it to me faster and at a more precise temperature and at the push of a button AND without me having to manage the target temperature. And keep it there for up to an hour for when I get distracted. This thing is worth every penny. 


Rancilio Rocky (H)

More coffee gear? Ok. Sara got me this grinder for my birthday this year and I love it. We primarily brew pour over around here so the primary bottleneck in quality has always been the grinder. I've slowly upgraded grinders over the years and always been slightly disappointed that I couldn't quite get the cup of coffee I knew was possible because I was skimping (even after dishing out for relatively expensive machines, like our previous Virtuoso) on the grinder. Anyway, this grinder finally unlocked the potential of that cup of pour over. Cheers.


For Kids:

Magnatiles

Curran (3.5) actually got these last Christmas, by recommendation of my sister is law, and they are great. I can't say there are many toys that he is happy to play with on his own. All sides are magnetic, so they're a little easier to build than traditional blocks. They also make a 100 piece set if you're wanting to invest deeper into the set, but either way, I would swear by these for any kid over 3. 


Books:

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
I don'd think I've waxed poetic enough about how much I love this book. I haven't tried too many of the recipes to be honest, but Samins' writing is so charming, easy to read and helpful. It's unlike any other food related book I own and I think it'd make a great gift for both a beginner cook or just someone who loves to learn from another perspective. 


Dark Matter (H)

This was a surprisingly engaging read. Speculative fiction often times demands too much suspension of disbelief for my taste, but something about the character's plight in this story hooked me. It's a fast paced romp through the multiverse (or at least a small part of a Many Worlds version... ok good talk).


Finding God in the Waves (H)

If you're familiar with the Liturgists Podcast, this author's name may look familiar. This may not be for everybody on your shopping list, but this title claimed my prestigious "Most Underlined and Dogeared Book" award for the year. I mean, a cover blurb from Richard Rohr is pretty cool too, I guess. 


Lastly, if you're still looking for more ideas, you can take a peek at our previous gift guides:

2016
2014
2013


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Entrée, Fall, Gluten Free

LASAGNA STYLE SPAGHETTI SQUASH

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We've talked potatoes and pumpkin pie to death so let's move on to solving dinner problems for all other days of the year. I would take one of these lasagna squashes over a majorly brown thanksgiving plate any day. Sorry, bah humbug. Last year, I had dinner with some of my dearest college girlfriends at Malibu Farms (have you seen their cookbook? It's beautiful and casual and colorful) and I still think of this spaghetti squash dish we shared. It was creamy, but not overly so, could be ordered vegetarian or not, tasted like comfort food but didn't sit in your gut as such. I know in the season of cooking and romantically long prep time with your glass of wine and holiday tunes, this recipe may come off as old news, but a simple dinner is what I am more interested in in the long term. I made four, and my kids mostly poked at it. They saves well and can handle a reheat the following day or perhaps you have another couple over to share. I made a few notes in the headnote on meal suggestions. 
Grateful for this space - that my life and cooking may grow and change and these pages reflect the process of such. Happy belated Thanksgiving to you, lovelies.  

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LASAGNA STYLE SPAGHETTI SQUASH // Serves 4
I served this with a simple arugula salad on the side. If you have animal-protein-hungry people in your life, brown some ground turkey or beef and add it to the marinara layer. The squash can be roasted in advance to get ahead and everything else comes together pretty quickly.
No dairy? Kite Hill makes a fabulous almond based ricotta if you can find it (try Whole Foods) and maybe you can top it with some toasted breadcrumbs or pine nuts to give it the richness it will lack from the other cheeses. Trader Joes also started carrying a premade, vegan cashew pesto in the fridge section that I imagine would be lovely mixed in with the shredded squash layer. I trust you can make adjustments where needed. 

2 small spaghetti squash
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
8-10 oz baby spinach or kale
8 oz./ 1 cup ricotta
1 tsp. dried Italian herbs (or dried oregano or fennel seeds if that's what you have)
4 oz. / 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, plus more for topping
1/3 cup parmesan, divided
juice of half a lemon
2 cups homemade or your favorite store-bought marinara
fresh parsley, for garnish

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Preheat the oven to 400'. Halve your squash and scoop out the seeds. Rub all sides with a thin coat of oil and roast the squash, cut side down, for about 45 minutes, or until the squash shreds easily. Let them cool for 15 minutes and then carefully shred all the strands into a bowl, keeping the squash shell intact. Reserve squash shells. Squeeze them with a dishtowel to remove some of the moisture if the squash looks soggy. 
Warm a generous tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions along with a pinch of salt and saute for a few minutes until fragrant and softened. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Add the baby spinach and saute until just wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Add the spinach to the bowl of squash, along with the ricotta, dried herbs, mozzarella, half of the parmesan and the juice of half a lemon. Stir everything to mix. Taste for salt and pepper, it will likely need both. Line the bottoms of the squash shells with marinara and sort of push it up the sides. Add the cooked ground meat here, if using. Be generous on the sauce, it needs the acid to balance the creaminess. Distribute the squash mixture on top. Sprinkle the tops with a little extra mozzarella and parmesan. Line a baking tray with parchment and bake the squash for 20 minutes to warm through. Broil them for a couple minutes at the end to finish and brown the tops. 
Garnish the tops with fresh parsley and serve warm. 
 

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Salad, Gluten Free, Fall

GOLDEN FENNEL KALE CHOP

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Salad lady. There are a handful of dinners we have coming up and lo and behold, my assignment is consistent. We often do a quicky weeknight warm kale salad with a roasted squash, pom seed, pepita combo, so I was going for something different here. Light but not lacking, something that would welcome leftover chicken or steak for Hugh and a couple fried eggs for me. A base salad if you will? It is perfectly crunchy to go along with the warmer, richer foods that are more common this time of year. I like raw shaved fennel personally, but Hugh said it feels like eating shoelaces, so I roasted the bits this time. Fennel has some natural sweetness that comes out in a quick roast and he's right, they are a little nicer to eat this way. I made a few notes below in the recipe but if you're bringing green salad to your holiday table, this one is worth considering. 

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GOLDEN FENNEL KALE CHOP // Serves 4

Some of you will see an anchovy written in the dressing and think 'gross' but I promise you it is just a teensy bit of 'hm that's interesting and salty nice' that makes the whole salad special. It does not taste like fish. I use the ones from Trader Joes and use 1 large filet, which is about a tsp. worth. If you are completely averse or do not eat fish, a tsp. of capers will be a nice substitute. The dressing can be made in advance, mind as well double it if you like having dressing on hand (which is key if you appreciate meal prep). As per comments, it's pretty simple, so if you like a bolder dressing, add an extra anchovy and perhaps a dollop of mayo to emulsify. The fennel may be roasted a day in advance too, and otherwise, everything comes together quite quickly.

1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper
1 bunch of lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped
1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup toasted pinenuts

herby lemony vinaigrette

1 garlic clove
1 anchovy filet
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey or agave
handful of fresh parsley
few basil leaves
juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp. sea salt, to taste
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

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Preheat the oven to 375' and line a small baking tray with parchment. Trim and core the fennel and chop it into 1/2" pieces. Add a drizzle of oil and sprinkle of salt and pepper to season and toss to coat. Roast for 20 minutes and set aside to cool completely. 
While the fennel roasts, make your dressing. Blitz all ingredients together in a blender or food processor.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the kale, a few spoonfuls of dressing and massage it into the kale. It should reduce by half once you go rubbing the dressing into it. Add the garbanzos, raisins, parm, pinenuts, cooled fennel and toss again, adding more dressing as needed. No one likes dry kale. This salad can hang in the fridge for a few hours, pre dressed. Garnish with a sprinkle of extra cheese and nuts. 

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